Vampire Hunter D: Pale Fallen Angel Parts Three and Four, page 1
Other Vampire Hunter D books published by
Dark Horse Books and Digital Manga Publishing
Vol. 1: Vampire Hunter D
Vol. 2: Raiser of Gales
Vol. 3: Demon Deathchase
Vol. 4: Tale of the Dead Town
Vol. 5: The Stuff of Dreams
Vol. 6: Pilgrimage of the Sacred and the Profane
Vol. 7: Mysterious Journey to the North Sea part one
Vol. 8: Mysterious Journey to the North Sea part two
Vol. 9: The Rose Princess
Vol. 10: Dark Nocturne
Vol. 11: Pale Fallen Angel parts one and two
VAMPIRE HUNTER D 12: PALE FALLEN ANGEL PARTS THREE AND FOUR
© Hideyuki Kikuchi 1995, 1996. Originally published in Japan in 1995 and 1996 by ASAHI SONORAMA Co. English translation copyright © 2009 by Dark Horse Books and Digital Manga Publishing.
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® 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 Heidi Whitcomb
Dark Horse Books
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Digital Manga Publishing
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available upon request.
ePub ISBN 978-1-62115-498-3
First Dark Horse Books Edition: March 2009
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Printed in the United States of America
A FOGGY ROAD THROUGH THE ROCKS
The fog rolled in just after noon. With the sinuous moves of an alluring dancer the milky white water particles clung to the driverless carriages and D, who rode beside them.
Hemmed in on either side by great craggy chunks of rock, the road ran on like a slender ribbon. You couldn’t really call it a path through the bottom of a valley—it was quite literally a road weaving between the rocks. And as it was usually easier and easier to stray from the road the thicker the fog grew, it was obvious the stone bulwarks would come in handy.
It was nearly noon. Once they traversed this pass and spent another half day crossing the plains, their destination of Krauhausen would be waiting for them at twilight.
They were finally there. But how many people harbored this relief in their heart? Naturally, there were no voices from the coffins sealed away in the carriages, and D sat astride his mount with a cold, clear expression from which no hint of emotion could be gleaned.
It was about thirty minutes after they started down the foggy road that the Hunter’s eyes took on a faint gleam. Stopping his horse and doubling back, he then rapped lightly on the carriage door.
What is it? the baron asked in a voice no one save D could hear.
“Don’t you know?” asked D. His voice could likewise be heard by the baron’s ears alone.
No. What’s happened?
“This isn’t the right road. We seem to have lost our way.”
The road had vanished at some point without their even realizing it.
That’s not like you. Although I must add that I didn’t sense anything, either. Is it due to the fog?
The Nobleman was apparently mindful of that, at least.
“Probably,” D replied.
Even with his ultra-keen senses, the fog seemed like nothing more than ordinary water particles.
“What do you make of it?” the Hunter inquired, but not of Balazs.
“It’s just plain old fog. Even I don’t have a clue why we’ve lost our way.”
At that response from his left hand, D ran his gaze over the rocky mounds to either side of them.
“Those rocks are real enough,” the hoarse voice continued. “You fixing to wait here until the fog lifts?”
“I get you,” D’s left hand said as he raised it up high.
In the palm of it, human eyes and a nose swiftly took shape. Its mouth opened.
The whooosh that resounded wasn’t the sound of it drawing breath, but rather the groan of the wind. The fog eddied as it coursed into the palm of the hand.
Ten seconds passed. Twenty seconds.
And then, when the trailing edge of the milky whiteness had been swallowed, someone exclaimed in astonishment, “Well, I’ll be damned!”
The voice came from the very same mouth that had devoured the fog.
But even before it had said a word, D had noticed the same thing.
They were on the very same road as before. With great chunks of stone lining either side, the path ran straight for another hundred and fifty feet before breaking to the right.
Something strange is going on, the baron’s voice was heard to say.
“We’re back in the same spot again,” D replied before turning around. “While we were lost, the amount of ground we covered was roughly a hundred feet. I have to assume that something was done to us during that time.”
A mere hundred feet. Though that didn’t seem like much, getting both D and the baron to advance down that otherworldly road for such a distance before noticing anything was miraculous.
“Know anything about this?”
The Hunter’s query pertained to who might’ve set them up.
Dr. de Carriole could manage it.
“Do you know what moves he’s likely to make?”
A number of them. He was my tutor in my infancy.
“Then I’ll need you to keep your eyes peeled.”
And with these words, D flicked the reins of the horses drawing the carriage. Accompanied by the creak of wooden wheels, the horses stepped forward. They approached the turn in the rocks.
D took the turn first.
Thirty feet up ahead, there lay a dark figure. Lying face down, the person was dressed in black garments, and wore a coat in the same hue.
It certainly looked as if the attack had already started.
Stop, the baron ordered him. It’s obviously a trap. Don’t go near him.
However, they couldn’t very well leave someone lying there across the whole road.
White clouds floated in the blue sky. To either side of the path, flowers swayed in ivory beauty. And on the road lay a corpse.
Perhaps D intended to accept this invitation. Going over to the remains, the Hunter bent down.
It was just then that the corpse turned over.
A pale face looked up at D . . . with the face of D himself.
For just a second the two exchanged looks, but then D swiftly stood back up and drew his sword. There was a flash of stark light from his blade, and the head of the figure on the ground was removed from i
“It’s a doll,” said D.
At that point, he felt like something was softly pulling away from his own face.
Sure enough, wood was visible where the head had been severed from the figure at his feet.
What a strange thing to do, the baron said, his voice wavering with perplexity. If that was the work of Dr. de Carriole, I don’t recall him having any such ability. D, do you sense anything out of the ordinary?
“Not a thing,” D replied succinctly as he tossed the wooden remains to one side of the road and got back on his horse. But one thing gnawed at the heart beneath those black garments.
The two carriages passed by in silence, and the only one out in the white sunlight to hear the dwindling creak of the wheels was the severed head of the doll. But as it lay exposed to the sun, the smooth, polished wood of its face was now flat and utterly featureless. The countenance of the gorgeous Vampire Hunter had vanished without a trace.
Though it was daytime, the room was hemmed in by a thick darkness. The darkness jelled even further, forming two figures that were darker still—a stooped old man, and a young man who stood bolt upright and completely motionless behind him. The old man was draped in gold brocade, and he wore a long robe. The unusually lengthy garment fell across the floor behind him like a shadow.
Suddenly putting his right hand to his ear, the old man said, “It’s finished!”
“And you think that’ll take care of the Hunter?” the young man asked.
Apparently the old man had succeeded in something, and while the other man might have been his apprentice or at least his subordinate, the young man didn’t seem at all delighted by this. To the contrary, he sounded quite skeptical.
“The spell has been cast. There can be no doubt of that. However—”
“There is one thing that troubles me,” the old man said, his expression horribly intense as he slowly turned toward the young man.
While there were other reasons why the darkness of the chamber was fraught with tension, if one were to claim it all sprang from the old man’s look, no one would ever doubt it. Hidden beneath age spots and wrinkles and a hoary goatee, his face was like that of an ancient mummy, his thread-thin eyes brimming with a yellow light, while tremendous intellect, evil, and willpower all spilled from his green irises.
“The mask you made of him, Zanus—is it perfect?”
“Do you doubt me?” the young man—Zanus—asked in a hard tone.
“Not at all. I recognize your skill. After all, your ‘transference’ hex proved effective,” the old man said with a nod before turning back the way he’d faced originally.
“Then I shall proceed according to schedule,” the young man told him, bowing as he prepared to take his leave.
“Our foe is the same man who slew the water warriors. You mustn’t let your guard down. Be on your toes,” the old man said, his voice trailing after the young man.
Once Zanus had left, the old man didn’t move for a while, but eventually he took a seat on a nearby settee and mumbled introspectively, “Baron Byron Balazs . . . I wonder if you remember me? Do you still recall the name of the hopeful tutor who saw in you the salvation of your race?”
“Dr. de Carriole,” a voice called out from somewhere in the darkness.
As the old man spun around reflexively, his expression was awash with a respect and fear that made it clear he’d guessed who it was that addressed him.
“Oh, my—when did you get here?” the old man—Dr. de Carriole—said with head hung low, while in his heart he chided himself. His laboratory was equipped with warning systems that should’ve been able to detect even the slightest difference in the makeup of the air.
“I am always around you. It wouldn’t do to have you using the fruits of your strange research against me, now would it?”
“Surely you jest,” de Carriole replied, but to himself he thought, That was a century and a half ago.
That one time alone the old man had tried to put up some resistance. To this day, even he himself didn’t know what had come of it, for although he’d tried, nothing had changed at all. The assassins he’d sent had vanished without a trace, and the source of the voice had appeared before the doctor, just as always. And from that day to this, de Carriole had gone without a single soul ever censuring him or accusing him of any wrongdoing. Because after that, he’d sworn allegiance to the source of the voice in the darkness.
“Is my son coming?”
From this question, the voice could belong to none other than Vlad Balazs.
“Indeed he is. He’ll be here in half a day,” de Carriole replied.
“So, even with all your power, you still didn’t manage to slay him? That comes as little surprise, given that he has that Hunter for a bodyguard.”
De Carriole turned with a start toward the depths of the darkness. He could see through the gloom as clear as day. They both could. Yet his eyes found nothing save inky blackness.
“Are you familiar with ‘D,’ then, sire?” he asked.
The doctor was at a loss for words.
“I don’t know D,” the voice continued. “Or, at least, any manhunter by that name. However, he does bear a distinct resemblance to another great personage whose name I do know. Or so it would appear.”
“A great personage . . .” de Carriole began before breaking off.
It must’ve been centuries since he’d been surprised twice in a single day. His skin, which had died ages ago and had only been reinvigorated by reanimating drugs, now rose in goose bumps.
The voice mentioned “a great personage.” To the best of the doctor’s knowledge, there was only one person on earth he would refer to as such. However, from the way he spoke, it seemed it had to be someone else. In which case—
Memories swirled and flowed. One by one, his brain cells were lanced by the point of a needle, active cells and slumbering cells alike. Cells that had long ago fallen into disuse and ancient brain cells that his brain had even forgotten existed. And in one of them—he found it! However, it gave off only a momentary flash before fading into eternal darkness. Freezing the flash would be impossible. But he tried to comprehend it. Forgetting all about his surroundings, de Carriole focused his entire consciousness on that one point. The actual memory of the concrete information took shape for only an instant—and then it quickly slipped away. De Carriole’s concentration pursued it, and a split second before it was swallowed by the nothingness, he brushed the tail end of it.
“Now I remember . . .” he mumbled, not because the information he’d wrested from his brain needed to be spoken, but because it threatened to leave him again. “That great personage . . . did indeed have . . . just one . . . But . . . it couldn’t be . . . It’s simply not possible . . . that a filthy ghoul . . . a Hunter of the Nobility . . . could be his . . .”
“Perhaps that is the case. But then, perhaps it is not,” the voice said gravely. It was as much a confession that he himself couldn’t judge or comprehend the situation. “If the latter is true, then to us, he is merely Byron’s cohort, and we shall have no choice but to eradicate him. But if the opposite is the case, there’s much to be feared.”
And saying this, the voice gave a low laugh.
Is he prepared to bare his teeth even against the great one’s very own—de Carriole thought, terrified by the concept. In a manner of speaking, he would be making a foe of the great one himself. And the Nobility as a whole were bound by that great personage’s regard for his family like no other rule.
“Make ready, doctor! Make ready!” he was told by a voice that echoed both high and low from the darkness. “Before they enter my lands or after makes no difference. Use every means at your disposal if you must, but slay them.”
“Kindly leave it to me. You can rest easy while de Carriole handles everything.”
It was just then that a sound like a long, long sob was heard from nowhere
It was a woman, and no doubt she was incredibly distraught. Her grief was so great it’d driven her mad, yet still she couldn’t help but lament—that was the impression anyone would’ve gotten.
“Aside from yourself, there is one other who understands that my son is approaching. But I have to wonder, why is it that what should be a song of triumph is instead a wail such as would greet the dead?”
The voice was tinged with laughter.
“Dr. de Carriole!” it added.
“Milord!” the robed figure exclaimed, visibly shaken.
“You had best go. Not surprisingly, that’s enough to rend even my heart. I would not have anyone else hear that voice.”
“I understand,” the old man said as he bowed his head, and at that point he realized that the source of the voice was no longer with him.
“I understand,” he repeated to himself. “But who are you to speak of how it rends your heart?”
And once he’d spoken, a chill surely ran down the old man’s spine. But no bolt of lightning fell from the heavens to strike him down.
A few minutes later, de Carriole descended a lengthy spiral staircase to a depth even he was unsure of toward a certain chamber. In scattered places on the stone walls atomic flames burned with a blue light, casting flickering shadows on the steps and walls.
His descent ended abruptly, as always. As he stood in a vast hall paved in stone, guards sheathed in armor closed on him from either side. All of them were synthetic humans. They weighed over a ton each thanks to the heavy alloys, but their footfalls didn’t even make a sound. Their long spears came to bear on the doctor, the tips glowing red.
“Out of my way!”
Before the doctor had finished speaking, red glows extended from the ends of the spears to his chest and exited through his back. The rock wall behind him turned red hot, and in no time at all, holes two inches in diameter were bored into it.
When these guards were imbued with life, the first thing they’d been set to do was to slaughter absolutely anyone who happened to come here.
“Idiots! You know nothing of the world. Out of my way!”