Vampire Hunter D: Pale Fallen Angel Parts Three and Four, page 25
The next thing Hugh knew, he was lying on the floor of a hall. Beside him lay the blood-soaked Miska, who May was looking after. And looking down at them was the gorgeous Vampire Hunter.
“D—I was . . .”
Getting the impression D had given him a little nod, the boy felt rewarded.
“Er . . .” he started to say, but he caught himself because both D and Miska were looking at the back of the hall—and the black sea.
But there was no sea there. The flames of the candelabra illuminated the baron in blue and woman in white on the cold stone floor. The woman lay there with what looked to be some kind of scepter jutting quite far from her chest. Yet the woman’s dress remained white because all of her blood had apparently left her body and been diffused in the water. Clearly someone was bidding farewell to one who wasn’t long for this world.
At that point, the woman in white opened her eyes a crack, despite the fact that her heart and lungs had already ceased functioning and not even a faint thread of breath whispered from her paling lips.
“In the end . . . it comes to this,” the baron’s mother said, her voice quiet and clear. “I can no longer do anything. Do as you like. While drifting underwater, I saw the stars. Your stars and your father’s stars. They’re completely incompatible. You and your father . . . No matter how you battle, eventually it will come to an end. But . . . what kind of end will it be? Byron, my son . . . I’m terribly afraid.”
“Mother . . .” the baron murmured. One who knew what fate had in store could say no more than that.
“Please, don’t follow along after me,” she said, a hand damp with water rising to touch the baron’s brow. “And please . . . forgive me. Forgive your mother . . .”
Her arm was about to slip away, but the baron caught hold of it and held it in place. His shoulders didn’t quake, nor did he shed a single tear. Beneath his blue glove, his mother’s arm lost its definition and turned into brown dust. Even then the baron didn’t break his pose. For the longest time he remained as he was.
“D,” he called out after even more time had passed. “Is de Carriole here?”
“Right now, it is he that I would like to see more than anyone,” he said in a tone without cadence. “Lady Miska is here. With de Carriole’s assistance, the Destroyer within her could be transferred to me.”
“He stayed back at the underground lake. If Vlad’s in his right mind, he’ll probably have him executed as a traitor. Also—”
“What is it?”
“I think the gray hooded figure was a Guide. He’s there with Vlad, too.” Turning to the fallen Miska and the siblings, D said, “And she broke her contract with the Guide. No matter what, he won’t give up until he’s delivered the death penalty.”
“You think he’ll join forces with Vlad?”
“I don’t know. My second blow split your father’s head open. He’s seriously injured, but he won’t die.”
The baron got to his feet. From his hands and his lap brown dust spilled, spreading across the floor. Not even looking down at it, the baron took what remained in his fist and put it in a pouch in his cape before stating, “I’m going to de Carriole’s mansion.”
“What’ll you do there?” D asked.
“I intend to bring Lady Miska with me and transfer the Destroyer on my own.”
“Even the Destroyer was powerless before the Guide.”
“At the very least, I’ll slay Vlad. Or battle him on equal terms. This is my fight. Once again, I ask that you stay out of this, D.”
“And you intend on doing this even without de Carriole?”
“It may surprise you to learn I’ve always been quite good with machines. So long as there’s a manual, I may be able to do something.”
“Have his apprentice do it,” D said, stepping to the right.
Smiling thinly, the baron said, “Now there’s a thought.”
As he spoke, a band of light shot from the interior of his cape. For a second, white illumination flashed across the surprised faces of May, Hugh, and Miska, and then the band of light turned right at the doorway.
A cry of pain rang out. It was followed by the sound of footsteps.
Having already broken into a run, D gave chase. He didn’t need to run far.
Thirty feet ahead, the country girl with flowing blond hair had halted dead in her tracks. Standing before her, blocking her way like a wall, was the massive form of Fisher Lagoon.
“What are you doing down here, Paige?” he asked.
“Not a blessed thing. I was walking on the floor above and heard a strange sound, so I came down here, when all of a sudden . . .”
Seeing the wound that’d been opened on her right shoulder, Lagoon then turned his gaze to D and asked in a gruff tone, “You responsible for that?”
“No. But it’s a hell of a disguise. Chlomo’s makeup, is it?”
“What are you saying?!” the understandably shocked Lagoon exclaimed.
Before him, the girl shook her dainty, doleful face from side to side, saying, “No. It’s not like that!”
“So—so that’s how it is, eh?” Lagoon said in a hoarse voice that sounded utterly crushed. “Chlomo’s makeup could make a woman out of a man. It’d even turn a nutsack into a woman’s goodies. And if he used a real slut of a model . . . Hell, I fell for the wrong damned woman. People will be laughing about ol’ Fisher Lagoon for the rest of my days, I bet.”
Paige realized nothing she said would make any difference now— she was actually Sai Fung of the Thousand Limbs. As soon as the makeup was taken off, he’d be back to his old self. After seeing the Guide, he’d figured something was brewing and wouldn’t let May out of his sight. As a result, he’d followed the trio she formed with Hugh and Miska and saw everything that happened thereafter from start to finish. He would’ve been better off not knowing that his presence had been detected.
“Out of my way,” he said in a woman’s voice, but with a man’s mannerisms.
“So, we’ve seen through your disguise. I don’t know who the hell you are, but I’ll see to it you pay for making a fool of Fisher Lagoon.”
“Shut your trap!” Paige said, kicking off the ground. With a woman’s legs.
She would’ve been lucky to get two or three feet of vertical rise. But she just kept going. As she’d kicked off the floor, one hand had made a fist and wiped the makeup off. The leap had the power of a thousand limbs—the thousand arms and legs that Sai Fung possessed.
As he easily sailed over Lagoon’s head, one of his unseen limbs landed a blow to the back of the giant’s head that staggered him. Landing, Sai Fung turned. The kick that’d been intended to crush the man’s skull had met something hard instead.
“Huh?!” the martial artist exclaimed.
Lagoon was no longer just an ordinary giant. The glittering silver that covered every inch of him was liquid metal armor. Moreover, it only took a thousandth of a second to don it.
For a heartbeat, a boundless animosity glowed in Sai Fung’s evil glare, but he must’ve decided he was better off not testing his luck against this unknown material, because he stood up and tried to make a run for it. Before him, the massive silvery form landed after vaulting over his head. Behind him was D.
As he glided toward Lagoon, Sai Fung had a smile that brimmed with confidence pasted to his lips. His unseen hands had dispatched a stone colossus with just a single blow.
Both of Sai Fung’s feet were absorbed by the silvery chest. A flying kick that could shift a fifty-ton boulder sent him sinking waist-deep into Lagoon’s breastbone. Yet he didn’t come out through the man’s back.
“Is that liquid metal, you filthy traitor?” the man asked in a blaze of hatred, livid at having encountered such a resilient opponent—or rather, the material that covered him.
“Not quite what you’re used to, eh?” the faceless silver figure mocked. “This time, I’ll play your game. I won’t dis
It was an open invitation.
Sai Fung didn’t move. There were loud thuds as Lagoon’s chest and stomach were dented. In the blink of an eye they’d taken hundreds of unseen kicks and punches. However, the bottom of the dents bubbled back up like water from a spring, quickly smoothing out again.
“That’s not gonna work. It just won’t cut it.”
As if pushed by Lagoon’s voice, Sai Fung backed away. His face was warped by pain—a number of his unseen hands and feet had been broken. It was like pounding on the ramparts of some titanic citadel. The liquid metal that encased Lagoon’s body could alter its molecular arrangement at will, absorbing shocks at times like water, while at other times becoming ultra-hard armor to repulse blows.
“Is that the best Sai Fung of the Thousand Limbs can do? Then I guess it’s my turn now.”
The faceless giant extended his arms. His palms spread like a bolt of cloth and wrapped tightly around Sai Fung.
“Go on, just try to escape. That is, if the ‘thousand limbs’ in your nickname aren’t all just hot air.”
Pulling the man closer, the giant looked ready to crush him. It was the sort of half-playful action one might expect a drunk to pull on a hostess.
However, Lagoon cried out, “Oh!” despite himself.
Both his arms were slowly but steadily being pushed back. And he was putting enough strength into them to crush a boulder to bits.
“Now that’s what I’d expect from the Thousand Limbs,” he muttered, and at that instant both his arms were thrown open like a pair of wings, knocking his massive form off balance.
The way Sai Fung twisted his body, it looked like he was poised for a judo shoulder throw. Yet his hands didn’t have a hold on anything, and there were still eight or twelve inches between him and Lagoon.
“Hi-yaaaah!” the martial artist cried, his earsplitting shriek a perfect companion to the enormous arc Lagoon’s form traveled in.
The giant hit the stone floor back-first. A split second before he did, all the armor on his back spread across the floor, forming a cushion to absorb the impact. By the time he’d bounced back up to his feet like a human spring, Sai Fung had already dashed some thirty feet away.
A black figure closed on him from the rear. It was D. His eyes gave off blood light. The longsword he struck out with in a drawing cut came right down on the top of Sai Fung’s head, blunt side first. When D called upon that power, those thousand hands and feet apparently counted for nothing and the blow landed easily, sending Sai Fung down to the floor still dressed in women’s clothing.
Astride a borrowed horse, the baron turned to Lagoon, who was seeing him off, and told him, “You have my thanks.”
They were in the courtyard of his establishment, where May and Hugh were receiving medical treatment from the physician. Sai Fung was strapped to the horse’s back. By the baron’s side was a second mount that he also held the reins to, and Miska rode on that. Even by the dark of night, there were heavy shadows of pain on her. Nevertheless she had accepted the baron’s proposal. She would cooperate with the effort to transfer the Destroyer within her to the baron.
“Come on. It’s not that big of a deal. I’ve heard a lot of talk about you. Can’t really consider you a stranger.”
Noticing the focus of the baron’s gaze at that point, the giant turned toward his establishment and added, “D’s gone to stay with that girl named Taki. The night’s still young. Your father might stir up more trouble yet. But that Hunter sure is a cold one, isn’t he?”
After exiting the hall, the young man in black and the one in blue had parted company without exchanging a single word.
“The fight between you and your father has nothing to do with him. But if you slay your father, Taki will be saved. If it’s the reverse, she’ll be a target again. When you look at it that way, he really can’t afford to be getting his nose out of joint. Always gotta do things his own way, I guess.”
“It’s fine,” the baron said softly, wheeling his horse around to face the distant gates.
The moon shone up above like a silver platter. Off in the distance, birds sang.
“People gotta be cutting each other up all over the place on a nice night like this,” Lagoon muttered. Those were the words with which he sent them off.
Just in front of the gates, an enormous camphor tree challenged the heavens. Beside it stood a figure in black raiment that seemed to dissolve into its shadow.
Even as he came to the shadowy figure, the baron didn’t halt his horse. But as he passed, he turned and said, “I would’ve liked to have met you by day.”
There was no answer. Instead, a black-gloved hand gently touched the brim of his traveler’s hat.
The rider in blue went by with the two horses. Once he’d passed out of the Hunter’s range of perception, D stepped away from the camphor tree and walked off to where Taki was. He had a job to do as a Hunter. What’s more, the battle between the baron and his father had no bearing on him.
For some time now, the vast and lavishly appointed sitting room had been swimming in awful moans that sounded like they might’ve come from the spirits of hell.
“The drugs . . . won’t work . . . Why not? Why won’t the wound close? Does the bastard have some kind of special sword . . . de Carriole?”
After exhausting every possible means, the aged scholar stood beside an operating table stained vermilion smelling the stench of blood. He was about to reply but stopped himself, admiring the skill of the Hunter in black in his heart of hearts.
Vlad’s face was swathed in bandages from the top of his head down to his chin, and he’d lost his left arm at the elbow. Though de Carriole had taken the arm off because it would only be in the way during his procedure, he hadn’t been able to close the lord’s head wound, and no matter what kind of anesthetic he gave the Noble, the pain wouldn’t abate.
The ageless and immortal Nobility usually recovered from shallow cuts almost instantaneously, while graver injuries might take a few hours to heal fully. And aside from the instant in which they were wounded, they almost never felt any pain. Writhing in agony for the last two hours and having soaked the better part of the vast sitting room with his own blood, Vlad was an exception even among exceptions.
“De Carriole . . . you know what it is, don’t you . . . Traitorous scientist . . . you have betrayed my trust. If by some chance something should happen to me . . . my underlings won’t sit still for it . . . They’re likely to tear you limb from limb . . . and throw you where the birds can pick your bones clean while you still live.”
“I am aware of that. However, I have done my very best. The Hunter who goes by the name of D is indeed no ordinary person.”
“D . . . D!” Vlad bellowed, his eyes snapping open to glare into space.
The look in them was so intense, it seemed as if the empty air might burst into flames.
“If only he weren’t here . . . No, not him. de Carriole, this wound will heal, won’t it? You can close it, right?”
“I shall do my best.”
“Don’t forget that your life hangs in the balance.”
What a despicable way to behave, the aged scholar clucked to himself. Sooner or later, the wound should close and the pain subside. Until then, the best thing to do would be to simply leave the wound alone. Still, that Hunter called D—what on earth was he?
Bowing, he told the lord, “I must go and concoct a sedative.”
As the old man walked to the door, a figure in gray rose to his feet at the head of the bed. He’d completely forgotten that the Guide Vlad had invited there from the subterranean lake had been sitting there. It certainly seemed as if the old man wished to drive every thought of him from his head. And although it might’ve been best if de Carriole had beaten a hasty retreat, he remained bound to the spot. As a profound scholar not only of science but of sorcerous inquiry, he wasn
And apparently the Guide meant de Carriole no harm.
“Would you like me to heal that wound?” the hooded figured asked.
“Oh, that would be great—it was well worth bringing you along . . . Please . . . by all means. Let me . . . fight him . . . fight D one more time.”
“You shall have to pay me in return.”
For a second, not only de Carriole froze but Vlad did as well. What sort of payment the Guide would require—the mere thought of it was enough to stop their hearts.
“Wh-what do you intend to ask for as payment?” de Carriole inquired in spite of himself.
“That you become one with me.”
Needless to say, the Guide was talking to Lord Vlad.
de Carriole turned in amazement. The way these coincidences overlapped—if you could call them coincidences—left him stupefied. To slay his father Vlad, the baron sought to become one with the Destroyer. On the other hand, here was Lord Vlad about to become one with the Guide. Father and son would finally become diametrically opposed forces.
Holding his breath and straining his ears, de Carriole was eager to hear what Vlad’s reply would be.
“You would enter into me . . . and what would happen then?”
Although the lord’s question bore a crushing weight of anxiety, that was only natural.
“Our power would be doubled . . . well, that’s supposing that you and I were the same level.”
“Ah, in that case—”
“However,” the Guide interrupted him, “if your strength was far below my own, you would be killed in an instant. Or, as you Nobility say, ‘destroyed.’ And I would be left alone to slay the one who betrayed me.”
Vlad fell silent.
I’m not surprised that’s enough to make even you timid, de Carriole thought without any malice. And just then, he heard a rumble and felt a shock as if there were tremors deep in the earth. He soon realized it was an illusion. Nevertheless, none of his physical senses could be convinced that it wasn’t real.
It was Vlad. Lord Vlad had made up his mind. The rumbling in the earth had been the harbinger of his decision.