Vampire Hunter D: Pale Fallen Angel Parts Three and Four, page 7
The girl was frozen in astonishment when D ordered her, “Go someplace else.”
Seeing the slim scalpel he held in his hand, May raced over despite herself, shouting, “No, we’ve got to get you a doctor!”
“A doctor can’t cure this,” D said. “Besides, if we take too long, our pursuers will catch up with us. And Vlad has probably heard about us by now.”
The Hunter explained the situation to the eleven-year-old girl. That in itself was proof that he viewed her not as a child, but as a woman who dwelt out on the Frontier.
“And you plan on taking care of that—alone?”
“Go,” D told her.
“No, I wanna help!”
“There’s nothing you can do.”
“Even if there were, would you tell me?” she shot back, not even sure why she had spoken. Perhaps it was some feminine instinct that compelled her to rise to the challenge and not let this gorgeous young man get the better of her. “You just hold on a minute. I’ll go fetch some hot water.”
Hastily returning to the kitchen, she transferred the steaming fluid in the kettle to a larger pot, added water from the tap, then wrapped both arms around it and staggered back to where a truly ghastly scene was unfolding.
D had already carved one of the stalks out of his own flesh with the bloody scalpel and was about to start in on the second. The roots of the flower he’d thrown down on the floor looked to be nearly three feet in length, and when she thought about them burrowing through his body, May nearly dropped the pot. What’s more, the blood that leaked from the roots had collected in a small puddle on the floor.
Saying nothing, D moved the scalpel through the flesh around the second stalk as if he were merely sketching a circle. May’s eyes were riveted. As if fearing what would come next, the red blossom’s petals trembled. Grabbing hold of its roots, D yanked it right out.
An indescribable cry assailed the girl’s ears. A scream unleashed by the flower.
“Wait,” she called out to D as he was about to set to work on the third stalk, and once she’d set the pot down on a simple table, May fainted dead away.
The next thing she knew, she was lying in bed. Though the lights had been extinguished, a watery light filled the room, and there were birds singing outside. It was dawn.
Realizing that she must’ve been unconscious all night, May got out of bed. Although the bed on which D had lain and the floor were both soaked with blood, the pot was gone. The girl thought he must’ve carried it off again so that she wouldn’t see anything more unpleasant than necessary when she returned to her senses.
Exiting the living quarters, she found the door to the shed open. May scurried out into the still-feeble light. Wooden steps ran from the main entrance down to the riverbank, and the girl was surprised to find a figure in black standing by the side of the loudly gurgling flow. The wind fluttered the hem of his coat.
“D!” she called out to him, but on finally noticing the massive shape above her, May looked up and froze in her tracks.
She’d ridden the great Ferris wheel at the sprawling amusement park in the western Frontier—but this was five times its size. A cold, wet mist struck her face—spray sent out by the water wheel. Once the sun rose high enough, she wondered if the shadow of the water wheel would cut across the whole village of Krauhausen, or even cover it completely.
It was soon thereafter that her attention shifted from that imposing sight to the young man by the water’s edge. Though the Hunter didn’t even turn to look at the girl as she ran toward him, May neither thought that he disliked her nor that he was cold. No matter how he might comport himself from day to day, hadn’t he raced to her aid like a genie when her life was in danger? Having been there right by his side, she knew better than anyone how he’d risked his life in doing so, for the pain he’d suffered from the bloody blossoms the night before was something he’d been subjected to in the process of saving her. And although she wanted to thank him at the very least, she couldn’t find the words. The young man in black had a sternness about him that blocked any attempt to approach him. May wasn’t exactly sure why that was the case.
D suddenly turned in her direction. His chest was covered by his black raiment, as if nothing had ever happened.
“D . . .”
That was the only word she could form. There were a million things she wanted to say. However, the gorgeous young man was there, as powerful as any mountain. And the rescue, the monstrous flowers, the blood that had been sucked from him, the intense operation he’d performed—none of that mattered.
“Something flowed past here last night,” D said.
“By the time I got out here, it’d already gone by, though—”
Eyeing the glittering water, D then started back toward the shed.
May didn’t follow him. She wanted to let the morning breeze blow over her.
As he was disappearing into the shed, the sunlight shone onto his beautiful form. On the opposite side of the river—from the far depths of the forest—the morning sun was beginning to rise. For a second, it occurred to the girl that perhaps D had been out there waiting for the dawn. And although she had no particular reason for feeling as much, May found that notion profoundly sad.
The village of Krauhausen was bisected by two rivers, one running from east to west and the other from north to south. Flowing, oddly enough, in almost straight lines, the two rivers intersected at Vlad’s ancient castle. The crystal-clear waters were drawn underground beneath the heavy ramparts, the river from the east exiting to the west and that from the north coming out again in the south. As might be imagined from the proportions of the water wheel, the current was quite strong, and not a year went by without a number of people drowning not only out between the mountains but also in the village itself. The villagers had dubbed the river running north to south the Pierce, and the one from east to west the Spear.
Downstream along the Pierce, a bizarre little booth had been set up since early in the morning. A pair of chairs sat on opposite sides of a folding table. Although this was a common arrangement for fortunetellers, there wasn’t the customary crystal ball or astrological charts. The only thing that sat on the table was a small mirror.
There were quite a few travelers either hastening into Krauhausen or merely passing through in the wee hours of the morning, and they couldn’t help but notice the booth. At first, most would get a look in their eyes that said, What’s the story with this? but on noticing the person who stood beside the booth, they’d be taken aback, staring rather intently at the proprietor’s face until their eyes met. At that point, their expression would once more be one of shock, and the travelers then wasted little time in leaving.
In the hour or so since dawn, ten travelers and three wagons had passed the booth, and all of them had displayed the same reaction. And then the eleventh and twelfth came along—a father accompanied by his daughter, by the look of them. Though the father was about to keep right on going, his daughter stopped in her tracks and pointed at the man who stood beside the booth.
“Look, Papa. That man—he’s really pretty!”
Having business that night in another village, the father was clearly in ill humor as he turned to look from further down the road, but as he did so, his eyes went wide. Was he dreaming? The man who stood there was wearing a coat that borrowed all the colors of the rainbow. Since the father knew that Krauhausen was a bustling village, the sight of a man wearing such an insane riot of hues didn’t make much of an impression on him, but the face was another matter. Quite long—to the point where some might describe it as a horse face—it was still graced by round eyes, a nice high nose, lips as long and thin as blades of grass, and nigh-translucent skin. No matter how you looked at it, it was a face that was the very embodiment of youthful beauty. Knowing all the while that it wasn’t the kindest thing to do, he began to compare him to the da
In one hand the man had a three-tiered cosmetic case, while he gripped a brush between the fingers of the other and was in the process of making up his own face.
“Voilà! Finished!” he said as he took the brush away from his eyelashes.
The father and daughter gasped.
On closer inspection, his eyes were too narrow and their lids were weirdly broad. Although his nose ran in a nice sharp line, his nostrils were permanently flared out to either side, making his nose seem like a naked figure sitting cross-legged in the middle of his face. And his lips looked like plump sausages that’d been glued onto him. Yet he appeared to be the most dashing lad in the land.
That was the power of makeup. Eye shadow that looked positively moist cast shadows, and foundation that duplicated subtle skin tones had been spread to make the three-dimensional lines of his nostrils lie flat in two dimensions. Needless to say, those faint wisps of lip came from the way his lipstick had been applied.
“What do you say, miss?” he said, gesturing to a seat, which the girl then headed for with unsure steps.
“Hey! Joanna!” her father shouted in an effort to stop her.
“Never fear. I’m Chlomo, a makeup artist who works exclusively with travelers heading into town. My whole purpose is to make your lovely daughter even more beautiful. As far as payment goes—I don’t want any money.”
“No charge?” the father said, a penurious grin flitting across his lips, but he quickly wiped it away, adding, “I don’t know . . .”
“I wanna do it,” his daughter pleaded, staring at the tough-looking man wearing makeup.
Under greater scrutiny the true face of the man—Chlomo—became apparent. And it was for this very reason that the wondrousness of the makeup he’d applied put her feminine instincts into overdrive.
Up until now, every traveler who’d passed by had been male.
While there was some insistence along the lines that it would be fine and it was free, the father still found the guy vaguely unsettling, but on reconsideration he knew this couldn’t be some kind of monster out first thing in the morning. Ultimately, he had no choice but to let the girl do as she wished.
Having the daughter take a seat, the artist settled into the chair across from her and set to work. Her makeup was complete in under a minute. In addition to being executed at an alarming speed, the job was also peerless in its precision. The eye brush flashed out; the powder puff sprinkled iridescent powder.
“How do you like it?” Chlomo said as he held a mirror out for her, having returned to his own unadorned horse face. No doubt he’d decided that as a dashing young man, he’d be hard pressed to impress the girl no matter how much he improved her appearance.
“It’s incredible!” the girl exclaimed with delight. She had to wring the words from her throat. With eyes of peerless allure and cheeks as pink as cherry blossoms, the face reflected in the mirror could be none other than that of Venus newly born from the foam of the sea.
“What do you think, sir?” Chlomo said, but the girl’s astounded father was unable to form a reply. He appeared dumbstruck by his daughter’s transformation, or, worse yet, filled by an emotion of an entirely different sort.
“My . . . It certainly is something . . . That you could make her so . . . so sexy . . .”
Both his gaze and his voice were vacant.
“It’s just wonderful, Papa. Look—I’m the most beautiful woman in the world!”
Grabbing the hem of her skirt, the girl twirled around.
Chlomo followed right behind her, and when they were a short distance from her father, he asked her in a hushed tone, “Do you like it, miss?”
“Of course I do. Thank you. You’re the greatest makeup artist in the world!”
“No, I’m just someone with a love of cosmetics. But miss, your face is actually based on a beautiful model.”
“A model? Well, that’s okay. There shouldn’t be any harm in there being two people this good looking.”
“Of course there wouldn’t. However, there’s more to consider. Said model was actually an exceptionally wicked woman.”
“A wicked woman?” the girl said, stopping in her tracks and gazing at Chlomo with uncertainty.
“Yes, indeed. So conceited with her own beauty that she made men support her, dumping them in a heartbeat when their money ran out, stealing her acquaintances’ boyfriends, and eventually ordering men to rob banks, steal livestock, kidnap, and commit murder—she could make them do anything. But the worst thing of all was—”
From a short distance away, the father watched Chlomo whisper something to his daughter. Just as he was thinking, Something ain’t right about all this, his daughter turned in his direction. For all her newfound beauty, her face was now far stiffer than it had been seconds earlier.
“What’s gotten into you?” he asked in spite of himself, feeling rather unsettled.
“Oh, nothing,” his daughter replied with a shake of her head, and then she drew the knife she wore on her hip for protection and drove it into her father’s chest.
“Y—you . . .”
When the father fell without another word, Chlomo raced over to take his pulse, gave a nod, then felt around inside the father’s shirt pockets until he pulled out a fat wallet. Admiring its weight once or twice, he then slipped it into his own coat pocket before turning to the girl standing there dazedly with a bloodstained knife in one hand.
“The worst characteristic of the model I chose was that she always killed the men she’d used. The father who’d raised her was in particular danger. Here endeth the lesson,” he remarked with amusement.
Then circling around behind the girl, he rested one hand gently on her shoulder and whispered into her ear once more, saying, “If we were to let such an utterly wicked individual live, there’d be no room for law and order in this world. And we couldn’t have that.”
A second later, the girl bent backward. A steely tip poked out between her breasts.
Putting one foot against her back as she convulsed, he simultaneously pulled his bastard sword out and kicked the girl’s body into the river that ran under the road.
“Well, that’s the end of your makeup,” the dashing young man said, grinning as the splash of the water reached his ears.
Once the spray she’d created had sent ripples great and small traveling out across the river, redness spread through the water a short distance away and the slight form bobbed to the surface, floating off with the water’s mighty current. Her father’s body was promptly sent after hers.
“I made more than I expected. I can close up shop for the day.”
How did those words sound to the corpses as they flowed off into the distance with heads hanging low and blood trailing behind them like swaths of red fabric?
Raising his gorgeous face suddenly and furrowing his thin eyebrows, Chlomo looked upstream and muttered, “Oh, looks like someone else has been up to my tricks.”
His eyes had gone right back to the surface of the river. In one area, the river grew much wider, and as it did, the flow became more sedate than in narrower parts. Thanks to this, all kinds of junk got hung up on wooden piles or trees that’d toppled at the water’s edge. About fifteen or twenty feet upstream from where he’d disposed of the father and daughter, he’d spotted someone’s arm snagged on a branch of a fallen tree, while the rest of the person was underwater. His remark about someone being up to his tricks was merely a joke in poor taste about there being another corpse in the water. Or it was only supposed to be a joke, but as Chlomo stared at the body, his eyes shone with amazement. In a cape so blue it called to mind the depths of the sea, and with a form that looked manly and strong even swaying beneath the water, there was no way this was a human. It was a Noble. And considering the matter that had the only Nobility in Krauhausen in an uproar of late—for h
But what would he be doing out here?
The answer was simple: last night he’d paid a visit to the castle and met with an ambush. Chlomo didn’t think that it served him right. Although he was one of Lord Vlad’s mightiest three—along with Zanus and Sai Fung—the other two had originally been working under de Carriole, so their loyalty to their lord wasn’t especially great. In particular, the reason Chlomo could leave it to Zanus and Sai Fung to stop Byron from attacking while he was out robbing and murdering first thing in the morning was because he planned on taking off anyway and leaving Lord Vlad to fend for himself if things started to go poorly—to put it plainly, he was a self-centered bastard or, worse yet, a psychopath.
What fun! Nothing like a little murder in the family, he chortled in his heart of hearts.
At that point, the only thing sticking out of the water—the baron’s pale hand—twitched. Actually, the baron’s hand hadn’t been hit by direct sunlight, but rather it had lain in the shadow the leaves of this toppled tree cast on the water’s surface. However, if the sun were to rise even a tad higher, the shadow would recede, leaving the back of his hand exposed to the rays of the sun. And it had just risen that little bit. Despite being covered by clothing and the armored back of his glove, the Nobleman’s skin reacted quite sensitively to the sunlight. His immortal flesh had now begun to voice a protest against the force that kept him from shielding himself.