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Chapter 12 - Elder Vampire

Garrard was Alphonse's superior and the commanding officer of a unit of the Imperial Army responsible for maintaining law and order in Heimdallr, widely known as the 'Garrard Team.' More than that, he was like a father to Alphonse, as he was the man who had taken him in and raised him after Alphonse had lost his parents. Alphonse knew how hard Garrard had been working to try and catch the culprit behind the Vampire Murders, and how much anguish he felt at not being able to find any leads as to who the criminal might be, even if he tried not to show it to his subordinates. His desire to help ease that burden on his foster parent was part of the reason that Alphonse was so determined to catch the murderer himself. So what was Garrard doing here in the underground with them? He was supposed to be at the tavern that Elroy had attacked, taking command of the operation. What business could he possibly have here? Alphonse didn't understand. Or rather, he didn't want to understand.

Garrard regarded Alphonse with a strange mix of disappointment and affection, like a father looking at his naughty child. 'Well, I suppose this is a lot to take in for you.' 

He often made the same face when Alphonse addressed him too familiarly while on duty. Everything about Garrard was the same as ever...and he found that very fact deeply disturbing.

It was then that he noticed that Lucca was standing next to Garrard, her eyes vacant. She didn't seem at all bothered by the carnage all around her. In fact, she didn't even seem to be aware of it at all.

'Charm...?' said a weak voice. 'So then that... means you must be...'

Returning to his senses, Alphonse looked over in the direction of the voice. It was Rose. She was still lying on the ground. Blood bubbled on her lips from the effort of speaking. It was immediately obvious just from looking at her that the damage she had sustained was lethal. Garrard, seemingly surprised that she was still alive, responded to her unfinished question. 

'It's a pleasure to meet you, Miss Vampire Hunter.' My name is Garrard. I am the Elder Vampire that you two have been chasing all this time.'

He seemed to have no interest in hiding the truth any more. 

'...S...Sir...'

It was Elroy. Barely clinging to life, he crawled across the ground to Garrard's feet. His clawed hand grasped weakly at Garrard's pant leg as if trying to cling to him.

'I... I'm sorry, sir...I...'

Garrard kneeled down and took Elroy's hand. Bending over, he lifted him up like a parent might take a child in their arms.

'It's all right, Elroy. You did wonderfully in luring that loathsome 'vampire hunter' to the capital. I was right to believe in you. I couldn't have asked for more.' 

Listening to Garrard praise him, Elroy's expression was one of complete peace.

'...And that's why I have no further use for you. Sleep well.'

The warmth in Garrard's words seemed to drain in an instant. The next moment, a twisted grin emerged on his face, revealing beast-like fangs. No sooner had Alphonse noticed them than they sank into Elroy's neck.

'AaaghhGRAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!'

For the first time, Alphonse was forced to witness a vampire drinking blood. Elroy howled out in agony, his screams so piercing that Alphonse wanted to cover his ears to block them out. With agonizing slowness Garrard drank his blood, and by draining him, also absorbed the life energy of tens upon tens of innocent human beings that Elroy had killed. 

All of a sudden, Elroy's formerly youthful body began to shrivel up like a desiccated husk of corn. As his youth evaporated, Garrard's vitality grew exponentially. Black smoke began to pour from the youth's body, hiding it from sight. Elroy's cries grew hoarse, then stopped entirely. Finally, his body turned to dust, which fell onto the damp earth of the catacomb. 

The smoke finally cleared leaving only Garrard. He was now clad in a black coat in place of his army uniform. And instead of the middle-aged man he had been previously, he now appeared to be roughly the same age as Alphonse. A small line of blood trickled from the corner of his mouth. He lapped it up with his tongue, his expression one of pure bliss. He then started to look himself over, taking everything in as if trying to adjust to his new body. The man before him was no longer the Garrard that Alphonse once knew. He was the very image of the vampires that appeared in Erebonian legend. 

'Aaaah... Simply delicious. It's been over a decade since I last had the chance to taste human blood, but it's just as wonderful as I remembered. That was well worth going through all that tedious preparation for.'

He gave a satisfied sigh. Alphonse could only look at him in horrified disbelief.

'So you were the one who turned Elroy into a vampire? You were the one who made him drink blood, just so you could take it all from him?' 

'Now, now...' Garrard tsked. 'That's not quite true. I'll have you know that Elroy willingly chose to become one of us.'

Garrard placed his hand on his chest in mock solemnity and cast his eyes downwards in a thoroughly exaggerated fashion.

'Elroy was an orphan. He had lived a poor, lonely life, more so than anyone else I have ever known. But I saw that he was capable with a sword, and I invited him into the army. And so he came to be dependent on me, just as I thought he would.'

Garrard wiped an imaginary tear from the corner of his eye. 'It was as if he saw me as his real father,' he added with a laugh. 

Alphonse shuddered at the sound, chills running through his whole body.

'Eventually, he started to resent you for the fact that I had always raised you like a real son. He wanted to receive that treatment himself, so he tried to find a way to steal that position from you. One day, I decided to reveal my true identity to him, and invited him to become a vampire as well. He gladly agreed, hoping that by doing so he would be able to be more useful to me than you. Hoping that I would favor him more than I did you.' 

From a short distance away, Rose still lay on the ground, unable to move and frustrated by what she was hearing. In all likelihood, Garrard had given a fraction of his power to Elroy when he had turned him into a vampire. The scent of that was the reason that Rose assumed that he was the Elder Vampire that they were searching for. But she had been wrong. And if not for her mistake, they wouldn't be in this perilous situation to begin with.

For his part, Alphonse was stunned at the revelation that Elroy had held a grudge against him all this time, as well as the reason for it. It wasn't as though Alphonse had done anything wrong himself, or ever tried to hurt Elroy, and yet he was filled with a deep sense of regret. If only he had realized how Elroy felt earlier, perhaps he could have prevented him from becoming a vampire, and avoided all of this happening. Furthermore, he had no choice but to admit to himself that Garrard was the true culprit behind all of this and the man who had manipulated a lonely boy to kill countless people so that he didn't have to dirty his own hands. All of a sudden, the fact that they had been unable to stop the Vampire Murders no matter how much they  strengthened their night time patrols made perfect  sense. After all, what chance did they have when the  mastermind himself was in charge of organizing them? As that truth dawned on him, Alphonse felt a dull, terrible ache in his heart. 

A thoughtful 'hmmm' from Garrard brought Alphonse back to things at hand. The vampire licked his lips. 'Now that my hunger has finally been sated, I suppose all that remains is dessert,' he purred.

He glanced sideways towards the vacant-eyed Lucca, with undisguised desire, then wrenched his eyes away and focused on the still form of Rose. 

'But before that,' he said, suddenly raising his left hand and pointing it at her, 'I think it's about time our dear vampire hunter left the stage for good.'

Before Alphonse could even react, countless lances of blood like the two that had struck before formed and flew from his palm towards the fallen woman. Alphonse cried out but could do nothing to stop their flight.

Rose saw the danger and reacted. Still lying on the ground, she dropped the pistol that she had secretly been aiming at Garrard, and at the last second, used every bit of strength that remained to her to roll out of the way. She avoided instant death, but it would only be a momentary reprieve if the vampire decided to strike again. 

Garrard shook his head in amazement. 'Haha. You really are a tenacious one, aren't you? Then how about--'

'STOP!'

Just as Garrard was about to launch his next attack, Alphonse jumped at him. Sword raised, he slashed with everything he could muster. The sword made contact, but aside from a dull ringing sound, it didn't seem to do any actual damage. 

'Oh my. That's no way to show your appreciation to the man who raised you all these years,' Garrard said, laughing. He flicked his index finger at Alphonse's forehead, causing an unimaginably powerful shockwave which sent him flying backwards through the air. The silver sword Rose had given him was  supposed to be able to kill vampires, and yet it wasn't able to so much as scratch Garrard. It was then that Alphonse realized what he was up against: a true Elder Vampire, filled with the life energy of countless humans that Elroy had collected that he  stood no chance whatsoever against. The weight of that understanding filled him with despair. The vampire, meanwhile, seemed to think of something. 

'Oh, I know. While I'm telling you all of this, there is one other little thing that you might be interested to know. Think of this as a reward for surviving for so long.'

Winded from the blow, Alphonse could only gasp, 'Wh...at...?'

He struggled to rise, but he only got as far as kneeling. Garrard looked down at him, a vulgar smile playing at his lips. 

'The one who killed your parents...was me.'

Just as Alphonse had thought that nothing else could surprise him, he was proved wrong. Garrard's words dragged the sight of his mother and father, all of the blood drained from their bodies, lying dead in their home over ten years ago up from his memories. Garrard continued, seeming to enjoy Alphonse's  reaction.

'There really was a vampire in that village back then. Naturally, I'm referring to me. Your father seemed to realize the first part, and set about trying to find out the vampire's identity in secret.' 

This was the first that Alphonse had heard about this. He had no idea that his father had once tried to do exactly what he and Rose had.

'He was an exceptionally capable soldier, you know.' Garrard continued. 'Far too capable to be stuck in a backwater village like that. But that ended up being his undoing. He very nearly succeeded in discovering that it was I whom he was seeking. And that's why I killed him with my own hands. Him and his wife who was helping him.'

Alphonse stumbled to his feet and broke into a lurching charge at Garrard. With frenzied slashes and thrusts, he attacked the vampire, almost as if to avoid having to listen to what it was saying. 

Garrard laughed as he batted away the weak blows. 'The only problem with my plan was you, Al. I had intended to kill you at the same time. You were still a child at the time, but I couldn't allow anyone who might know my true identity to live. And yet when I came to take care of them, you were away from the house.'

No matter how many times Alphonse hacked at Garrard he could not connect. His silver sword, his fury, his grief...it all seemed meaningless against this foe. Nothing he did could hurt the creature who had taken everything from him. 

Completely ignoring Alphonse, Garrard continued talking. 'I couldn't very well kill you on a separate occasion, either,' he sighed. 'Not with the chance that the vampire hunter I'd heard was skulking about might catch wind of it and come after me. Too many strange murders in such a small town like that would be quite suspicious, after all. And that's why I decided to keep you close to me, instead, so that I could keep an eye on you myself.' 

Effectively, it seemed, Garrard's plan was to make sure that Alphonse never remembered anything that might help him realize the vampire's true identity. If he had, he would have been killed. The man he thought he knew, the man who had cared for him like a father, was a lie. Slowly, as the full, bitter truth began to sink in, he could feel the hot prickle of tears stinging his eyes.

'But that won't be necessary anymore. I have no reason to allow you to live any longer.'

Garrard had previously been disregarding all of Alphonse's futile attempts to hurt him, but suddenly he went on the offensive. Lightning quick, he bypassed Alphonse's guard and his fist made contact with the young man's right side. Bones crumpled under the sharp blow, and once again, Alphonse was sent flying. 

He landed hard but was almost immediately up once again through sheer force of will. The pain was incredible, and something was broken inside him, but it didn't matter - he simply couldn't forgive the man, the creature in front of him, for what he had done. 

'You c  you must know that. Just give up and die.'

This time Garrard came to him. His attacks were relentless, like water gushing from a broken dam. Again and again his tightly clenched fist pounded Alphonse with the force of a wrecking ball. Unable to defend himself from the onslaught, Alphonse was showered with punches, blood spraying through the air with every strike.

'...A...l...'

Faintly, he heard Rose call his name. She barely seemed able to maintain consciousness. If he lost here, Rose would be killed for sure. As would Lucca.  Losing wasn't an option. Being killed wasn't an option. Defeat of any kind wasn't an option considering what was at stake. 

A sharp pain in his side signaled another bone breaking. Blood dribbled down his lips as he bit back a groan. The more time passed, the closer he was drawing to death's door. Nonetheless, he slowly raised his sword again, swinging it downwards with the last of his strength... As he did, Garrard aimed yet another punch at him from directly in front. With a dull metallic sound, the blade snapped in two. The power of the blow sent the top half flying. It flipped end over end and back, clear through Alphonse's right shoulder. It ended impaled into the ground next to where Rose lay. 

The moment it sliced through him, it felt as though his strings had been cut as well. He had no more energy left to fight. He couldn't even maintain his grip on the broken sword in his hand. He crumbled to the ground, too exhausted to go on. As he did, another faint memory of the past resurfaced in his mind. During the short period before his parents' murders, there had been a girl who often came to their home, who had introduced herself as an acquaintance of his father's. She used to take him out to play practically every day, so that he wouldn't disturb his father while he was working. Thinking back, the work he had been doing must have been investigating the vampire. It was on one of those days that the murders took place. If he had been home with his parents at the time, he would no doubt have been killed alongside them. It was thanks to her taking him out that day that he had been able to live in ignorance for so long and avoid being killed by Garrard. 

He had long forgotten her, perhaps because his parents' murders had left such a deep scar inside him that all other memories of the period had been pushed into the depths of his subconscious. He found himself wondering how she was doing now, whether she was all right. He hoped she was. 

These were the idle thoughts that filled him as he lay defeated on the ashen earth, Garrard's mocking laughter filling his ears.

I think it really is time to finish this. Your mother and father are waiting for you up with the Goddess.' 

The vampire held the fingers of his right hand straight and rigid, thumb folded inwards as if performing a karate chop. He then swung it downwards towards Alphonse like the blade of a guillotine, aiming directly for his neck.

White light suddenly filled the area, obscuring all else. At the same time, Alphonse heard the sound of something rending the air. Realizing that he was still alive, he slowly opened his eyes.

The hand that had been about to slice through Alphonse's neck now had a gigantic hole at its center. Garrard had his left hand wrapped around his right wrist and was staring at the hole in horror, unable to process what had just happened. The edges of the wound smoked and sizzled. 

'Im-Impossible...'

Before him stood Rose.

Her injuries had been beyond most humans' ability to even survive, yet there she stood, unwavering, a smoking silver pistol in her hand. Her lips were still bright with blood, but her voice was steady.

'I will not allow you to lay another finger on him.'

Her eyes blazed with a bright crimson fire. 

第12回 高位の吸血鬼《エルダー・ヴァンパイア》

 帝国军の中でも、帝都の治安维持を任された部队。通称『ガラード队』队长を务める壮年の男ガラードは、アルフォンスの上司であり、また、両亲をなくした彼を引き取って育てた父亲同然の男でもあった。

最近、帝都を恐怖に陥れる『吸血鬼事件』の解决に尽力しつつも、その犯人への手がかりを掴めないでいることに、人知れず苦悩していたのも知っている。アルフォンスが吸血鬼事件を己の手で解决したいと愿う理由の、もう一つがそれだ。 

 そんな彼が、何故この仄暗い地下道にいるのか。 

今はエルロイの袭撃にあった宿酒场の指挥を执っているはずの彼が、何故。アルフォンスには理解できなかった。いや、理解したくなかった。

「まあ流石に混乱するか」

 ガラードはやれやれと言った表情で、しかし笑みを浮かべながら目を伏せ、头を掻く。

 仕事中でもうっかり「おじさん」と呼んでしまうアルフォンスを諌めるときのように。あくまで普段通りの雰囲気が、途辙もなく不気味だった。

よく见るとその傍らには、虚ろな目をしたルッカが立っている。目の前で起こっている意味不明な事态に惊いている——わけではない。まったく反応を示さない。まるで、意思を失っているかのように。

「……『魅了』の、术……では、あなたが……」

我に返って声のしたほうを见る——ロゼだ。あのどす黒い血液の枪を腹部に受け、倒れ伏したままの彼女が、声を绞り出していた。その様子を见れば、彼女が致命的なダメージを受けてしまっていることは明らかだった。

 ガラードは彼女が生きていたことに少しだけ惊いた様子を见せつつ、

「お初にお目にかかる、“吸血鬼狩り”のお嬢さん。

 私の名はガラード——君たちの追う“高位の吸血鬼”だ」 

——そう、恭しく认めた。


「——たい、ちょう……」

 弱々しく声を上げながら、濒死のエルロイがアルフォンスの横を这っていく。やがてガラードの足元にたどり着いた彼は、

「队长、队长……すみません、俺は……」そう、すがる様に手を伸ばす。

 ガラードはその手をとり、エルロイを中腰で抱き上げる。 

「ああ、いいんだエルロイ。お前はよくやってくれた。 

 忌まわしい“吸血鬼狩り”を帝都に诱き寄せてくれた。

 それだけで充分だ。

 期待通りだよ。やはりお前は见込んだ通りの男だ」

労いの言叶を并べ立てるガラードの腕の中で、エルロイはかつてない安堵を浮かべる。

「——だからもう、用済みだ。ゆっくりお休み」

 唐突に温度を失ったガラードの言叶。次の瞬间、ガラードは口元をゆがませ——そこから见える獣のように尖った牙を、エルロイの首筋に突きたてた。 

「あ、が、ぐああああああがががあ゛あ゛あ゛あ゛……!!」

——吸血だ。目の前でそれが行われるのを、アルフォンスは初めて目撃した。耳を塞ぎたくなるような绝叫とともに、エルロイの体を流れていた血液が——数十人の生命を粮にしてきたそれが——ガラードの体へと取り込まれているのだ。

エルロイの若々しかった肉体は急激に、枯れ木のように干からびていった。入れ代わりに、40代前后だったガラードの体が精気に満ちていくのが分かる。同时にその体から黒い烟があがり、彼の体を包んでいく。 

 やがてエルロイの声は瞬く间にかすれ、闻こえなくなった。最后に——エルロイはただの砂と化して、墓所の湿った土の上に流れ落ちた。

烟が晴れると、そこには军服の代わりに黒衣の外套を缠ったガラードの姿があった。

 アルフォンスと同じ歳ほどの若々しい姿へと変貌した彼は、恍惚とした表情で、口の端から垂れた血液を舐め取る。そして、新たな体の感覚を确かめるように己の全身をじっくりと眺めていく。その様は、アルフォンスの知る彼ではなかった。 

伝承にある『吸血鬼』の姿そのもの——だった。

「ああ、甘美だ。十数年ぶりの人间の血液。やはり、いい。 

 面倒な手间をかけて下ごしらえをした甲斐があった」 

満足そうにため息をつくガラードに、绝望的な颜を向けるアルフォンス。

「あなたが……エルロイを吸血鬼に変えたのか。

 あいつに人间の血を吸わせて……

 それをまとめて夺うために……」

「人闻きが悪いな、アル。

 彼は进んで我が眷属となってくれたのだよ」 

そう言うと、ガラードは芝居がかった动作で胸に手を当て目を伏せる。

「エルロイは孤児だった。

 贫しく、谁よりも大きな孤独を抱えていた。 

 私はそんな彼に剣の才能を见出して、军に招きいれてやった。

 予想通り彼は、この私に强く依存してくるようになった」 

さながら本当の父亲のようにね、と笑いながら语るガラード。その言叶の端々に、アルフォンスは冻えるような冷たさを覚える。

「彼は、そんな私に息子同然の扱いを受けていたお前を、いつしか疎ましく思うようになったのだろう。

 そして、どうにかその场所を胜ち取りたいと考えた。

 私はある日、そんな彼に正体を明かして仲间に诱った。

 彼は、喜んでそれを受けたよ。 

私を手伝うことで『アルフォンスより役に立つ』ことを证明しようとしたのだ」


起き上がることもできないロゼは、ただ悔いていた。 

 おそらく、エルロイが吸血鬼に変えられたその时に、ガラードの持つ力の一端が与えられた。その匂いを感じ取ったロゼは、彼こそが“高位の吸血鬼”だと勘违いした。そして、まんまとこの绝体绝命の状况を作り上げられてしまったのだ。

アルフォンスは、エルロイの恨みを知ってショックを感じていた。それは傍から见ればあまりにも自分胜手な恨みだったが、アルフォンスは后悔した。自分がその気持ちに気づいていれば、彼は吸血鬼にならずに済んだかもしれないのだと。 

 そして、ガラードこそが——裏から糸を引いてエルロイの想いを弄び、己の手を汚さずに多くの犠牲を出した真の黒幕だったのだと、认めざるを得なかった。

 部队によって深夜の巡回が毎夜行われていたのに、事件を抑止できずにいたこと。彼自身が部队を指挥していたのだから、それも当然の结果と言えた。 

その事実は、彼を父のように慕っていたアルフォンスの心に钝く、锐い痛みを与えた。

「ようやく私の“血への渇望”は満たされた。あとは、デザートか」

 虚ろなルッカを横目で见て、舌なめずりするガラード——。そのおぞましい言叶に肌を粟立たせるアルフォンス。「——その前に」そう言ってガラードは、唐突に左手を倒れたロゼに向ける。

「“吸血鬼狩り”には死んでもらわなくてはな」

 次の瞬间、掌から先ほどと同じ“血液の枪”が无数に放たれた。

アルフォンスが声を上げる暇もなく——それらはロゼの全身を贯いた。

「うぁっ……!」

彼女は倒れたまま、密かに铳口を定めていた银の大型拳铳をとり落としていた。攻撃を受ける瞬间、彼女は全身の力を振り绞って身を翻していた。それが功を奏したか、なんとか即死だけは免れたらしい——だが、着実に“死”へと近づいていた。

「ハハ、流石にしぶといな。ならば——」 

「やめろおおおおお!!」

 すぐさま次の一手に入ろうとしていたガラードに、アルフォンスは飞び起きて斩りかかる。袈裟切りに放たれた白银の剣。それは、钝い音を立てて止まってしまう。 

「おじさんに手を上げるとは何事だ、アル」

冗谈めかして笑うガラードは、人差し指でアルフォンスの额を弾く。そこから想像を绝する凄まじい冲撃を受けて吹き飞び、もんどり打つアルフォンス。 

 吸血鬼を灭ぼすための刃が、薄皮一枚も裂くことができなかった。エルロイを介して数十人の血液を、生命を取り込んだ“高位の吸血鬼”——。决して超えられることのない高い壁が耸えたのを、アルフォンスは感じた。 

绝望的な影を落とすアルフォンスに、吸血鬼は何か思いついたような颜をする。

「——ああそうだ。种明かしついでにいい事を教えてやろう。

 この场に生きて居合わせることができた褒美だ」 

「何、を……」なんとか膝を突いて立ち上がろうとするアルフォンスに、ガラードは下卑た笑みを浮かべて言った——


「お前の両亲を杀したのは、私だ」


 さらなる冲撃を受けるアルフォンス。

 十数年前、辺境の村にある小さな家の中で、全身の血を夺われて死んだ父母。今なお鲜烈に彼の脳裏に刻まれたその光景が、一瞬にして苏る。

アルフォンスの反応を楽しむように、ガラードは続ける。 

「当时、あの村には実际に吸血鬼が潜んでいたのだ。

 すなわち、この私がな。その存在に気づいたお前の父は、

极秘裏にその正体を突き止めようとしていた」

 アルフォンスにとって初耳の事実だった。父が当时、自分と同じ事をしようとしていたのだ。

「彼は、优秀な军人だった。 

 あんな辺境にいるのが惜しいほどにな。 

 だがいささか优秀すぎた。 

 私の正体に気づく寸前まで辿りついてしまった。 

 だから——杀してやったのだ、この手で。

 奴を手伝っていた妻もろとも」 

アルフォンスは立ち上がって攻撃を再开する。その言叶を振り払うかのように。

「误算だったのはお前の存在だ、アル。

 私はその时、まだ子供だったお前も杀すはずだったのだ。 

 私の正体を知った可能性がある者を生かしておくわけにはいかなかった。

 だが、お前はその时、偶然家を离れてしまっていた」 

何度も缲り出される斩撃——白银の刃が空しく滑っていく。彼にはやはり、伤一つつけることはできない。ガラードは无视して话を続ける。

「あんな辺境で何度も表立った事件を起こすわけにはいかなかった。 

 话に闻いていた“吸血鬼狩り”に嗅ぎ付けられる可能性があったからな。 

 だから私は、お前を手元に置いて监视することにしたのだ」

もし记忆の中にガラードの正体に通じるものがあったなら、今日までのどこかで杀されていた。それは、そう言う意味だ。

 优しく、父のように接してくれた彼の姿は全て仮初だった——。今更ながら突き付けられた事実にアルフォンスの目尻が渗む。

「だが、それも终わりだ。アル、お前にはもう用はない」

いままで攻撃を无视していたガラードが、一転反撃に出る。凄まじい拳の一撃がアルフォンスの右脇腹を抉り、そのまま吹き飞ばした。「ぐはっ……!」あばら骨が砕かれ、激しい痛みが広がる。

 だが、それでもアルフォンスは立ち上がった。血を吐きながら、ふらふらになりながらも、目の前の存在を绝対に许すわけにはいかなかった。 

「虚势を张っても无駄だ。おとなしく死ね」

 堰を切ったように、ガラードの猛攻が加えられる。轧むほどに握り缔めた拳による连撃。吸血鬼の膂力を备えたそれは一撃一撃が钢鉄の鉄球の如き威力を持つ。それは今や防御すらできないアルフォンスの体中に浴びせられた。 

花が咲くかのように血飞沫が舞い、散っていく。

「……ア、ル……」意识すら朦胧とした様子のロゼが、自分の名を呼ぶのが闻こえた。

 ここで倒れれば、彼女は杀される。意思を夺われたルッカも食粮とされるだろう。そんなことをさせるわけにはいかない。倒れるわけには、死ぬわけには。 

强烈な打撃で骨を砕かれる痛みが体中を袭っていた。蓄积されていく“死”。そんな中、彼はゆっくりと剣を构え、残された力を込めて振り下ろした——。 

 真っ向から向かってくる拳。钝い金属音とともに、剣は真っ二つにされてしまう。加えられた冲撃によって剣先が弾き飞ばされ、アルフォンスの右の肩口を抉った。その势いのまま、剣先は后方に回転しつつ弧を描き、倒れ伏したロゼのすぐ傍に突き刺さる。 

その伤を负った瞬间、アルフォンスは自分の中の何かがぷつりと切れる音を闻いた。もはや、全ての力を使い果たした。折れた剣を握り缔めることすらできず、脱力して膝から崩れていく。

 そんな中……アルフォンスは、目を伏せて过去の胧げな记忆を思い出していた。

 両亲が杀された事件の少し前から、父の知り合いを名乗る女性がよく家を访れていた。

 当时、父が家でやっていた仕事——今思えば、吸血鬼の调査のことだったのだろう——その邪魔にならないようにと、彼女は毎日のようにアルフォンスを游びに连れ出していた。 

事件はそんなある日に起きた。あの时、家にいたなら自分も杀されていたのだろう。そして、彼女が父から离していてくれたからこそ、自分は今まで何も知らずにいられた。そのおかげで、今までガラードに杀されずに済んでいたのだ。 

 両亲の死があまりに强烈すぎたためか、彼女の记忆は今の今まで完全に忘れていた。あの女性は今、何をしているのだろう。

どうか、无事でいて欲しい——。 

 灰色の土の上に、倒れ伏したアルフォンス。ガラードの嘲笑が闻こえる。

「さあ、アル。今こそ因縁に幕を下ろそう。

 父と母が、女神の元でお前を待っているぞ」 

吸血鬼の右手が手刀の构えを取る。アルフォンスの首を刎ねんがため、それは断头台の刃の如く振り下ろされる——。


——あたりが真っ白な光に包まれる。

 同时に、空気が张り裂けるような音が闻こえた気がした。アルフォンスは自分がまだ生きていることを知ると、ゆっくりと睑を上げる。


手刀の中央に——巨大な穴が穿たれていた。手首を抱えてうろたえるガラード。その断面はちりちりと焦げ付いている。 

「ば、马鹿な——」 

 彼の视线を追った先には——ロゼ。 

 体中を穿たれ、死に直面していたはずの彼女が、硝烟の上がる白银の大型拳铳を构えてそこに立っていた。


「その方には、もはや指一本触れさせません——」 


その瞳は、烂々とした真红の辉きを讃えていた。

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