City Series:Volume2 Chapter 2
Chapter 2: Deadly Activation
As soon as he left the Yard, Amon was overrun by work to get his life in order.
It would not have been so bad if he only had to move, but he had also been asked to deal with Jonathan’s brewery.
By the time he closed the shop, got the inventory in order, cancelled the wharf warehouse rental, and brought all the paperwork to the municipal office’s late night service window, it was morning.
Just like the day before, he returned home far too late.
Out of habit, he started toward the brewery he had lived in with Jonathan, so he had to change direction.
“My room’s this way now.”
The morning was still dark as he walked through the residential Soho Square. The stone-paved road, brick-paved sidewalk, and gas lights all looked oddly faded.
…I must be tired.
His thoughts were answered by the deep, sinking bell and music indicating the top of the hour. The strangely clear sound resembled the colors of the sky as dawn arrived.
The bell rang five times.
He stopped to count the number and applied Verbal Self Control as the ringing reverberated through his body. Once he began walking again, his pace was quicker and he looked in the windows of the shopping district. The stores run by nocturnal races were about to close.
“Maybe I should eat something now.”
Only then did he realize someone was staring at him.
Without a doubt, a weakly murderous gaze was focused on the back of his neck.
“Did the Yard send out someone to monitor me?”
He frowned and slowed his pace a little.
He looked over his shoulder a bit, but he did not look with his eyes. He used Overriding to instead read his surroundings.
He found someone who worked for the Yard almost too easily.
They were quite close by. He recognized their presence at the boutique across the road.
It was a terribly defenseless presence that did not even hide its location. In other words, it was not the presence of an observer.
Confused, Amon stopped walking and looked over at the large show window of the boutique.
He saw a girl that he recognized.
She was the blind girl named Klausl.
She held some modest clothing that ignored the latest trends and faced the half-fishwoman with beautiful scales who worked at the boutique.
Klausl was chatting with the boutique worker and was clearly not monitoring Amon.
…Is she out shopping on her way home from the Yard? How lovely.
He gave a bitter smile of self-deprecation and looked around again.
He could not sense anyone other than the girl in the boutique, but he still felt a gaze on the back of his neck.
It was not a pleasant feeling.
He began walking again and sped up to draw out whoever it was. He hurried as he sidestepped the signs that had been standing there for several years now and slipped between them and the gas lights.
Suddenly, he just about ran into someone leaving a nearby bakery. They did not actually collide, but he must have frightened the other person. Her blue skirt spread out like a flower and she fell on her butt.
He reflexively looked down at her.
“That was close. Watch where you’re going, you idiot.”
But then he gasped.
The person sitting before him with a dazed look was Klausl who had been in the boutique just a second before.
She sat on the brick sidewalk and looked up at him in confusion.
“Eh?” he muttered.
He turned back toward the boutique, but he could not see inside it from this angle.
A grim look covered his brow and he looked back at Klausl who held a paper bag of bread and nodded.
“Sorry. I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going, Amon.”
“Eh? O-oh, yeah. It was your fault.”
Amon gave that terribly awkward response and thought about the situation.
It had taken him a few dozen seconds to walk from the boutique to here, so it would have taken Klausl about the same amount of time. However, she would not have had enough time to end her conversation with the boutique worker, arrive here ahead of him, and leave the store holding a bag of bread.
He must have strongly Tasked and Opened his confusion because Klausl tilted her head as she stood up.
“What is it?”
He suddenly noticed a difference between the girl in the boutique and this one holding the paper bag.
Their clothes were different.
The previous one had been wearing the uniform of a Yard office worker.
This Klausl’s clothes were similar, but the decorations were slightly different.
He nodded and applied Verbal Self Control. It was not uncommon to think a stranger was someone you knew.
…That’s right. And right now I need to find whoever’s observing me.
“Observing you?” asked Klausl.
“Don’t read my Open Words.”
“Oh, sorry. B-but, um… Excuse me.”
“What?” he asked without bothering to hide his annoyance.
“Do you like bread?”
The question was so sudden and thoughtless that his mouth simply hung open for a bit.
“Um, there are some people in London who can’t eat certain things. …For example, there are those who have to eat carrots or can’t eat garlic or salt. So I just wanted to ask.”
He just about answered, but quickly realized he was being an idiot.
“W-wait just a second.”
“Yes? What is it?”
“Why on earth are you asking this out of the blue in the middle of the city?”
With her eyes still closed, Klausl thought for a moment.
“I suppose you’re right. …Okay, I would like to ask a question. May I?”
Amon just about collapsed right then and there.
“I wasn’t asking you to go through some kind of official procedure!”
“But you said my question was too sudden…”
…Someone help me.
Amon let out a defeated sigh which was rare for him.
“I may not be one to talk, but do you have screw loose in your head or something?”
“Oh, my. That sounds serious. I need to ask father about that.”
“Are you messing with me?”
His shoulders drooped and Klausl must have picked up on his frustration because she seemed to give up on asking her strange question. Something akin to sadness reached him much like Open Words.
“It seems I caught you at a bad time. …Sorry.”
He remained silent, hesitated for a moment, but ultimately turned his back.
He walked off at a quick pace and scratched his head.
“What a strange girl.”
As he rushed away, he once more felt the gaze of the observer he had nearly forgotten about.
It seemed they were sticking with him no matter what.
…They sure are persistent.
He checked the road and saw a stagecoach rushing down the stone pavement. Amon waved toward it and the skeleton driver brought the two headless horses known as Nightmares to a stop.
The dry voice produced by the skeleton man’s cheap artificial vocal cords spoke cheerfully.
“Keh keh keh. Where to? Ee hee hee hee.”
“How far can you go?”
“With me driving, you could go as far as hell. How about it?”
“Just take me wherever.”
Amon pulled a ten pence coin from his jacket and tossed it over. The skeleton man caught it with a dry sound from his palm.
“Keh keh keh. Good, good! I’ll take you around for fifteen minutes. I’m also carrying a cute young lady, so don’t try anything. Ee hee hee hee!”
“Keep up that nonsense and I’ll break some of those bones of yours.”
With that, Amon climbed inside the enclosed passenger car. It had room for six with two three-person sofas facing each other. It was a common layout.
He took a breath just as the stagecoach began to move.
The observer would be unable to keep up on foot, so they would have to react in some way.
Just as he started to look out the window, he remembered the other passenger the skeleton man had mentioned.
He Overrode the inside of the passenger car and saw a girl in the opposite seat.
The person the driver had called a “cute young lady” had her head resting on the windowsill and her eyes closed in sleep. The happy look on her face suggested she was having a good dream.
However, Amon was dumbfounded when he saw her.
He stared at her.
The girl in front of him was clearly Klausl.
His scream did not come out properly. He frantically half-rolled and half-jumped off of the accelerating stagecoach. He gently hopped on the stone pavement and landed.
His breathing showed how panicked he was, but he did not have time for Verbal Self Control. However, he did manage to Close his thoughts so no one could see into his confused mind.
“What is going on?”
He returned to the sidewalk and turned to the leaving stagecoach.
It must have turned a corner because it had vanished from the road.
He frowned and saw his face reflected in a nearby store show window.
He was amazingly pale.
“What the hell is this?”
He stared into the show window and saw a smiling girl reaching toward him with her eyes closed on the other side. Or at least, he thought he did.
He quickly looked away and checked his surroundings for the observer’s presence, but he could no longer find it due to his panic.
“This isn’t like me at all.”
He gently shook his head Overrode his appearance, and began walking down the sidewalk.
“Oh, it’s Amon.”
As soon as he saw the smile peering at him from the side, he began to run.
He shouted almost at the top of his lungs.
After all, he had seen the exact same expression but in another different outfit. This time it was a light apron skirt, the kind of coat worn on a trip, and a travel bag.
This was creepy.
He shuddered at the thought that everyone in London looked like that now.
He ran and ran.
He suddenly realized he was going the wrong way. He had fallen into old habits and run to his previous home in Jonathan’s brewery.
But he did not care. He was gasping for breath as he trudged up to the store that had a half-closed garage and sat down. Even he could tell all the color had left his face.
“I-I’m going to die…”
He took a deep breath and let it out.
“Are you okay?”
He nodded at the voice.
“You must have had a rough time. …Here, have some water.”
He took the glass and quickly drank the water.
…Isn’t there something odd about this?
He did not want to realize anything more, but the cause of that feeling approached him.
A shadow fell over his face and he detected a faint scent of perfume.
“You should get some rest.”
When her face came into view, he stopped breathing altogether.
…Why are you here!?
Klausl smiled when she read his Open Words.
“I acted as a witness to the word investigation held here this morning.”
And yet Amon had been running all over trying to get away from her.
He stood up.
“Ah! Where are you going!?”
He ignored her cry and dashed away. He tried to cut across the road and escape.
On his second or third step, she called out to him.
He turned toward her on reflex and he saw her pointing in the direction he was moving.
“There’s a car coming!”
The instant he faced forward, he saw exactly what she had warned him of.
Consciousness was an easy thing to lose.
And just before he did, he saw two or three Klausls inside the car plowing into him.
Scotland Yard was England’s national police and London’s city police. It was a large-scale organization, but it handled a great number of cases.
And currently, it was facing the greatest case since its founding. Perhaps even the greatest in England’s history. The Yard was operating at full capacity, so no employee, department, or location was taking a break.
Fir did not get a bite to eat until 1:30 PM that day. That was normally the time for post-lunch tea.
She bought two servings of freshly made fish and chips from a bandaged man running a street food cart and raced back to the Inspector’s room. She had trained on this door, so she could fully open it with a single kick.
“Take that! It’s refueling time! Do you want salt or vinegar?”
The Inspector’s response seemed somewhat arbitrary and Fir Overrode the room.
It was filled with documents. Her memory was not the most reliable, but she had a feeling the amount of documents had grown since she left.
“By any chance, did a forty-second turn up?”
She nimbly walked across the room while making sure not to tread on the scattered papers with her heels.
“How did this many people end up dead in a single night?”
No response came from beyond the work desk that had been transformed into a barricade by all the papers piled up on it. The Inspector seemed to be giving this serious thought for once. Fir shrugged and circled behind the desk.
She found the man sitting in his chair and staring at one document in particular.
She held out the wrapped serving of fish and chips.
“Hm? Oh, thank you.”
He took the food wrapped in oil paper, sighed, and placed the report on top of the pile.
“I’m not sure what to do. The forty-second and forty-third came in at the same time.”
“What did the word investigation say?”
Fir began eating the fried fish first as the Inspector brought a hand to his forehead at the perfect angle.
“This is a very important case.”
“Well, yes. A lot of people have ended up dead.”
He shrugged at that and shook his head.
“Nn, that isn’t quite what I meant. I am getting the feeling that no one but me can solve this case.”
“Strange and similar massacres are spreading through London! Who can save the city from this evil but me? Heh heh heh. I will personally solve this case. If that is not important, then what is? Now, call the newspapers and the radio stations, Firry.”
“Don’t call me Firry, you stupid old man!”
“Ow ow ow! Don’t pinch me!”
Fir looked up at the shouting Inspector.
“So in other words, you’re taking full control of this case?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Are you saying all of these deaths were murders committed in the same way as Old Jon’s?”
“Forty three in a single night easily breaks Jack the Ripper’s record. And at the moment, we know two things.”
He raised two fingers and folded down one.
“First, the murders are being committed by more than one person. The blood stains at the crime scenes show two different types of shed blood. The first is a stream of blood in a single direction such as from a severed artery. The other is a splattering of flesh and blood as if from an explosion.”
“So the first would be a cut from a blade and the other some kind of explosive?”
More or less, Opened the Inspector.
“The other mystery comes from the word investigator’s inspection of the blood stain ash. None of the ashes contain the elements of a voice.”
“A voice?” Fir asked blankly.
The Inspector placed a hand on his throat.
“There is a slight projection of bone here, right? Due to that shape, the organ is known as a Horn. Well, that and because it produces sound.”
“What about that Horn?”
“The Horn and only the Horn was taken from the bodies and that organ is what allows us to shout and produce words. But that isn’t all. All forty three victims were from different races.”
To produce words was to produce power, so what did it mean that the source of that power was being stolen? And why from so many different races?
Fir thought for a while, but she was not going to find an answer so easily.
“What does this mean, Inspector?”
“I don’t know, but I have a bad feeling about it. Either way, it would take great ability to slaughter so many of London’s residents.”
Having finished off the contents of his oil paper wrapping, he balled it up and tossed it away. He then Overrode the previous document back into his hand.
Fir peered down at it.
“A report on Amon? Why?”
“This is just my instincts talking, but I have a feeling that young man is at the center of this case too.”
“Is that why you had Klau monitor him?”
He looked up at the annoyed tone of her voice.
“Oh, you knew about that?”
“A call from her came in down below. What in the world are you thinking?”
“I thought she would be the best for the job. You said she didn’t fear him, didn’t you?”
“Are you jealous of her being so close to him?”
Fir smiled bitterly.
“It isn’t that. I can’t get near him. It would be too tragic.”
She Closed her thoughts so no one could read them.
The Inspector looked curiously at her, so she put on a devilish smile.
“Hey, Inspector. When you first saw Klau, you asked why she didn’t open her eyes, didn’t you?”
“Hm? …Oh, yes. I do remember doing that.”
She gave a deep nod.
“But when Amon saw her, he didn’t ask about her eyes. Probably because he doesn’t have any wings.”
She took a breath.
“Inspector, what kind of demon is he?”
“Isn’t he a taciturn demon who doesn’t think about others and always acts like he wants to die?”
“Not that. What about when he had his wings?”
She leaned forward as she asked him.
“Just like with the case two years ago, you always treat him differently. And the unit you put together to capture him back then had anti-demon god level equipment.”
The next thing Amon knew, he was alone in an apartment.
However, this was not the room Fir had given him. It was the familiar place he had lived two years ago before his probation period under Jonathan.
The table in front of him was a cheap wooden dining table. Sitting on the table was the modest dinner he had bought with his own money.
At that point, his mind alone woke up.
“It’s that nightmare again.”
The Amon in the dream rested his legs on the table and began to eat and an Amon that existed only as a mind watched from an objective perspective.
The Amon with a piece of bread in hand suddenly stopped moving and looked out the window.
Light shined in through the glass.
Two straight lines of light shined directly on him. They were a car’s headlights.
Given how quickly the circles of light in the window grew larger, the approaching car had to be moving at a decent clip. Soon, the window was filled with white.
Amon was not all that tense. He was used to this, so he simply rose from the chair in preparation.
At the same time, the light vanished from the window. The car must have made a sharp curve in front of the apartment.
As soon as he relaxed slightly, a smashing sound rang out.
Something broke through the window and the outside air rushed in with it.
A human form bounced off the table and rolled down at his feet.
It was a woman.
The beautiful woman had long black hair. The tree roots indicating she was a dryad started on the back of her neck, extended down with her hair, and wrapped around her naked body.
That body was stained red.
The crimson dye wetting her body gushed from the horizontal gash in her neck.
The Amon in the dream and the Amon who was only a mind cried out in unison.
There was no strength in the eyes of the dryad woman.
However, her lips were still moving. They trembled as she tried to express something.
The dream Amon crouched down to hear what she had to say. He tried to pick her up even if it would dirty his clothes.
But the instant he grabbed her slender shoulders and wrapped his arms around her, the dryad named Eilen turned pure white as she Ashed.
It burned Amon a little as he was wet with her blood. Her disappearance scorched his clothes and skin, but he did seem to notice the pain as he gathered strength in his arms and embraced the air so as not to miss her disappearance as she turned to ash.
His lips repeated the same word over and over again as if it were a magic spell. The Amon having the dream could not hear the word, but he knew all too well what it was.
That was what he was saying.
His mind turned away as if to avoid that word. He turned from the floor and looked ahead.
He saw something that should not have been there.
Several severed heads were peering inside the room through the broken window.
He recognized all of them. His mother’s face was there, as was Eilen’s even though she had only just Ashed. There was cheerful George, Dixon the knife-thrower, cowardly Rat, Garland, Purcell, Yukimaru, Freesia, Layla, and several others. And at the very center was a new face.
It was Jonathan’s face.
They were all people around Amon who had died…no, been killed. They filled the window and gave him accusing stares.
“We were killed because we were with you, Death Wish Amon. It was all because of you.”
He could swear he heard them cursing him like that. The pressure of guilt was Overridden on the dream and it threatened to crush his mind.
Jonathan opened his mouth.
“Go rush toward revenge in search of a place to die like you used to. Not that you will die. …You alone will live on and someone else will die in your place.”
A single piece of parchment fell in front of Amon. It should not have been there either. It was the demon contract Jonathan had left behind.
“Of course, even with something like this, a failure like you could never make a contract.”
Amon bit his lip in silence, but the accusations of the dead did not stop.
“Amon, if it wasn’t for you, we wouldn’t have died.”
“Even if you remain wingless and refuse to use your demonic power, your sins will never vanish.”
“After all, you should not even exist.”
“Now, go out in search of a place to die like always.”
“Don’t you want to become one of us, Death Wish Amon?”
He lowered his gaze. Everything they were saying was true.
He knew that for sure after seeing this dream so many times in the past.
A groaning voice escaped his lips.
“That’s right. All of you want me to die, don’t you?”
But as soon as he asked that…
“That isn’t true.”
He heard a somewhat familiar voice.
He looked in shock at what he held in his arms.
No, who he held in his arms.
He let his guard down just once and called the dead girl’s name.
But the girl in his arms did not turn around.
“It’s okay,” said whoever it was. “It’s okay.”
…Who is this?
He gently lifted the person in his arms, looked at her face, and found the identity of the girl who had suddenly appeared in this familiar nightmare.
Amon opened his eyes and saw an unfamiliar ceiling. The feel of the bed and the afternoon light from the window were different as well. The hourly bell and music in the distance also sounded off.
“It’s three already? That was a long nightmare.”
Only then did he recall that this was the apartment Fir had prepared for him. It was smaller than his former home, but it was quieter. He knew the area because he had delivered beer here a few times.
He was currently in the living room that doubled as a bedroom.
He yawned twice.
…I need to deal with the luggage I brought in last night.
Still lying in bed, he Overrode his surroundings to check on the luggage on the floor.
A lot of luggage had been scattered around the bed, but…
“Where is it?”
He found no luggage whatsoever.
Not only that, but the floor had been dusty enough to leave footprints, but it was surprisingly clean now.
…What is going on?
That was when an odd weight was Overridden on his chest. It was a living weight with a warm softness to it.
He had not expected anything to be lying on top of him, so he did a more thorough Override to see what was there.
Just as he had held Eilen in his dream, he held a girl in his arms.
She wore somewhat professional attire and slept defenselessly in his arms. Her slender body rose and fell as she breathed and the soft-looking blonde hair on her shoulders shook.
She slept with a somehow happy look on her face.
…She was the one who was good at cooking, right? I met her at the Yard. Her name was…
At that point, he came back to his senses.
“Wh-what the hell are you doing!?”
He shouted out and sprang up with Klausl still in his arms. Either the movement or his voice elicited a quiet voice from her.
Sensing her waking up in his arms, Amon panicked. He did not know what was going on, but he had a feeling the current situation would not work in his favor.
He got back down into the bed and let go of her. She was still half asleep and started to fall over, so he supported her with one arm and checked on her clothing.
At the very least, it did not look like anything had happened while he slept.
After confirming that, he finally took a sigh of relief.
“Oh, good morning, Amon.”
Klausl greeted him so readily that he just about collapsed. Once he endured that, he half-glared back at her.
When he saw her somewhat blank expression, he remembered a number of things.
For example, how she had multiplied that morning.
“W-wait just a second. Explain this!”
“Eh? Explain what?”
“Why are you here!?”
“You fell asleep in front of the brewery, so everyone carried you here.”
“I did not fall asleep. I passed out after I was hit by a car!”
After insisting on something that pathetic, he came back to his senses.
“What is going on!? For one thing, why were you sleeping in my bed?”
“I came to help you move in this morning. You seemed tired, so I let you continue sleeping. And after a while, you started having a nightmare.”
Klausl nodded at the word he accidentally left Open.
“Yes, I was worried because you were speaking in your sleep and seemed to be suffering. And when I moved up next to you…”
“You suddenly embraced me.”
“What? Eh? W-wait.”
“It was the first time a guy had done that to me, so I wasn’t able to stop you.”
She brought her hand to her cheek, but she was not blushing.
Amon could not help but think she was making fun of him, so he bared his teeth.
“O-okay, stop saying things that will give people the wrong idea! I already know nothing happened!”
“You’re right. You fell asleep right after embracing me. You looked so peaceful then.”
She gave an innocent smile and Amon paled.
But she ignored that and looked out the window.
“Oh, it’s so late already. What would you like to eat, Amon?”
He just about answered but came back to his senses. When he realized he was getting dragged along at her pace, he cleared his throat and took back control of the conversation.
“I have more questions.”
“Why are you here and how did you get in?”
She responded to his harsh questions by pulling a key from a hidden pocket in her skirt. It dimly glittered in the light and seemed to have been only just made.
“I received a copy of the key with my orders this morning.”
“W-wait just a minute! What are you talking about!?”
“I am your observer.”
She casually said something unbelievable.
Amon’s mouth hung open for a bit before he shouted back.
“What the hell!?”
“When one party wants to monitor the actions of a second party, they will have a third party remain nearby the second party on their behalf.”
“Goddammit! Fir tricked me…”
“No, this has nothing to do with her. The order came directly from the Inspector.”
Amon ground his teeth as he sat on the bed. He was acting entirely differently from normal, but he did not notice.
“So that Inspector put you up to this, did he? Well I don’t need an observer, so get lost!”
Klausl changed her expression for once and she continued before Amon could say anything.
“You are in pain after your friend passed away, so you cannot be left alone. I will not allow it.”
“Y-you idiot. Don’t act like you understand this. I said get lost.”
“I’ll throw you out.”
“Through the window? And even if you do, I’ll come back.”
She was clearly serious and Amon fell silent, so she continued as if to admonish him.
“No matter what you say or do, I will stay by your side.”
“You really are stupid, aren’t you? Don’t you know everyone by my side ends up dead?”
The look he saw flash across her face made him gulp.
It was not a look of sympathy, sadness, or pity, but it was an expression only seen on those who knew.
But the look was soon replaced by a slight smile.
“I cannot leave. If I did, I would not fulfill my role as observer. Also, the Inspector left me with something. He said everything would work out if I gave it to you.”
“Wh-what is it?”
Due to her previous expression, Amon was a bit taken aback.
She Overrode an item wrapped in paper and handed it to him.
Something like a paperback book was inside the wrapping. It did not seem to be one of the tabloids or other papers sold along the street.
…What is it?
He slowly opened the seal and pulled out the object inside.
“It is this month’s issue of a men’s magazine. It seems they secretly sell these to young men.”
Klausl did not blush and her eyes remained closed, but she sounded troubled as she answered. Amon said nothing and slowly put the magazine back in its wrapping.
Meanwhile, Klausl continued getting worked up on her own.
“According to the Inspector, ‘this’ll win over any young guy like him. Eh heh heh.’ …Ah! How could I say something like that?”
“But Amon, this kind of thing is…um…well…”
He continued staring at her in silence as she brought a hand to her cheek.
He more or less exploded.
As it grew dark outside, artificial light filled the Savoy Hotel. That pure white electric light was not like moonlight and did not flicker like flames.
Humans were the only beings that suited that light.
That white light filled the hotel’s first floor lobby from every direction and someone stood on the stairs continuing up from that lobby.
It was Moyla.
From halfway up the stairs, she looked around and Overrode the lobby. She checked past the towering marble columns and made sure there was no one at the front desk or the entrance by the windows.
“Where is he?” she muttered.
Her shawl-covered shoulders lowered and she began to cough. It was an unpleasant cough. The intermittent sounds seemed to come from the very depths of her body.
She leaned against the stairway railing to endure it.
It took her several minutes to catch her breath.
…Is this due to London’s air or is it getting worse?
She looked down at the hand she had used to hide her coughing and saw red speckles on the palm.
She wrinkled her brow a bit and stood up.
“Are you okay, Moyla?”
She looked toward the voice and found a young man in a minister’s outfit standing in the center of the lobby. It was Ralf.
He held an umbrella instead of a gun.
“Yeah, an umbrella is useless against this fog. I’d love a waterproof coat from Burberry right about now.”
He almost seemed to be talking to himself, but he made sure Moyla could hear.
“This country is a lot of trouble. But I had some time, so I got three more voices.”
“How is your gun doing?”
“Pretty well. …More importantly, I heard you coughing just now. Are you okay?”
“Eh? Yes, I’m fine.”
She clenched both her hands as she answered. She crossed her arms below her shawl to hide the blood in her clenched hand and she descended the stairs.
She moved out from behind the marble columns and into the entranceway where Ralf was already sitting on a sofa. She smiled bitterly when she saw him taking up an entire three-person sofa by himself. She sat in the opposite sofa.
He reflexively responded to her voice.
“I won’t tell you were Valeath is if that’s what you want. You’d go after him if I told you, wouldn’t you?”
“It is my job to protect him.”
He quickly removed his sunglasses when he heard that and he looked directly at her with his narrow eyes.
“Then that speeds things up. He isn’t out there to fight. He just wanted to see the young man who was apparently adopted by that Hard Wolf. I found out about him yesterday.”
“A family member of that Hard Wolf?”
“Something like that. He’s apparently a demon, so normally a minister like me would handle him, but…there was something peculiar about this one.”
She was taken in by his conversation and he gave an embarrassed smile when he noticed.
“Sorry. I kind of dragged you away from the main point, didn’t I?”
“I have nothing to do but wait around here anyway.”
He crossed his arms and unabashedly Opened his thought about her being a smart young woman.
Her white cheeks flushed a little, but she kept her thoughts Closed.
“Could we get back to the conversation?” she asked.
“Sure. Some of it will be a little hard to say, but I’m just going to get it out there.”
The smile vanished from his face and he checked to make sure no one else was around.
“You know why I’m working as a Hound, right?”
“Yes. You said before it was revenge for the villagers you were supposed to protect.”
“That’s right. No matter how strong my faith was, god didn’t save them, so-…”
Moyla stopped him there.
“You don’t need to say any more. …It would only be painful for you.”
“Yeah, and it’s nothing I can exactly brag about. …Now, as for Valeath’s past…”
“Maybe you’ll understand if I mention a certain incident. The Borderson family has long protected an area in southern Germany surrounded by the Black Forest.”
The look in Moyla’s eyes changed when she heard the name Borderson. She was now staring intently at Ralf’s expression as if trying to see through it.
But he did not mind.
“Reichle Borderson was a Hound and the young leader of the Busters there, but there was a demon attack on the day of his wedding. The demon had transformed into a human and masqueraded as his friend.”
“It’s said the demon killed his bride Melda and devoured the souls of all the people living in that land.”
“But Reichle Borderson defeated that demon.”
“Yes, I’ve heard he defeated it with the assistance of a servant girl who had managed to escape. And when he defeated the demon, he let its blood wash over him to gain a spell known as an Over Contract.”
He gave a weary sigh.
“A few years later, a swordsman named Rickland Valeath appeared in Germany accompanied by a witch named Moyla Telmetz.”
Ralf stared back into Moyla’s eyes.
She said nothing and kept everything Closed.
“Yes,” he nodded on his own. “People who have lost something important to them, something they should have protected, or – I’m a little embarrassed to say it – someone they loved, all have a similar feel to them.”
“What about it?”
Moyla tilted her head and Ralf gave a clear answer.
“The young demon I saw yesterday felt a lot like Valeath.”
Moyla trembled at that.
“What…do you mean by that!?”
“I’m not entirely sure.”
Ralf tilted his own head and asked a question of his own.
“But what would you do if you found someone with all the same traits as you?”
“What if someone like that was standing right in front of you? Do you know what you would do?”
She fell silent, but he leaned forward and gave his answer.
“I don’t think I would be able to stand it.”
They were sharp words and they Overrode what kind of human he was.
But she did not respond. She did not agree or disagree.
After a glance into her eyes, Ralf sighed and fixed his posture.
“If it were me, I’d tell that other me that they could never surpass me.”
“What will Valeath do?”
As the city filled the darkness with light, Amon went to get some dinner at a familiar pub called the Guinea. The Guinea was located near Bond Street which was filled with shops old even for London and the Guinea itself had been running since the fifteenth century.
It had no seats and everyone ate and drank while standing at the counter or the tall tables. That was the standard for the good old pubs. The counter and tables were almost entirely full and the customers showed little sign of moving.
However, no one stood on either side of Amon. Everyone else was chatting amongst themselves, but he was alone. He switched between eating his crisps and sandwich in silence.
Despite any thoughts he might have about Amon, the stone demon bartender approached him. He must have reached a break in the number of customers because he stopped in front of Amon and Overrode a mug in one of his six arms.
“This one’s for Jonathan. He helped me out a lot.”
He held out the dark stout beer.
Amon looked at it and pulled a ten pence coin from his jacket.
When the stone demon saw the coin on the counter, he stopped the hand setting down the mug.
“Hey, I said this one’s for Jonathan.”
“And the money’s from Jonathan,” replied Amon as he grabbed a crisp.
With an exasperated look, the stone demon set the mug on the counter next to Amon as if someone was standing there.
“It’s been two years since you came here, but you haven’t changed at all.”
“The pub hasn’t changed either.”
“I lowered the price of lagers to ten pence since the ladies are drinking too these days. But…what has you here? I know there’s some big case in London, so are you out looking for the murderer?”
Amon did not answer. The girl with the closed eyes appeared in the back of his mind, but he quickly erased that image.
However, the bartender seemed to have noticed.
“Is it a girl?”
“No, it’s not. More like a high-pressure salesman. More importantly, give me some Cheshire cheese. The hard stuff.”
“Sorry, but the hard kind isn’t very popular these days. I’m all out. …So what kind of girl is she?”
“You sure are persistent.”
“Of course I am. You haven’t been interested in a girl since Eilen, right?”
The look in Amon’s eyes changed when he heard that name.
“Don’t speak that name in front of me.”
The bartender fell silent. This must have happened in the past because he comfortably turned his back on Amon and walked over to a different customer.
Amon sighed and grabbed another crisp. He realized he should have ordered some Leicester if they were out of Cheshire, so he prepared to call the bartender over again.
But then he found a man standing to his left where Jonathan’s mug had been set.
The man had a sharp aura about him.
His blond hair was tied back behind his neck, he wore a long dark green coat that seemed to absorb the surrounding light, and his presence gave one goose bumps even when he only stood there.
The aura surrounding him had distanced the nearby customers. They had likely subconsciously moved away while they chatted.
Amon grabbed his sandwich while brushing aside the man’s presence.
The man silently placed a hand on the counter. At some point, he had Overridden a glass in that hand.
The scent that reached Amon’s nose told him the glass contained Glenmorangie malt whisky. The man seemed to be drinking it without diluting it.
“What do you want?”
Amon spoke only loud enough for the man to hear.
The answer could not have been simpler.
“For you to die.”
A brief silence fell, but after a few seconds…
Amon turned his focus toward the man as he asked.
In that instant, he found Jonathan’s mug in front of him for some reason.
The man who had stood on his left now stood on his right. The sandwich and crisps Amon had ordered were in front of the man.
Amon and the man.
Their positions had swapped to that order.
Amon had no clue what had happened and the man asked him a question.
“Do you understand?”
At that moment, the two of them swapped positions again.
Just like before, the sandwich and crisps sat in front of Amon and Jonathan’s mug sat in front of the man to his left.
The man and Amon.
That was their order now.
“I see,” said Amon.
Then the man spoke.
“When identical words are placed side by side, their order can change without altering the meaning or form of the sentence.”
“And no one needs two of the same word.”
After reflecting on that silence, Amon spoke without looking at the man.
“Are you the one who killed Jonathan and so many others?”
“If I answered that, you would have to die here.”
Amon said nothing and the man took a drink of his Glenmorangie.
“If it comes to that, I would take care of everyone else here in the first ten seconds.”
“And only then would you focus on me? You’re giving yourself a pretty big handicap there.”
“A handicap? It would only last ten seconds and I would only have to slay the monsters here. I would not be injured or even tired afterwards.”
When the man called the people in the pub “monsters”, Amon realized what he was.
“I see. So that’s why so many people have been dying in this city.”
“What will you do?”
He was asking if Amon would fight here.
Amon hesitated for just a moment, but after comparing his strength to the man next to him, he sighed. He fully Closed his thoughts so his mind could not be read and he shook his head.
“Fighting here isn’t the best plan. How about tomorrow?”
“Fine. And you can bring help if you want.”
“I wouldn’t do that. …Oh, I know. Come to St. James’s Park tomorrow evening.”
Only after saying that did he look at the man’s face for the first time.
The man similarly looked down on Amon.
In that instant, their gazes audibly clashed.
The same light filled the man’s blue eyes and Amon’s golden eyes.
Amon frantically applied Verbal Self Control and Overrode his own body for good measure.
He felt he would otherwise trigger a Balance Fall where his writing fell out of balance. He had a feeling he would be sucked into the man’s eyes if he was not careful.
“So we are not exactly alike,” muttered the man as he brought a hand to his chest.
Amon saw a pendant hanging there. It was a beautiful women’s pendant that did not suit the man at all.
He seemed to toy with it in his hand and he asked a single sharp question.
“Can you defeat me?”
Amon did not respond.
He had a past. It was an unimaginable past which had led him to fight as he sought a place to die.
But what about this man before his eyes?
The man asked the same question again.
“Can you defeat me?”
Amon was reminded of a scene from his nightmares. In that nightmare, what did the people peering in through the apartment window want from him?
Suddenly, a smile so fearless that it looked forced appeared on Amon’s face
He gave his answer immediately afterwards.
“I’ll defeat you.”
The man nodded at that and began to turn his back on Amon.
But he stopped and his blue eyes turned to the mug on the counter.
He pulled a cigarette box from his coat pocket and pulled a cigarette from it. He held it between his fingers and lit it without placing it in his mouth.
As he watched the smoke rise from the cigarette, Amon pushed the counter’s ashtray over to Jonathan’s spot next to the mug.
As if answering Amon, the man placed the cigarette in the ashtray with the filter end pointed the other way.
He was clearly implying that someone else was there.
The two exchanged a glance and they both gave a small nod.
But then they were interrupted.
He reflexively turned toward a voice he had heard countless times that day.
He found Klausl standing there, but unlike before, she was frowning and puffing out her cheeks. She seemed upset.
He glanced toward the man standing next to him. The man was staring expressionlessly at Klausl. He did not seem to have any thoughts about her sudden appearance, but that could not be the case. The atmosphere created by the two of them had led everyone else to subconsciously avoid them and yet this girl had completely ignored that and called out to Amon.
“Why did you leave without telling me? I had prepared dinner and everything.”
Klausl walked over and her casual movements left Amon speechless. Even if she was blind, she should have been able to sense the general atmosphere.
The man took a step toward her and left no opening in his movements.
Seeing that, Amon realized what he was trying to do.
Amon Opened a comment that could have been directed at Klausl or the man. At the same time, he tensed his body and prepared for what happened next.
“Good evening. Are you a friend of Amon’s?”
Her words seemed far too out of place as they left her mouth and struck the man.
He did not respond, but the hand reaching for his coat pocket stopped.
“If not, I’m sorry. But you felt a lot like him.” She smiled at the man. “But don’t become exactly like him. That would be a lot of trouble.”
The man let his arms hang at his sides when he heard that. He was showing Amon he had no intention of attacking and then he walked around Klausl.
His footsteps were low and quiet and they grew more distant.
At the same time, sound returned to the pub.
The movements and voices of the other customers had seemed to stop at some point, but they surrounded Amon with noise once more.
He let the atmosphere of a normal pub wash over him and he gave a sigh of relief.
“So it worked out in the end. I can’t take much more of this.”
“Don’t say that.”
Klausl had reached his side at some point and she pinched his arm.
“Ow! What is wrong with you!?”
He glared at her and found her frowning at him.
“Why did you leave without telling me? I’ve been looking for you.”
“Oh, c’mon. Why do I have to eat the food my observer makes? Am I a prisoner or something?”
“This is my job. …Well, making your food isn’t, but observing you is.”
“Hey, Amon. Is this the girl you Opened about?”
Amon ignored the bartender who looked over his shoulder from the other side of the counter. Amon was not the type to get involved with that kind of thing.
“What’s this, Amon? Were you spreading rumors about me?”
“How did you reach that conclusion?”
He clicked his tongue.
“Besides, I wouldn’t be eating here if you weren’t in my room.”
“Oh? Young lady, are you sharing a room with Amon?”
Before Amon could realize he might very well have dug his own grave here, Klausl answered.
“Yes. This morning, he suddenly embra-…”
“Dah! I told you not to say anything that would give people the wrong idea!”
After cutting her off, he realized the bartender was giving him a surprised look.
“Amon… You’ve changed.”
“That’s not what you said earlier.”
He almost seemed to be sulking when he said that and he brought one of the remaining crisps to his mouth. The potato tasted bland to him, so he spoke to Klausl without turning her way.
“Hey, go get the salt from over there.”
“Oh, the salt? Sure.”
She reached out and hesitated between the different bottles of spices. She really was blind, but after feeling around, she found the right one.
After watching her, the bartender spoke to Amon.
“Hey, she’s blind, isn’t she? Try to have some tact.”
Amon did not respond. He casually took the small salt container and spoke to Klausl.
“Does it make you happy when people are extra careful around you?”
She did not answer, but she had a somehow relieved look on her face. It was not her usual smile. It was a relaxed and unguarded expression.
Unsure where to look, Amon averted his gaze.
She had either noticed his embarrassment or wanted to smooth things over because she asked the bartender a question.
“Bartender, can I order an Irish coffee and some Stilton?”
“Y-yes. If you have 22 pence.”
The bartender moved away and she pulled a wallet from a hidden pocket in her skirt.
Amon spoke as he sprinkled salt on his crisps.
“Alcoholic coffee and blue cheese? You drink a lot, don’t you?”
“Care for an evening drink? It will help you sleep.”
“You two get along well. Here’s your order, young lady.”
The bartender set down the order as if to say “take your time” and Klausl picked up the glass of coffee.
Amon reached for the cheese, but she slapped his hand.
“Ow! You’re pretty damn stingy.”
“You can’t touch that.”
She picked up the plate of Stilton and placed it on the counter next to Amon as if offering it to someone.
It was right next to the mug and ashtray.
“This is what I ordered it for. I don’t know who this is for, but they looked sad without anything to eat.”
Amon stared at her as she gave her cheerful explanation and returned to her part of the counter.
…What a strange person.
She smiled at his blatantly Opened thought.
“You are strange too, Amon.”
|Back to Chapter 1||Return to Main Page||Forward to Chapter 3|