Epilogue – Vampires Cannot Choose Their Neighbors
A week had passed since the incident aboard the Mary I.
To Toraki, the days after he met Iris were the period of his life when he had been forced into the closest contact he had ever had with the greatest number of people. It was the most hectic time of his life so far.
To some extent, Toraki himself was responsible for that, since he had interfered in the fight between Iris and Okonogi of his own accord. Before that, he had spent his time searching for Aika based on tidbits of unreliable information regarding Phantoms or vampires that Waraku or Yoshiaki would occasionally share with him. He would go out to fight alone, winning some fights while losing others. Apart from that, he had barely done anything else.
Every loss meant being turned to ash, returning home after some time had passed, and rebuilding his living arrangements from scratch. He had lived that kind of life for nearly seventy years.
After Waraku’s wife, Kimie, had passed away and Toraki moved out to live alone, even the intervals between those fights had gradually grown longer. His will to fight had been further reduced greatly ever since the battle five years ago, when he had lost to Aika and ended up as fertilizer for a field of radishes.
“Alright, I’m done tidying up. Thank you for letting me stay for so long.”
Iris had been the one to forcefully renew his flagging willpower.
Today was the day that Iris Yeray, Church Knight of the Order of the Dark Cross, would finally be leaving his house. She was dressed in her black suit and had a fully-packed travel suitcase beside her. Due to the various issues she had become embroiled in ever since she was transferred to the Japan branch, it had taken her this long to finally find a place of her own.
Toraki had resigned himself to having to accompany Iris to see a realtor, but while Iris had been working on the lengthy report that she had to submit to the Japan branch regarding her contact with a strigoi, her boss—a nun named Nakaura—had apparently found an apartment for Iris that suited her needs.
“I never expected that things would turn out like this when you saved me, Yura… But in the end, thanks to you, my evaluation within the Order has recovered just a little.”
“So you can go back to your country now?”
Toraki asked Iris with his hands clasped on top of the table. It was the very same table that had been accidentally consecrated on Iris’s first day in his house, but now it was nothing more than an ordinary piece of furniture.
“Maybe if I had actually defeated Muroi Aika, but going back is still not possible right now. If anything, they might actually not let me return until I finally track her down. Since Miharu and I were the only ones to come into contact with her.”
“Oh, and this. I promised to return it, didn’t I?”
Iris held out Toraki’s handwritten note, the thing which had caused her to come to his house in the first place.
“…I’d forgotten about that. I guess I’ll just get rid of it.”
After accepting the note from Iris, Toraki tore it up and threw the shreds into a wastepaper basket.
“That note was meaningless to anyone who didn’t already know about vampires, after all. Since I got a new Blood Seal made as well, I’ll just quietly wait for Miharu to rescue me in the future.”
“Really? Are you sure you want to be in her debt?”
“I’ll be careful to make sure it doesn’t come to that.”
Unlike the old Blood Seal which had been gnarly and misshapen, the one that was currently hanging around his neck looked like a finely-made ornament.
As part of their plan to board the Mary I where Muroi Aika was staying, Miharu purchased her weapon, a Japanese sword, onboard the ship itself, while Iris’s silver pellets were disguised as accessories. They had decided to leave transporting the rest of Iris’s armaments such as Liberation and Deuscris to Amimura, but the biggest problem they had to solve was how to bring Toraki—in ash form—aboard the ship and restore his vampiric powers.
As the name implied, the Blood Seal was made from human blood. More specifically, it had been made by Miharu seven years ago when she was eleven years old. The reason why Toraki had been able to use his vampiric powers without any preparation after waking up aboard the Mary I was because the Blood Seal had been crushed into powder and mixed with his ashes.
As for Toraki’s ashes, they had been hidden inside the lining of a spare furisode and brought on board along with the rest of their luggage.
In other words, when Toraki awoke aboard the ship, he was in a state where he had already absorbed pure human blood. It was utterly incomparable to the soft-shelled turtle blood that he had previously ordered online.
As for the new pendant that hung around his neck, it was, in Miharu’s own words, “A talisman to ward off bad luck that I poured my heart and soul into making”. Her technique had certainly improved since seven years ago, which accounted for the craftsmanship.
“All that’s left is this. Here’s the money that I owe you. It includes everything, starting from the money I spent on curry bento on the first day to the 5000 Yen I used for purchasing my daily necessities, and the cost of utilities. Make sure to check the amount.”
“Ah, it’s fine. There’s no need to be so serious about it. You even cooked for me and did my laundry, that was a great help.”
Toraki took the paper envelope that Iris held out to him and carelessly jammed it into his pocket.
“Just so you know, I bought that envelope at the convenience store where you work. When the manager was at the cash register.”
“Is that really something to be so proud about?”
“I worked really hard, you know? Feel free to praise me.”
Iris declared that shamelessly, but since this was her true nature, Toraki couldn’t do anything but smile wryly in response.
Under ordinary circumstances, Iris’s departure to start her life at her new home should have happened at a more cheerful time under the light of the sun. However, Toraki was still a vampire, and he had to go to work in an hour.
The walls of the apartment and the foyer were ingrained with the gloomy atmosphere that accompanied winter nights, setting the stage for an ash-grey farewell.
Iris silently bowed to Toraki and walked into the common lobby while pulling her suitcase behind her with a dignified gait. And then…
“Well then, see you tomorrow.”
Toraki lived in apartment 104 of the Blue Rose Chateau Zoshigaya building. Iris used a key to open the door to apartment 103, the one immediately beside his own, and disappeared inside.
After seeing her enter the apartment, Toraki squatted down on the spot with his head held in his hands.
“What the hell is your boss thinking? You, living right next to me? For real?”
“What are you saying? That’s only natural.”
Iris stuck her head outside the door after depositing her suitcase inside the apartment.
“You’re a vampire with ties to a strigoi-type Ancient Phantom. Moreover, you also have deep connections with the Hiki family and the Japanese police. Did you really think we would leave a vampire like that without even putting him under surveillance? If anything, it’s a mystery to me how you weren’t discovered sooner. Make no mistake, I ensured that you were properly included in my report that was sent to headquarters.”
“Of course. If anything, it’s all thanks to me that you are still able to live a peaceful life even after being discovered by the Order. You should be grateful.”
“If even I’m being treated like this, I don’t even want to imagine what sort of hell Amimura and Sagara are being put through by you guys and the Hiki family. I can almost feel the tears welling up in sympathy.”
“With the assistance of the Hiki family, both Amimura and Sagara have been promised assistance with integrating into Japanese society. I’m sure they feel thankful to me as well.”
“Just so you know, that attitude of yours is not called confidence. It’s just plain arrogance.”
“The way things stand, you’ll need to make a better impression with the headquarters of the Order as well, which is why you’ll continue to assist me with my holy missions in the future. Glad to be working with you.”
Currently, Aika was far more interested in Iris than she was in Toraki. There was no way to tell if she was still in Japan after escaping from the ship, or if she had used some unknown means to flee to another country. However, as long as Toraki worked with Iris, his chances of encountering Aika would increase.
Even though he was perfectly aware of that fact, Toraki still rejected Iris’s statement with a weary expression. Of course, Iris also completely ignored Toraki’s refusal.
“To begin with, I would like to get a more detailed understanding of the Zoshigaya area. You can be my guide. Your next day off from work is three days from now, if I remember correctly. That works for me.”
“Why the hell do you know my shifts!?”
“Your shift plan is stuck to the door of your fridge with a magnet. It’s only natural for a member of the Order of the Dark Cross to learn as much as they can about the Phantoms under their charge.”
Toraki felt like pulling his hair out at his own carelessness.
“Don’t forget that I am related to a member of the police administration. I’ll sue you for an invasion of my privacy! Besides, you just finished thanking me a few minutes ago for all the help I gave you!”
Iris looked at Toraki who was one step away from blowing his top for real and smiled softly.
“Look at it another way, Yura.”
“Look at what!?”
“If you help me with my work until I owe you a big favor, then you can drag me into the fight the next time you encounter the strigoi.”
Maybe she had teased him a little too much. Toraki squared his shoulders and stormed back into his apartment, and Iris also entered her new home without provoking him any further.
The interior layout of her new home was a mirror image of apartment 104 that Toraki lived in. It felt like a symbolic representation of how she, as a human, and Toraki, as a vampire, were similar and yet different.
“These apartments are just like us… Yura.”
Even a vampire’s ears could not hear through walls.
“I want you to return to being human.”
Iris stepped from the foyer onto the wooden floor of the apartment and gazed outside through a window that didn’t have any curtains. Compared to Toraki’s apartment, the windows in her new house were fractionally better at admitting sunlight and offered her a clear view of the half moon hanging in the winter sky.
One half of the moon reflected the light of the sun, while the other half was concealed within shadow.
Iris stretched her hand out towards the dark half of the moon that she could never reach, but she soon let it drop.
“If you return to being human, will you take me out somewhere under the light of the sun, I wonder?”
Iris Yeray’s words went unheard by the only man in the world that she could interact with without being afraid. Some time later, after about an hour had passed, she heard the sound of him leaving his apartment for work.
The moment Iris heard that sound, she walked to the foyer of her apartment and called out to him without opening the front door.
“Have a good day!”
Had the man walking down the common lobby heard her?
“Yeah, I’m off.”
He came to a halt momentarily, but he still answered her before walking away. Iris listened as his footsteps receded into the distance.
Despite their proximity, they were constantly separated by a solid wall.
And so, the human Church Knight and vampire began their new life as neighbors.