Chapter 8 - The Truth
The stillness of night came once again to the streets of Heimdallr. A bewitching yet eerie red moon hung full in the sky, its carmine glow staining the red bricks of the surrounding buildings an even deeper crimson.
After the gruesome discovery of the bodies that day, the Garrard Team had strengthened its night time patrols. Most of the soldiers in the team were on the streets, determined to prevent any further violence, and repair the damage to the Imperial Army's honor. Their patrol routes had them making tight circuits of the city roads, vigilantly searching for anything out of order. On one particularly dark street corner, a block away from the Alegria tavern, stood a young man in military uniform. Much like the others, he was making the rounds in his thoroughly deserted patrol area. A figure turning onto the street just ahead of him made him pause mid-step. Warily, he put his hand on the sword at his waist. As the figure drew closer, the features gradually became more visible - it was another soldier like himself. It was Alphonse.
Alphonse stepped forward and stood silently before the other young man. He fixed him with an unwavering gaze.
'Oh, it's you,' the young man said, sounding annoyed. 'What are you doing here? This is my patrol area, not yours.'
He glared at Alphonse with intense dislike, but Alphonse did not look away.
'I came to ask you something,' Alphonse replied simply. He put his hand into his pocket and took something out of it. It was a dirty piece of cloth.
The other man looked puzzled. 'What's that supposed to be?'
'It was something I found in the area where the vampire appeared last night. It's also yours. Isn't it, Elroy?'
Elroy stared back at Alphonse, then rolled his eyes. His voice dripped with contempt.
'What are you talking about? Did you really abandon your post over who some rag might belong to? ...And 'vampire'? You're supposed to be a soldier, not some kind of superstitious lunatic,' he scoffed.
'This is part of the bandage you were wearing around your left arm when you said you were injured in training,' Alphonse said calmly.
The cloth, Alphonse continued, must have been cut from his bandage during the previous day's battle and ended up between the two buildings in an area they neglected to check. He didn't, however, mention who had done the cutting - there was no need to tell Elroy information that he already knew, after all. Hearing this, Elroy clutched his left arm, hidden under the sleeve of his army uniform, almost as if trying to hide it from Alphonse.
'Besides, the idea that you were injured badly enough to need a bandage like that in standard training makes no sense to begin with. You're the most skilled swordsman on the Garrard Team, after all. That's not to say you weren't actually injured, especially considering there really was fresh blood on the bandage itself. But you didn't injure yourself during training - you were stabbed by a rapier, and that was what the bandage was intended to disguise.'
Elroy said nothing. Under any other circumstances, he would have been quick to argue back. But not this time. His brow furrowed, and he glared angrily at Alphonse.
'I'm sure that you must have replaced the bandage with a new one last night. But then, what was this doing at the scene of the crime? You weren't involved in this morning's investigation.'
Alphonse was aware that what he was saying wouldn't be enough to prove to the world that Elroy was a vampire. They were, after all, creatures of legend. People would never believe him. What it did prove, however, was that Elroy had been where Rose and the vampire's battle took place. And considering that Alphonse already knew that vampires were no mere myth, that was all the proof he needed.
'I don't want to believe it myself. I can't bear to think that someone who I served alongside as a soldier, someone more skilled than any of us, is actually a monster who's been indiscriminately murdering people.'
Elroy made no reply. He just stared down at the ground, silent and tense.
'But I am a member of the Garrard Team,' Alphonse continued resolutely. 'And we are entrusted with the task of protecting this city. I have a duty to do what I can to prevent any more lives from being lost. Unless you can prove that what I am saying isn't true, I'm going to have to arrest you as a suspect--'
Hands at his sides, Elroy let out a short, quiet laugh. The second he did, something changed, and the atmosphere became oppressive.
Elroy threw back his head and let out a loud, maniacal laugh. It was an inhuman sound, that outburst. The skin-crawling utterance was entirely unlike the usual quiet Elroy, and as his mouth yawned wide, Alphonse saw what he knew he would. Beast-like fangs. The fangs of a vampire.
Alphonse placed his hand on the saber at his waist and drew it as fast as he could. The sound of blade scraping against scabbard cut short the awful laugh, but he wasn't fast enough - before he knew it, Elroy was right in front of him, swinging his own sword with incredible force. Alphonse barely had the time to block its arc with his own.
The sound of metal against metal filled the air, and the monstrous strength of the blow pushed Alphonse backwards. It was obvious to him that Elroy's power was vastly greater than it had been when he took the punch to the stomach several days before. If Elroy had been this strong that day, Alphonse knew that he would already be dead.
Barely managing to hold his position, he clung to his saber with his now somewhat numb hand, but the vampire was already drawing back for another strike. Planting his feet firmly on the ground, Alphonse was just able to parry the blow...but it was all he could manage. If he strayed even a hair from focusing on defense, he would soon be overwhelmed. Elroy, meanwhile, maintained his onslaught seemingly without effort. Blow after blow rained down relentlessly.
'You should've waited, Alphonse! Surely you know that vampires can only use their powers at night!'
Alphonse grunted as he narrowly deflected another attack. Naturally, he did know. He was fully aware that waiting until morning might have actually given him a chance to defeat Elroy. But he just couldn't bring himself to wait. Not when there was a possibility that he might have claimed another victim that very night. His conscience wouldn't allow him to sleep peacefully in his bed knowing that he could have done something to stop that murder from happening.
As if to punctuate his point, Elroy knocked the saber from Alphonse's hands with a vicious swipe that drove him to his knees. The blade clattered down on the paving stones far from the fighting pair.
'You're finished!' Elroy crowed, turning his sword on Alphonse. The blade flashed up, then descended.
Alphonse watched the fall of the sword as if in slow motion. He knew there was nothing he could do to stop it. It would bite through his flesh and send his head soaring through the air, much like his saber had just done.
Suddenly, a high-pitched whistling sound of something moving very fast cut through the night. And then another, and another followed. The next moment, Elroy's right arm was gone.
Blood speckled Alphonse's cheeks like a fine rain. And just as he had imagined, something soared through the air and hit the ground - but instead of it being his head, it was Elroy's right arm, sword still clutched in its rigid fingers.
Elroy instinctively jumped back, clutching at his wounded limb while Alphonse stared wide-eyed at the many parts of a templar sword stretched before him like the flexing of a metal snake. The wires connecting the razor sharp blade segments gleamed in the moonlight. A line of tension then ran through the wires, and they all retracted just as fast as they had appeared. Soon after, a lone figure approached to take their place. It was a woman in a navy blue coat that was thrown wide, exposing countless weapons attached to the battle gear she was wearing underneath. She had sleek, shoulder-length blond hair, capped by a navy blue beret. The look she gave Alphonse when she saw him was somewhere between exasperation and disbelief.
Alphonse smiled weakly. 'What took you so long, Rose?'
Continue Reading Red Moon Rose
|⇐ Chapter 7: Parting of the Ways||Chapter 9: A Fool ⇒|