Finale - A New Dawn
When Alphonse awoke, he found himself in the center of the catacomb. No sounds stirred the musty air.
The first thing he saw as his eyes opened was the gentle smile of Rose as she looked down at him. She was no longer surrounded by the crimson glow that he had witnessed earlier. She seemed to have healed him, as well. He could hardly pretend to be back at full strength, but he was at the very least now capable of moving.
Next to him lay Lucca, fast asleep. She had no visible wounds, but she was clearly exhausted from all of the night's events. She had been through quite an ordeal, after all.
'...What happened to Garrard?'
Alphonse had lost consciousness around when he and Rose had clashed in the air, so he hadn't witnessed any of the aftermath. Rising shakily to his feet, he saw Rose indicate a point a short distance away by turning her head in that direction. There, he saw the body of Garrard, or at least part of it; everything below his chest had vanished.
His voice was weak, but somehow he was still alive. Looking at him, Alphonse couldn't help but feel pity. How anything could survive in such a state, he didn't know, but it was a testament to the incredible powers of the vampire race that he still drew breath. It was not a state that would last, however.
'He is beyond saving,' Rose said with certainty.
She slowly loaded a bullet into her pistol and pointed it at Garrard's temple. It seemed as though she had deliberately waited until Alphonse awoke before finishing him off.
'But I thought it best to wait so that you could witness this yourself.'
Alphonse looked from the gun to Garrard. 'Oh... Right...'
She gently began to squeeze her finger against the trigger. Garrard cast his eyes downward, a look of acceptance on his face. But before she could pull it completely, Alphonse stopped her.
Looking at her bewildered expression, he pulled out from his uniform the silver short sword that she had originally given to him.
'Let me do it.'
'...So you want to carry out your revenge yourself, do you?' sneered Garrard in response. 'What a fool you are. You have no reason to dirty your own hands. Why do you humans have to make such a big deal out of such trivial things? That's what makes you so easy to manipulate.'
'Silence,' Rose said, raising her gun a second time.
Alphonse shook his head at her and turned to Garrard.
'I've always thought of you as a father. Maybe it was all a lie, maybe you had ulterior motives for everything you did, but I still think of you like a parent, even now. And I'm grateful for all that you did for me.'
A look of shock flashed across Garrard's face. Rose appeared stunned as well.
Alphonse continued. 'So I'm not doing this for revenge. I'm doing this so that I can move on, and put all of this in the past, and start a new life.'
Alphonse looked down at the man...creature, who had cared for him, raised him, and who he had thought loved him. With an ache in his heart, he swung the sword. Rose watched on in silence.
The only sound that broke the still quiet of the underground was the steady tread of their boots against the slimy cobblestones. Together, Rose and Alphonse trekked back through the gloomy passage towards the surface with Rose leading the way. On Alphonse's back was Lucca, still oblivious to the world. Whenever they came across the corpse of one of the innocents who had been turned into a ghoul, he stopped, closed their eyes and prayed for them. Rose had told him that the church would be sending people to collect their bodies and give them a full burial later. As the existence of vampires and ghouls was not to be made public, all of what happened there would be buried. The world would never know the truth behind the Vampire Murders.
They made their way through the torch-lit channel, and eventually reached the area near the entrance where natural light now shone through. Rose stopped so suddenly that Alphonse almost walked into her.
'Whoa... What's wrong?' he asked, readjusting Lucca's position on his back.
Rose hesitated. 'There's...actually one more thing that I ought to tell you.'
She turned to him, looking heavily apologetic. Her words were followed by another period of silence, as if she was having trouble mustering the courage to tell him the truth.
Realizing this, Alphonse decided to say it for her. 'Is this about how the person who died trying to help you was my father?'
'...So you realized...'
Rose herself hadn't made the connection until she discovered Garrard's true identity. But the two cases were so closely connected that she had eventually understood.
It had been over a decade ago that Alphonse's father had coincidentally come to meet the vampire hunter, Rose. He found out that she was pursuing vampires, and they had agreed to work together to the same end. Eventually, he had been but one step away from discovering the identity of the nearby vampire - in other words, his friend Garrard - but that was when Garrard had realized that he was in danger of being found out, and killed him before he had the chance to share his findings with her.
'...But how did you know that was me? You have no way of knowing how many other vampire hunters may be out there, after all.'
Alphonse gave her a sheepish smile. 'During the fight earlier, I finally remembered meeting you back then.'
Alphonse's father had always been worried about the possibility that his family might be harmed because of his research. That was why he had come to ask Rose to watch over his child whenever he was investigating. It had taken him a long time to recall the girl who had played with him all those summers ago, but Alphonse had finally placed that familiar, gentle smile.
She nodded, admitting the truth to him. '...I was the one responsible for getting your father involved in this to begin with. I should have searched for and fought the vampire by myself. And yet, I wasn't able to refuse his offer...and despite that weakness resulting in the death of him and his wife, I wasn't able to refuse your offer this time, either...'
Rose had been fighting a solitary battle against her own race for decades. It wasn't difficult to imagine her eventually hoping unconsciously that someone, anyone, would hold out a hand and help her. That was why when Alphonse and his father had done just that, she couldn't bring herself to turn them down.
'I never intended to drink blood again, either... I didn't want to admit that I was a monster just like him, and just like the other vampires. I grew weaker by the year as a result, but still, I was determined not to do it.'
A look of disgust crossed her face.
'...And again, I ended up breaking my own vow and drinking it, regardless. Perhaps I'm no different from the rest of them, after all.'
Alphonse knew the solitude she had endured better than anyone else, so he replied with a smile.
'Don't worry about it,' he said. 'You did it to save me, didn't you? That alone makes you different from other vampires. I'm sure my parents would be grateful for all that you've done. If not for you, I would've been killed. And if not for you, we wouldn't have been able to solve the murders here, either.'
'So, thank you.'
Unable to reply in the face of his warm words, Rose turned away from him. For the first time, she felt as though she could accept herself. The thorns which had been constricting her heart receded as if melting away.
Alphonse began walking again, his eyes pointed straight ahead, tactfully avoiding looking at Rose's face while she stood still, her shoulders quivering.
After that, neither of them said another word to the other as they made their way to the exit. The natural light peeking into the tunnel here and there gradually grew brighter, and eventually the gate came into view.
Emerging entirely from the underground, they could see that the eerie red moon no longer hung in the sky. In its place was the sun, burning the morning haze away and bathing the city in dazzlingly bright sunlight.
'Well, this is where I must take my leave,' Rose said, giving Alphonse a slight bow. The vampire's presence gone from the city, Rose's mission was now over, and she had no reason to remain. Much as Alphonse wished she could stay longer, he nodded, responding with a simple 'All right.'
'Where will you go next?' he asked.
Rose shook her head. 'I don't know,' she replied.
Wherever she went, she would no doubt be pursuing yet another vampire. And there would also be no doubt that she would find herself fighting against it in a battle to the death, too. That was her duty as a vampire hunter and as a True Ancestor.
'When you've done everything that you need to do, come back here.'
Rose had already walked a short distance ahead of him, but she turned around again at his words.
'I'll always be waiting here for you,' he said.
Alphonse had no idea how long it would take for her to fulfill the duty that she had sworn to see to the end. But it didn't matter. He wanted her to know that there would always be a place for her to return to. And as long as that was the case, she would never be alone again.
Rose smiled, unable to conceal the happiness welling up within her. Alphonse returned the smile, and once more she turned, striding away into the brilliant sunlight. She didn't turn around again.
On Alphonse's back, Lucca had awoken, and had been awake for some time. She couldn't help but feel a little jealous at their exchange, but she had decided to feign being asleep so as to not interrupt their farewells.
Thus, the Vampire Murders that had terrorized the people of Heimdallr silently came to an end, no one the wiser as to the culprit or conclusion of the whole affair. The criminal dead, the murders would simply stop and the case itself would be doomed to be left unsolved for all eternity. No doubt the people of the city would one day forget that they had ever happened at all, or they would live on as a kind of urban legend, no one believing such stories could possibly be true.
But Alphonse would always remember what had happened. He would never forget the case where he had lost several people who were deeply important to him. He would also never forget that he had found someone else important to him during it all. And he prayed that one day in the future, she would be able to find peace, freed from the deep solitude and arduous duty that burdened her.
'Every dark night is followed by a bright new dawn,' he murmured. 'So I'm sure that one day a new dawn will come to you, too.'
Alphonse stood still, watching silently as Rose walked off into the distance and vanished into the morning sun.
Continue Reading Red Moon Rose
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