Vampire Hunter D: Dark Road Part Three

BOOK: Vampire Hunter D: Dark Road Part Three
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Other Vampire Hunter D
books published by

Dark Horse Books and Digital Manga Publishing

vol. 1: Vampire Hunter D

vol. 2: Raiser of Gales

vol. 3: Demon Deathchase

vol. 4: Tale of the Dead Town

vol. 5: The Stuff of Dreams

vol. 6: Pilgrimage of the Sacred and the Profane

vol. 7: Mysterious Journey to the North Sea part one

vol. 8: Mysterious Journey to the North Sea part two

vol. 9: The Rose Princess

vol. 10: Dark Nocturne

vol. 11: Pale Fallen Angel parts one and two

vol. 12: Pale Fallen Angel parts three and four

vol. 13: Twin-Shadowed Knight parts one and two

vol. 14: Dark Road parts one and two

VAMPIRE HUNTER D 15: DARK ROAD PART THREE

© Hideyuki Kikuchi, 1999. Originally published in Japan in 1999 by ASAHI SONORAMA Co. English translation copyright © 2010 by Dark Horse Books and Digital Manga Publishing.

—

No portion of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the express written permission of the copyright holders. Names, characters, places, and incidents featured in this publication are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons (living or dead), events, institutions, or locales, without satiric intent, is coincidental. Dark Horse Books® and the Dark Horse logo are registered trademarks of Dark Horse Comics, Inc. All rights reserved.

—

Cover art by Yoshitaka Amano

English translation by Kevin Leahy

Book design by Krystal Hennes

—

Published by

Dark Horse Books

A division of Dark Horse Comics, Inc.

10956 SE Main Street

Milwaukie, OR 97222

darkhorse.com

—

Digital Manga Publishing

1487 West 178th Street, Suite 300

Gardena, CA 90248

dmpbooks.com

—

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

 

Kikuchi, Hideyuki, 1949-

[D--Daku rodo. English]

Dark road. Part Three / written by Hideyuki Kikuchi ; illustrated by Yoshitaka Amano; English translation by Kevin Leahy. -- 1st Dark Horse Books ed.

p. cm. -- (Vampire Hunter D ; v. 15)

"Originally published in Japan in 1999 by ASAHI"--T.p. verso.

ISBN 978-1-59582-500-1

I. Amano, Yoshitaka. II. Leahy, Kevin. III. Title.

PL832.I37D2513 2010

895.6'36--dc22

2010018183

—

First Dark Horse Books Edition: August 2010

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Printed at Lake Book Manufacturing, Inc., Melrose Park, IL, USA

EXECUTION DAY
CHAPTER 1

—

I

 

The device that had been built in the village square for the execution was known as a guillotine. At the top of a fifteen-foot frame a heavy steel blade was set, and when the executioner released the attached rope, the blade dropped onto the neck of the condemned bent over beneath it. It was believed to be named after its inventor, and while it was said that he himself fell victim to his creation, the veracity of that claim was unknown.

“I've seen them a number of times, but when it comes to be your turn, it's really pretty creepy,” Juke said from over by the window.

“It sure as hell is,” Sergei agreed, sitting on the edge of the lowest mattress of the triple-decker bunk bed. Gordo was sleeping there. Being a woman, Rosaria was in the cell across from them. They were all in the village jail.

“If I'd known this was gonna happen, I'd have sold a little more of our stock on the side and used the money to really live it up.”

“You seem to know all kinds of weird things. Isn't there anything you can do?” Juke said to Sergei, giving the bars across the window a good smack.

“Not a blessed thing. The clowns from the village really went through my stuff good and cleaned me out,” Sergei said, showing Juke the palms of both hands. By that, he meant he didn't have anything.

“What'll happen to the goods in our wagon?” he asked.

“If these guys don't pilfer everything, they'll either deliver it somewhere or have someone come get it. Or they'll just say we were hit by bandits and make the whole thing disappear.”

“Damn, this is a hell of a mess we've gotten into.”

Sergei got up, walked over to the iron bars facing the corridor, and leaned against them.

“Is Rosaria gonna get the ol'
whooosh
,
ka-chuuung
, too?” he said, striking the back of his neck with the side of his hand.

Juke nodded. “On account of they think she's one of us. If they suspect anyone's ever had anything to do with the Nobility, then they get no mercy; it don't matter if they're injured, a woman, a kid, or what have you.”

“Forget about the Nobility. In a case like this, humans are a lot more savage. At least all
they
do is drink your blood. I asked a guy who'd been bitten about it, and he said that partway through it, it felt pretty good. Man, I envy that Gordo. If they chop his head off the way he is now, he'll get an easy death without ever knowing a thing,” Sergei muttered, and he actually did sound envious right to the core of his being.

Just then, there was the sound of a door unlocking and the creak of hinges. A number of footsteps could be heard crossing the stone floor and coming their way.

Preceding a couple of sturdy-looking villagers who were apparently the jailers was Mayor Camus. Her pale, aged countenance was in stark contrast to the black satin dress she wore. Needless to say, no one there knew that inside she was actually Dr. Gretchen, poison fiend extraordinaire.

“What a sty!” she said, waving one hand before her nose as she gave Juke and Sergei an icy stare. “Your execution will be conducted precisely at high noon. Just remember: at that exact moment, the guillotine will fall on the neck of one of you.”

Though Juke asked her to spare Rosaria, he was met with a laugh.

Glancing out of the corner of her eye at the young lady who slumbered behind the opposite set of bars, she said, “She's one of you—and that's all there is to it.”

“You cruel old bitch!” Sergei shouted. His anger was so great that he rattled the bars violently. “Who gains anything by that girl being beheaded? Let her live. If you don't, I'll come back as a ghost and wring the fuck out of that baggy old neck of yours!”

“Such language,” Mayor Camus said, grimacing. She looked at him like he was a lowly savage. “We can arrange to have you alone executed earlier. Wouldn't you like to live even a little bit longer?”

“Shut your hole, you lousy murderer,” he said, trying to reach through the bars and strangle her.

“Knock it off,” Juke said, pulling Sergei back by the shoulders to stop him.

“What kinda scheme are you cooking?” he then asked the mayor.

“Dear me, what a thing to say! I wonder if you're suffering some sort of psychosis before your death.”

“You know me, right?” Juke asked the mayor as he stared into her eyes.

“Of course I do.”

“I know you, too. You're just like I remember. On the outside, at least.”

“Oh, really?”

“You were a hard nut, but you weren't the kind of monster who'd put an innocent girl in the guillotine without doing any checking at all. Are you the real thing?”

“What utter nonsense!” the mayor spat.

Juke didn't catch the turbulence that flashed through her eyes.

Turning to the guards behind her, the mayor told them, “I wish to speak to these men alone. Remain outside until I call for you.”

Not surprisingly, the pair of jailers was somewhat bewildered.

“Go!” she asserted coldly, and with that they left.

The door closed. Quickly going over to it, the mayor ran her right hand around its edges, and then touched it to the keyhole. Her hand then went into her gown and pulled out a small earthenware vessel of a muddy brown hue.

“You mean to tell me—” Juke groaned, guessing from that action alone that something wasn't right.

“Be silent,” the old woman said as fingers like dead twigs took the lid off the vessel.

A pungent aroma filled the jail, and a scent so dense it seemed to pollute each and every particle of air choked Juke and Sergei.

“G . . . g . . . guards!” they shouted, but their cries gave way to pained wheezing.

“My name is Mayor Camus. But my given name is Dr. Gretchen,” the old woman informed them in the alluring voice of a young lady. “I wonder if you might've heard of the woman who poisoned fifty thousand Nobles? At present, all my energies are devoted to ridding the world of the Hunter who calls himself D.”

Clinging to the bars, Juke and Sergei had already begun to slide down toward the floor.

Poison it wasn't, but the aroma was that powerful—the scent alone effortlessly pushed their consciousness down into the darkness.

“No matter what you do . . . to us . . . D . . . won't come,” Juke said, his voice nearly a death rattle.

“Is that what you believe? I'm of a different opinion,” the old woman jeered. The lid was back on the vessel. “I've recently become intimately familiar with his actions on the Frontier for the past few years. The details make my hair stand on end. He's possessed of a cruel and callous mind, the like of which isn't to be found even among the Nobility. He's even mercilessly stabbed into the chest of a young Noble as the child wept and pleaded to be spared. Ordinarily, he would never come to rescue you.”

Her wrinkled mouth twisted into a grin. Her lips were as glistening red as rubies.

“However, he is no Noble. His blood is filthy yet hot, like a human's. And so long as that drives his flesh, he won't be able to leave you to your fate. He's certain to come to your rescue. And this village will be his grave.”

“Like hell . . . he . . . will,” Sergei said, and then he lost consciousness.

“Stay away . . . D,” Juke added. His hands came free of the bars, and he toppled in front of a broken chair.

“I took precautions to keep the smell from spilling outside,” the mayor remarked. “You've only begun to serve my purposes.”

The old woman's unsightly hand reached for the lock; it came free with surprising ease. Catching it so it wouldn't make a sound, she set it down on the floor and entered the trio's cell.

Looking down at the slumped forms of Juke and Sergei, she said, “What a vulgar pose!”

They were bent over not unlike men offering up prayers.

In her hand the old woman held three vessels.

“Each has a different effect. If by some chance you should be rescued, D shall find himself forced to fight me on four fronts. And if you aren't rescued—well, I also have a plan for that contingency.”

And then she took the vessels and poured their contents into the mouths of the three men. Three different aromas mixed in the air, creating a mysterious scent.

After she finished with the sleeping Gordo, the old woman put the lock back where it'd been and went to the opposite side of the corridor—where she entered Rosaria's cell.

As she took the lid off a fourth vessel, she felt something on the nape of her neck.

“Huh?”

She turned to look, but there was no one there. Although she'd gotten the feeling she was being watched, apparently she'd been mistaken.

“How unfortunate,” said the mayor. “I can't even spare you, Sleeping Beauty.”

A golden liquid was poured between the young woman's bloodless lips.

Presently, Mayor Camus grinned like a little girl and called for the guards, but after she'd left, a certain figure appeared without warning in the narrow passageway. It looked for all the world like Rosaria. But wasn't that Rosaria lying there in one of the prison beds?

Though the figure in the corridor gazed quietly but forlornly at her own sleeping self, her eyes suddenly became clear with intent and she started forward without a sound. Ahead of her lay a stone wall. Moving without hesitation, she was just about to hit the wall when the door in it opened and a guard entered. It was time for his appointed rounds. For an instant the two figures overlapped, then parted again. Rosaria had passed right through the man.

“Huh?” the jailer exclaimed, turning around, but by then Rosaria had already disappeared through the stone barrier. Trembling, he slapped himself with both hands. He then went over to Rosaria's cell with long strides, peered in, and got a relieved look on his face.

“Must've drunk too much of those Tudor spirits,” the jailer said, speaking aloud the most common explanation when a brush with the unbelievable threatened to fracture the mind. He then slumped back against the bars and let out a deep breath.

The smell that had hung in the air had vanished without a trace.

“I don't know what it is, but I get the feeling this isn't gonna go off well,” the man said. Like his life up until now, his tone was small and timid, but somehow he had absolute faith in these words.

—

II

—

The leaden clouds that covered the sky at dawn still lazed about as noon approached, showing no intention at all of moving on. Thinking of the ceremony to come and the odious tasks in its wake, some of the men and women in the village had dour expressions, and they were busily scolding the children who ran around like mad. The guillotine that they'd worked through the night to erect towered proudly in the square, with a thick, sharp blade sitting at the top of two wooden uprights. In the simple hut beside it, the executioners sat sipping coffee and looking disdainful.

Ten minutes before the execution, Juke and Sergei were led out of the jail. Rosaria and Gordo had jailers on either side of them to hold them up. The road to the square had been packed on both sides with villagers. Their eyes gleamed with excitement—out on the amusement-starved Frontier, even a grisly death was a wonderful show. As the four condemned and their jailers moved, the people moved with them. Some acted up a bit, swinging axes and knives, but the guards carrying firearms soon put an end to that.

Mayor Camus stood before the guillotine. In her heart of hearts, she didn't really know if D would show up. There'd been no way to let him know for certain the day and time of the execution, and despite what she'd told Juke and Sergei the previous night, she wasn't entirely convinced he would come to their rescue. She'd intentionally postponed the execution one day so that D might learn about it. She couldn't say for sure that this would work . . . which meant that these four would be decapitated for no reason at all. But the terrifying woman wasn't concerned by this. If it came to pass, slaying D by her own hand would become problematic, but she possessed overwhelming self-confidence.

The Duke of Xenon and Grand Duke Mehmet were, of course, thickheaded men who'd attained their positions through brute strength alone. They lacked intellect; this was no longer an era when muscle was pitted against muscle. And the way Dr. Gretchen saw it, D was the same as those two, in which case her own wisdom would more than suffice for slaying him. All that remained was to cross paths with him. She'd think of another way to take care of him when she did.

The four prisoners reached the bottom of the scaffold. The hue of the clouds seemed to grow a good deal duller and heavier.

“There's no point in a whole lot of useless chatter. Let's get right to it,” declared Mayor Camus. “First will be—”

“Me,” Juke said, puffing his chest.

“We'll start with the girl.”

“You bitch—what are you, a Noble?” Juke shouted as he tried to grab hold of the old woman, but the jailers promptly wrestled him down. “Kill me first! Do the woman later.”

“This is hardly the place for a display of manly compassion,” Mayor Camus said frostily, taking the chin of the limp Rosaria in hand and raising her face. “Fast asleep. It would be best for her if we got this over quickly, while she remains so. Set her up.”

“Stop!”

Juke and Sergei continued to protest, but they were held hand and foot, and there was nothing they could do as Rosaria went up the wooden stairs, supported by a man on either side. There were thirteen stairs.

On reaching the top, one of the jailers lifted the upper lunette, a wooden bar that had an opening in the center of its lower side. An eight-inch-thick log that had been brought out expressly for this purpose was set in the hollow in the lower beam, and then the upper one was lowered again. After locking both halves in place, the jailer quickly made his way over to a wooden lever.

BOOK: Vampire Hunter D: Dark Road Part Three
11.6Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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