Fanfic foreword

The characters D and Miyu are based on the movie/OAV
representations, not novels or manga, although I have used
material from the novels and manga respectively. My D is a
little more vulnerable and a little less taciturn than the movie
version (for more details on the changes I have made, such as
D's eye color, see the introduction to my _Vampire Hunter D: A
Verse Adaptation_, available on this site, and on paper from
Anime House Press; he's basically the same here). Miyu's future
as portrayed here is a projection of her situation in the OAVs
and not meant to reflect any manga events. The setting is the
universe of Vampire Hunter D, 10,000 years into a
postapocalyptic future.

This work of fan fiction is not intended to infringe on any
rights related to Vampire Hunter D, Vampire Princess Miyu, or
any other intellectual property.


                   A Tale of Two Hunters: 
     A Vampire Hunter D-Vampire Princess Miyu Crossover

                     by Cathy Krusberg 


   Eyes black, darker than darkness itself, gazed through
   the city's days and nights. Their shape was a memory of
   what had once been: fox-sharp corners to track swift
   prey; heavy, graceful lashes to blend into the shadows.
   But long years had transformed the intensity of that
   gaze into the stillness of a corpse's blind, frozen

   The eyes, however, were neither blind nor dead. They
   hunted still, hunted because it was their nature,
   watched everything and nothing as they waited for the
   long, long hunt to end.

              *                    *                   *

Gahpo's Inn -- it had no other name -- was a place of contrasts,
an admix of Eastern and Western, old and new. There were tables
for floor seating in the Japanese style and tables with chairs
for patrons accustomed to Western modes, as well as a bar for
those who preferred their alcohol unadulterated by more than
token food. All the furniture, like the inn itself, had the look
of being well-worn but well cared-for, shabby and shiny at once.

Gahpo himself was a Japanese gentleman of perhaps sixty years,
short and somewhat gone to fat, with thinning white hair and a
tiny tuft of equally white beard. His clothing, like his inn,
was a motley: very full green silk pantaloons, a painfully
purple cummerbund, and a tailored blue chambray shirt that had
seen better days. He was engaged in animated conversation with
a young-looking man seated at one of the Western-style tables.

"Hunter, I tell you truly, there *is* a vampire here. I am
losing customers because of it!"

It would be more accurate to say that Gahpo's end was animated.
The young man had mostly been listening, his expression stoic,
indecipherable. "Hunter" was a title, or rather a designation;
he had not introduced himself, but certain of his accoutrements
plainly bespoke his life's work. Most of his clothing was a
little more ostentatious than travellers typically wore: the
broad-brimmed hat with its brilliant red blotch of ornament; the
full blue cape, more ornate than most travellers' cloaks, with
its spreading collar: these might be the marks of a wealthy
merchant. But beneath the cape, squaring its shoulders, he wore
lightweight armor; a combat belt crossed his chest; at his waist
was another belt with a heavy, horned buckle; a third belt held
a knife at his hip. Most striking, however, was the great,
curved sword that he normally wore on his back but had laid
aside -- within easy reach, to be sure -- while taking his noon
meal. It was a Hunter's weapon, and his eyes were a Hunter's
eyes: green, unfathomable, still with the stillness that holds
the breath of a storm.

"It's not possible," the Hunter protested as he contemplated the
remains of his meal. "The Nobles left the cities years ago.
They're all on the Frontier -- the ones that aren't dead."

"And much credit to you that so many *are* dead, good Hunter!
But my poor inn -- there *is* a vampire here. And it persecutes
me -- *me*, who never wronged a man in his life. My guests show
the marks -- two little marks on the neck, right here!" Gahpo
tapped his own neck with two fingertips. "And then every
stranger that passes the town gates hears it: 'Oh, stay away
from old Gahpo's inn; there's a vampire there, it'll suck your
blood as sure as it's red!'"

"Has this vampire killed your guests?"

Gahpo shook his head emphatically. "Not killed, by the Buddha's
mercy. But their necks show the marks, again and again. For
months now, since -- well, too long, and my business is
suffering. People don't even come to eat and drink as they once

The Hunter gazed abstractedly at his brown-gloved hands. To
Gahpo it seemed he was studying the scorched bits of meat and
stale breadcrusts he had left uneaten. Sensing tacit criticism
of the fare, Gahpo continued, "Listen, Hunter, I offer a
bargain. If you will stay and hunt this vampire, I will give you
free room for so long as you need to finish the job. Yes -- you
and your horse as well. And if you can prove to me that the
vampire is dead, your board will be free also -- for you and
your good horse! Surely a vampire will be frightened away if it
knows a Vampire Hunter is under my roof! What say you, good
Hunter? Have we a deal?"

The Hunter had never been one to seek bargains or haggle over
goods or lodging, and he was not cynical enough to reflect that
Gahpo was probably giving away only what he could now find no
one to pay for. He was intrigued, however, at the innkeeper's
desperation -- even though he doubted that a vampire was in fact
behind the man's troubles. The Dark Lords had left the cities
long ago, driven out by humans sick of their tyranny. There
could not be a vampire here.

There simply could not.

"Very well," the Hunter said at last, to Gahpo's visible relief.
"But I do not need my meat so well done as this." He tapped a
few blackened bits with his fork's tine-tips.

"Of course! Of course, good Hunter! I shall see that your meat
is never burned! And you -- you will hunt for the vampire that
plagues me so?"

The Hunter nodded, once. "My room?"

"Of course!" Gahpo turned away. "Alisa! Come, we have a guest!"

While Gahpo rummaged about for the key to the Hunter's room,
Alisa covertly studied the new guest. Unlike her employer, Alisa
was young and Caucasian, tall if not statuesque, with long brown
hair pulled into a chignon. She wore a yellow dress with puffy
sleeves and a full skirt that fell nearly to her ankles, and she
obviously found the Hunter fascinating. She had, in fact, been
somewhat chagrined that Gahpo himself had chosen to wait on
their unusual guest -- ah, but she was showing him to his room!
What a pity she was too good a girl to make the best of *that*!
Actually, just looking at this Hunter was giving her second
thoughts about the virtues of virtue. She wondered what he would
look like if he ever smiled and resolved to do all in her power
to find out.

"There!" Gahpo exclaimed, untangling the key's tassled fob from
those of its companions in a drawer that had needed dusting for
several months. "Alisa, show our Hunter up." He slid the key to
the end of the bar. Alisa scarcely needed to glance down to
catch it with an alacrity born of long practice.

"This way, please," she said, dropping a half-curtsey and giving
her most dazzling smile, then turning toward the stairs with a
flourish of her whirling skirt. "Oh -- I'm sorry -- I didn't
catch your name, Mr. --"

"D," the Hunter replied. He was looking at the stairs rather
than at her.

"D?" Alisa queried, stopping on the second step. "Mr. D?"

"Just D." No smile. The Hunter stood patiently, waiting, and
after an awkward moment, Alisa resumed her smile and her ascent
of the stairs.

D's room was on the second floor, and Alisa preceded him,
holding the door for him as he entered. "Please let me know if
there's anything ... if there's *anything* -- you need."

The Hunter gazed around the small room, then nodded silent
acknowledgement -- and looked pointedly at the door. Alisa's
smile wilted a little, but she dropped a proper curtsey and took
the hint. "A good day to you then, D."

D bolted the door behind her and took a better look at the room.
It was minimally furnished in the Western style: a bed, a
washstand, a chest of drawers, and a chair. He had carried his
great sword (sheathed, of course) rather than wearing it such a
short way, and he laid it lengthwise on the bed; the rest of his
minimal baggage, normally stowed behind his saddle, he put on
the floor. The room had a view of a little garden-cum-courtyard
behind the inn, where there was a plain stone bench of the same
gray as the worn paving stones that made a broad and
intermittent path to nowhere. D opened the window -- it was the
kind that swung outward -- and its edge brushed against the cool
softness of flowers. A wisteria vine had climbed a tree and then
cascaded down. Although it was too early in the season for
leaves, the vine was covered with clusters of lavender blossoms,
like bunches of grapes grown faded and soft; they filled the air
with an almost suffocatingly sweet fragrance. A few flowerlets
fluttered loose as D turned from the window, leaving it open.

Now that he was alone, it occurred to D that he might have asked
for a ground floor room. Being so far from the earth fatigued
him -- but so did the thought of more dealings with the effusive
Gahpo or the starry-eyed Alisa, and he elected to let well
enough alone. He did, however, doff his broad-brimmed hat and
heavy cloak and, after a moment's hesitation, the knife-belt and
the armor that made his shoulders so broad. It was all like a
tortoise's shell: It made life safer, but it was at times a

"Well, don't stop *there*," growled a voice from his left palm.
"Do you want me to suffocate?" 

D had to bite his tongue to keep from saying "Yes" to his
symbiot, a metaphorical burden and not so easily cast aside as
his physical ones. It was literally part of himself, a face in
his left palm that could speak -- though it did so only when he
was alone, thank goodness -- and could see the world through his
eyes as well as its own. He owed some of his powers to it -- in
fact, on a few occasions, he had owed his life to it and its
strange abilities -- but he and the symbiot were not always
agreeable neighbors. They had philosophical differences, to say
the least.

"You're fine," D told it, as he pushed his sword over to stretch
out beside it a on hard but clean and well-aired mattress. "It
would give someone a shock to see you by accident."

"Yes, that Alisa might come spying -- did you see the way she
looked at you? That vampire blood of yours is going to break
another woman's heart -- that and your stubbornness."

"Don't start."

"Well, how can old Gahpo complain if one more set of fang marks
shows up on a neck here? Alisa wouldn't mind. And fresh blood
would be better for you than --"

"Do be quiet. I am very tired, and I am going to take a nap."

"A *nap*?! What do you think this is, kindergarten? And what
about me?"

"You are going to wake me in time to close the window before it
gets dark, so I won't have to worry about a thief coming in that

"Or a vampire," the thing observed dryly.

"This is a city," D muttered. "Vampires are gone from the
cities. I don't know what troubles this place." And he let his
eyes fall shut.

              *                    *                   *

The city was called Edo. It had been called Tokyo once, before
the great war that had wiped most of humankind from the face of
the earth and forced the remainder underground. When vampires
began rebuilding the cities, some of them, as an affectation,
had tried to appear even older than they were by reviving
ancient styles of clothing or customs -- or names. The Dark Lord
who had made the restoration of Tokyo, Japan, his personal
project had begun by renaming the city Edo. He had died when the
humans at last rose against him, as they had against the Dark
Lords in cities throughout the world, but the old, old name had

If Miyu knew, she didn't care. She was to all appearances a
young Japanese girl wearing a white kimono that fell to her
knees, fastened with a broad red sash. Her feet and legs were
bare except for a carefully-tied red ankle-ribbon; a similar red
ribbon was laced through her hair. She was sitting on a flat
rooftop, her legs dangling over the edge as she gazed at the
orange ball of the sun. Its lower edge was still a few degrees
above the horizon. 

"There *is* a shinma in this city. A bloodthirsty shinma that
thinks it can hide from me. I can feel it -- can't you, Larva?"

Larva hovered behind her, faithful and silent as always, his
left eye gleaming a netherworld red. It was the only part of him
that looked remotely alive. A mask concealed the rest of his
features, as it had for millennia now -- for so long as he had
accompanied Miyu on her quest. A cowled black cloak covered all
the rest of his body, from head to feet; he towered over her
like a column of smoke rising up, parting to frame his mask,
then drawing into itself again, and the dead white mask
reflected red from the failing light of the sun.

"They like the night," Miyu continued thoughtfully. "Well --
it's my best time, too. Where shall we start?"

Larva correctly interpreted this as a rhetorical question. When
a few jagged teeth of the skyline had bitten into the sun's
lower edge, Miyu jumped off the roof and floated, light as a
mimosa blossom, to the darkening street below. Larva followed
more slowly, his black robe belling out, its edges blending into
the young twilight.

              *                    *                   *

"Wakey-wakey!" growled the symbiot. When D seemed slow to
respond, it curled his left hand into a fist and punched his

D opened his eyes. It was still light, but only a few last rays
of the sun remained in view.

"I don't know about you," the symbiot lied conversationally,
"but I could use something to eat. And I don't mean more
charcoal. Even if it *is* good for the digestion."

"Mm. Yes." D sat up slowly and smoothed his long auburn hair.
"Old Gahpo seemed to take it to heart when I asked him not to
burn my food." He slid off the bed and crossed over to the
window. The sunlight was disappearing fast. He looked down at
the paving stones of the courtyard, and a young Japanese woman
in a blue kimono looked up at him and smiled shyly. D made note
of her features -- you never know when you'll need to remember a
face -- as he pulled the window shut, brushing a few more
wisteria flowerlets off their vine.

He would have been very startled if he had watched them fall to
the ground, for en route, they went *through* the still-smiling
figure below.

              *                    *                   *

D's evening meal included bread still warm from the oven. It was
delightfully soft and perfect for sopping up the blood that ran
out every time he cut his meat. Having no wish to experience
more of Alisa's enthusiasm than necessary, D never seriously
contemplated sending it back. In fact, he savored the warm
saltiness of every guilty mouthful, balancing the pleasure it
gave against the effort of keeping his canines from elongating.
The reaction was as natural for him as salivation, but not
something most people would regard with sympathy.

And there *were* witnesses. Gahpo had evidently been spreading
word of the Hunter's presence. The main room was peopled, if not
crowded, and while none of the occupants actually approached
him, he could not help noticing the covert glances cast his way,
nor avoid overhearing the speculative murmurs about the effect
his presence might have on the local vampire, and how terrible
it was that such things hadn't left the cities after all, and
how they really did need to be killed off altogether.

Definitely not the time to show any hint of his own fangs.

Alisa bustled over to him, looking almost frighteningly
cheerful. "How is your food? Is it all right? I made sure it
didn't get burned."

=You certainly did,= D thought. Aloud, he said, "Yes, it's

"Will there be anything else?"

"No. I need to rest now." And he rose, a little unsteady from
the unaccustomed rush of having swallowed raw blood.

"Please let me know if there's *anything* you want," Alisa
emphasized, trailing him as far as the stairs. "I'm always on
duty -- even at night."

D may have nodded acknowledgement, or perhaps he was simply
taking care not to stumble on the stairs. He could feel the
symbiot snickering silently, and once the door of his room was
safely bolted behind him, the snickers ceased to be silent.

"Oh, D!" The thing was laughing so hard it almost couldn't
speak. "She has got it *bad* for you. You'll break her heart if
you don't drop by her room for a midnight snack, you know."

"Do be quiet."

"That beef blood was good, wasn't it? But blood fresh from a
living, willing woman --"

"Isn't on the menu tonight. Or ever. Be quiet so I can listen."

"For what? We know there aren't any vampires in the cities

"Then I need to find whatever *is* troubling this inn before it
gives Vampire Hunters a bad name." D sat on the room's single
chair. "So let me listen."

              *                    *                   *

D stayed awake most of the night, prowling about the inn and its
immediate surroundings. All seemed quiet to both his mundane and
his preternatural senses. There was an electric tension to the
air, but D laid it to recent events: the attacks that had
already occurred and the hoopla Gahpo had created regarding his
arrival. He wanted more evidence before attributing something so
intangible to a vampire. He waited until there was a hint of
dawn in the air -- its scent, if not its appearance -- to curl up
on the hard bed and allow himself the small amount of sleep he
needed, keeping his sword close at hand. When he went down to
the main room for breakfast, a jubilant Gahpo greeted him.

"You see?" the innkeeper exclaimed, after shouting orders for
D's breakfast. "I knew you would bring me luck. No attacks last
night! Now, if you can be sure they have stopped...."

"I will make inquiries," D replied, and he meant it.

Breakfast consisted of porridge with honey and butter, a kind of
fruit that D didn't recognize, and tea. There was, at least, no
meat to bleed. Afterward, D tracked a delighted Alisa to the
back room that served as scullery. Assuring her that he didn't
mind if she continued to work while talking, he began to query
her about the phenomenon troubling Gahpo: the mysterious 
bite-like marks that the innkeeper blamed on a vampire.

"It's been nearly two months," Alisa told him. "They started
just after his daughter Nobuko died. Now, if someone said she
had been killed by a vampire -- well, I might believe that,
because her throat looked like something had savaged it -- it
looked horrible, poor thing, and they said she had lost a lot of
blood. But she can't be a vampire, because she was cremated. And
anyway, she could never have been a vampire and hurt people. She
was the sweetest little thing. And so pretty! She looked just
like a picture. Oh, that reminds me, I'll have to show you her
picture -- one of those itinerant photographers came just a week
before she died and took the most beautiful picture of her out
in the courtyard, near that wisteria vine -- have you noticed
it? Isn't it beautiful?"

"The blossoms are near my window," D acknowledged.

"Master Gahpo's wife planted it, and she tended it as long as
she was alive, but she died nearly two years ago. It broke
little Nobuko's heart. She just grieved and grieved for the
longest time, and I worried about her so much. But she finally
got over it; it was as if she just woke up one morning and
realized it was time to be happy again, and she stopped wearing
mourning and put on her favorite kimono, and I said, 'Why,
Nobuko, dear, you look like you've been made over again!' And
she just laughed, and she told me, "Oh, yes -- I've found
something that's making me over!" So I think she meant it was
time to stop grieving and start being happy again. And she'd put
her hair up with a beautiful little ivory comb that she wore.
Ah!" Alisa put the last of a stack of dishes aside and dried her
hands. "Please come and let me show you that picture -- I keep
it on my nightstand because I want to remember her the way she
looked when she was so happy. Isn't it sad, D, that just when
she had been happy again for a little while, she died?"

D nodded. It was. He felt somewhat uneasy about following Alisa
into her room, but at least the door stayed open as she picked
up the photograph -- it was the size of a man's palm and framed
-- and handed it to him. "There!" Alisa said. "There she is in
her favorite spot in the courtyard -- why D, whatever is it? You
look as pale as a ghost!"

As well he might. For on viewing the photograph, D realized that
he must have seen one.

              *                    *                   *

Temporarily abandoning his detective work, D retired to his
room, distracted by a profound and unaccustomed sensation not
unlike dread. If anyone had asked, D -- had he chosen to answer
at all -- would have said that ghosts were outside his field as
a Vampire Hunter.  Such beings were properly the metier of a 
priest or exorcist. And that was the truth as far as it went.
But the further fact was that D disliked ghosts intensely. 

By virtue of his nature, disposition, and experience, D had
become a Vampire Hunter without compare. Nobles and the mutants
that served them, fierce wild beasts and creatures better left
undescribed -- all had met bloody deaths at his sword-edge. Even
the thought of ghosts, however, gave him an uneasy feeling
between his shoulderblades and something uncommonly like
gooseflesh along his arms. Spirits he regarded as simply another
sort of nuisance; the Nobles or their servants could sometimes
command elementals and demons, creatures human in shape only.
Such beings might take corporeal form or -- more rarely --
possess a human body, either living or dead. That body was
usually vulnerable to his sword; if it was not, the creature
that had summoned its possessor was. But ghosts -- ! Human souls
walking after the body was gone, they roved the earth in
unfathomable ways: intangible, uncontrollable --
incomprehensible. To D they seemed more a violation of Nature
than the Nobles themselves, for they defied his grasp of the
universe as a place of solid predictability, a realm where he
lived by the sword -- as surely as his enemies died by it.

A sword, he knew, never killed a ghost. It was a disturbing

But there was no mistake. He had seen the image of Nobuko on the
paving-stones of the courtyard. She had been wearing the favored
blue kimono and the ivory comb, and she had smiled a sweet, shy
smile so much like her expression in the photograph -- !

And she was beautiful. D found her beauty oddly touching.
Reflecting still further on the matter -- not that he wished 
to -- it gave him a chill to think that he had seen a ghost, not
known her for what she was ... and found her attractive.

At least the symbiot wouldn't be taunting him to seduce *her*.
But that was small comfort.

D of course considered the possibility that she hadn't in fact
died; that there had been a mix-up at the crematorium or an 
out-and-out lie somehow perpetrated. The issue was not whether 
she was actually dead and ashes -- that was not his concern -- 
but whether she had returned bodily, as a vampire. From what Alisa
had said, it seemed unlikely. If she had been transformed by
another vampire exercising judgement worthy of the name, the
older one would have whisked her away to parts where she was
unknown. And without a mentor it was unlikely she would have had
the self-control -- or even the inclination -- to be so discreet
as whatever was active here. No deaths; no serious injuries; no
evidence of mental influence. Just pinpricks. It was very odd.

              *                    *                   *

D had never thought he would see the day when he approached
merely looking out the window with trepidation.

"Stiff upper lip, D," said the symbiot. "Even if she's real,
ghosts can't hurt anybody."

"Ghosts shouldn't exist," D said firmly. "And even if they do --
I'm a Vampire Hunter, not an exorcist."

"D, look out the damned window and get it over with."

D did so, and he winced at the sight of a female figure standing
by the wisteria vine. This one, however, was younger and shorter
than the woman he had seen the previous night; in fact, she was
not properly a young woman, but a girl in that gray area between
childhood and adolescence. Her hair was bound with a red ribbon,
and she wore a short white kimono with a broad red sash. At the
click of the latch she looked up, unsmiling, and her 
golden-brown eyes met D's as he swung the window open. To his 
relief, several falling wisteria blossoms clung to her hair, and 
a few more trickled down her skirt.

"You're here for it too," she said, her voice high-pitched with
youth but thoroughly physical. "You are not shinma but...." She
paused, cocking her head thoughtfully. At last she said, "But
not human. Not vampire."

"Not so loud," said D. Not all humans took kindly to having a
half-vampire in the neighborhood. "Wait there." He pulled the
window shut, at which a few more wisteria flowerlets fell free,
and quickly took the back stairs down to the courtyard, donning
his sword and hat en route. The girl was evidently no ghost, but
something about her made him uneasy. Perhaps it was her
clothing; the spring air was chill, especially in the shade of
the courtyard, but she seemed quite comfortable despite her
short kimono and bare feet.

She stood in the same spot beside the stone bench, eyes serious
as she regarded the much taller D. The two sized each other up
silently for nearly a full minute before the girl's mouth
tightened into a little smile.

"You *are* here for it," she said at last. "It's not a vampire,
you know. It's shinma."

"Shinma?" D queried, taking a few steps toward her. He had
learned the Japanese names of various monsters, but the word was
totally unfamiliar to him.

The girl nodded. "My name is Miyu. I hunt stray shinma and
return them to the dark."

Her tone was self-confident but showed none of the arrogance
typical of vampires, and D slowly approached her until they were
little more than an arm's length apart.

"What are shinma?" D asked, genuinely curious.

"Those beings born of fear in human hearts who went to the
darkness to rest. Many years ago their rest was disturbed, and
some escaped to the human world. It is my job to hunt them. When
I have returned them all to the darkness, I will be able to
follow my own path again. And Larva --"

Larva shimmered into visibility a few feet behind her. He was
tall, taller than D, and the edges of his black robe seemed to
blend into the encroaching darkness. Perhaps he returned D's
slightly wide-eyed gaze. It was impossible to be sure, for his
face was a mask -- literally -- and his single eye a window on
something inhuman.

"Larva is my servant," Miyu said. She gave another little smile.
"You are also a hunter."

"I am," D replied. "I am a Vampire Hunter. The innkeeper thinks
that a vampire is troubling this place."

Miyu laughed her tinkling laugh. "He should wish it were! There
is a stray shinma here ... that is, hereabouts. Hiding. It
cannot hide forever. And your sword will not kill it, Hunter."

D took another step toward her, and Miyu leaped lightly onto the
stone bench, so that their eyes were near the same level.

"You are too much like those horrible Nobles," Miyu said. "They
called themselves vampires."

"Not so loud," D repeated, stepping so close that his hat brim
nearly touched her. In a low voice, he continued, "I am far too
much like the Nobles, but that is what gives me power to hunt
them. My father was a Noble."

"Ah." Just for a moment, there was genuine sympathy in Miyu's
voice. "I don't know *what* my father was." Her eyes were sad.
"If I hunt long enough, he will be free, and I can ask him ...
I can ask him...." Her gaze grew distant, and D wondered what
past those eyes saw. She had the body of a child, but the eyes
were ancient, golden like centuries of sunsets. She came to
herself then and, very much to D's surprise, reached out and
tapped her knuckles against his shoulder-armor with a thoroughly
childlike giggle. "You look like a tortoise."

The tap of Miyu's touch on D's shoulder drowned out the
simultaneous hiss of hinges -- but on the heels of her words
there was a very audible gasp behind him. D whirled to see
Alisa, hands to her mouth, eyes wide. Then -- just before her
face crumpled, weeping -- she turned and fled back into the inn.

D looked again toward the bench, but no one was there. He was
alone in the little courtyard, and an evening breeze blew
wisteria petals along the paving-stones at his feet.

              *                    *                   *

Alisa could hardly bear to look at him and scarcely spoke to him
when she served the evening meal. In spite of himself, D felt
sorry for her. It wasn't his fault some women became infatuated
with him, but he had decided it wasn't their fault, either, and
he never held it against them. He could have told Alisa that she
had not seen him at a tryst with the strange dark-haired girl,
but addressing the matter at all would only have complicated

The meat was bloody again, and he took a perverse pleasure in
the shame he felt at enjoying its taste.

              *                    *                   *

"Stop looking so glum," the symbiot told him when he was alone
in his room once more. "You could kill two birds with one stone,
you know. Cheer up the girl and get yourself some *real* food.
She'd love it if you bit her neck. You're such a ladykiller."
The thing's laughter at its own wit was almost obscene.

D, for his part, was thinking more about the girl he'd spoken
with in the courtyard. She was an extraordinary being, young and
old, powerful -- he could feel the power beneath her youthful
appearance -- and yet vulnerable, like the child she appeared to
be. He looked out the window again, as if she might be in the
darkened courtyard still. A human would have seen little more
than the night's blackness, but D's vampire blood gave him
vision beyond that granted humans, and he could see the stone
bench, the cracked gray paving-stones, the tree, the wisteria
vine. Of Miyu in her white dress and red ribbons there was no
sign, yet D could *feel* a psychic afterimage of her presence,
and he wondered whether a living being could haunt a place -- or
if it was his own mind that had become haunted.

              *                    *                   *

"Hunter. *Hunter*!" D was awakened at the dawn's first light by
a pounding at his door and Gahpo's voice. He was glad that he
had taken his little sleep fully armed. Gahpo wasn't in a
patient mood.

D opened the door. "Yes?"

"There has been another attack, for all that you were here! What
are you going to do? Can you not defeat this vampire?"

"Another attack? On one of the guests?"

Gahpo shook his head. "No -- on Alisa! Never before has the
vampire attacked my staff! It is growing bolder, Hunter. You
must stop it soon."

"Alisa?" D's concern was thoroughly genuine. "Is she dead?"

"No, no, just like the others -- pinpricks on her neck. But the
vampire bewitched her. She just sits -- !"

"Let me talk to her."

              *                    *                   *

Alisa was sitting quietly in her room. She wore a shroudlike
white nightgown, and her hair fell loose, unkempt, well below
her shoulders. She did not look up when D entered -- alone, for
Gahpo had an inn to run. D found her indifference far more
disturbing than her infatuation had been.

"Alisa?" he asked softly. On receiving no response, he asked,
"How do you feel?"

"Fine," she said, smiling a Mona Lisa smile and still not
looking at him.

"Did the vampire hurt you?"

"No one's hurt me."

"May I look at your neck?"

"I don't mind."

Alisa sat perfectly still as D's gloved hands pushed her hair
back and turned her head aside. There were indeed two tiny marks
with a little bruising around them, but Alisa was not
particularly pale. D hesitated a moment, then gently pulled her
lips apart. The gums were a healthy pink, the canines 
round-tipped as any human's. Whatever had happened hadn't taken 
much blood, nor had she begun a transformation -- at least, not 
to vampire.  D mulled over the implications of this for some
seconds before he noticed that Alisa had not moved; her head
remained at a slightly awkward angle, exactly as he had left it,
as if she were a mannequin. D inhaled softly between his teeth,
as he might at a vase about to topple over; there was something
precarious about Alisa's state, something decidedly eerie,

And poor girl, she had been annoying, but she hadn't deserved

D went to one knee before her and carefully set her head
straight; his hands lingered as he smoothed her hair into place
once more. If Alisa could see him, she gave no sign of it.

D spoke more to himself than to her when he softly asked, "Why
have you changed, Alisa?"


"Yesterday you were -- so upset. What happened?"

"Happened?" Alisa almost looked puzzled. "Maybe I had a dream.
But I'm fine now."

              *                    *                   *

"That young woman is not 'fine,'" D declared, once he was in the
privacy of his room.

"Should've bit her while you had the chance," the symbiot
remarked, audibly smirking. "Though come to think of it, she
doesn't look like she'd put up a fight if you tried it now."

D might not have heard. "Maybe there really is a vampire here.
Even if there wasn't one before. She's certainly not herself.
But why would a Noble do such a thing? Why not abduct her if
he's going to hypnotically control her? And why attack at an inn
where a Vampire Hunter is staying? Unless he's taunting me...."

When it was growing dark, D went to the courtyard. He wasn't
sure why. He sat, armored and armed (but with his great sword
sheathed on his back) on the stone bench where Miyu had stood
the evening before. He felt strangely unsurprised when she
seemed to step from the shadows to stand before him.

"Good evening, Hunter."

"There was a vampire attack here last night," D said without
preamble. "But not like the others, or so they tell me. It
wasn't an attack on a guest, but on one of the staff -- Alisa.
It left her mind unhinged. Is this what your shinma do?"

"The shinma are not kind," Miyu said matter-of-factly. "That was
my doing -- to take away her pain."

D's eyes widened; barely aware of doing so, he rose to his feet.
"*Your* doing? Are you a vampire? Are you the Noble who -- ?"

"I am not a Noble!" Miyu declared, almost furious. "The Nobles
are gone from the city -- and good riddance. All they ever did
was kill and drink blood and bring misery. Alisa was too
unhappy. When I drank her blood, I took away her sorrow."

D held his sword hand clenched near his chest, poised at the
balance-point of attack. If she were a vampire -- and she did
seem to be -- she was a strange one. She denied being Nobility,
and who ever heard a vampire to say such a thing? She admitted
drinking Alisa's blood -- but while a Noble would have declared
the intention of drinking it again and again as she pleased, or
would have boasted her power to kill the girl when she chose,
this being said she had taken Alisa's sorrow.

"Will you drink her blood again?" D asked, very still. Miyu
shook her head.

"She does not need that now. Now I need to hunt the shinma."

"But you are ... a vampire?"

"Yes. Do you intend to hunt me, Hunter?" A hint of teasing
underlay Miyu's serious tone.

"Did you bite the other people here?"

"No. I came to the city only a few days ago. The shinma has been
here longer. I came to hunt it."

Unlike many Hunters, D was willing to admit that there might be
a few decent beings among the vampire-kind. One of them seemed
to be before him.

"Perhaps I am hunting your shinma also," he said at last. Miyu
gave a small sigh of relief.

"If you were human, I would tell you not to interfere," she
said, her voice a little lower. "But I think perhaps you need to
be here as well." She strolled over to the wisteria vine and
plucked a single lavender flowerlet, so small it was almost lost
in even her tiny hand. "Their lives are so short, and they are
so fragile and beautiful."

D wondered whether Miyu was referring only to the flowers. Very
much to his surprise, she approached him, still holding the
blossom, and *floated* up so that without stretching she could
tuck it into the fastening of his cape. He fought the impulse to
step back and draw his sword, but apprehension must have shone
plainly in his eyes. Miyu smiled sadly, and after a moment her
feet touched the ground again.

"You have sorrows also," she said. "But I cannot take them away,
not from you. They are...." She paused, searching for words.
"They are too deep, deeper than blood ... in something I cannot
touch...." She turned away a little too quickly then, dropping
her face with an expression of pain that made D wish it were in
his nature to give her something in return.

Before he could think further, Miyu called out, "Larva!" and the
shadows coalesced into that dark-robed, masked form. Miyu
huddled against it, and a pale, spectral hand emerged to wrap
the dark folds about her shoulders.

D half turned away, a little embarrassed and -- although he
never would have admitted it -- a little jealous of having
someone to call on for a reassuring touch. And to think *he* had
wanted to comfort *her*.

"Larva helps me hunt shinma," Miyu said at last, voice
surprisingly clear although her face was still concealed. "He is
bound to me. When I took his blood, I made him my servant -- and
my friend. My only friend. And that was before I began to hunt
shinma. That was when the world was different, before the Nobles

Before the Nobles came ... that had been millennia ago. No
wonder she radiated power. She was ancient, as old as the most
powerful Dark Lords.

"Are ghosts shinma?" D asked.

"Ghosts?" Startled, Miyu actually looked up, then pulled herself
away from Larva's embrace. Larva seemed to look puzzled also.

"Yes. I think I saw a ghost here, not long ago."

"You mean a spirit?"

"I mean a ghost. There was a woman here named Nobuko. She was
the innkeeper's daughter. She died about two months ago, they
tell me. But I saw her standing here the evening I arrived."

Miyu looked openly skeptical, and D was beginning to feel
foolish for having broached a subject he already regarded as

"There is power in names," Miyu said at last. "By a shinma's
name I can return that creature to the dark. Perhaps that
human's name has power as well." She took a few paces forward,
eyes wide and intense, then opened her arms as if in invocation.
"Nobuko. *Nobuko*. NOBUKO!"

A sudden wind swirled the courtyard, and the length of D's cape
belled out in a great, sweeping arc, while his hair whipped
about the broad collar in random lashes. Then the wind died, and
in the stillness a young woman in a blue kimono approached with
slow, silent steps. There was nothing wraithlike about her,
except perhaps for her pallor, yet some of D's senses -- he was
not sure which -- told him this was no living being. She stopped
a few paces from D and looked at him knowingly.

"You are not he," she said sadly. Her voice was soft and thin.
"I had hoped you were when I saw you before. You are so
handsome. But you are not my vampire lover. And yet ... and yet
you are somehow one of us. Have you seen him?"

"Him?" D asked, voice a little ragged.

Nobuko gave a squeaky giggle. "His name is a secret. He's not
one of us, the same way you are not one of us. But you are one
of us the way I am now, the way he promised to make me. I know
he'll come if I show him I can be like him. See?" She bared her
teeth, and D stiffened as ghostly fangs seemed to flicker.
Nobuko gave a thin laugh. "Oh, I won't bite *you*. You're one of
us." She sighed. "Father didn't want me to marry someone who
wasn't one of us. But we loved each other, and he said he could
make me like him in the way that mattered, so that father
couldn't say no. And his kisses were sweet -- like cobwebs on my
neck." Another giggle. "Please tell me you've seen him."

D shook his head. "No. But...." An idea was forming slowly. "But
I think perhaps I want to find him. Did he ever hurt you?"

"*Hurt?* Oh, he could never hurt me. But it did hurt at the 
last ... even though it felt so sweet. But I loved him, you see. 
I wish he would come back, so we could be together." Nobuko looked
sad again. "I wish I could kiss you. You are so handsome. But
you are one of us. We must not hurt our own."

D frowned a little. "Who *are* our own, Nobuko?"

"Oh -- our own blood, I mean. But I don't hurt the ones who help
Father, either. Even if he stood between me and my love. So I
have to be careful, so that I won't hurt anybody when I show
that I'm here, so he'll know that I still want to be like him."

"You've been -- acting like a vampire? So your lover will 
think -- ? So he'll come for you again?"

Nobuko nodded, smiling. "Yes."

"It frightens people, Nobuko. They're afraid the vampire will
hurt them."

"But I don't hurt anyone! I just leave pinpricks with my teeth,
see? I don't drink blood. I just want him to know I'm here." At
D's unchanging expression, Nobuko looked wounded. "You're angry,
aren't you?"

"It was bad enough that the Nobles were so long in the cities.
They are dead and gone now. And you should be with your

"I want to be with *him*!" Voice nearly breaking, she added
softly, "With Kabiku."

The sky seemed to darken, and from the middle of the courtyard 
there came a low, cynical laugh. 

D looked up and Nobuko whirled as a spiral of electric
blue crackled from midair down to the ground. A young man took
shape in the middle of it. Long black hair, blacker eyes,
clean-shaven -- handsome in a devilish way. And D suddenly
realized what Nobuko had meant by "not one of us," what her
father no doubt had objected to: He was Occidental, perhaps
Eastern European. Certainly not Japanese. And his smile would
have frozen the incoming tide.

"Kabiku!" Nobuko exclaimed, running toward him. "You came back
for me!"

Kabiku laughed again, the laugh of a pouncing fox, and it
stopped Nobuko in her tracks. "Hardly," he replied, voice rich
and resonant like the thunder that precedes a hailstorm. "I
came back to admire my handiwork. This is really too good.
You've been scaring people by acting like a vampire --"

"Like you, Kabiku!"

But Kabiku laughed again. "Dear, that was just an appearance.
You wanted someone to comfort you -- you'd dreamed of a
vampire lover, and your dreams drew me and gave me the shape
you see. I'm no more a vampire than you are." He grinned
sardonically at D. "So don't bother drawing your sword,
Hunter. It won't work on me."

D had an uneasy feeling that the creature spoke the truth, and
he remembered what Miyu had said -- that his sword would not
kill shinma. He wondered if the stone that he carried --
sometimes worn as a pendant, but at the moment concealed in
his belt -- would be more effectual against whatever this
creature was.

In any case, it seemed to have no interest in attacking him.
Its attention was focused on the wilting Nobuko. "You said
you'd make me like you and we'd be together forever. Kabiku,
you *promised*!"

"I lied. Silly creature! Do you think real vampires have
nothing better to do than come out of the woodwork and comfort
grieving children? Oh, I'm a *sort* of vampire, or I can be --
your foolishness was a sweet drink, and your blood flavored
with it --"

Nobuko covered her face with her hands, sobbing.

"Shinma! Kabiku!"

It was Miyu's voice. D had completely forgotten about her.
Kabiku looked alert but strangely calm.

"Well, the little hunter. It's about time you found me. I was
beginning to wonder if I'd have to send up a flare."

Miyu looked shocked at this remark. After a moment, however,
she pulled herself together: "With your name, Kabiku, I shall
banish you to the dark!"

"And about time it is. Suicide is not in my nature, and I am
grown *so* weary of this world: of women who can't see past a
pretty face -- and men too cowardly to take lovers -- and
children who can't grow up no matter how many millennia pass
them by. Even the shinma themselves are a disappointment." He
nodded toward Larva. "One of the ancients -- and you've let a
child vampire wrap you around her little finger! It's better
to be dead than sickened by what this world has come to."

Fury suffused Miyu's face. "Larva! Banish shinma Kabiku to the

There was a rare enthusiasm to Larva's gesture as he raised
one arm, cupping his palm so a ball of flame hovered on it
like a huge bubble. From the flame's blue heart a spark flew
forth, and then another and another, until it was as if an
aura of fireflies surrounded Kabiku's unmoving form --
unmoving except for the long black hair that writhed like a
gorgon's coils. Then with an explosive *WHOOSH!* the globe
itself flew from Larva's hand and seemed to set the aura
aflame. The shinma's form was eclipsed by a blaze of light
that flared up and exploded, leaving only blackness.

But in the echo of Kabiku's final, agonized scream, there was
a note of triumph that left both D and Miyu shaken.

D stood very still, looking at the darkness where Kabiku had
been. He was, for a fact, afraid of hurting humans if he came
too near them, but even the symbiot had never in so many words
called him *cowardly*. Miyu and Larva stood silent and
moveless also, as if the slightest motion would reopen the
private wounds Kabiku had dredged near enough to touch.

"He was a Western shinma." Miyu broke the silence at last,
waxing analytic in an attempt to regain her composure, or at
least the appearance of it. "He pretended to be a vampire.
Because so many people think, still think, vampires are
romantic. In spite of all the horrible things the Nobles did."

Miyu and D -- vampire and dhampire, hunter and Hunter --
exchanged glances half accusing and half ashamed. The little
vampire then turned to Larva and hid her face once again in
his robe. D looked from her to the weeping Nobuko.

"Miyu -- can't you help her to forget? The way you did Alisa?"

Miyu shook her head without looking up. "My power is in my
blood -- and in human blood. She has no blood now. Larva!"

And with that, the two of them faded from view.

D looked to Nobuko again. She had been very badly used, and
whatever else D may have been, he was not cruel. He walked
over to her, refusing to let shame smother his compassion for
her pain.

"Don't cry, Nobuko," he told her at last. "He's gone now. He
can't hurt you any more." In a gesture nearly foreign to him --
to his habits, if perhaps not his nature -- D reached out to
lay a hand on her shoulder. It went right through her, and his
knees grew weak for a moment -- how could he have forgotten
what she was?

Nobuko turned toward him with a scream of rage, and in spite
of himself D backed away a few paces.

"He promised me! HE PROMISED ME! He said we'd be together
forever! And I came back for him! I did everything for him! 
I *loved* Kabiku! He can't be gone -- not Kabiku too! I'LL 

She flew at D then, but *through* him with a chill that went
to the marrow of his bones. Blossoms seemed to explode off the
wisteria vine and fill the courtyard with a blinding lavender
whirlwind. D pulled his cape about him against the impossible
storm and stood waiting for it to subside -- what seemed half
an eternity.

"The situations you get yourself into," the symbiot muttered,
and for once D agreed with it.

Fallen wisteria blossoms carpeted the little courtyard. And no
sooner had D noticed that the vine itself had been stripped to
bare gray cords than he heard from inside the inn a cry of

No one at Gahpo's Inn worried about vampire attacks that
night. They were too busy with the small fires that sprang 
up -- seemingly at random, but too many of them near D for his
comfort. (D later learned that the first fire had begun in
Nobuko's old room.) Nonetheless, he pitched in with everyone 
else -- stamping out sparks on the floor, pulling down curtains 
if they began to smolder, even taking off his cape and using it
to beat out flames. Everyone was surprised that the inn itself
survived until dawn, when the fires grew less frequent and
finally stopped appearing. By tacit consent, most of the inn's
occupants -- guest and staff alike -- had gathered in the main
room. Of course, no one had been able to cook at the inn;
everyone had been busy fighting fires except Alisa, who had
sat unmoving and uncaring throughout the whole fiasco. News of
the strange fires had spread through the neighborhood,
however, and a number of charitable families had brought food
from their own larders to share with the brave impromptu
firefighters (there was no fire department as such in that
quarter of the city).

D ate a rice ball and wondered what he was going to say to
Gahpo. He could scarcely tell the man that his deceased
daughter had certainly been responsible for the "vampire"
attacks and probably for the mysterious fires as well.

"Well, Hunter." With remarkable timing, a soot-smeared Gahpo
sat down beside him. "A hard night, wasn't it? Good that you
were here to help us. I wonder if all these fires perhaps
frightened away our vampire this night." Gahpo laughed a
totally humorless laugh. "But then, there was no one asleep
for the vampire to find! Unless you count Alisa, poor girl."
Gahpo shook his head. "Is she always going to be like that?"

D had a feeling the answer was yes; that Miyu's well-intended
bite had robbed Alisa not only of sorrows but of any desire to
live in the world that the rest of us know. And he wondered
whether she had come to a better or worse thing than the
loneliness of his own life.

"It's time I moved on," he said to Gahpo at last. "Tally up
what I owe, and I'll be on my way."

"But -- but -- " Gahpo was all injured innocence. "What of the
vampire? What if it returns?"

D sighed. "It's not a vampire, Gahpo. Perhaps you need an
exorcist. I'm not one. I'm going to pack my things. Tell your
stableboy to have my horse ready." He rose abruptly, cape
still bundled over his arm, before Gahpo could protest

D pulled together his few personal effects and, after checking
his cape over for damage, threw it about his shoulders. It
smelled a bit smoky but seemed unharmed. D felt sure the smoke
odor would blow out on the road. As he fastened it, he noticed
with some surprise that Miyu's wisteria flowerlet was still
where she had tucked it, a little wilted but intact. He pulled
it out but could not bring himself to throw it away.

People, he knew, often preserved flowers by pressing them in
books, but D did not number books among his possessions.
Rummaging through his pack, however, he found a deck of
playing cards -- not that it was his custom to use them -- and
cut them to lay the little blossom at their center.

It did shake him a bit that the face confronting him was that
of the Jack of Hearts.

Whereupon the symbiot recited:

     "Oh, the Knave of Hearts,
     He had some tarts,
     All on a summer's day;
     And four and twenty blackbirds,
     Or at least that's what they say...."*

Gahpo, true to his word, charged only for food for D and the
cyborg, not D's room or the horse's stall. He seemed genuinely
sorry to see the Hunter go but knew better than to interfere
with such a being.

Once out of Edo proper, D put his heels to the cyborg's sides
and let it run as long as it safely could -- much longer than
would have been the case for a purely biological horse. The
Japanese were an agreeable people and kept their roads in good
repair, which made it possible for him to put many miles (or
leagues, or kilometers, or whatever unit of measure was used
in the region) between himself and Gahpo's Inn by the time the
sun was well to the west.

He had laid a fire and was rummaging in his pack for something
to light it when there was a loud *SNAP!* and the kindling
flared into flame.

=Not again=, he thought, shoulders stiffening beneath their

A female form wearing a blue kimono flickered into view. "It's
just me," Nobuko said softly. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have
been so angry. I just had waited so long for him to come 
back -- and I loved him so much -- and it was all for a lie!" 
For a moment the fire rose high and blue, and then the flames
subsided, yellow once more. "I'm all right now. There won't be
any more bite marks or strange fires at Father's inn. I just
wanted to say that I was sorry. And to tell you goodbye."

"I'm glad you're feeling better," D told her earnestly. 
"But -- ?" He nodded toward his campfire, started by no
natural means. Nobuko laughed her shy laugh.

"Just a parting gift. Good-bye, Hunter!" And she was gone.

D sat down a little more heavily than was his custom and
stared into the flames.


*Doggerel shamelessly stolen from _The Brand New Monty Python
Papperbock_ (New York: Warner, 1976.)


Comments welcome.

The Certifiable Vampire Hunter D Fanatic
The Mad Bibliographer
Cathy Krusberg