I must apologize in advance for the rather dismal quality of Claire and Maria's color pages. I've pretty much ripped them as is from my artbook scans and blown them up, so that's why they look so dodgy.
The color page here with Miria and Isaac is one of my favorite parts of this arc (out of many favorite parts, granted), and it's not even related to the story proper. Hahaha. Enjoy.
Cloudy to Rainy
Color Pages and Prologues
Bloody to Fair
Color Pages and Connecting Chapter
Epilogues & Remnants
THE SLASH - Bloody to Fair
Written by Narita Ryohgo
Illustrated by Enami Katsumi
"Say, Chi. Did you hear the news? They say old man Szilard bit it."
"Yeah. Guess that means he got eaten."
Then that Ennis girl's probably dead too, huh.
"That's what they're checking right now."
Really now... You know, I never thought that anyone would get the better of that sly immortal.
"I suppose that in the end, he was only human. He was born as part of the sublime, grand, refined cycle of nature despite everything he did. Unlike us. We were unnatural right from the start."
Harsh. But true.
"See, he returned to nature through death. But us? I can't say for certain whether nature would welcome us even after we died... You agree with me, right, Adelle?"
"...I don't really know much about things like that. I just complete my missions..."
"Don't be such a downer. Come now, don't tell me you've forgotten what Master Huey did to us for all those years in the laboratory?"
"...I... I don't want to go back there. Not again. I don't want to go back. No..."
"Enough to make your stomach turn, isn't it? You don't want to go back to such an unnatural state of being, right? Hahaha. Ahahahaha."
That's enough of that, Christopher. You know that you're the one who doubts his own existence the most out of us, anyway.
"Of course, of course. That's only natural! Haven't you ever worried about it? No matter how many people we kill and kill and kill and kill, no matter how much we interfere in this world, the gap that exists between us and the world will never shrink in the slightest. All that's left is an ever-increasing sense of inferiority."
That's all we have. What do you want us to do about it?
"But, Chi. Adelle. Hear me out. I think that no matter how much we turn the matter over in our heads, we'll never really know for sure whether we're human or not."
"So I thought up a simple way to find out! Instead of trying to become human, we'll just surpass humanity! Then, at least, we won't have to feel inferior. What do you say?"
More stupid drivel... So what proof do you propose we use to show that we're better than humans?
"Mmm, well, we can follow the natural rule of survival of the fittest... In other words, we can find the strongest human being in the world, and kill them."
"Humanity has its limits... and we're going to surpass them."
You don't seem to realize that that sort of thinking is exactly what cuts you off from the rest of the world.
...Granted, I suppose that those foolish fantasies are all you have...
I can hear the cheers.
Ah, it feels good.
I'm on the tightrope. It's clear to all and sundry that this place, at least, is definitely my world.
People who don't know me at all are looking at me and my skill. They're thinking, "That guy must've put in a lot of effort to do that. He must've put in hours and hours, maybe even weeks of practice."
Of course. Of course I did.
Ah, these cheers are acknowledging me. They're recognizing the things I worked so hard to build up.
See, the guys who do know me always say the same thing.
"Musta been nice bein' born a genius."
"Everything just falls into your hands."
"You were blessed with God-given talent."
Like hell I was.
Why would any god give anything to a guy who doesn't believe in him?
I earned these cheers. I built this world of mine.
Sure, the ringleader and the others helped make this stage too.
But these cheers, at this instant? All for me.
Ah, I can feel the fact of my existence amid these cheers. All the effort I put into making sure of it wasn't wasted.
But it's not enough.
Nowhere near enough.
They say mankind has no limit, after all.
I need more.
I need to experience more, to try harder, to improve myself...
Everything, to reach for the skies.
And if it turns out that I'm at the pinnacle of humanity...
Then I can still reach higher, and higher still.
There's no such thing as a limit on being the best. You can always go for more.
That's what it means to be human.
That's what it means to be me.
...Who are you?
"That is what I would like to ask."
I'm Maria. An assassin.
"Aha. Now I understand. So Mr. Maloney did not fall victim to a crazed killer, but instead lost his life for an entirely understandable reason."
Huh? Why're you so calm? Aren't you going to run away? You just saw me kill someone. You know I'm an assassin.
"If you are an assassin as you claim to be, then you would have no reason to kill me, isn't that right? Unless, of course, you were contracted to kill me as well, in which case there is little I could do to stop you in any case."
Mmm... Nope, you're not on my contract. But now that you know who I am, I really have no choice but to silence you, get what I mean? Can't have you telling people about me.
What now? Heheh.
"I sincerely doubt anyone would believe my testimony that Mr. Maloney was struck down by a Mexican girl wielding a sword of Japanese make."
You've got a point.
"I see this was your first time killing a person?"
"It's a politician's job to read people. Your shaking hands, the dilation of your eyes, and the forced levity injected into your tone in an effort to hide them, make it readily apparent. Hmm. Perhaps I should revise what I said earlier. It seems you have the predisposition to become a crazed killer after all."
Why do you say that?
"Because only half of your trembling is because of fear, and the other half is due to excitement."
"Mr. Maloney resisted, so you cut him down. I will not resist, so doing away with me would have no meaning."
Ho, hold on a second!
"You have no need to do so, nor do you have any obligation. I will make sure to put Mr. Maloney's death to good use, so you may refrain from expending effort which will not yield any compensation. It may be what your instincts tell you to do, but it goes against the foundations of capitalism."
And with that, he just walked away.
What a creepy guy.
...Not that I was scared of him, mind.
I'm telling the truth, really. Believe me, amigo.
...Sorry. I was lying.
I was actually a little scared of him.
His name? Of course I remember, amigo. His picture was in the next day's paper. He said he'd seen the murder... though he said that a neighborhood mafia did it, not me.
It was... uh... Belinu, or Belial, or something like that!
Isaac! Look, look! The bunny's finally doing what I want it to!
"That's great, Miria dear. As for me, these doves just won't come out of my top hat."
Maybe they really like it in there?
"It's been three days since they made themselves at home in there. You know, I did lay down some newspaper at the bottom to make them feel a bit more comfortable. Maybe they like that so much they don't want to leave..."
Home is where the heart is!
Eeeek! What is it, Isaac?!
"This dove laid an egg inside my hat!"
Wow! They made it their nest!
"Darn, I won't be able to do any magic like this!"
"Mmm? What is, Miria?"
Look! There used to only be doves in that hat, but now there's an egg in there, too!
"...Astounding! It must be magic!"
There was nothing up your sleeve, but the egg just appeared!
"Unbelievable! I've just brought new life into the world!"
You're a genius magician, Isaac!
"I'm incredible! I'll start the show right away! You can be the audience. Here, watch this egg until it hatches!"
It's the world's longest magic show!
...But, you know, Isaac.
I've seen a magic trick that puts this one to shame. I've seen a show that lasted even longer.
I should have died that day--I thought I'd never be able to laugh again--but look, Isaac. You've made me so, so happy.
Your magic show's still going, and I've been watching it the whole time, Isaac.
And I'm not hiding anything up my sleeve, either, when I say that I love you.
Now, and forever...
The Gandor Family's torture specialist. Perpetually cheerful, and a masterful user of a pair of scissors.
Tick's younger brother.
The Gandor Family's uninvited guest. At first glance a naive Mexican girl, but actually a katana-wielding assassin.
Youngest of the three Gandor brothers. Not quite suited to be a gangster. Immortal.
Isaac Dian and Miria Harvent
Practically one person in two bodies. Immortal. Enough said.
A young officer in the Martillo Family. Immortal. Deadly with a knife.
A young woman who lives with Firo, and is also part of him.
The Martillo Family's bookkeeper. A handsome man who's always mild and calm. Immortal, and originally an alchemist.
The Martillo Family's secretary. The most dangerous man in the organization. Skill level unknown. Demon.
Martillo Family officer. Fat. Nicknamed "Meatball." Immortal.
Martillo Family officer. Thin. Nicknamed "Ghost." Immortal.
Dallas' little sister. Completely different from her brother.
Leader of a motley band of young misfits. Despite the tattoo covering half his face, he is actually extremely shy.
Jacuzzi's companion and girlfriend. Absolutely crazy about anything that explodes. Wears glasses and an eyepatch. Always polite to everyone but Jacuzzi.
John and Fang
Jacuzzi's companions. An Irish bartender and a Chinese cook, respectively.
Jacuzzi's companion. A monstrously strong Mexican man.
Jacuzzi's companion. Mute. A master with her knife. Originally a terrorist.
A nationally infamous terrorist. Currently in prison. Immortal, and originally an alchemist.
Leader of an organization under Huey's command, the Larvae.
Member of the Larvae. A shy, reclusive young woman. Deadly with a pronged spear.
A killer who's made his home in Manhattan. Monster. Nicknamed "Rail Tracer."
An information broker. Also Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Days. In charge of the English version.
An information broker. A severely bipolar black man. Wears Chinese style clothing for some reason.
An information broker. Trash number two.
An information broker. An errand girl who travels all over the country gathering information.
The information brokers' boss, who spends his days behind a mountain of documents. It's said that nobody but the vice-director has ever seen his face.
A member of the Lamia, a subdivision of the Larvae. Possessor of an unforgettable face; lover of nature; wielder of a pistol sword.
An Asian member of the Lamia. Christopher's brusque friend. Uses a pair of steel claws.
A member of the Lamia. A chilling being who exists only as a languid woman's voice.
Sham and Hilton
Mysterious beings thought to be part of the Lamia. Called 'the Twins' by Christopher's group.
A senator who'd do anything for money.
The senator's daughter. A gentle and innocent young girl, unlike her greedy father.
A company is like... Well, in a word, it's like an organism.
Our company is no exception.
Maintaining your body solely through use of your brain--through conscious thought--is nearly impossible. Everything in your body is hard at work whether you're aware of it or not; your cells and organs slave away to keep your body in working order. It's not clear whether the cells know that they're working for the good of the body and not for their individual gain, but there you have it.
It's the same for a company. Every employee works for the good of the company--to advance their own interests--even if the higher-ups aren't actively supervising them.
But just as the whims of one's mind, that infinitesimal portion of the brain, can bring about the end of one's life so simply, so can the fleeting impulse of a corporate executive decide the fate of any number of normal employees.
They know, after all, that the cells cannot complain.
There are probably many reasons why people commit suicide, but the reason that companies turn the knife in on themselves is, by and large, in order to survive.
Indeed... People long for eternal life, and, from time to time, companies wish for the same.
That is the corporate philosophy of our company, Nebula.
We reach for endless heights, just as the heathen people of Babel did so long ago.
Of course, the Tower of Babel was destroyed. In the end, it was nothing but a simple building.
But we... We are not a base aggregate of rocks and bricks.
It is our objective to grow forever as a single organism, and we believe that that goal has far more meaning than simple immortality.
Haha, look at me.
Assuming for a moment, of course, that there are indeed people out there who have achieved eternal life.
As you already know, we have dabbled in many different enterprises since our establishment, and absorbed many others--enough to be able to form an approximation of a self-sufficient economy within the bounds of our company.
If one were to think of society as a living thing, then surely our corporation also fits that definition as well.
Instead of blood we shed assets, and instead of oxygen we breathe in the laughter of our satisfied customers.
Such is the true form of Nebula.
...You wanted to us to loan you our money. Our blood.
Do you know what that means?
It's simple, Mr. Turner. You will become part of our body as well.
But take care.
Many of our executives are quite fickle.
Don't forget that useless cells--overly long hair, flakes of dead skin--are immediately cast away like so much worthless trash.
Now, about the matter of the loan...
Oh, dear... You needn't be so tense.
What happened to the temper you displayed when you threatened to sue us?
...If you're not feeling well, would you like to have a sip of the elixir of immortality?
I must warn you, though. It is a tad expensive...
Daily Days Director's Office
"Amusing. No, not just amusing--I must say that things have become truly interesting."
A mountain of paper dominated the room.
The dull roar of rain from outside filled the room, the damp seeping in as well and spreading slowly but surely through the great pile of documents. Even the ever-present shrill ring of telephones was, for once, absent.
A leisurely voice floated out from a corner of this rain and paper ruled area.
"I never expected that one of the groups involved in that terrible Flying Pussyfoot affair would become involved not only with the Martillos and the Gandors, but also with those in the employ of the researcher, Huey Laforet."
"Isn't it so amusing to you only because it's someone else's business and not yours, sir?" a blonde young man said reproachfully from the other side of the paper mountain, as though to scold the eagerness in his boss's voice.
"Personally, as a poor employee who works day and night just to pick up his paychecks, I'd like to avoid a ruckus like what happened last year if at all possible."
"Oh? Can you say in all honesty that you aren't enjoying this, not even a little? If you could answer yes to that question, you wouldn't be standing here in the first place, would you?"
A small stack of papers fell over, as though offering its own rebuttal to the young man.
"Perhaps you might be a simple employee in the editorial department, but in here? In here, you are Nicholas Wayne, an independent individual and also a fine information broker in your own right."
The newspaper company also dealt in the buying and selling of information, guiding the flow of peoples' lives.
Inside the document-filled room, which practically symbolized the spirit of the company itself, there stood a handful of men, their expressions as varied as their looks. Somehow, they managed to find places to stand amidst the hopeless clutter and turned to face the giant pile of paper.
From the core of that pile, hidden away from all and sundry, the director of the Daily Days began to assess the situation, the levity in his voice making it clear he was relishing the ongoing peek into "someone else's business."
"Now, let's start off with a brief organizing of events, shall we. Let's slice everything into simple, easily digestible slices, like an apple pie."
"If only things were that simple," Nicholas sighed, and began to explain how things had started in a measured tone.
"It's all because of that damned Flying Pussyfoot. That train transported Jacuzzi Splot and his gang here to New York, where they promptly set up shop. I suppose if that work had been even remotely legal, we wouldn't be here right now."
Nicholas paused and smirked bitterly, and the black man standing next to him picked up where he'd left off.
"Hahaha, as if. No way, my friend! You're telling me that that many mafia wannabe brats could find honest work? In this depression? No way, no how! God in his wisdom is equal in all things, and this time's no exception! Unfortunately for those hoodlums, there's no such thing in his dictionary as a special rule that lets kids and thugs get work while the rest of us go hungry."
"Shut up, Elean."
The black man, Elean, gave an exaggerated shrug and turned to the bespectacled man standing to Nicholas' other side.
"I was just expressing my views. Anyway, what happened was, the Gandors and the Martillos sent people to scold those little rascals. Right, Henry?"
"Well... The thing is, the kids were already entertaining some guests. Members of the Larvae, one of the many terrorist cells created by the infamous terrorist Huey Laforet, were there attempting to form an agreement with Jacuzzi Splot's gang... Acting on information I sold them, of course. They were looking for a group of thugs who weren't affiliated with any criminal organization while still possessing a non-negligible modicum of strength, after all."
The discussion came full circle, back to the master of the room.
"And then, as all the forces came together, there was a clash. After that... Well, from the reports we received, something like a cloud of smoke spread out from the mansion and the people inside used that as an opportunity to scatter. Things are clear enough until here."
Elean spoke up the moment the director fell silent, curiosity clear on his face.
"Wait, wait, wait, I sincerely hope that's not all you've got to say to us, boss. You called us here yourself, so I'm guessing that there's got to be something else that you want to tell us, right?"
"No, that's all I have so far. It seems that a single couple visited the mansion even before the Larvae came for young Jacuzzi... but I suppose they must have been his friends."
"Huh? Then why'd you-"
"Huey Laforet," the director said, quiet but firm, the name itself sufficient answer to Elean's question.
"His involvement in this matter was more than enough reason to gather you here. I thought that it would be good to use this incident as an opportunity to give you a brief summary of the situation, at least."
"...But he was arrested a while ago, wasn't he?"
"Let me ask you a question," the voice behind the papers said, calmly listing the facts as he tested his underlings. "A full year and six months have passed since he was caught, and yet... Why, do you think, have we heard next to nothing about him after his arrest? It's almost as the world wants us to forget about him."
Silence fell over the room; none of the information brokers could find an answer.
Huey Laforet was a terrorist who had, some time ago, caused a moderate amount of commotion. He'd been arrested on charges of purchasing vast quantities of weapons to use in an attempt to overthrow the U.S. government, but nothing about him had been revealed after his arrest--not the details of his interrogation, not the results of his trial, not even his current status.
There were rumors, of course, that he'd been sent to the military prison on Alcatraz Island, but as for concrete information... Neither Nicholas nor Henry had been able to find any clues.
"What that tells us is that the man known as Huey Laforet represents something quite special to the United States of America. What's more, Huey Laforet does not care about being captured. It's possible, in fact, that even his arrest at the hands of the police was part of his plan. That goes for the decimation of his organization, the Lemures, as well."
"That's preposterous... Why would he do something like that?"
"Who knows? This is, of course, mere speculation, but as far as I am aware... Huey Laforet is the sort of man who would not bat an eye at such sacrifices. But enough of that for the moment. In other matters... I must wonder if the members of the Larvae know that the daughter of their master, Chane Laforet, is a member of Jacuzzi Splot's group."
The director did not shy away from revealing these important facts.
"Now... is there anything else you would like to have explained?"
Henry adjusted his glasses and considered his boss's offer for a moment before opening his mouth.
"If I may say, sir, I believe that this matter will soon become even more chaotic... Or, on the other hand, it may come to a very abrupt end."
"Oh ho. And what tidbit of information leads you to say this?"
"...Vino is on the move."
Vino. The temperature inside the room plummeted at the simple mention of the name.
"...The Rail Tracer..."
"...Formerly Claire Stanfield..."
"...Currently Felix Walken..."
Nicholas and Elean listed several names in succession, but they only had one man in mind.
Henry, his spirits bolstered by their reaction, continued.
"I received a report that one of Splot's underlings went to Walken's hideout, and later exited with Walken in tow, leading him to join up with the rest of his gang."
"Why would that assassin..."
"Obviously, it's because his fiancée's got a stake in this matter."
The director answered Nicholas' question for Henry.
"Haha, that is another story, for another time. The tale of the assassin and the terrorist's reunion is far too grand, and far too long, to tell at a meeting like this."
He paused for a moment, gathering his thoughts, and musingly led the conversation in a different direction.
"But my... Considering that this would be nothing more than a minor commotion if one were to ignore the involvement of Huey Laforet, it feels to me as though it has the potential to grow into something quite entertaining."
The voice buried amidst the papers had just started to rise in excitement when a light knock came from the other side of the door.
"It's Rachel," a young woman's voice said from outside, and the director's voice lost none of its enthusiasm as he bade her enter.
The door opened wide, and through the open doorway stepped a young woman. Nicholas looked a bit confused once he caught sight of Rachel's face.
"When did you get back?"
"...I took the evening train," Rachel muttered, a cloud passing briefly over her face as she stepped over to a spot on the floor that wasn't overrun by stray papers.
"You don't look all that well. Something wrong?"
"...I saw some unwelcome faces on the train."
"Unwelcome faces?" Elean asked.
"No mistaking them," Rachel spat. "It was the Lamia."
The men gathered in the room turned the word over in their heads, trying to attach a significant meaning to it, but nothing really came to mind except the monster from Greek mythology.
Only the man hidden behind the papers spoke up gleefully.
"Really, now... Christopher and his Lamia, here in New York?"
The director seemed to think it over for a moment before continuing.
"It goes without saying that they're here to join up with the Larvae, I suppose. But how did you recognize them?"
"...This was actually my first time seeing any of them. At first I thought they were some sort of circus troupe, but then I remembered the rumors I'd heard during my travels. I guess with looks like that, it'd be hard not to recognize him."
"Ah... I see, I see. So Christopher was there, then?"
"Yes... The moment I saw him, I remembered the things that I saw on board the Flying Pussyfoot."
Rachel gazed at something far away in the distance, for a moment transported someplace far away in both space and time.
"How many were there?"
"I only saw one Asian man traveling with Christopher... But if the information I gathered is to be believed, there'll probably be a few more with them, though I can't say who."
"I see. Yes, the Lamia are quite few in number, and one of them is already here in New York."
Nicholas couldn't take it any longer and butted in, clearly annoyed.
"Wait, wait. Hold on a second. Are you two just going to keep on leaving us out of the loop?"
"Ah, excuse me..."
The director offered his apology and continued the meeting.
"Now, now, things have become quite entertaining. We have not only the infamous Vino, but also the 'vampire', Christopher Shouldered, entering the fray... I suppose this matter will revolve around a battle between those two--no, I suppose we should include the Martillo's Ronnie Schiatto as well, which makes it a three-way melee. Hahaha. My fellows, it appears that this will become a great deal more captivating than we had first supposed. Don't you agree?"
Nicholas threw a bucket of cold water on the director's manic enthusiasm with a pointed question.
"...Christopher Shouldered... Can't say I've ever heard of him before. Should the name mean anything?"
"Ah, of course. Only Rachel has heard of young Christopher besides the vice-director and I, since she regularly travels all over the country. He--no, they--are a sort of roving urban legend, you see... But it's the Lamia's first time visiting New York, so I suppose it's not too out of the ordinary that you don't know of them."
The voice behind the hill of papers began to introduce a single person to its rapt audience.
"Very well. First, I suppose I should tell you about the man known as Christopher Shouldered..."
The Daily Days treated information as property, and the man at the head of the agency managed each piece of information like a movie director would oversee his actors. Observing that all of his actors were in place, the director jovially began to speak.
The staccato beat of rain hitting the window accompanied his words.
"Ah, yes. Christopher Shouldered. I'll start by introducing him, as a sort of prologue to the events that will soon begin..."