I had always been fatalistic and was even more so now that defeat was imminent. Yet, I thought back bitterly to the events that had landed us into this predicament. I had been presumptuous to think I could challenge these Eastern Shinma, much less persevere against them and defeat them. I could not even hold my own against their unawakened guardian -- this fragile thirteen year old girl whose powers were still dormant and whom I now longed to protect, but could not.
The Eastern Shinma were our masters and leaders, but they were corrupt and destitute of spirit. I had not hated them before as I do now. They had merely been my adversary in a struggle for dominance -- a contest I had lost before it had even begun. But I loathed them now; not for what they had done to me -- I was as gracious in defeat as I would have been had I been victorious. It was for what they were doing to this innocent child that I now despised them.
I realize that I, too, had attempted to subdue Miyu. She was, after all, the key to vanquish the Shinma. She was their strength and their weakness. But I had approached her gently and with compassion. I would only have sealed her power away without damaging her delicate beauty. Yet, they who purport to be her mentors and benefactors shattered her entire existence, destroyed her home, and cast her out emotionally exhausted and mentally tormented.
He who claims to speak for all Shinma self-righteously holds Miyu's parents prisoner. He thinks he can extort her to do his bidding. But Miyu is feeble, incapable of decisive action, and I am powerless to help her. They call him Osa -- leader -- for they do not know his real name. Humbled though I am, I shall never degrade myself to call him my leader. The day will come when I will learn his true name, bind him to my will, and release the shackles he has placed on Miyu and myself.
When the leadership of the Shinma departed, I had hoped for a brief respite. I knew the rebels would be mustering their forces to make a quick assault against the newly designated thirteen year old guardian before she acquired her full legacy of power. I, myself, had employed similar tactics. But I had not expected they would be so bold as to make their move while the air still crackled with the power of those who had just left.
The Shinma struck without warning. He, or I should say it, seized Miyu by the throat and hurled her like a rag doll against the huge oak tree. Miyu collapsed with a whimper of pain. Her vampiric strength was not sufficient to insulate her from the violence of the impact. She looked up with a pitiful expression of puzzled anguish. Except for the occasional inconsequential scuffle in the schoolyard, she had never been in a fight before. And the harshest blow ever struck against her had been her mother's reluctant slap of admonition.
Miyu's indecisive hesitation invited further onslaughts. Contemptuously, the Shinma lifted Miyu to her feet and struck her cruelly once on each cheek. It followed through with a vicious blow to her midsection as if she were a professional boxer and not a thirteen year old schoolgirl. Then, it began striking her repeatedly with vicious backhand swipes. Each blow would hurl Miyu backwards onto the ground. Then, the Shinma would lift her up and hit her again.
Tears of pain, humiliation, and frustration ran down Miyus face. But she did not give up. There was defiance in her reddened eyes. When the Shinma paused to gloat over its handiwork, Miyu seized the opening she had been offered. She pounced with cat-like agility and swiftness, her instincts employing the inherent potential of her vampire blood. She seized the Shinma by the throat, her elongated canines effortlessly piercing the rough scales.
With a roar of pain, it shook Miyu loose. It was half phantom, half serpent-zombie and had no blood through which Miyu could exert her will. Angered by the audacity of Miyu's counter-attack, it resumed its assault on Miyu with renewed vigor. It struck Miyu repeatedly, each blow raising angry welts on her pale skin. Her yukata was stained with bright red blood. There was still defiance in her eyes, but it was gradually being submerged by the tears which dimmed her sight but did nothing to lessen the pain.
And I whom Miyu calls Larva, Lava, Rava, or Raba -- my name is of an ancient tongue whose pronunciation defies the sounds of modern languages -- stood helpless. My inaction was not of my choosing. Miyu was my mistress. I yearned to protect her with all my heart and soul. But her dominance over me was so complete I could not act except in response to her direct bidding. Our last encounter with the one the Eastern Shinma called Osa made sure of that. Outraged over my spontaneous support of her, he usurped my capacity for independent action. I was now Miyu's complete slave and could not even help her unless she demanded it.
Nor would Miyu ask for my help. The last person she had asked for help had been her mother who now languished as a prisoner of time, frozen to relive the moment of her utmost failure again and again. Miyu's mother could only be released from this torment of the mind if her daughter succeeded in completing the impossible tasks their blackmailing ruler had insisted upon. No, Miyu would never again be so rash as to request assistance from another.
So, I was just an impotent observer of the unspeakable violence inflicted upon Miyu. Where was her 'leader', now, I asked myself. He did not care what happened to Miyu. She was a tool to be forged in a white-hot flame. If she melted under the intensity of the heat, he would find another tool. He would feel no emotion other than mild satisfaction that he had found the weakness in a flawed utensil before he had to employ it in his service. If I sound bitter, it is not because the struggle between us goes back thousands of years. The personal animosity is recent. It emerged mere hours ago when Miyu's Osa compounded his abuse of her person with extortion and abandonment.
The Shinma had cut off a small branch from the huge oak tree. He had used his claws to give it a sharp point. He now prepared to thrust it into Miyu's chest and puncture her gentle heart. She would die. Like all vampires, she was vulnerable to a stake through the heart and especially when the stake had recently been cut from a living tree.
Miyu's last thoughts characteristically were not of herself. "Save yourself, Larva," she implored me.
The rage which was pent-up inside me erupted in a cataclysm of fury. How better could I save myself than by destroying this nothing of a Shinma who dared defy us? And, in so doing, I would rescue Miyu as well. I slashed at the Shinma relentlessly.
The enchanted mask I wore prevented me from speaking, so I seared its mind with a mental admonition. "You think because you are not of flesh and blood you cannot be physically scarred. Know your folly! I invoke your true name, 'Saiti'. I send you into the dark from whence you came, crippled, maimed, and deformed. Your visage shall serve as an object lesson to those who seek to harm Miyu. They do so at their peril, and the peril is great!"
Night turned to day in the blaze of the powers I unleashed against the hapless Shinma. In an instant it was gone, and so was my rage. I walked over to Miyu and gently picked up her broken form. I steeled myself against the reprimand I richly deserved. Her reproach would wound me more deeply than any physical assault on my being.
When she spoke, her voice was gentle in spite of the obvious pain she was in. "Thank you, Larva. Are you alright?"
"I am unharmed. But my soul is distressed I allowed you to suffer so much."
Miyu did not answer at once. "It is pain I deserve. Anyway, it will soon be gone. The wounds quickly heal. My mother, though, that is another matter..."
Miyu's voice trailed off. The tears had stopped. She blinked her eyes rapidly to clear them. She looked like a child who had just fallen on the playground and was trying bravely not to cry. Miyu looked up at me. Her eyes were the color of golden honey and brilliant amber. I bared my throat and said, "Drink. You need human blood for sustenance, but mine will nonetheless invigorate you and restore your strength."
There was an initial hesitation as if Miyu wished to refuse my offer. She could not deny her need, though, and soon drank greedily. I took her back to her house and laid her in a warm bath, clothes and all. The congealed blood had stuck the tattered Yukata she wore to her wounds and I did not want to cause her further suffering by removing the garment and opening the fresh injuries. I placed clean linen and a soft kimono near the bath and retired discreetly. She could use some privacy while the hot water absorbed and washed away her physical and mental distress.
After her bath Miyu sought me out. The mask I wore hid my expression of pleasure, but I could tell she knew I was glad to see her. My happiness dimmed when she approached and I saw the bruises that still blemished her soft skin.
"Don't blame yourself, Larva," she said kindly. "It's a dangerous world we live in and I must learn to fight my own battles if I am to free my mother." Miyu spoke aloud even though she did not have to. She could direct her thoughts to communicate with me as I was forced to do with her now that the power of speech had been taken from me.
I looked at Miyu reprovingly, but it was not in my power to convey what was on my mind. As if sensing my constraints, she said. "You do not agree. I would hear what you have to say."
"In future, you must allow me to help you. Even our combined strength is no match for the power of the Shinma, but if we are to have any chance we must pool our resources."
"I was caught off guard tonight. It will not happen again. Besides, the Shinma was easily dispatched."
"Yes, it was I who dispatched it. And it was easy because the Shinma was a lesser being. It only attacked because it sensed the threat you represented."
"It seems to me it was doing more than just defend itself," Miyu responded pointedly looking down at her batterered flesh.
The unspoken reproach pained me. I would gladly have abandoned this discourse, but Miyu's overconfidence unsettled me. "Don't expect self control from Shinma. The malevolence of its nature compelled it to attack you when retreat would have been the wiser course. Saiti was an insignificant stray. There are far more intelligent, far more powerful, and far more vicious Shinma than Saiti."
"Osa said I must return the stray Shinma to the Dark."
"These are not strays. They are renegades. They will not stumble upon you unwittingly as Saiti did. They will seek you out deliberately. Their purpose will be to destroy you."
"You are the guardian. You are what stands between them and freedom. They seek to displace the humans and build a kingdom in this world. Do not take them lightly. They have ambition and the power to make their ambition reality."
"How can you know their thoughts, their desires?"
I would have withheld this information from Miyu, but she had asked me a question. I had no choice but to answer. "I came from the west to unite the Shinma. I sought to usurp your Osa and take his title unto myself. My allies were the eastern rebels who would now hunt and destroy you. They are not to be taken lightly."
"If they are friends of yours, tell them to let us be."
"They were never friends, merely associates with a common purpose. They understand the implications of this mask. I have failed. This is my punishment. At best, they will seek to distance themselves from me in order to avoid the taint of my failure. More likely, they will attempt to exploit my degraded status and slay me. The strong always preys on the weak."
"You are not weak, my Larva."
"I have altered course. My purpose has changed. I no longer lead but serve. The resolve which my followers saw as my strength is no longer with me. Yes, I still have power. But it does not command respect as once it did. I am now perceived to be weak. There are many who would test me. So the perception is real. My present condition is my vulnerability and it threatens not only me but you as well."
"I will protect you!"
I would have smiled beneath my mask, but I was touched. Nor was Miyu's brash assertion as ludicrous as it might appear. Miyu possessed great power, dormant though it might be. Woe be unto them who would awaken it. But for now, Miyu's only strength was in her gentle heart.
Miyu sensed the purpose of my silence. She giggled. The ordeals she had been through had not robbed her of her playfulness. She came and sat on my lap and put her arm around my neck just like the daughter I had had many centuries ago. "It will be fine," she said. "You shall see."
I rocked her slowly and her heavy eyelids soon closed. To me, sleep was a luxury I did not need and now could not afford. My mind was troubled. The next few days would not be easy. Miyu slept fitfully and more than once cried out plaintively for her okaasan, her mother. Each time she did so I held her more tightly and was gratified my embrace seemed to comfort her.
In the morning, Miyu went to put on her school uniform. I was horrified. She looked at me defiantly. "Don't say a word," she commanded defiantly. "I will not let the Shinma run my life. I am a good student at the top of my class. I have never been absent. It will take more than a demon to keep me away. Besides, I need to see Akiko-chan. I have some unfinished business... Something to tell her."
Even if I had been physically capable of disregarding her edict, I knew she was determined to have her way, and would not have spoken except to urge caution. I also knew there was no shelter in which we could hide. Even though I sensed the renegades were about to make their move, I could not discern where we might find safety.
Miyu giggled. "Don't look so serious, Larva. I will be careful."
My trepidation increased when we were about to enter the school. "You can't come in here, Larva. Wait for me at home."
Miyu's control over me was so complete I could not even open my mouth to suggest a better alternative. Silently and without hesitation I obeyed although every fiber of my being was taut with anxiety. I had no choice but to watch over Miyu from afar through the link between our minds.
My perturbation was more than just instinct. I could feel the rebel Shinma in a tangible way. Somehow our destinies were intertwined. I was certain I could sense Lemures's disquieting presence. We had shared much in our long lives, but lately we had grown apart. I felt I did not know him any more. He had hated Miyu and urged me to annihilate this obstacle that impeded our conquest of the Eastern Shinma. Yet, he knew well why I could not harm the child. For now, I could not count on our past friendship to temper his retribution with mercy -- not toward me and certainly not toward Miyu.
They were lying in wait for me in front of the house. I had been right about Lemures. He was there, more beautiful than any maiden, with his hair the color of spring sunshine and his features more exquisite than those of a Greek god. This was no idle comparison. We had both been to Mount Olympus, fought in the war between the old gods, and though we knew their time was at an end we nonetheless mourned their passing together.
His voice was smooth and sweet as warm honey. He spoke in the ancient tongue and pronounced my name correctly. I suspected only he could understand it. This communication was intended for my ears alone. "Ah, Larva. It's been a while since you last showed your face." He smiled cruelly at this poor attempt at humor. "Come! We are almost done. In spite of your failure, things have worked out for the best. The demon girl has been abandoned by her people. We shall slay her and then make our assault on the easterners while they are bereft of their guardian."
Lemures still could not call Miyu by name. his vindictiveness ran deep. "If Miyu is so helpless, why bother with her? Why alert your prey by attacking the guardian? If you are so convinced of your superiority, why indulge in a distraction when you can directly achieve your goals?" My mental speech spoke to everyone. Lemures was steadfast in his obstinacy, but I thought some of his followers might be amenable to the logic of my argument.
"Do not speak to us of superiority, you who wear the mask of shame," an old vampire with eyes of burning crimson whose name -- Masahira -- used to belong to an old Samurai family before they changed it to hide the disgrace he had inflicted upon it. "The little vampiress is more than a guardian. She is a huntress of Shinma. Best we strike now before she gains a modicum of power and becomes a nuisance."
"You are right to fear her." I could not resist the retort. Masahira had no honor left but he did possess a corrupt arrogance he mistook for pride. "I have seen her in a vision mixing your ashes with manure so the soybeans to feed the pigs might grow better." I had seen no such thing, but these pitiful pretenders did not know the extent of my power. I laughed inwardly at the thought of pretty, delicate Miyu spreading manure in the fields. My insult hit home and Masahira leapt at my throat with a roar of anger.
Faster than the eye could follow, Lemures grabbed him by the throat and flung him to the ground. "He is just trying to provoke you," Lemures said contemptuously. "And he succeeded without any effort. He is trying to goad you to fight him that we might forget about the child."
Cold fear struck me. I had forgotten about Miyu. How could I have been so blind? I knew Lemures's ways. There had to be a reason he had wasted time with idle talk instead of attacking me outright. The reason was Miyu. That was where the true ambush had been set.
I reached out with my thoughts and cursed silently. Carmilla, weaver of illusions, had entranced Miyu. How could I break the spell? I could not contact Miyu unless she directed it. She had commanded me to do just the opposite -- to leave her and wait for her return.
"When do you intend to kill me, Lemures?" I asked provocatively. "If you are waiting for her return you cannot afford to allow me to protect and aid her."
"All in good time," Lemures answered obliquely.
"What about you, Masahira? I can't wait to dine on a suckling pig whose mother was fattened on soybeans grown from your remains. I'm told the basest excrement makes the finest fertilizer."
"I shall kill you now," Masahira screamed in rage.
That was all I needed. How could I wait for Miyu's return if I was to be killed. In order to obey her, I needed further instructions. I felt the constraints lift and launched a fierce mental warning in her direction. It did no good. It could not pierce the nebulous fabric of the fantasy world in which she was immersed.
Miyu was reunited with her parents. In fact, she was not aware she had ever been separated from them. She relied so much on her mother's strength and wisdom. She luxuriated in the deep love her mother felt toward both her and her father. Miyu's home meant so much to her. She could tell her father loved her just as dearly as her mother did, although he was always remote and distant. Yet, he found beauty in art and literature. He shared his unique insight with his daughter and thus opened up a channel of communication that penetrated through his otherwise apathetic demeanor.
As an only child, Miyu knew she was the center of their household. Never spoiled, but always cherished, she drew spiritual nourishment from her domicile. Carmilla had been very clever. It would take more than just a mental cry to break Miyu's revery. Meanwhile, Carmilla was waiting for Miyu to be completely lulled. Then she would strike with a stake through the heart she had just gladdened with her fiction.
At her real house, Lemures sought to ensnare me in his labyrinth of deceit. "It does not have to be this way, Larva," he crooned. "Surely our friendship is greater than these political machinations in which we find ourselves temporarily embroiled."
Reminiscing. "Yes, our friendship does go way back. Remember the poem I wrote to you long ago when we were experimenting with ancient Greek verse forms. The rhythm and meter was based on long and short sounds instead of a stressed and unstressed cadence. I finally gave it a title -- 'Reflections on a Beautiful Evening.' I think it went like this:
"Mirages... Though real they may seem Are just illusions: See things as they are. Wake up! Wake up! Your life's a ghostly dream. This phantom world's your sun. Reality's a star. "You are a fool! How can you see the sun When both your eyes are shut against the light. Enjoy your dream--it's only just begun. One day you'll wake up screaming in the night. "You're dreaming that you're walking down a hall With many doors--all shut--you begin to run And wake up on a cliff-side soon to fall You come to earth too late... too late... For there is none."You're dreaming me, you are dreaming you. Who are you? Me? You? Don't you wish you knew."
In Miyu's fantasy world, her father handed her a book. She read, "You're dreaming, Miyu, are dreaming you./Who are you, Miyu? Don't you wish you knew."
In my world, Lemures was not stupid. I had counted on that. He hurled a mental warning at Carmilla. As I had intended, the sharp caution distracted Carmilla and helped dissipate the dim obscurity she had created.
Miyu looked up at her father inquisitively and saw Carmilla bearing down on her with a wooden stake. Carmilla was as ethereal as the phantasms she created and was no match for a vampire. Miyu grabbed the sharpened stake from Carmilla's hand and sliced it across her opponents throat severing the jugular. Miyu smiled as she slaked her thirst.
"It's been a good morning," Miyu thought with a giggle. "First you send me a poem and now someone has sent me breakfast. This Shinma is a dainty morsel, not as tough as I expected. We must stop killing them, otherwise there will be none left to send to the dark."
My relief over Miyu's narrow escape was almost great enough to make me overlook her irreverent attitude. "There are more deadly Shinma around. There are some at your house right now. Do not let your guard down."
"I don't want Shinma at my house," Miyu responded. "Can you get rid of them before I get back?"
"They are as good as gone," was my relieved reply.
Miyu giggled again. "I hate for you to clean up after me, but would you mind doing something with the empty shell of this former Shinma? It's out of the way, but I don't think the school principal wants it on the grounds and I need to go to class."
I turned to Lemures. "Miyu has asked me to escort you off the premises. She's very territorial. Carmilla made the mistake of disturbing her at school. Carmilla will not make that mistake again. See that you do not either."
I did not think Lemures would risk a confrontation with me at this time and I was right. Lemures relied on deception to tilt the odds in his favor. Without the uneven advantage, he would retire and resume the conflict when he had hatched another plot.
He feebly attempted to save face on his departure. "I just wanted to dropped by to check on an old friend and see what they say is true. Without your voice you cannot utter your incantations. Your sorcery is much diminished from what it once was. Ponder over my offer carefully. When next we meet, I will not be so generous. Think twice before you sell your soul to this demon girl who has ensnared you."
I did not think Lemures would immediately initiate a second attack on Miyu. He had seen me as the major threat and concentrated his forces on distracting me while he sent the illusionist Carmilla to deal with Miyu on her own. He had no reason to think Miyu would see through the facade of deceit so easily, but he had erred in not reinforcing Carmilla with some capable assistance. He would not underestimate Miyu a second time. My fear was that this time it would be the flippant Miyu who would underestimate her adversary.
I resolved to keep better track of Miyu through the link between our minds. She was talking to Akiko. "You've been avoiding me. Are you afraid of me? I am not evil Akiko-chan. I would not harm you. You are my dearest friend. We grew up together."
"You frightened me, but I was not afraid. There is a difference. I tried to tempt you. For what reason, I do not truly know myself. The news of the world these days has been so grim. It would be nice if there were another world to which we could escape."
"Do not talk like that, Akiko-chan. You don't know what you are saying. There is no perfect world except the one we make for ourselves. I am much wiser today than I was yesterday. I will not be tempted a second time. Promise me though you will abandon this foolishness of wanting a vampire to grant you the bliss of a vacuous world."
"I am wiser, too, Miyu-chan. I saw the expression in your eyes when I asked you to partake of my blood. You were torn between the desire of your thirst and your abhorrence of the act. You would never have forgiven yourself had you acquiesced to your craving."
"Still friends then."
"Of course," Akiko said quickly but looked thoughtfully at Miyu, puzzled by a strange catch in her friend's voice. "You look sad, Miyu-chan. I did not want to cause you pain."
"It's not you. I am so very lonely and I have just lived through the worst night of my life."
"You know I am here for you. You can always talk to me, and I will keep your secrets."
"I need someone to talk to, but I cannot right now. I just need a friend from my former life to remind me I am human. Well, we have to go to class now. I'll see you later." Miyu turned away quickly before Akiko could see the tears and ask more probing questions.
It surprised me that evening when Akiko showed up at the house. She was crying bitterly and her clothes were torn. It was obvious something was terrribly wrong. She seemed oblivious to my presence even after Miyu introduced me.
"Akiko-chan! What's wrong?" Miyu asked sharply, trying to penetrate through the tears and the anguish.
"After school... There was this horrible man. He said he was a vampire, but he was not like you at all..."
Masahira! Damn that degenerate to the deepest depths of the dark. I cast out a probing thought to confirm my suspicions. Masahira made no attempt to hide his misdeeds. Quite the contrary, he wanted both Miyu and me to know what had transpired, to know that the innocent were placed at great risk because of their association with either one of us.
Masahira had accosted Akiko after school. She pretended not to see him and walked faster hoping he would go away. But he knew who she was and was determined to confront her.
"You're Miyu's friend, aren't you, little girl?"
Akiko pretended not to hear. Her heart's faster beat titillated Masahira's senses. He could smell her fear and it aroused him.
"Little girl, I do not like being ignored. I like little girls. I want them to like me, too."
Akiko looked around desperately, hoping a passerby might help her out. But the streets were strangely deserted. Masahira exuded a certain rancor that caused people to avoid the vicinity he was in.
"Has your friend Miyu told you she is a vampire? Has she told you how we take our pleasure of mortals? Maybe she has played with you a little. Would you not rather play with me, little girl?"
Masahira blocked Akiko's path and forced her against the wall. I had listened to his filthy mind long enough and turned my attention to what Akiko was saying. "He did not drink my blood. But he... he... There was nothing I could do... He was too strong... I'm sorry..."
Miyu softly took Akiko in her arms. She said nothing but gently caressed Akiko's short black hair. Miyu's actions were in direct contrast to the rage which burned inside her. She directed a command in my direction, "Larva! Find out who did this. I will have his heart for this abomination."
"I already know who did this. I will bring you his heart."
"No, Larva! It is mine to take."
"Mistress! You know I cannot stop you, but this is too dangerous. The Shinma you want is an ancient vampire whose blood throbs with centuries of power. You are no match for him. You need my help. He seeks your destruction."
"Then let him destroy me, but let him not touch the lives of my friends. Look at Akiko-chan. Do you think I want to live seeing what that monster has done to her? This is my fight! Send me to the Shinma, but stay here with Akiko. And if my word means anything to you, do not interfere in the slightest!"
I cursed Masahira. At least, this was entirely of his own doing. Lemures might be devious and conniving, but there was a line he did not cross. Masahira, for what it was worth, would be on his own.
I made a motion and cast a simple sleep and healing spell upon Akiko. Then, reluctantly, I did Miyu's bidding and sent her to the rendezvous that both she and Masahira craved. It tortured me I could not intervene but had to monitor the goings-on from afar. I swore that when Masahira killed Miyu, released from my constraints I would annihilate both him and his unwilling cohorts in a cataclysm of fury the likes of which they could not even imagine.
Miyu was not intimidated. Her anger saw to that. She faced Masahira squarely. "I am not that hard to find you must pick on helpless children. So, you like to play with little girls. Well, depraved coward that you are, play with me."
It continued to amaze me that Masahira mistook his own arrogance for pride. Considering how low he had debased himself, it was astonishing he could be so easily insulted.
"Be careful how you talk to your elders, infant. Humans are but prey. What diversions I indulge in with my quarry is none of your affair. You should be concerned with your own precarious situation not some human female child of no consequence. I can kill you painfully or painlessly, the choice is yours. You have dared meddle in matters that do not concern you. We vampires are an ancient race. We do not tolerate interference from our toddling offspring."
Miyu reached out her right arm, palm upwards and parallel to the ground. A transluscent globe appeared inside of which burned a solitary flame. "Shinma! Do not talk to me of our traditions. I am the guardian and I have judged you!"
Black hair sprouted all over Masahira's face and presumably over his entire body. His canines elongated and his eyes became incandescent red orbs. He resembled more a supernatural wolf than a human. The size of his huge teeth slurred his speech. "Die bitch! Your parlor tricks don't impress me. I have lived too many centuries to listen to the whinings of a misbegotten whelp of some obscure branch of the clan."
Masahira leaped and seized Miyu by the throat. She twisted free, but he swiped at her with a vicious paw armed with claws the size of daggers. She staggered back against the stone wall and the force of her impact dislodged the topmost rocks which fell down on her. Masahira pounced again and straddled her like the four legged creature he had become.
Miyu brought her feet up and attempted to kick herself free. Incongruously, she was still in her school uniform. It was a strange sight this small schoolgirl battling the huge beastly caricature.
Masahira used his weight to pin Miyu in order to gain a secure purchase on her neck with his teeth. "I would rape you, too, he hissed, but I do not want to soil myself."
The rage in Miyu's eyes turned to fire. Literally. The blood in her veins raced more quickly and was transformed to liquid flame. Her hair ignited and her body became a raging inferno. Miyu was now the predator. With thumb and forefinger she seared Masahira's eyes, sending rivulets of flame into his skull. She reached into his body and plucked the obscenely beating heart from out of his chest. She threw it against the stone wall where it exploded like a rotting melon. Finally, she incinerated the jerking remains with surges of incandescant energy till all that was left was a pile of dirty grey ash.
With Masahira's demise, Miyu's wrath subsided and with it the flames she had invoked. She had been less out of control than one might have surmised -- her clothing was intact and barely singed. She held out her hand once more and summoned the transluscent globe once more. This time it was empty -- it housed no flame. She blinked and the pile of ash was absorbed into the globe.
In an instant, Miyu had returned to me. Her unexpected victory filled my heart with joy. Her expression, though, was somber. She abhorred the circumstances which occassioned her vengeance. Her triumph was hollow. She would not enjoy this victory.
Together, Miyu and I gently roused Akiko and sent her home. The night was still young and her parents had not missed her. Miyu gave her one of her school uniforms which almost fit. It would not do for Akiko's parents to discover what had befallen their daughter. They would see nothing but shame in the young girl's tragedy. Maybe their blindness was more tragic than the ordeal through which Akiko had suffered.
When we returned to the house, Miyu broke her silence. "Larva," she said and her voice was quiet. "We shall make your prediction come true."
Very early the next day we went to the fields. Miyu radiated freshness and innocence. She blinked her eyes demurely at the farmer. "These are the ashes of my departed uncle she said. He wanted to be returned to the earth from which he had originated. It would be great honor if we could spread his remains on this field."
No one could refuse Miyu when she turned on her charm. Certainly not this kind, young man. Miyu added, "If we might, Sir, we have this simple stone with a poetic inscription... It would do us honor..."
Soon the stone was given a place of prominence in the field of soybeans ripe with the scent of manure. Its inscription read, "Though I am unworthy of this resting place, I wait for a beautiful evening to bring me those who would follow in my footsteps."
"Don't look at me that way, Larva," Miyu said. "I am not that cruel. This is but a warning. Let the Shinma think you have the gift of foresight. It might encourage them to tread more carefully in future."
"I do not condemn you. I merely marvel at the complexity of your thought," I responded. "Lemures will not be swayed by superficial psychological ploys, but his followers are less sophisticated. By all means let us introduce some discord into their ranks."
I did not argue when Miyu dismissed me so she could go to her school. I was not naive enough to think the display of her power the previous night was anything more than extreme emotion tapping into the reservoir of her latent power. Nevertheless, I did feel her potential was beginning to bubble to the surface. If we could survive a little longer, the time would soon come when she could hold her own against even the strongest of the Shinma. Even the likes of Lemures would have cause to fear her.
Surprisingly, the day was uneventful. That was just as well. Miyu returned home troubled by Akiko's state of mind. She said she wanted to take a walk alone on the beach. She changed into a white yukata with a red sash to match the garment's red trim. She was barefoot, but wore a matching red ribbon intricately wound around her right ankle and foot. Symbolizing the assymetry of her nature, her left leg was unadorned.
The resemblance was astounding. Old memories... On a whim I took out the red ribbon I had treasured over the centuries. I gave it to Miyu. "There is magic in this ribbon. But more important it belonged once to one who once was very special to me."
Miyu took it wordlessly. When she returned, she had arranged her hair in a pony tail in which she had intertwined the ribbon. "Come with me," she said softly.
I was touched by her invitation. She had said earlier she would go alone and I could tell from her thoughts that she desired solitude. For once, I was glad her hold on me prevented me from objecting.
On the way to the beach, she broke her silence only once to say, "Red on white, the colors of the Japanese flag. They give me strength."
I looked at her surprised. I had long ago forgotten my origins. It seemed strange that a Shinma would harbor patriotic sentiments. It occurred to me that Miyu's ties to family, friends, and country distinguished her from the rest of the Shinma. This was the weakness the renegades tried to exploit. But it was also Miyu's strength. Her bonds, confining though they might be, gave her a vitality the insipid stray Shinma could not hope to possess.
"This is where we met, Larva. Does this place give you pain. Do you resent the hold I have over you."
"The Caliph Haroun al-Rashid once told me, 'Fate is destiny.' What transpired that night is my fate and my destiny." I remembered gently pricking Miyu's skin with my nail and drawing in a small amount of her blood. I had thought the young girl would be an easy conquest. I would seal her power and deny the eastern Shinma's Osa of his guardian.
"Do we not make our own fate, our own destiny? Look at the ocean. It can sweep you away, but if you learn to swim you can share in its mystery."
"And what of your fate, my mistress? I tried to subdue you. I tried to keep you from your vampiric heritage. Your mother, for different reasons, tried to do the same. We both failed. Our present circumstances, your mother's and my own, are but the result of daring to defy what had been preordained." I remembered the taste of her blood. It carried the imprint of ancestral memories. I had thought to use this child's blood as the key to control her nature. Instead, her blood robbed me of my will. Her vampiric nature which I had awakened compelled her to satiate her thirst on my blood, and I had been helpless to resist. Her blood in my veins, my blood in hers. We were inextricably bound together.
Miyu was silent. I could sense she was thinking about her mother. Together, we watched the ocean thinking about missed opportunities.
It was while we were thus preoccupied that Lemures made his move. The night sky screamed in anguish. Bolts of lightning ripped the darkness to shreds. Lemures and his followers, Shinma from both the east and the west, materialized from the rents in the cosmos. Lemures always did have a flair for the dramatic. But I was unimpressed.
I turned to Miyu. She was frozen in shock, her mouth open. I started to reassure her when I was plucked up bodily by a huge invisible hand. Lemures was chanting in the ancient tongue. I knew those sorceries. It was I, after all, who had taught him. But my voice was now silent and I had no defense.
Seven Shinma surrounded me in mid-air forming the marriage of the trinity and the quaternity. They were the wards to keep me helpless and isolate me from Miyu. I could not help her nor she me.
Lemures laughed. To complete the incantation, he spoke my true name in the ancient tongue. Like all Shinma, the invocation of my name by an adept rendered me vulnerable. This was one reason why Lemures and I had chosen to discard our given names and adopt the ones by which the Romans called us. In my arrogance at the time, however, I could scarcely imagine one who would be so powerful as to wield my name against me as a weapon. Sorceries often backfired, and my name, steeped in magic, required extraordinary mastery of the arcane arts to be used successfully in a summoning spell. Little did I imagine it would be Lemures who would turn against me.
Lemures laughed again. "The games are over. I warned you, Larva, that without your incantations you were nothing. You should have joined me."
I gazed upon the scores of Shinma. Lemures was at the apex of a horizontal pyramid of scores of supernatural beings that overwhelmed the night sky. All this for Miyu who three days ago had been an ordinary schoolgirl.
As if sensing my contempt, Lemures said, "Tonight, I shall become the Osa. This stop is just to remove a bump in the road before we continue our journey. When I destroy the demon child and sever the unnatural hold she has over you, I will ask you once more to pledge your fealty to me. Think carefully before you respond. My patience is at an end."
Lemures descended to where Miyu stood petrified, grabbed the front of her yukata, and drew her to him. "I am here to destroy your Osa. But first I will obliterate his mockery of a guardian. Should you conceive of some futile resistance, know that I am no diaphanous caster of illusions or decrepit molester of children to be humiliated by an infant."
Miyu struggled to break free, but Lemures was too strong. His vindictiveness ran deep. He desired to torture Miyu in unimaginable ways and, in so doing, to evoke in her unthinkable terror.
Lemures began to slap Miyu -- not too hard -- he wanted to prolong the punishment. Miyu tried to speak. Each time she opened her mouth, Lemures would cuff her face with the back of his hand. Before long, her face was swollen to the point of deformity, and tears mixed with blood dripped down on the white of her yukata.
Lemures paused, admiring her handiwork. "Larva!" Miyu sobbed out to me. "Help me... please..." But I was spread-eagled against the sky completely impotent to respond to her heart-breaking cries.
Miyu continued to stuggle. Lemures let her go contemptuously. "Where will you run to?"
It was I Miyu was trying to reach. If I couldn't help her, she was determined to help me. But Lemures only let her take a couple of steps before he cut her down with a slash of blue energy. Miyu tried to rise. Lemures let loose a sphere of black fire and knocked her down. She tried to lift herself up, but could not. Lemures let loose another sphere to punish her for her obstinacy. Her face slammed into the ground and, when she lifted it, sand was stuck to the blood and tears.
Lemures sauntered over to where Miyu lay and once more seized a handful of fabric from the front of her yukata and lifted her to her feet. She cringed, expecting him to hit her again.
"Your eyes are too bright. I shall dim them. First, the right eye... Then, after you have witnessed some of the rest of my inventiveness, the left."
A violet flame emerged from Lemures's finger. He moved it slowly in the direction of Miyu's face. She screamed pitifully. Flames erupted from her fingers. She was trying to replicate her feat of the previous night. Then, however, intense rage had fueled an inner potency. Desperation born of fear was no substitute, and her flames sputtered feebly.
Lemures laughed. "Fire runs through my veins, too, demon child. Do what you will, but I think you burned out last night." In keeping with his love of theatrics, Lemures transformed his golden locks into swirling flames.
Miyu slumped in defeat. Not only had she been ineffective, but she also lacked control. The sleeves of her yukata had started to smolder.
"You see now why children should not play with fire," Lemures sneered. "I suppose I had better take care of this." He soared into the air over the water, still holding onto Miyu. He thrust her under the waves.
Lemures smiled cruelly at some imagined humor. Miyu thrashed about wildly. Lemures continued to hold her under. Miyu's struggles intensified, then grew weaker, and then she was still.
"It's too soon, child," Lemures said, pulling her out of the water. "I'm not through with you yet."
But Miyu was not unconscious. She pushed Lemures back roughly and hovered in the air. She stretched out her arms and formed a brilliant white sphere on one palm and a crimson one on the other.
"Shinma-tachi o yami e!" she commanded -- multitude of Shinma be banished to the dark.
Once more the fabric of the night was torn open. Flashes of energy of all colors sizzled across the sky, impaling the Shinma, and forcing them into the rents in the night sky as Miyu called them by their true names. Then, all was quiet. Miyu, an astonished Lemures, and I hovered over the waters.
Lemures had found out the hard way, as had I, that the ever-changing ocean was the source of Miyu's power. I could feel it restore her and open her psyche to her ancestral memories. And she read the arcane mysteries and millenia of experience contained in the blood she had taken from me and which now flowed through her veins. And she became whole. And she assumed the mantle of her guardianship.
To Lemures's credit, he kept his composure. "I see I was mistaken," he admitted. "Your Osa has chosen wisely. Kill me. I shall not resist. I know I am defeated."
"You who were once Larva's friend, I shall neither kill nor banish to the Dark. You may go."
Lemures gaped at her incredulously. By all rights, Miyu should have been exacting her vengeance as he would have had their situations been reversed.
"Do I need to tell you a second time. You are free to leave."
Lemures stammered, "You don't need Larva now. Give me back my friend."
"I don't need Larva, but he's my friend, too. He stays with me. I will not tell you again. Leave."
I attempted to console him. "Lemures, it's alright. I had wanted to rule all the Shinma as their Osa, but now I am happier to serve this Princess of the Vampires. Miyu is right. You must leave now."
Paradoxically, Lemures took his dismissal harder than his defeat in battle. However, he was a realist and reluctantly took his leave.
"So, Larva, I am a princess," Miyu teased. "Where is my domain?"
"You are a princess in spirit and a princess to me." I looked into her eyes as I answered. They were still the color of golden honey and brilliant amber, but they seemed older and sadder. Miyu was no longer a child. She giggled in response to my cliched response, but there was a brittleness that had not been there before when all I had heard was a carefree tinkling.
The next day, Miyu dressed for school. I was surprised. I thought we had passed a point of no return but Miyu said she had unfinished business.
At school, Miyu sought out Akiko. "Miyu, you look different," Akiko observed.
"I'm still just me, but I have something to offer I was unable to before."
"You said I shouldn't ask for that," Akiko exclaimed.
"I'm not going to drink your blood. I'm simply going to remove a burden from your mind and body. You will be whole, as you were before, both mentally and physically."
"You can do this?"
"I couldn't before, but I can now. Do you trust me?"
"I trust you."
Miyu took Akiko in her arms and embraced her lovingly. She brushed the palm of her right hand slowly over Akiko's face, closing her eyes. Miyu took a deep breath and slowly let go of Akiko.
"Miyu!?" Akiko exclaimed as if surprised to see her friend. "What was that all about?"
"We're moving away. I wanted to see you before we left,to say goodbye. Don't dream any more bad dreams."
"Bad dreams? I don't have any bad dreams."
"I thought you said you had one the other night."
"I did? I must have been dreaming."
When Miyu came home, I saw the increased sadness in her eyes. I realized the awful truth. "You don't just relieve people of their burdens," I asked. "You take them upon yourself."
Miyu's silence confirmed my suspicions. No wonder her kind, except for her, was not immortal. There was only so much anguish a person or vampire could live with. My heart ached for her. Miyu had drunk of her mother's blood and experienced her pain. She had taken Akiko's suffering unto herself. She had drunk of my blood and assimilated the tragedies of my existence.
Until she had completed the tasks her Osa had set for her, Miyu would live for centuries. She would never look a day over thirteen, but she would hold within her countless lifetimes of sorrow.
As for me, I still dreamed of conquest. Where I failed, Miyu could succeed. She could destroy the Osa of the eastern Shinma and rule in his place. She would be a kind leader and a just one. But whether Miyu was Queen of the Shinma or just a wandering vampire princess, I would serve her gladly. It had taken me thousands of years for me to find my humanity. It was strange I had to be taught by a child vampiress.
For those of you who followed Gunsmith Cats Crisis, "Miyu's Legacy of Power is a completely different kind of work. I don't even regard Gunsmith Cats Crisis as fan fiction. It started as a parody and eventually acquired a plot and a cast of characters. It's primary purpose, however, was to provide a medium to hash over anime and RAA in-jokes. It was episodic in nature so that it would always be dealing with topical issues. "Miyu's Legacy of Power" is pure fan fiction. It is serious and intense. The only humor is coincidental. I posted it in eight parts only because of newsreader and Usenet constraints.
I wrote it as a continuous story and only divided it after the fact.
The Vampire Miyu stories in their various formats -- manga, OAV, book, and drama CD -- are the work of Kakinouchi Narumi and her husband Hirano Toshihiro. With only a couple of exceptions, all my named characters are their creations. Although my story line is original, it is set in the world that Kakinouchi and Hirano created. My work is not copyrighted, but I would appreciate people respecting the copyrights of the original creators.
Miyu is a Shinma (God-Demon) who serves as a guardian for other Shinma (Shinma can be either singular or plural like most Japanese nouns) allowing them to rest in peace in the 'Dark'. Since the world was turned over to humans, Shinma are prohibited from intruding and it is Miyu's job to return 'stray' Shinma who violate this prohibition to the Dark.
Miyu is assisted by a mysterious Shinma. AnimEigo transliterated his name as Larva. Originally, I did not agree with the transliteration. I now do. This was my previous position:
I prefer Lava which I used in the fan fiction. In the manga, his name is written in katakana using the syllable 'ra', the sound 'v' followed by a subscripted 'a' syllable. That would make his name either 'Rava' or 'Lava'. Since the first syllable is short and there is no 'ru' second syllable, I don't agree with the 'Larva' transliteration, although AnimEigo says the author, Kakinouchi Narumi, gave it her approval. I have used 'Lava' not only because it is a more accurate transliteration but also because I would much rather the connotation of the name be one of molten rock rather than that of an insect. I make a comment in the fan fiction that Lava's name is from an ancient tongue and can only be approximated in modern languages. This explains the various transliterations in addition to making his name seem mysterious.
After I posted the background information on the Vampire Princess Miyu fan fiction, I received an e-mail that pointed out that Larva and Lemures were Latin names for ghosts. I looked the words up in a Latin dictionary. Larva means ghost, demon, mask. Lemures means ghost. The AnimEigo translators (as usual) obviously knew what they were doing. It is unfortunate they did not include this additional information in the liner notes because it not only clarifies Larva's name, but it is also interesting in its own right. My earlier comments on transliteration remain valid. According to Japanese transliteration conventions, Larva should be transliterated either with a dash following the 'ra' katakana syllable to indicate it is a lengthened syllable (ie; an extra 'a' syllable following the 'ra' syllable) or there should be a 'ru' syllable following the 'ra' syllable. However, I'm not going to quibble over Kakinouchi-sama's failure to follow convention. I find the derivation of the names intriguing. Not only have I changed the name to Larva in "Miyu's Legacy of Power", but I have also inserted a comment alluding to the Latin origin of the name.
The four OAV episodes of Vampire Princess Miyu were released by AnimEigo about four years ago in subbed format on two tapes or one LD. The LD, unfortunately, is out of print. Within the next couple of months, AnimEigo is scheduled to release dubbed tapes and hybrid LDs.
Antarctic Press published the first manga series in Enlish in six comics. I still see them available on the shelves of comic book stores so they are not that hard to find. The later manga, in my opinion is much better, but Antarctic Press has no plans to translate it at present. Also untranslated are a series of six drama CDs and a short novel.
In the earlier background information I posted, I mistakenly said Dark Horse published the Vampire Princess Miyu. Although Dark Horse publishes some great manga in English, it is the equally great Antarctic Press that did Vampire Princess Miyu. I apologize for the slip, it was inexcusable -- I have the entire series and even though I think the later manga is better, I strongly recommend the Antarctic Press series. The e-mail I received pointing out my slip also said negotiations were in progress to acquire the rights to the later series. I certainly would like to see that. If they can expedite the process, the timing would be perfect since AnimEigo is getting ready to release the dub of the OAV series.
Miyu's art and atmosphere is visually stunning. Some people have criticized the series for being weakly plotted. Those who are accustomed to the rivers of blood of American horror films and some other manga and anime will be disappointed. In Miyu, the struggles are primarily internal. Miyu and Lava are each very powerful and normally have little difficulty dealing with their opponents. The conflicts are therefore emotional and psychological rather than physical.
For the action oriented, I deliberately set "Miyu's Legacy of Power" immediately after she had 'awakened' as a vampire and been appointed as the guardian of the Shinma. She is much weaker at this point and faces real challenges to survive. Miyu and Lava are not fully bonded yet and Miyu cannot call on Lava's powers at will.
Although I have introduced action and physical conflict into the plot, that does not mean that I don't feel that a psychological struggle is just as legitimate. I find the OAVs, the later manga, and the drama CDs very compelling. I consider the OAVs, in particular, to be one of the finest works of anime ever produced, strong in every aspect including plot.
True to the nature of the series, although I have plenty of action in the fan fiction, psychological turmoil, character development, and inner strife are also there. The later manga and the drama CDs deal with the struggle between eastern and western Shinma. I use this theme in the fan fiction. I think you'll find Miyu battling a conspiracy to be more compelling than just confronting a sequence of 'stray' Shinma.
Although I provide some insight into Miyu's background I have deliberately avoided including outright spoilers for people who have not seen, heard, or read the original series in its various media. However, I must point out that someone who has read the fan fiction will be better prepared to anticipate some of the plot revelations of the OAV, especially episode 4 where Miyu's origins are revealed. However, this is not the only account of her origin and I draw on all accounts and attempt to reconcile some of the inconsistencies.
Miyu means "Beautiful Evening".