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Last Hope - Chapter 1: Hell

No movement, no bullets, no wind, no vampires. It's like they just vanished, or were never there to begin with.
Location: Christian Academy, Tokyo.
Time: 8:50 am, 20th March 2051.


"How do you know that Hell exists?"

Sharugo could never forget the cold silence of that classroom when he asked that question. It was the first time anyone challenged Tanaka Sensei, an elderly woman who taught in the private Christian school in the city of Higashikurume.

She was often a dull and somber woman when she recited prayers or told parables from the Bible. However, her attitude and demeanor changed whenever she spoke about Hell. There was a burning flame behind her pupils when she spoke about Hell's Fire, and she spat out every word with an intense passion. She rambled mercilessly about eternal damnation and torture of souls, while staring into the innocent eyes of the frightened children. A smirk of satisfaction would cross her wizened features when she could see them trembling with her words that hung powerfully in the air.

However, Sharugo, one of her new students, seemed more curious rather than intimidated by her lecture. At a young age, he was always questioning everything he was told, and everything that he encountered in his immediate environment.

"How do I know...?" She repeated, taken aback. Quickly, she composed her features and gave the child a small smile. "Well, I know this because our Heavenly Father has generously blessed us with such vast knowledge, this absolute truth, in the Bible."

"How do you know that the Bible is true?"

There was another deadly silence. The teacher looked furious, as if the child had personally insulted her.

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Location: Christian Academy, Tokyo.
Time: 10:02 am, May 5th 2051.


Sharugo was eventually expelled from the Christian school, due to his excessive questioning, perceived as an attack on faith, and the skepticism that he awakened within the other children. Before they parted, Tanaka Sensei warned him:

"Child, if you follow God, your soul will be spared from the eternal Lake of Fire. However, if you allow yourself to be led astray by Satan and his underworld puppets, you will be abandoned by Our Father forever."

Sharugo didn't seem fazed. The old woman crouched down and hissed at his face, like a venomous snake.

"Is that what you want? To spend eternity with the company of those creatures of Hell - those godforsaken vampires?"

The boy's eyes widened so much so that the woman could see her own distorted reflection. For the first time, her words truly hit him, and his eyes expressed an emotion that she had been trying to provoke. Fear.

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Location: Northern Island of Hokkaido
Time: 3:02 pm, September 21st 2053.


The battlefield had a cold, malevolent air to it, the wind howling past him in every direction, as if it's trying to express its own confusion at the sudden seize-fire. Diablos, himself, was confused. One minute the bullets were raining holy hell down on him and his troops in a never-ending bombardment, and the next, nothing.

No movement, no bullets, no wind, no vampires. It's like they just vanished, or were never there to begin with.

A fog was rolling in, throwing everyone into despair; they couldn't fight if they couldn't see. The fog was dense, so thick that a knife could cut through it. The humans knew, though, that they were not alone. Shadowy figures were steadily moving closer, their mangled, horrific forms visible enough to send fear punching through the guts of so many men. Diablos envisioned his two little boys waiting back at home for him and the man swallowed his fear.

And then suddenly, the humans were being mobbed, bullets pelting them, slaughtering them like sheep whilst they weren't expecting it. They should have known. But they didn't, and they paid for it dearly. Ten men were already dead, before they knew what had happened. Soldiers ran but it was hopeless to dodge these self-guided bullets that followed moving targets using their sensors and miniature cameras.

The humans took action; fiery stakes were slicing through the air, V-T bullets, that were harmless to humans but caused fatal damage to vampires, were raining upon their opponents, heads and organs were being decapitated by their hyper-sonic technology, and cyborg machines were attacking their enemies' systems.

The air was hazy, a red mist thrown up from the sheer of blood that was split. The rest mist and blue-sky meeting, joining, combining, until the sky, too, was red. Two by two, the soldiers in the sky were falling to their death. Everyone and every creature was being slaughtered. It was a brutal massacre of both sides.

The smell of blood hit Diablos, the adrenaline fading fast from his system, and he retched. It was overpowering, so strong that he could taste it. The screams of dying men. His troops. His friends. They were falling like flies. His senses became hypersensitive. He could smell the blood, sweat, and fear hanging heavily in the air, he could feel the mud squelching beneath his feet, sticking to him as he ran and all he could hear was the thump-thump of his heartbeat, pounding deafeningly through his head.

And then, he saw him. The little boy in the middle of the battlefield. He was floating in the air, clinging to the handlebars of his hovering scooter. There were tears in the child's eyes.

"Sharugo!"

Diablos' voice rang clearly in the air. Immediately, he began running towards the boy. An explosion from a tank set off, making the ground shake and a huge gust of sand flew everywhere, knocking the man down to the ground. Irrational courage seared through him, leaving him helplessly incapable of resisting the overpowering wave of emotion, as he opened fire. A red haze descended over his mind and he knew no more.

Soon, it was all over.

The little boy woke up. He looked around, desperately searching for his father. He saw nobody. He was alone.

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Location: Ito Oriental Market, Ltd.
Time: 12.00 pm, February 12th 2072.


"Killoran-san? My, I never thought I would see you again."

"I'm surprised you're still alive," Sharugo said. The words had escaped from his mouth before he could stop himself.

The old woman gave him an icy stare.

"I see you're still as blunt as ever."

"Sorry," he said sheepishly. He hunched up his shoulders in clear embarrassment, cursing himself internally for his social incompetence.

"I... um... it's good to see you again, Tanaka Sensei."

"Look at how you've grown," she marveled, eyeing up her former student who towered over her with his 6'5 athletic build.

Sharugo rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly. "I'm surprised you still remember me."

She cracked a small smile. "Of course, I do. You had a loud voice that simply couldn't be ignored."

He returned her smile. They stood, looking at each other silently, until Sharugo averted his gaze down onto his shopping cart.

"So... I've heard the news."

He looked up. It was only a matter of time that she brought up the subject. It was a topic that everyone he interacted with pestered him about.

"You're being forced to marry-" She pulled a face of disgust, "one of those things."

"Well... I wouldn't exactly say I'm being forced..."

"Nonsense!" She scoffed. "What person in the right mind would agree to such blasphemy? Vampires are creatures of Hell! Marriage is a holy union between a man and a woman - but this union is an insult to God! Our Emperor and government are an absolute joke."

"Creatures of Hell, huh?" Sharugo echoed in contemplation. He gave the elderly woman a playful smile. "How do you know that Hell exists?"

Tanaka Sensei shook her head. "Not this again. You've asked an awful lot of questions that I've forgotten about, but this particular question struck a chord with me."

"Well, it's something that I've been curious about," Sharugo admitted. "And, after all these years, I can confidently say that - yes - it does exist."

His comment took the elderly woman by surprise.

"I've seen it with my own eyes. Hell exists within our very Earth."
By
Published: 3/16/2019
Bouquets and Brickbats