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Last Hope - Chapter 3: Elimination

"You're entering a marriage with no previous relationship experience... Does this really seem like the best approach to you?"
Veepo, Online Chat Group

Ayu: (9:01 PM) Today is the Big Day! Who else will be watching the live-stream in two hours?

Haru: (9:05 PM) I'm ready for this. I have my green tea and mochi nearby. I wish it was starting now.

Nat: (9:06 PM) Usually Mom won't let me stay up this late, but since this is a big moment in history, she's letting me have this pass!

Haru: (9:06 PM) You would've stayed up anyway, despite what your mom says.

Nat: (9:06 PM) Haha, true. :D

Ayu: (9:08 PM) This is so exciting, but also very weird. A human and a vampire!

Riku: (9:08 PM) This is a disgrace to God. Vampires are akin to demons.

Haru: (9:08 PM) Oh, hey Riku. Glad you could join us.

Ayu: (9:08 PM) Will you be joining the protest? There are a bunch of people rallying outside courts demanding for this marriage to be blocked.

Riku: (9:08 PM) Yeah, I might as well. I'll have to create some signs. BRB.

Kai: (9:08 PM) Eh... I wouldn't worry about it, Ry. This marriage won't last long.

Nat: (9:08 PM) Oniisan! *hugs you*

Kai: (9:08 PM) Stop. You know I don't like virtual hugs.

Nat: (9:08PM) *hugs you tighter* mwhaha >:)

Ayu: (9:09 PM) Why do you think this marriage won't last, Kai?

Kai: (9:10 PM) Think of it this way, a human marries a steak. Eventually, that human will snap and eat the steak.

Haru: (9:10 PM) That won't happen for a number of reasons.

Ayu: (9:10 PM) Like what?

Haru: (9:12 PM) Well, firstly, the vampire knows that if they hurt the human, they'll face severe repercussions and vice versa. Secondly, Killoran Sharugo isn't a steak - he's the best government agent there is. He's more than capable of defending himself in the worst-case scenario. Thirdly, the vampire will be receiving blood donations and artificial substitutions that scientists are currently working on, which will satisfy her cravings, so she won't attack the human.

Nat: (9:12 PM) Wow! How do you know all this info, Haru-chan?

Haru: (9:12 PM) I was listening to Nakamura's podcast earlier on. He covered a lot there. He interviewed two scientists from the JST agency.

Nat: (9:12 PM) Sounds interesting! I might check it out later.

Ayu: (9:13 PM) Kai has got me thinking... Maybe he's right. Maybe this marriage is doomed to fail.

Haru: (9:13 PM) What makes you say that?

Ayu: (9:13 PM) Have any of you watched the show, Simple Days?

Haru: (9:13 PM) No...?

Nat: (9:13 PM) I've heard of it, but I haven't watched it.

Ayu: (9:14 PM) It's similar to this, when strangers get married. Their relationships were short-lived. I think the longest couple lasted for three weeks before they got divorced. Those were all humans and they still couldn't make it work! Now imagine a human and a vampire together... IMO, it's a recipe for disaster.

Nat: (9:14 PM) Wow... I think you might be onto something, Ayu-chan.

Ayu: (9:15 PM) Not to mention, the vampire is most likely a hundred years older than the human. In fifty years, the human will be old and unappetizing and the vampire would still look young and hot. There is no basis for a happy marriage.

Kai: (9:15 PM) Let's be realistic, they won't make it to fifty years.

Nat: (9:15 PM) How do you think the other vampires feel about this marriage?

Riku: (9:16 PM) They don't feel anything. They're cold, emotionless demons that are constantly hungry for our blood.

Haru: (9:16 PM) [Eye roll emoji] I thought you were making signs, Riku?

Riku: (9:16 PM) I can't find my supplies anywhere. Mom is always moving my stuff around.

Nat: (9:17 PM) My mom does that too! It's so annoying, ugh.

Ayu: (9:59 PM) Just one more hour to go... Oh god, I'm shaking. There are so many major changes that are happening to this world. It's crazy.

Haru: (10:00PM) I'm glad. I'm tired of these constant wars. It's about time society has become more progressive.

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Location: Minka house, Kasumigaseki District.
Time: 11:03am, February 15th 2072.


In the modest living room, the sliding shōji doors opened. An elderly man, Ryuu Sensei, wearing a black montsuki entered the room. His tired, old eyes landed on his student, who he had come to love and respect as his own child. Kneeling on the tatami flooring was Young Sharugo, who was absent-mindedly fiddling with the zipper of his suitcase that was next to him.

"How are you feeling, my boy?" Ryuu Sensei asked, a mixture of curiosity and concern crossing his wizened face.

"I'm fine. Thank you for asking," Sharugo replied.

Having raised Sharugo from the age of five and watching him grow to the young man that he was, Ryuu Sensei knew when his student was holding back his true feelings. It was nothing new. Sharugo had always prioritized his work duties over his own mental state. His attitude and mindset usually worried the old man.

"Are you sure you're fine?" Ryuu Sensei asked, raising his furry white eyebrow with skepticism.

"Mmh."

Sharugo stopped fiddling with the zipper, throwing them into silence. He looked down at his cup of green tea, which he hadn't touched at all. It seemed like there were a hundred thoughts racing through his mind, but he was blocking it all away.

"Did you have a girlfriend that I may not have known about?"

It was a question that took Sharugo by surprise. Ryuu Sensei was a traditional old man who didn't seem interested nor concerned by love affairs. Much like Sharugo, he was an orphan that was raised and trained by his own martial arts master. He was a noble, quiet, and serious man - a kind and humble protector of the innocent. He was a fighter, but his sense of justice was strong, and he only fought for the right reasons. Naturally, he was a role model to Sharugo, who hoped to become an ideal version of him.

Sharugo shook his head slowly. "No... I haven't, Ojisan. Why do you ask?"

Ryuu Sensei frowned, as if he wasn't quite happy with this response.

"You're entering a marriage with no previous relationship experience... Does this really seem like the best approach to you?"

Sharugo shrugged his broad shoulders, attempting to maintain an unbothered and cool composure.

"It's my mission."

Ryuu Sensei felt something stir within his heart. Before his eyes, he could see Little Sharugo, the boy who was tiny and fragile, nervous and afraid of the world around him. The elderly man could see himself, over the years, scolding the boy for showing his emotions of weakness, telling him to conceal his tears and fears, and focus on his duties. He had made Sharugo become this way and now he must pay the price.

"My boy..." Ryuu Sensei began, his voice trailing off with a sigh. There was so much that he wanted to say, but he struggled to articulate his emotions. Instead, he attempted to reason with his student rationally.

"Marriage isn't a one-time mission that can be done and dusted with. It's a life-time contract that requires your undivided commitment. Are you sure you're ready for this?"

Sharugo was unable to look him in the eyes. He was met with silence.

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Location: Toyko Takamoto Hospital, Chiyoda.
Time: 15:07am, July 18th 2063.


As Sharugo was running down the stairs, he started to wonder how much he could challenge his natural boundaries without killing himself. The creature before him was leaping whole blocks of stairs at a time - sometimes even skating down the handrails!

Sharugo had been chasing after him for the past half an hour. He was originally assigned with nine other team members for this mission, but they were all left behind, unable to keep up with the frantic speed of the vampire. To make matters trickier, this wasn't an ordinary vampire that they were dealing with. It was an MSS-rated vampire - the highest ranked of its species, deemed to be the most hazardous to mankind.

Sharugo could feel his body slowing down, as some form of hesitation chilled him to the bone. He didn't have the courage this vampire had to pull such stunts and it seemed his target was getting away from his reach. Still, Sharugo continued to run. At the very least, that was all he could do for now. There was something unnatural about running downstairs. He almost felt as though he was not in control of his own movements. Like his own body was getting away from him.

"Screw it."

As soon as those words escaped from Sharugo, he decided to let his body do what it needed to do to catch his target. He would let gravity decide how fast he could descend, if that meant dying, or breaking bones, that was a risk that he was willing to take. Otherwise he was going to lose his target. At the end of each block of stairs, it became increasingly painful as he started to miss more and more steps. The impact was hurting his shins, and it was beginning to knock the wind out of his lungs - but he forced himself to keep going. He had to catch him.

The momentum of his downward travel was so out of control that Sharugo began to feel as though he unleashed a monster within him.

Finally, they reached the ground floor. The entire area was empty and gray with a fire exit door leading to the outside world. Instinctively, Sharugo knew that if the vampire went through that door, it would be game over - he would escape successfully, hidden amongst the big city. Sharugo couldn't risk that happening, not when he was so close.

Before the creature could bolt towards the door, Sharugo pounced on his back and wrestled him to the cold, marble floor. The vampire hissed sharply, as they were rolling and tumbling around together. He attempted to fight back, but he quickly learned that Sharugo had the upper advantage with his muscular frame and extensive knowledge with hand-to-hand combat.

Soon, the vampire was glued firmly to the ground, stuck beneath his opponent's heavy weight. With one hand, Sharugo pinned the vampire's hands above his head, and with his other hand, he aimed a pistol loaded with V-T bullets to his head. The creature's eyes were wide, his breathing ragged and harsh. They both stared into each other's eyes, lost for a moment, as if neither could truly believe what was happening.

Sharugo couldn't hear anything else, apart from the blood pounding to his ears. This was it. His very first elimination... and it would be the most dangerous vampire known to mankind. This was what he trained for. It would be what his father wanted. He was so close to pulling the trigger, when something made him froze.

A tear.

A single tear rolling down from the vampire's face, sparkling under the fluorescent lighting. The creature was shaking, every bit of him trembling with genuine fear written across his face. Sharugo sucked in his breath. How was this possible? He had never seen nor heard of a vampire crying before, so he naturally assumed they couldn't. They were merely walking corpses incapable of experiencing human emotions and pain. They were predators, having no real conscience like animals. Or so, that's what he was led to believe his entire life, until this moment. It disturbed him how the MSS-rated vampire seemed more of a human, rather than a terrifying beast.

Just then, Sharugo could hear footsteps rushing from above, stomping their way down the stairs. He could hear different, distinct voices that he recognized belonged to his team members, who were getting closer with the passing seconds.

Elimination. They would eliminate this creature, as soon they set their sights on him. There was no negotiation, no fair trial. Sharugo gulped. Elimination. That's what they called this process. Looking at this creature with a new light, he felt his stomach stir with an unpleasant feeling. He shook his head, shaking away the monster that was clouding his judgment. Elimination was the technical term to disguise what this really was...

Murder.

The vampire had closed his eyes, quivering as he anticipated for the trigger to be pulled. Instantly, his body felt lighter than ever and he could hear a loud bang, as a gush of cool wind was hitting his skin. He opened his eyes to see that the fire exit door was wide open, along with Sharugo holding a hand to his face.

"Get up," he said sharply, "and get out of here."

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Location: Monsuta Imperial Castle, Hakone.
Time: 10:30pm, January 16th 2072.


Sharugo was stunned by the grand castle, resting on top of a grassy hill, enclosed by the cherry blossom trees. Standing on top of the massive hill, he had a glorious view of Lake Ashinoko, nature's sparkling gem, which was midnight-blue and tranquil like the sky above it. And just beyond the lake towered the famous Mount Fuji - a majestic beauty lit up by the endless stars. Sharugo took a deep breath, tasting the sweet air, as fireflies danced around him, making him believe that magic was real.

"I'm glad you could make it," a manly voice said behind him. The familiar vampire approached Sharugo, joining him by his side. He looked up at the stars with a gentle smile on his face.

"Thank you for the invite, Your Majesty," Sharugo said, turning to look at him. He recognized this vampire's face. Those droopy eyes. His slick black hair. His long and narrow nose. Those hollow cheekbones. His features were still the same, as if he hadn't aged from the first day they met.

King Leandro caught the young man staring at him.

"Did you come alone, like I asked you to?"

Sharugo nodded, which stretched the vampire's smile further.

"Good. I wanted to speak to you privately without the company of those other officers. Would you like to come inside?"

"I like it out here," Sharugo said, averting his gaze back to the picturesque landscape. Staring at the scenery made him feel so calm, as if his worries were being drifted away, carried by the soft breeze and floating away with the beautiful, magnificent lake. In this moment, he desired to pause time to always feel this peaceful.

"So... what do you think of my offer?"

"Well, I've been giving it careful consideration... and I'm honored you requested for me to marry your daughter, but..."

"You are the only man that I want for her. No other humans, no vampires. Just you."

Sharugo's eyes widened in surprise. He was lost for words.

"You see, if it wasn't for you, this movement wouldn't be happening," King Leandro continued.

"When you spared my life, almost a decade ago, you changed my perspective of humans. You were the first of your kind to have shown me compassion and mercy. Before I ran into you, I felt so much hatred for humankind. I was constantly consumed by wars and revenge and the desire to always be two steps ahead of the enemy. But you broke that spell for me."

"I did?"

"Yes, Killoran-san. When you freed me, I could see crystal clear for the first time. Not all humans wanted to hurt us, so why should we hurt all humans? Some humans were forced to fight, just like my own kind were forced into battle too. It was something neither side truly wanted. We were all fighting for the same reasons - to protect our people; to serve what we thought was justice."

"That is true."

"After meeting you, I believed there was hope. Perhaps humans and vampires could co-exist peacefully in the same world, after all. That is why I'm requesting for you. You are the reason I've agreed to this movement of peace, and you are the one that I want for my daughter."

Sharugo scratched the back of his neck nervously. "I'm honored, Your Imperial Highness... but there's a bit of a problem with that... You see, I'm not... very good with women..."

"Nonsense!" King Leandro barked, as he waved his hand dismissively in the air.

"You're a virtuous man with a golden heart. I've heard many wonderful tales about you and I'm not the only vampire that you've had a positive impact on. You understand our kind. You care for us. That is why you'll be perfect for my Sera-chan. I wholeheartedly believe you will do some good for her. You can hopefully tame her wild heart. I can sense it."

Sharugo was thankful that it was dark, so the king couldn't see that he was blushing. King Leandro put his hand on Sharugo's shoulder and he had a bright beam across his face - a smile that could light up the entire night like the stars in the sky.

"There's something special about you, Killoran-san."
By
Published: 3/26/2019
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