BIO HAZARD The Bewitching Beast of the North Sea (バイオハザード 北海の妖獣) was the first original novel in the BIO series, written by Kyū Asakura and FLAGSHIP and released in 1998 on the same day as BIOHAZARD 2. Set on an island, it focuses on an old noble family which helped establish the Umbrella Corporation alongside its founder Lord Oswell E. Spencer.
Released: January 29, 1998
Scenario: Kyu Asakura, FLAGSHIP
Illustration: Shin-ichi Sakamoto
Publisher: JUMP j-BOOKS
Project Umbrella Translation
Kyu Asakura (朝倉 究) / FLAGSHIP
Illustration: Shin-ichi Sakamoto (坂本眞一)
BIO HAZARD The Bewitching Beast of the North Sea
JUMP j-BOOKS (ジャンプ ジェイ ブックス)
[SPECIAL COMIC PROLOGUE]
Kate: "That building's gorgeous. What is it?"
Raine: "It was before I was born, but that's a lab Umbrella Pharmaceuticals built twenty years ago. Looks abandoned now."
Kate: "What a waste. Even though it's such a stylish building."
Raine: "Why don't you go in then? Not my problem if you get killed though."
Raine: "My uncle says that in the old days, a virus was being studied there and broke out, apparently killing many of the islanders. There were some people here who became Zombies."
Zombie: Ohhh, uhh... Uh, ohh... Ahh... Ahh
Norse: "What the fuck's happening on this island!!"
Zombie: Shaclick... Shaclick...
A wild night of Zombies has begun!!
Special Comic Prologue 
BIO HAZARD The Bewitching Beast of the North Sea 
Terror's Beginning, By Oosawa Arimasa (大沢在昌) 
BH, The Convergence of Duality, By Araki Hirohiko (荒木飛呂彦) 
Kyu Asakura (朝倉 究) / FLAGSHIP
Illustration: Shin-ichi Sakamoto (坂本眞一)
BIO HAZARD The Bewitching Beast of the North Sea
JUMP j-BOOKS (ジャンプ ジェイ ブックス)
[SPECIAL COMIC PROLOGUE]
Kate: "That building's gorgeous. What is it?"
Raine: "It was before I was born, but that's a lab Umbrella Pharmaceuticals built twenty years ago. Looks abandoned now."
Kate: "What a waste. Even though it's such a stylish building."
Raine: "Why don't you go in then? Not my problem if you get killed though."
Raine: "My uncle says that in the old days, a virus was being studied there and broke out, apparently killing many of the islanders. There were some people here who became Zombies."
Zombie: Ohhh, uhh... Uh, ohh... Ahh... Ahh
Norse: "What the fuck's happening on this island!!"
Zombie: Shaclick... Shaclick...
A wild night of Zombies has begun!!
Special Comic Prologue 
BIO HAZARD The Bewitching Beast of the North Sea 
Terror's Beginning, By Oosawa Arimasa (大沢在昌) 
BH, The Convergence of Duality, By Araki Hirohiko (荒木飛呂彦) 
ACT-1 SOLITARY FAR NORTH ISLAND
Light. An all encompassing whirl of light.
But this light was a very cold one.
The mission never strayed from standard protocol and worked out perfectly within three seconds.
The British Army Special Air Service anti-terrorist unit Norse is a member of, the Counter Revolutionary Warfare wing, successfully penetrated the enemy hideout. They'd brought most of the liberation army terrorists to heel with only one room left, to rescue the remaining abducted VIPs.
Following their captain, the five-man team kicked down the door and rushed into the room. The dignitaries were unharmed. There were no hostiles. Relief flashed for a nanosecond on their faces.
But that proved fatal.
A tiny shadow unexpectedly came rushing out behind Norse.
The liberation army's shabby cloak covered its whole head.
Norse turned around and grabbed the M92F from his waist like a reflex and pulled the trigger without hesitation.
As a dry BANG! reverberated, bright crimson blood sputtered from the tiny shadow's breast.
The shadow slowly collapsed, seemingly in slow motion as the hood draped over its head turned inward.
It was a girl. Every inch of her looked to be 12 or 13-years-old.
Against terrorists, you mercilessly empty a magazine until they're dead for good, even if that means children. That's CRW's ironclad law.
But Norse hesitated.
It was due to a smile that creapt on the fallen girl's face. Her most innocent smile instantly melted the tension he experienced on the battlefield.
The very next moment, everything was swallowed by light.
A tube snuggled in the girl's hands expanded unnaturally at its center, exploding.
His throat was then seared by the stench of burning flesh, blood and smoke.
Norse's body was blown over three meters away from his original position, hurled against a wall.
Raising his left hand to rub his eyes, it was covered with dark blood.
A sharp pain travelled up his spine when he lifted his upper body out of the rubble.
His shrapnel-punctured left foot was numb with no feeling.
Next to him, the captain lay with his intestines hanging out his side.
Beyond him, clumps of flesh were strewn about, appearing to be point man Alan whose upper body had been blown apart.
What happened to the group's three other members and the VIPs who should've been secured... Likely dead.
The mission ended in failure, his unit was completely wiped out.
Norse forcibly twisted his head as it beat with intense pain, and looked down the forward passage.
There was no sign of the girl who'd fell there either. With the explosion of the bomb in her arms, her tiny limbs probably scattered in all directions and vanished from the world.
An unbearable pain shot through his left foot again. Dark blood gushed and spooled out, dyeing his camouflaged pants. The white stuff visible inside was probably his thigh bone.
His consciousness faded away again as Norse fell into a deep, deep darkness.
Norse returned to himself with a hefty spasm.
Rather than gripping a Beretta in his open right hand, he had a crumpled ferry ticket, its ink blurred from his greasy sweat.
His breathing was still labored while his shoulders heaved up and down repeatedly and violently.
...He clicked his tongue slightly to see whether or not it was all that dream again.
Strong iron rust and a fishy odor assailed his nose and he could hear the sound of waves over the roar of an old car engine.
Indeed, it was the cabin of a cheap ferry crossing over to an island in the north. It wasn't that battlefield, two years have already passed since then...
Rather, it was a tiny old ferry that would fill to capacity loading even just five passenger cars on board. The hull creaked and screamed every time it overcame one of the raging waves in the open sea.
In the cabin at the bottom of the boat, there were nearly ten passengers besides Norse waiting to arrive at the harbor, but who were crouching motionlessly without saying a word.
Norse quietly stood up.
"Change of pace, mister? You should expose yourself to the sea breeze for a moment."
The old woman sitting next to him in a worn blanket murmured in a subdued voice, but didn't make eye contact.
...He pretended not to notice everyone was staring at him.
Since coming down to this cabin, Norse felt an unpleasantness lingering in the air.
Most of the ferry's guests were islanders now returning there.
A small island in the far north that has little traffic with the outside world. One could argue a strong sense of caution against foreigners was natural.
Ascending the narrow stairs with peeling white paint, Norse went onto the deck.
Lead-colored clouds gathered thickly overhead, hanging low as if he could grab them by reaching out his hand. Beneath his feet, bubbles formed in the smooth black water that spilt muddily onto the bow.
He saw a monotone sky and the dark silhouette of an island on the seaboard.
A towering mountain at the center of the island, its peak obscured as if piercing the clouds. A forested ridge stretched out to encircle the mountain.
It's about five hours by ferry from the mainland port. Gaddywall Island, a solitary northern island floating in the middle of the Scandinavian Peninsula.
...Why had he come to such a place now?
After the incident with that girl who blew herself up, Norse became disgusted with combat and was discharged. He then continued to travel in search of somewhere he could live in peace. But until now, there was nowhere, anywhere, that accepted him. No; rather, it was Norse himself who refused them... What is it about that island, really...
He lifted his left sleeve to check his watch, there was still an hour until the expected time of arrival.
Norse went around the corner of the wheelhouse heading to the bow.
In a flash, the ship tilted violently to one side.
A wave collided with the bow and raised a huge splash causing Norse to lose his footing on the seawater and oil-drenched floor.
He stretched out his left hand out of reflex and caught a handrail. At the same time, "Aaah!"
With a scream, a girl in a yellow parka flew by as if passing through his body. He reached out his right hand and caught the girl's arm, gripping it tight.
Norse waited in the same posture for the shaking to subside. The ferry soon helmed to face the island but finally regained its original stability.
"Ah, you scared me. I thought you'd fall into the sea."
The girl in the yellow parka let go of Norse's hand with a sigh. Amber eyes and curly chestnut blonde hair with freckles floating on her tan, healthy-looking cheeks.
"It's okay, Kate."
A cool voice emanated from the other side of the deck.
A girl in a white blouse held onto a handrail on the bow.
"You saved her. Thank you."
Brown eyes and a short, bright chestnut bob. When she bowed towards Norse, her hair swung and the scent of a refined flower reached him.
An orange tie, thin dark green pleated skirt and a blouse with a white convertible collar; ironed and starched. It could be the uniform of a prestigious high school.
"Kate, say thanks properly. He helped you."
She pressed her and the freckled girl in the yellow parka named Kate stuck her tongue out in no time before bowing to Norse.
"But Raine, I didn't expect the boat to shake so much."
"That's why I told you before we got on. Since giant whirlpools can suddenly form in this area, the boat may turn quickly to avoid them."
The girl called Raine pointed to the sea left of the bow.
There, a large mouth had opened up splashing white sprays, a giant whirlpool that would've swallowed this ferry for sure.
"Wow, a giant whirlpool. You do know a lot. As I'd expect from a native of that island."
Kate looks back at Norse with an excited expression,
"Are you on a trip to that island too? We're roommates from the dorm in the garden of Saint Lucia's Girls College on the mainland."
Kate looks back toward Gaddywall Island again,
"But you know, that island looks a little different from how I imagined it. A blue sky and a white, sandy beach. Beautiful villas in the shade of a line of green trees... I was way off."
"Told you. Gaddywall's an island of fishermen who've lived in the North Sea for generations, not a resort..."
"I get ya. Oh, I wonder if anything interesting happens on that island."
Norse returned to the cabin, leaving the two girls who began to get absorbed in their chattering on the deck, and he awaited the ferry's arrival at the island.
Afterwards, moving evasively around the island, the ferry avoided whirling currents and eventually arrived at the old fishing port fifteen minutes later than planned.
There wasn't particularly anything to hurry for. The people of the island were dropped off earlier and Norse finally left the guest room. He got off the ramp red with rust and looked around from the quay, there were a number of old fishing boats and only one dock.
Rotting wooden boxes of fish remains were stacked about.
There was a small village on the other side facing across the thin road from the harbor and he could see several buildings resembling fish processing plants, but lacking any signs of people, the whole island fell silent.
Aye, it's quite simply an island the times left behind. First things first, look for a hotel tonight.
With a dangling worn out bag containing just several pieces of extra clothes, Norse began to walk.
That cool voice talked again from behind.
"That there... Even though it's empty now, shall we show you around since there's only one inn in the village?"
When he turned around, the girl named Raine approached carrying a big green suitcase with rumbling casters.
"Is it annoying you?"
"No, not really..."
Kate stood next to Raine dangling a bag which seemed to be discernibly heavy on her shoulders.
"If that's the case, could you please take Raine's baggage. It's heavy. Uh..."
"Norse Chirac. Norse is fine."
Norse smiled wryly at the unapologetic Kate's back-talk and suddenly snatched the handle of the green suitcase from Raine.
"Oh, it's okay. You're holding your own."
"Good, good. Me too while you're at it. Eh, Norse."
Kate started walking ahead, thrusting her bag onto Norse.
"Jeez, Kate. I'm sorry."
Raine apologized to Norse with a puzzled look,
"Hey, aren't we going to your uncle's house up ahead? It's close. It'd probably be easier to show Norse the inn once we leave our baggage there."
Norse also pulled a suitcase and began walking, following Raine and Kate as they laughed without a care in the world, but they stopped.
Someone's watching them!?
Norse looked back involuntarily, feeling a stare piercing his back.
But there was nobody in the deserted harbor. A shack's broken window doors made sounds, kachunk kachunk, probably because of the wind passing through.
Was he imagining things? ...When trying to turn his eyes to the source, Norse gasped involuntarily. He saw two bizarrely large eyes staring from the shadow of the shack.
It was a young man. About 20-years-old with unkempt blonde hair, a worn-out cotton jacket, shabby pants and a loose belt hanging from the waist.
It had to be an islander. When his eyes met Norse's, the young man retired himself into the shadows to hide.
"What's the matter Norse?"
Raine was a step ahead to the destination and turned around.
"Um... it's nothing."
Norse followed the two and entered the village.
It was littered with brick houses. It appeared as though there wasn't even a gap between poor and wealthy in this village, which had only small homes devoid of affectations.
"Huh, the village feels deserted. More than five thousand people lived here when the fishing was prosperous, but there are only about three hundred people now. It's been three years since I left..."
"Still, there's nobody here..."
Kate looked around suspiciously.
The time was definitely close to evening already.
But Norse noticed.
They were constantly being watched. From gaps behind swaying curtains. From behind slightly opened doors. The islanders were staring at them, unexpected intruders, with curious yet fearful eyes.
Perhaps the young man at the harbor was one of them.
Kate too, naturally, but it appeared Raine, who was born on this island, didn't notice such stares.
"Hey. Raine, didn't your parents pass away when you were young, then your uncle Bale raised you?"
"Yeah, I got lonely and left to go to high school on the mainland."
"Isn't he delighted his cute niece is coming home after three years?"
"I wonder if Uncle's doing okay. I wanna see his face soon."
Seeing Raine's likely nostalgic expression, Norse felt as though it was comforting.
When they turned at a thin path and went up a hill, Bale's house stood there quietly.
It had an old brick look but lovely red flowers bloomed in its small garden. However, a large lock was attached to the front door coldly refusing entry to visitors, ruining such a rustic atmosphere.
"No way, Uncle. What an outrageous lock. This wasn't here three years ago."
There was no answer at all even when they knocked.
"Is he out? Didn't you tell him you'd be arriving today Raine?"
"Of course. I told him clearly on the phone a week ago. I wonder if he went out for a walk or something."
Raine looked around in a hopeless manner.
As the sun fell, they heard the howling of stray dogs somewhere and it rapidly went dark.
"All right. He might've gone to Robert's shop."
Robert's shop was said to be the only pub in the village. Bale occasionally went to the shop and it seems his greatest pleasure is drinking beer.
Norse carried the two's baggage and pushed them into the shadow of the entrance invisible from the outside, and the three left for Robert's shop.
Robert's shop was at the corner of a crossroad with a dried up fountain at the center, once considered the village's main street.
The area became enveloped in darkness all too soon.
The light of lamps leaked out from the shop's small windows, seeing it was open.
Clink... went the sound of a bell as Raine pushed open the shop door and the three entered.
There were only a handful of customers inside the small, dim shop. One on the counter and two at the four-seat table in the corner.
Both were old islanders, completely tide-worn faces that had become red and minced with deep cracks as if as evidence of their long lives as fishermen.
When Norse entered, the old men stopped their conversation and looked back toward them. When their eyes met Raine, they smiled, but they realized they were forced smiles once they immediately turned a pale, ominous color.
On the counter, a thin, white-haired 50-year-old man polished a glass.
"It's been a long time Mister Robert, has my uncle been here?"
When Raine approached the counter, the man Robert lifted his face and posed to her a dull stare.
"Hi, Raine. Welcome back. No, he hasn't come by today."
Although Raine was an acquaintance, home for the first time in three years, the expressions on Robert and the old men were somewhat awkward. The news of three people arriving at the harbor probably went through the whole island almost immediately.
"He may've even gone out huntin' again in the night. I ain't seen him these past four or five days."
The old men also simply stared at Raine and the others, saying nothing.
The three vainly went to a shop table.
"As it is, we won't be in a house either! I hate camping out."
Kate complained mournfully.
"Anyhow, we'll show Norse to the inn first. Right after this."
They said the village inn, merely a house, is located somewhere less than a minute on foot from there.
The three went to the inn while Kate grumbled and complained.
But when they arrived, Raine stood there stunned again.
There wasn't even a shadow of the inn, merely a vacant lot, about enough to swing a cat.
"It should've been right here. Has it been demolished? Oh no..."
There was no pedestrian traffic on the darkened road and no appropriate stores either.
At a loss, Raine began to walk ploddingly ahead, and at that moment, they swiftly heard a thud from behind.
Norse quickly looked back. Both Raine and Kate stiffened their faces and turned around.
From behind, a figure came out of the darkness. A face emerged vaguely in the light of the houses.
It was a young man, but Norse quickly noticed it was the young man watching him at the harbor.
"Oh, it's you Paul. Don't scare us."
Raine rushed up with a nostalgic smile.
But the teen named Paul didn't return the smile and merely stood around, fearful of Norse.
"Come on, Paul. Don't worry. This is Norse, he's not a shady guy."
Paul gulped and faltered in a state, still afraid of Norse.
"Hey, my uncle's not around. Do you know where he went?"
That moment, the curtain of the house's window behind them shook and the leaking light slightly moved. Extreme tension raced through Paul's face.
"Leave the island on tomorrow's boat. Lock up well tonight when you go to bed."
"What do you mean? We can't just leave. Besides, even if you ask us to lock up, we can't get in as the door's already locked."
But saying nothing further, Paul escaped into the darkness and disappeared, Raine watching dumbfounded as he left.
However, Norse intuitively felt what the youngster said wasn't a mere threat or practical joke.
That's because when Paul suddenly turned around, Norse spotted a small handgun bared under his shabby jacket, thrust casually into the belt on his waist.
Though violent cases are unlikely to happen on an island so small, why'd a teen like that have a handgun? Norse felt a strange unease.
The three reluctantly returned to Bale's house. But it appeared Bale hadn't returned.
When Norse passed through the bewildered girls, he lifted a fine wire from a scrap of old fishing tools sat next to the entrance. Then he slowly arranged its shape in his hands and twisted it into the door's lock.
"...What're you doing Norse?"
With an unlocking sound, the lock unceremoniously opened.
Kate and Raine were together in disbelief, but getting into the house was first priority. Raine gently held the knob and quietly pulled the front door.
The three were greeted by a chilly lounge.
It was clear Raine's uncle wasn't here. Still worried, Raine looked around the house from the first floor to the second. Kate also followed her. Meanwhile, Norse looked around the plain lounge.
The resident's modest life could be felt from the scarce furniture in the room. Old furniture and tableware were finely polished and arranged on shelves.
Two small picture frames hung on top of the fireplace. Taking them into his hands, he saw one photo showing a seemingly stubborn elderly man holding a young girl, apparently Raine before she left the island. The other photo had a young man dressed in military uniform, evidently the old guy himself.
Raine came back from the second floor and Norse asked her.
"Is this your uncle Bale?"
"Yeah. This was five years ago. That one's Uncle in his younger days."
"He was in the military?"
From his own experiences, Norse imagined the man in the photo was an excellent soldier. When he gently returned the photo frame to the top of the fireplace, Kate came down from the second floor.
"I'll sleep in the back room on the second floor. The bed feels comfy."
"But since that room's Uncle Bale's room, when he comes home..."
Raine bowed her head. A color of uneasiness and apprehension twisted its way onto her face.
"That's true. I don't think it'd be good to use it as you please without his permission. But I wonder where Raine's uncle went."
"The islanders are weird too. They were cheery before. Now they're oddly distant."
"Besides what that other guy Paul mentioned. We're not leaving the island tomorrow."
"Paul's an orphan my uncle's adored since he was small. Though he's a bit of a weak-minded cry-baby, he's a very kind kid."
With his baggage and while listening to Raine and Kate's conversation, Norse was about to walk calmly toward the entrance.
Raine saw and quickly ran.
"Where're you going Norse?"
"To look for a place to sleep now."
"What're you talking about? Stay here tonight. Come on."
When Kate thinks of Norse going away, she suddenly goes into a helpless state,
"That's right. You won't be able to find a place to stay now, there's no hotel. Ya gotta stay."
Norse was puzzled. He couldn't sleep with two young girls under one roof.
However... Norse felt this island was now in an unusual state, more grave than Raine and Kate.
The attitude of the islanders wasn't a simple wariness of strangers. It seemed like they were afraid of something more. Then there's Bale's sudden disappearance, and the young man Paul's inexplicable behaviour before their very eyes. He was also concerned about that handgun of his.
Pressed by the two, Norse couldn't disregard these foreboding omens and decided to stay here tonight.
Domineering darkness and silence struck.
Norse inadvertently woke in bed and didn't know where he was for a while.
He noticed he was lying wrapped in a blanket with the smell of the tide and a herbal fragrance made by the pillow, and recalled it was a room on the first floor of Bale's house.
Holding up his Breitling to the moonlight faintly coming in from the window, three hours had gone by, it was already a new day.
I'm no sucker. I don't need to stay here playing pretend bodyguard just because some girls asked. It's no good getting involved with others. Right, that's it. I'll leave this house early tomorrow morn'. Nothing big'll happen overnight.
As Norse forcibly persuaded himself, he shut his eyelids again in comfortable silence and his consciousness faded.
Then in the silence, a low sound cracked.
A normal person might've missed it. But in his long life on the battlefield, Norse now never failed to notice any sound, no matter how mute. That's because in some cases it could prove fatal. Rather, if a sentry missed the trivial sounds of an enemy creeping up on the battlefield, there was a risk the entire unit could be wiped out.
Subconsciously, Norse listened patiently.
He heard that too. At the front.
The sound gradually increased.
It wasn't a mere sound. Indeed, those were footsteps. Footsteps crudely walking and dragging some heavy baggage.
Had fishing prep already begun? No, the walk's rhythm was too irregular for that. It was waddling, neither direction or intent discernable.
The footsteps approached the house where Norse and the others were sleeping securely.
Along with the uncanny footsteps, he heard loud stomach-churning growls.
The growl got more like a low, enigmatic beast.
*growl... growl... slump... slump...*
The footsteps stopped in front of the house. Were they peering inside?
What on earth... A shudder ran down Norse's spine.
"Lock the door well tonight when you go to bed."
What Paul said struck Norse's recovered mind. Was he referring to the owner of these footsteps at the front right now?
The footsteps began to change again.
It slowly went away.
Norse sprang up from the bed and quickly laced up the boots on his feet.
He came out into the living room grabbing a single handy piece of firewood piled up beside the fireplace then left for the entrance, passing the stairs ascending up to the second floor rooms where Raine and Kate slept.
He stood in front of the door. The questionable sound was considerably off in the distance.
When Norse calmly held the knob and opened the door, he went out to a scene filled with dull moonlight.
A strange rotting smell immediately assailed his nostrils.
Was it the smell of rotten fish? No, it was different. It was a more rank smell. Of course... Norse knew a smell like this. That of a battlefield. That indescribably unpleasant smell when heaps and heaps of tumbling bodies are exposed to wind and rain over a long time and have rotted. It was exactly like that.
Norse ran after the owner of the sounds while muffling his own footsteps.
The rotting smell gradually became stronger. The foul cause seemed to be the owner of the sounds.
When he passed several houses dotted along the way, there was another entrance to the forest. It was deeply overgrown toward the mountain in the island's center and dense conifer trees denied humans from stepping in.
Norse looked hard at the ground under the moonlight and saw something, like footprints. And something shined dully here and there on the surroundings.
When he approached the visages, they looked like glops of viscous, muddy liquid, and the rotting smell in question assaulted his strong nose.
What is this? Did the owner of those footsteps drop it?
Before he knew it, he could no longer hear the footsteps. Maybe it went into the forest.
Norse raised his face to make an opening through the fresh forest. He couldn't hear anything anymore. At that moment, the quietness was broken by a high-pitched roar he hadn't heard until now flowing from the distance.
When he looked up, there was a small hill on the other side of the forest, where the giant full moon appeared. Then he saw the shadow of someone on the hill with the full moon on their shoulders.
The silhouette was a slender, thin figure, but filled with bursting suppleness.
Transparent long silver hair fluttered in the wind and scattered drops of light within the moonlight.
...A woman? But why on a hill behind a forest like this at such a time?
Norse stared quietly at the silhouette.
The silhouette drew in a large breath and let out a high-pitched cry again, not unlike a stringed instrument. Sadness could be felt from the cry as well as certain loftiness and pride gushing from within, totally different from the weird will-lacking groans a little while ago.
Wind blew and the forest rustled. Her cries blended with the noises, as if enticing Norse toward a world unthinkable as Earth.
Gaddywall, an island of fear and phantoms...
Norse continued to listen attentively to these sad howls for what felt like forever, flowing as if to harmonize the night on Gaddywall Island.
The next morning arrived.
When Norse awoke he went to that forest again. He wanted to check those footprints once more in the bright sunlight.
Getting his pants wet on the morning dew of the grass and arriving at the forest's entrance, Norse confirmed the scenery he'd hammered into his head last night and examined the ground.
But there was no sign of the footprints that should be there. He checked the vicinity but they were nowhere to be found.
It hadn't rained after last night. The footprints couldn't have disappeared naturally. Someone must've erased them.
With that being hard to swallow, Norse hurried back to Bale's house.
When he came near the house, several villagers had gathered in front along the way, crowded together and talking of something serious. After noticing Norse they trotted and spoke in low voices.
"Three workers out for repair work on the road yesterday morn' don't seem to have returned this morn'."
"Seems they were supposed to be back last night. They shouldn't be so late since they went by truck. Apparently they were at the west headland area."
"Ah, did anyone go look for them?"
"Nobody would go. Everyone would rather just kick up a fuss."
When the gathered clamoring villagers noticed Norse's eyes, they entered each house as if to escape.
"Eh? I thought she was with you Norse. She wasn't in bed anymore when I got up."
Anxiety quickly trickled through Norse's heart.
"There's a car in the garage. We can search for her in that."
When the two came back to the house they dragged out an old sedan from the garage, Raine sat in the passenger seat and Norse drove around the village.
But there was no sign of Kate anywhere.
Norse took the west road. Unconsciously, where the workers who went to the headland disappeared.
The sedan drove through the forest toward the headland. It was dark, and deep green conifers sealed the forest depths.
When the forest broke off before long, they saw the sea ahead.
"There she is! Why's Kate in a place like this...?"
Norse and Raine stopped the car and ran.
Kate was vaguely sat on a stone along the side of the road leading to the headland.
"Ah, Raine! Thank goodness."
Kate ran joyfully when she noticed the two of them.
"What's wrong with you Kate!? Coming to a place like this alone."
"It looked like you two were still asleep when I got up this morning so I went for a walk, but got lost."
Suddenly she stuck out her tongue,
"To tell you the truth, I wanted to see the movie being filmed."
Hearing that, Raine had a dubious look.
"You see, a sailor on the ferry was talking about it when we came. A movie location unit apparently came to this island for three days."
"Was it those people?"
Norse went to the top of a precipice about ten meters ahead, pointed to one side and called out to Kate and Raine.
When Raine and Kate rushed up and looked over the precipice, a small cove was spread out below.
When leaning forward a little they saw just under ten people moving around a sandy beach. Cameras and lighting equipment glistened with the brightly shining sunlight. The 4x4 carrying the film crew and machine parts was parked nearby.
"Yeah, you know it! You look silly. Not that you'd notice despite coming to a place like this."
Kate beamed with joy with her eyes wide open,
"Oh, I wonder if he's an actor. He's not a nice guy."
She pointed to a young man speaking with a man in sunglasses, who looked like the director.
He had sensational blonde hair at shoulder length. Deeply carved features visible from afar. An elegant, flexible and lean poise. He was tall and wrapped in a pure white stand-up collar suit.
"Surely he's gotta be. Might be a star we know too. Ah, let's go to the bottom."
Kate repeatedly invited Raine, but,
"But I... I'm worried about Uncle Bale. I want to go look for him after breakfast."
She seemed reluctant.
Even so, a stubborn Kate spiritedly enticed Raine again.
Norse looked down Raine and Kate's side and oddly enough, incidentally noticed the film crew.
The blonde man Kate said might be an actor frequently spoke to the director-like man, each time with the director-like man in a standing at attention posture nodding to him. They totally looked like a military superior and their subordinate. Even if the other man was a famous star, why would the director be practically bending the knee to him? They eventually finished talking and the blonde man got into a polished, carefully parked snow-white limousine and drove away.
"Oh, he's gone off."
Kate seemed disappointed and looked at the limousine driving away while the sun brightened its eternally gleaming body.
Once they got back to the house the three ate breakfast and got into the sedan again.
This time they went searching for Raine's uncle, Bale.
Since they were dependent on Norse overnight, he couldn't leave these two girls alone on this island. Until they could find Bale, he was at the wheel and first drove to the harbor since Raine said Paul lived in a shack on the harbor. Hearing the young man was acquainted with Bale, he might know something.
But there was no sign of Paul in the hut. Shabby trash and tools for unknown uses were lined up disorderly in the small room.
Paul was born an orphan on this island and taken in by an old fisherman who lived alone in this house, but when he was twelve, the old man died and he seemed to live a lonely life being ignored by everyone besides Bale, afterwards only landing work when the ferry came talking of a job.
When they discovered Paul wasn't here, Raine appeared to lose heart but still snapped out of it.
"Let's go to Uncle's hunting ground. It's in the west cove forest, the place we were at this morning."
Norse and Kate got into the car and drove off.
The island's weather was fickle.
The sedan carrying the three passed the cove where the film crew was and arrived on a hill overlooking the forest, dark clouds brooding in the sky that had been clear until a little while ago, seemingly a sign it could pour down at any moment.
"Uncle always used to take me hunting a bunch around there and we would camp out."
The place Raine was pointing at was merely nondescript expansive forest, but looking between the trees, sitting alone was a classy North European style wooden building.
"That building's gorgeous. What is it?"
Kate asked Raine as she stared at it in a trance.
"Have you heard of Umbrella?"
For Norse, it was familiar, but he couldn't immediately remember the name.
"I know it. It's an international medicine maker if I'm not mistaken?"
Kate butted in from the side.
"Yeah. That's right. It was before I was born, but that's a lab Umbrella Pharmaceuticals built twenty years ago. Looks abandoned now."
"What a waste. Even though it's such a stylish building."
"Why don't you go in then? Not my fault if you die though."
"My uncle told me that in the old days a virus was being studied there and broke out, apparently killing many islanders. There were some people here who became Zombies."
"Zombies!? Knock it off!"
Kate's face recoiled in terror.
"That's dumb. You're making that up. There's no way Zombies are real."
Raine laughed brightly, but Norse incidentally felt a strange unease. Those footsteps last night, the strange smell of rot. These came to his mind. Maybe those were Zombies? It couldn't be true. No way...
"Anyway, since that, the people of the island have been afraid to go near that building when it might still contain the virus."
Something cold finally fell from the sky. It began pouring down, mixed with thunder, and within a moment the unpaved path in the forest was overflowing in a muddy stream. The sedan carrying the three splashed mud as it headed toward Bale's hunting ground.
The area had become as dark as night. Intense rain beat against the windshield while the wipers worked like crazy, but the front was covered and hardly visible.
Norse suddenly stepped on the brakes. The tires skidded in the mud and the sedan's body stopped at an angle blocking the road.
"What's the matter, is something wrong?"
Kate asked uneasily while in the driver seat, but Norse didn't answer and stared at the front. Raine and Kate followed his line of sight to find out what he'd seen, shuddering involuntarily.
Through the rain beating against the windsheild, ahead was two blurred red lights.
"What's over there?"
In Kate's voice one could hear fright.
"...It's a truck."
It must be the truck belonging to the three workers who didn't return last night. It had gone off-road and stopped with half the body sticking into the woods.
"Wait right here."
Saying only that, Norse jumped out into the heavy rain.
The truck had probably raced into the forest at considerable speed. The windshield had been shattered and the bumper deeply dented.
He ran to the driver's seat, opened the door and peered inside, but nobody was there. However a sheet was covered in blood stains and a cloudy mucus emanating a bizarre odor.
Suddenly, Kate screamed in the background.
Did the owner of those footsteps show up!? Norse quickly rushed back to the car.
Raine and Kate sat side-by-side in the back of the sedan, looking behind with deep-blue faces.
"Well, something moved in the forest. Over there!"
Norse stared into the forest. However the forest was eclipsed by the falling rain and he couldn't see anything.
"Gotcha. I'll check it out so you stay in the car. All right."
Scared witless, Raine and Kate nodded.
Norse picked up a thick wooden stick on the ground and walked to Kate's side. It was hopeless as a weapon, but better than nothing.
When he reached the end of the road, Norse listened out. He could hear nothing due to the rain and thunder.
Something was definitely going on, and something was moving.
Walking... Suddenly he heard the sound clearly.
Braving the rain, at the same time he could smell that bizarre rotten odor.
That's him. The same guy as last night in the woods.
Norse gripped the stick again, feeling a cold sweat run down his armpits.
And this time, the walking... the noise was behind him.
He looked back but saw nothing.
Whoever the footsteps belonged to wasn't alone. Were there two?
And then, UHHH... He heard a groan from the right. No, from the left as well. Was he surrounded!? At least four or more people were slowly approaching Norse.
Kate screamed from the sedan again.
Norse was caught in muddy water, stopping and stumbling unintentionally while running to the sedan. In front of the sedan, two men in khaki work clothes were standing with their backs turned. He thought they were the missing road workers for a moment, but the situation was off. The two stood shaking and swaying like they were drunk.
"Who are you guys!?"
Norse cried out and screamed at the men.
The man in front turned slowly.
As soon as he saw that face, Norse felt sick. The right half of his face was crushed. His hair had fallen out and his eyes were dull and cloudy. The skin on the left half of the face was also scraped off, the exposed flesh beneath was rotten and had turned brown.
UHH... UHHH... OOHHH...
Looking at Norse, the man raised his arms and thrust forward in the air to approach, roaring with a half-open mouth, emitting an eerie growl and a rotten smell.
The other man was eagerly looking at Raine and Kate inside the car, pulling at and hitting the window constantly, but he may not be able to break the window due to lacking the strength. Appearing to lack the wisdom to open doors, it simply sought the prey in front of it and repeated the same actions.
Zombies!? No way, Zombies are real!
Did the road construction workers die somehow and come back as Zombies? What an outlandish tale.
Norse however had to admit the reality of what was playing out in front of him.
Clenching the thick stick, he swung at the Zombie coming at him from the front.
SPLAT... A dull sound broke out and the worker's head very easily separated from his body and fell to the ground.
Fragile. Such fragile things. When the head fell to the ground, the skull shattered and its brown rotten brain overflowed, spilling into a puddle.
Without a head, the body stumbled and fell forward.
At Kate's screams, Norse dashed to the other remaining Zombie.
He slammed the stick against its back with all his strength.
The Zombie turned around at Norse's unexpected attack and came snarling to savage its new prey.
After two or three blows with all his might, the Zombie slumped in a heap, spewing rotten juices.
"Are you two okay!?"
He opened the door and looked inside the car. For a moment, his eyes met Raine's, who seemed relieved. Then her gaze locked behind Norse's back and she let out a scream.
"Norse! Look out! Behind you!"
He looked back to see the Zombie he'd just knocked over lumbering back up to its feet. Norse quickly pushed it away, jumped into the driver's seat, closed the door, and turned the ignition key.
The engine roared and the tires spun. But the sedan didn't move. The tires were stuck in the mud, they couldn't get out.
Raine turned around and shouted.
One by one, new Zombies emerged from the forest and headed towards the sedan. There was one, two... five in total.
"Get the car out quick! Come on!"
Kate's urgent voice made Norse push the gas pedal even harder, but the tires just spun, they couldn't get out of the muck.
The approaching Zombies surrounded the sedan and struck it repeatedly.
Raine and Kate screamed as the car shook.
With the sound of shattering glass, the window on the back seat's right side door finally broke.
With the rain beating down hard, two or three Zombie arms plunged into the car trying to grab Raine and Kate. The bizarre stench of decay filled the air. The skin on each arm was peeling off, revealing rotting flesh laced with blackened blood.
"Stop it! Stooop!"
Kate cries and shakes off the Zombie hands grabbing her.
"Run! Run into the woods!"
At the same time, Norse jumped out of the driver's seat, pushed the Zombies covering the car away, and opened the back door. Raine and Kate rolled out of the car.
The Zombies growled at the three of them for their new moves, turning and closing in on them.
Norse punched down the Zombies closing in on them and herded them into the woods.
Raine and Kate ran into the forest, almost getting their feet caught in the muck. Norse followed them.
But when Kate stepped into what she thought was a bush, she found a steep slope.
Kate slid down the slope, leaving behind a scream.
Raine hurried to look down, but the pelting rain and deep grass prevented her from being able to see Kate, and she didn't reply.
In the meantime, the Zombies closed in.
Norse raised his right leg high and kicked a Zombie in the neck, breaking it with a crunch.
"I'll find Kate. You run! They're slow. If you run hard enough, you should be able to get away. Go!"
Pushing Raine back hesitantly, Norse slid down the slope in pursuit of Kate.
Raine ran. Her tears mixed with the rain as she sprinted, crying out loud.
She'd been running for a while before she let out a small scream, slipped, and fell, slumping to the ground. She hit her head on a large tree root and her vision went white.
The rain continued plummeting relentlessly, hammering down on Raine's unconscious back.
By the time Raine regained consciousness, the rain had already stopped. Night had totally fallen and the full moon peeked through the treetops overhead.
Raine staggered to her feet and began walking unsteadily.
She had a throbbing headache, probably from hitting her head. The rain had completely chilled her body, she couldn't stop shivering.
Raine called out their names in a hushed voice. There might still be Zombies around. But the only sounds around her were the hooting of owls and rustling of insects in the grass.
Raine struggled to hold herself together as she kept walking.
Eventually, she came to a familiar wide path. That's right. If I go straight down this road, I should be able to reach the village.
She regained her composure and started walking. But the next moment, Raine's legs stopped moving as if they were frozen in place.
No more than five meters in front of her, she saw four glittering eyes floating in the bushes.
Before she knew it, the hooting owls and buzzing insects had all but ceased, as if they feared the beast's hostile growls.
Are they wild dogs, or wolves? No, no. That putrid smell's in the air. Does that mean those beasts are Zombies, too?
Finally, they slowly emerged. They were two dogs, one bigger than a mountain dog and the other smaller.
The two of them circled around Raine, inching closer and closer, as if awaiting an opportunity to pounce on their prey. As the distance between them narrowed, the smell of decay intensified. And in the moonlight, Raine could see them clearly.
They were Zombies all right. The skin on their chest peeling off, the flesh covering their ribs was distended.
As her fear reached its limit, Raine jerked back. The next moment, turning her back on the beasts, like a popped spring she ran furiously.
At the same time, the two beasts let out tremendous roars and kicked the ground. Leaping to an unbelievable height, they quickly extended their sharp clawed forelegs and accurately attempted to tear out Raine's neck.
A moment later, there were flashes of light and BOOM! BANG! BANG! Sounds of gunfire roared through the forest.
The two beasts bounced in the air and fell loudly one after the other into the grass.
For a while, the beasts twitched their limbs, then stopped.
Raine, who'd been watching in amazement, turned to look in the direction of the gunshots and saw a dark figure standing on the cliff a few dozen meters away, a shotgun in hand.
The figure wore a familiar hunting cap. A feeling of nostalgia quickly surged in Raine's heart.
"Uncle Bale... Is that you!? Uncle!
Raine ran towards the cliff.
"Raine... My Raine..."
A nostalgic voice, muffled by tears, came back from the silhouette.
Just then, the sound of an engine echoed in the distance and the glare of headlights flickered in the darkness. It was a car. A car was heading towards them.
"Hide, Raine! It's gonna be okay!"
Bale's voice sounded through the air, sounding tense.
Like a bullet, Raine jumped behind a nearby rock and ducked for cover.
Eventually, a 4x4 appeared in front of the rock she was hiding behind, coming to a stop.
"I'm pretty sure that's where the shots came from."
Two figures got out of the car, one of them shining a flashlight around.
As the light moved it hit the rock where Raine was hiding. She stiffened and stifled a gasp.
"There's nobody here. Maybe a little further. Let's go."
The other man said, and the 4x4 drove off.
Raine had seen that 4x4 before. It belonged to the film crew that was shooting a movie in the cove. If that's the case, could those two be from the film crew?
As the 4x4 disappeared completely into the darkness, Raine came out from behind the rock and called out to the cliff.
"Uncle... Uncle Bale."
But no matter how many times she called, Bale never showed himself again.
At the same time, Norse was running hard through the forest.
He followed Kate down the slope, but no matter how hard he looked, he couldn't find her. He was wandering through the forest again, following Raine, when he heard the shots Bale fired.
After a long military career, Norse could almost accurately guess the distance and direction of a shot from the sound of it.
Who was the shooter? What happened to Raine and Kate? Norse kept running, weaving his way through the trees.
Suddenly, a road opened up in front of him and a small hill appeared.
There, Norse saw again the fantastical sight he'd witnessed yesterday evening.
A high-pitched roar, similar to that of a stringed instrument, came from the sky.
Tonight, too, there was a full moon on the hilltop, and a supple silhouette stood with it on her back.
It was much closer than yesterday's night, but fortunately they didn't seem to notice. Norse quickly got down on the grass to hide himself and began to observe the silhouette.
A human woman? No, it wasn't. Her breasts firm and heaving, her curves sinuous and feminine, but her entire body was covered in short silver hair. The most striking difference from a human was the long, thin, elastic tail on its hips, which moved rhythmically up and down.
Again, a beautiful high-pitched roar flowed from it.
Then the womanly beast slowly turned around and stared at the grass where Norse was lurking, its keen, cat-like beast eyes shining.
It cleared its throat as if in alarm.
The next moment, the beast leaped high and landed right in front of Norse. At the same time, it flashed the sharp claws on its hands, which were probably 30 centimeters long. As Norse turned his head, he heard the sound of its claws slicing the air, and they grazed him. Without a moment's pause, it jumped up high again and vanished into the forest in a flash.
For a while, Norse couldn't even move from his spot, as if he'd been bewitched by a beautiful apparition.
Norse was then finally able to see Raine again at the edge of the forest.
"Norse... Uncle Bale!"
With tears welling up in her eyes, Raine jumped into Norse's arms. Norse was confused by the weeping Raine and gently pulled away from her soft, quivering chest.
A lingering feeling for that beast in the shape of a woman he encountered earlier was tingling inside him, and he felt guilty about holding the pretty Raine's body.
Raine told Norse the whole story of her encounter with Bale, and Norse, sensing Raine's strength was too weak to search for Kate any longer, decided to return to the village.
But when they reached Bale's house, Kate still wasn't back.
They needed help to find Kate.
Tired as they were, Norse and Raine went to the port which had the only telephone on the island. There was no police force on this island. The only way to find Kate was to call the police on the mainland.
But for some reason, the phone at the harbor wasn't working, and the harbor attendant, leaning back in his chair under a dark light bulb, had dozed off.
"Dunno why but it ain't workin'."
He wasn't interested at all.
They were at a loss when they left the harbor, where Norse desperately complained that Zombie-like creatures had appeared in the woods and Kate was missing, but the attendant, fearful of getting involved, ran off to the next room and never came back. He wondered how Kate was doing now. Perhaps she was lost and wandering the woods. Or maybe she was a Zombie...
Just then, a man's shadow appeared from behind a pile of rotting fish crates.
Raine ran up to him and grabbed him, briefly telling him she'd lost Kate and met Bale. But upon hearing everything, Paul replied sharply in irritation.
"I told you to get off the island this morning. Why didn't you listen to me!?" he said so furiously Raine momentarily gasped.
"But Uncle Bale..."
"I'll make sure he sees you, so just stay at home until then. Tomorrow morning at six o'clock, come to the lighthouse ruin. Got it?"
In the still of the night, with only the sound of waves crashing on the pier to be heard, Raine's eyes filled with tears, as if the unexpectedness of tonight's events had brought back her fears, and Norse felt himself being driven to the brink, like an insect being entangled by a spider.
Norse and Raine spent the night in Bale's house without a wink of sleep and drove the sedan toward their appointment, the lighthouse ruin.
The lighthouse ruin was on a cliff that rose high over the east side of the island. The lighthouse that was there before is said to have been demolished due to being outdated with a weak light, and a new lighthouse was erected further to the east about thirty years ago.
Since they left the house, the area filled with a thick fog. The fog got deeper as the lighthouse ruin approached, the thick milky-white veil completely pressed upon the sedan from every direction and wrapped around it. The car would absolutely plummet to the sea below from the road along the cliff if a single wheel missed a turn. Norse held the steering wheel carefully.
Before long, the sedan appeared at the lighthouse ruin spread out on the cliff.
After they got out of the car and walked along the wet grass for a while in the fog, they could see a misty wall of collapsed red bricks.
There was still some time left before the arranged six o'clock. The two waited for Paul to show up. But he never appeared, even at six. "Where are you Paul! Paul!", Raine called aloud.
Before she finished speaking, BANG! A gunshot rang out.
Norse reflexively grabbed Raine's shoulder and lay low toward the grass.
That sound just now was definitely a rifle. Norse heard the hit. But they saw nothing in the deep fog. And then,
A strangled scream rang out, and out of the fog came Paul with that little pistol in his hand that he'd stuck in his waistband.
"Where are you!? Where the hell are you!?"
They wondered who he was talking to. He was looking around nervously and ran to the other side.
As Paul ran to the top of the cliff, the sound of a rifle shot rang out again.
Paul stopped moving and his eyes widened. He looked down at his stomach in disbelief. A huge amount of fresh blood was pouring out of his midsection. His body relaxed and his gun slipped from his hand to the ground. Paul then fell headlong off the cliff.
Raine screamed and tried to jump out of the grass, but Norse, sensing danger, held her back.
"Stay where you are!"
Then he bent down and ran toward the cliff where Paul was standing. He dug for Paul's small pistol (Colt 25 Auto) on the ground and looked down the cliff.
Far below, the rough waves of the North Sea were crashing against the rocks. Paul was nowhere to be seen, having been sucked into the waves.
Norse immediately sprinted in the rifle shot's direction. He was afraid he'd be shot too, but he couldn't just let the sniper get away.
Suddenly, the sound of an engine echoed through the fog. The sniper was trying to escape in a car. Norse followed the sound of the engine as hard as he could, but finally, without even seeing the car's shadow, the engine's sound faded away.
Norse returned to the grassy area where he left Raine. But Raine wasn't there.
He heard Raine's sobbing voice coming from around the corner where Paul had jumped out.
Norse grabbed his gun again and walked toward the sound of her voice, looking around. He never called out for Raine. He knew from his long military career there's more than one sniper. If he were to recklessly speak out, he'd be giving away his location.
Through the fog, a brick enclosure came into view.
Raine was in it. She was crying, clutching at an old man who was lying face down on the ground. Norse recognized the man. It was Bale, the man in the picture frame above the fireplace.
"Come on Uncle... pull yourself together..."
The belly of the white shirt Bale wore was stained red with blood.
"F, Forgive me, Raine... for having to come home and see you, looking how I do..."
Bale's face twisted bitterly and his words were often broken, but his eyes were full of compassion for his niece, whom he'd not seen in three years.
"I'll get a doctor right away."
Bale grabbed weakly Raine's arm as she tried to stand up.
"Forget a doctor. I'm not gonna make it. Just listen to me."
Bale looked at Norse as he stood behind Raine.
"You're... Norse, aren't you? Paul told me about you. You've been in the military, too. I see it in the way you carry yourself."
Bale's stomach wouldn't stop hemorrhaging. Norse quickly tore his shirt and pushed it onto Bale's wound to try and stanch the bleeding. Bale nodded feebly with a smile of gratitude and began to speak under pained breaths about an even more shocking fact. "I was shot by a sniper hired by Umbrella Pharmaceuticals."
He said Umbrella Pharmaceuticals used a sniper to shoot Bale, and even murdered Paul.
"Umbrella Pharmaceuticals is secretly continuing the T-Virus research they should've put a stop to twenty years ago."
Twenty years ago while Bale was still in the military, a mysterious incident occurred on this island, and as a result of secretly investigating Umbrella Pharmaceuticals using the military's power, he discovered a horrifying germ, the T-Virus, was being studied and developed in that lab.
The T-Virus--- According to Bale, when someone's infected with it, their entire body exhibits intensely itchy rashes and develops a high fever before they die. Then they seemingly come back to life once more, as a Zombie.
Four days ago, Bale had gone into the woods to shoot some rabbits to bring home for Raine to eat.
There he encountered a Zombie. Bale had also seen Zombies twenty years ago. He instantly tried to fire his hunting rifle but a gunshot roared out right before and the Zombie fell to the ground, its head blown off in one pop. Then a van swept through. A number of people came down, sharp-eyed men he hadn't seen on the island, who then quickly recovered the Zombie into the car and drove off. But then Bale remained standing in utter amazement and was attacked.
Bale ran away. He somehow got home, but in the evening, he was attacked again. The men deeply feared Bale witnessing the Zombie. Afterwards, Bale was pursued and escaped from the men's sight, wandering from place to place on the island.
"The people of the island are also vaguely aware of Zombies. But nobody wanted to believe in the Zombies, and they were up against Umbrella Pharmaceuticals. They couldn't run their mouths rashly."
Twenty years ago, when Umbrella Pharmaceuticals set up the lab on this island, they also ran a ferry between the mainland, installed electricity, and constructed the only hospital in the village. That influence continues even today and the people of the island cannot ineptly defy them. So they were naturally wary of Norse and the others.
"Last night, Paul came to tell me that girl called Kate you came to the island with had gone missing. So I went into the forest, and found this."
With his shaking hand, Bale lifted a wrecked blue sneaker from the inside pocket of his suit.
"It's Kate's! There's no doubt about it."
Raine cried out.
"I picked up this shoe in front of that Umbrella Pharmaceuticals lab in the forest... Th, the girl probably must've been taken inside."
Bale had an intense coughing fit and vomited blood from his mouth.
"Uncle, please don't die! Uncle!"
"N, Norse boy, there's a gun and bullets in that bag. Raine... Get Raine off this island safely. Please."
Bale stares at his beloved niece's tear-filled eyes,
"I love you, Raine... If I go, you'll be alone. But yo, you'll be okay."
With those last words, he calmly closed his eyes.
Raine clung to Bale's body and laid in tears.
Before they knew it, the fog had cleared and the blue sky approached overhead, but Raine's voice kept crying, forever echoing in the lighthouse ruin.
Norse didn't know the words to cheer Raine up. He silently opened the old leather bag at Bale's side.
Peering out from inside were three bullet boxes and an old but well-maintained M1911 Colt Government that shined a dull light.
The sedan carrying Norse and Raine rolled along.
They were heading to the island's western forest in order to investigate the abandoned lab of Umbrella Pharmaceuticals.
Norse wanted to leave Raine, but she followed him and said she absolutely wanted to know Kate's whereabouts and the truth of the incident that drove Bale to his death.
When they came to the forest's entrance, that film crew was shooting to the back of the mountain wall towering in the center of the island.
Norse looked for that blonde man with casual eyes, but he was nowhere to be found. Was he not an actor either?
The director-style man in sunglasses watched as Norse's sedan sped off.
They went into the dark, damp, tree-crowded forest surrounding the island.
Norse and Raine pressed on, pushing aside some bushes their height.
They left the car for fear of being found by the enemy and came here while detouring on foot.
Before long the forest ended and they saw the lab building ahead.
Norse held Raine back and scoped out the building from behind a bush.
When looking at it rather far from a hilltop, it was definitely the classy North European-style building described before, but up close one could see torn paint and rotting panels dotted about, making it easy to tell it had been left unattended without any care for a long time.
There were no signs of any people around at all. It was dead silent.
Norse pulled the M1911 on his waist, sliding the first bullet into the chamber and turning to Raine.
Her face looked pale, little by little her lips shook with terrible jitters.
He shouldn't have brought her after all. Norse regretted it on the inside. But he couldn't leave her alone here.
"Let's go." When Norse gave a small nod to Raine they jumped out of the bush and dashed toward the building. Raine followed a little behind. Their footsteps treading on silently rotting dead leaves sounded strangely loud.
The two climbed over a broken fence and quickly hid behind a side wall of the building to scope the area.
Still no signs of life.
The smell of the wall's dead wood potently assailed their noses, probably due to yesterday's rain. Like the building, weeds had grown in the untended garden and the ground was crawling with small insects and spiders.
Maybe this lab was shut down after all. Or did research continue inside and the Zombies appeared as a result? If that's the case, the T-Virus may be mixed within this wet, brittle and bleak air. Norse's spine went cold with an unfamiliar fear.
At any rate, they needed to go check inside the building. Raine held the same resolve too. She clung to Norse and he delicately tightened on her soft hand.
Norse lifted the M1911's muzzle to his shoulder and grasped it tight as he began to walk bit-by-bit along the lab wall. Raine followed close behind.
While going around the building they discovered four doors including the front entrance, but everything was crammed with twisted ivy and didn't seem to have been used recently.
Returning to the original position, Norse thought about breaking the door by force to get inside but reconsidered, thinking there should be an entrance somewhere this lab still used, and once again went around to see.
This time he went while checking everywhere as well as the doors.
The two started walking again and went around the back, but immediately,
Raine screamed and jumped.
"M... my neck!"
When Raine desperately played around with her neck, a small gecko fell to the ground and crawled away. It was under a leaf and seemed to have fallen on her neck.
Raine apologized in a low voice, but Norse didn't try to move while looking at the ground near where the gecko fell, so she turned her eyes to the ground the same way.
There were some footprints of large shoes thought to be a man's. Recent, too. Strangely, the footprints weren't at the door in front. It looked as though the person the footprints belonged to had been sucked into the wall.
Norse touched the wall in front with his hand and slowly ran his fingers. Before long he stopped at one point on the wall. It was minor, but there was a dent.
Norse pressed the dent.
He faintly heard the sound of a lock somewhere and the wall in front of them slid without a sound, opening a gap as large as a person.
Norse and Raine entered the lab.
The same footprints on the ground near a table went off inside a hallway. Perhaps the footprints remained clear because he walked on muddy ground in the rain. Norse and Raine followed them.
It was dim. Some stench drifted, mixed among mold and dust.
The footprints turned at the corners of the corridor several times and vanished in front of a certain door.
It was dark with hushed silence, lacking a single window around.
Norse held his breath and drew the M1911.
He saw a knob and slowly turned it, signaling Raine to get down with his eyes. It didn't seem locked. The door opened slightly. Norse quickly jumped inside, looking around with the M1911 raised.
Nobody was there.
It would've once been the private room of a researcher who worked here. A tasteless room with only a small desk, a bed and a bookshelf on a wall.
But there were footprints dotted along the dusty floor.
What on earth was the footprint's owner doing in this room? Norse and Raine checked throughout the room but weren't able to find anything.
When they went back out to the hallway, they decided to check it in turns from the front room.
The first floor parted significantly in two areas. The eastern half was occupied by the researchers' private rooms and a dining room, and the western half was a visitor's room and an office. But there were no traces of them having been used for a long time, they had gathered thick dust.
The second floor was mostly occupied by lab facilities.
There was complicated glassware, flasks, beakers, dishes... countless trial drugs on the shelves. Inverted microscopes, bench curators... On the floor was a cylinder of liquid nitrogen and a refrigerator full of mold.
However, the second floor was like the first floor, having no traces of recent use.
As it turned out, the footprint's owner merely went back and forth between the wall's hidden door and a researcher's private room without stepping into any other rooms at all.
Norse and Raine returned to the first room again wondering if there was somewhere they overlooked, reexamining so as to not overlook a single hair.
Cawwcaww! The sharp calls of wild birds occasionally sounded in the depths of the forest, the vicinity was still silent.
"Look Norse. This is odd."
Raine, who'd been bending down to check under a bookshelf against the wall, turned to Norse.
The bookshelf was made of mahogany and about two meters tall, but she found the bottom of the shelf wasn't making contact with the floor, but floating just five millimeters in the air.
Just as the walls of the lab had been used as hidden doors, there was something else going on here.
Norse went around to the side of the bookcase and pushed it as hard as he could.
With a rattle... the bookcase moved to the side with ease. There were guide rails built into the wall that allowed it to slide from side to side.
After the bookshelf was out of the way, an entryway to a basement with a steel ladder appeared on the floor, a blast of cool air shooting up.
Norse and Raine climbed down the iron ladder into the basement.
They were probably ten meters underground. Once they landed at the bottom, they found themselves in an underground passage made of concrete. The ceiling was dimly lit with bare bulbs and the passage went on for quite some distance.
This underground passage must've been built alongside the lab twenty years ago. There were cracks in the walls here and there, and countless stains visible on the surface.
"Wonder how far it goes."
Raine clutched the sleeves on Norse's clothes, shivering with cold and fear.
This passage must still be in use, seeing as how the light bulbs were still on.
If it's the owners of those footprints using it, where are they going through here?
They walked toward the end of the passage.
The whole place was silent. All they could hear were their footsteps and the sound of water dripping from the cracked concrete ceiling.
Then they heard a low growl from ahead. The sound grew louder and louder as they moved forward.
Suddenly their vision opened up, they found themselves in a twenty meter square underground plaza.
In the center of the square, there was a large machine with a motor running with a roaring sound.
"It's a private power generator. It sends electricity to the entire underground passage from here."
On the floor beside the generator, there was an open-lid toolbox with wrenches and pliers inside, probably used for repairs. A dirty piece of rag was caught on a nearby railing, and when they leaned their faces against it, the smell of oil assailed their noses, indicating it had been used recently.
"Norse, come on! Come on!"
Raine shouted as she walked around the other side of the generator.
When Norse came around, Raine, who'd been hunched over on the floor, stood up and said, "This is where it fell."
In her hand she held out a small cameo locket with a shredded gold chain.
"It's Kate's. I'm sure of it. I have the same one."
She pulled out the exact same locket from her chest and showed it to Norse.
"About three months ago, we went to a flea market together and found them."
When Kate saw the two lockets lined up on the cart, she liked them right away and insisted Raine buy one too.
"I'm gonna put a photo of my boyfriend in it."
Kate would turn her nose up and brag to Raine.
Raine doesn't know Kate's boyfriend's name or what he looks like, but she's quite taken with him.
"It's tough being good-looking women," she'd say, always bragging to Raine.
She wasn't afraid of herself and was always proud of Raine.
"I don't even have a boyfriend though, so I don't have a photo to put in."
Raine flipped open the lid of her locket on her chest and looked lonely.
There was nothing in it, it was empty.
"I wonder what Kate's boyfriend looks like. Let's take a look at the photo inside."
Raine opened the lid on Kate's locket and looked inside, but her face faded and tears welled up in her eyes.
"Stupid Kate... I never did believe you were so vain to have a boyfriend."
This locket was empty, too, no photo of a boyfriend inside.
Kate wanted to make Raine look good even though she didn't have a boyfriend either. Raine burst into tears, perhaps because her happy life with her roommate suddenly came back to her.
Norse was puzzled. He wanted to do something to ease her grief, but he didn't know how. What the hell. I know how to use a gun, but I don't know how to comfort a lonely girl... As Raine weeped, Norse could do nothing but stand there beside her in silence.
At the end of the square, the passage divided into two left and right sections.
Perhaps Kate had been kidnapped by whoever those footprints belonged to and resisted when they came here, causing the locket chain to break and fall to the floor, or perhaps she fell because the men had handled her roughly when they carried her unconscious. Either way, she must've been carried to one of the two separate passages.
Norse and Raine chose the right passage for the time being.
The further they went, the narrower the passage became, and the wider the gaps between the bare bulbs on the ceiling, the darker it became.
There was a damp, stale smell in the air, and a dead mouse lying in a corner of the passage.
"I'm sure it's not this way. Let's go back, Norse."
Raine's voice was trembling.
Norse scolded Raine, and when they went further in, they discovered the passage was blocked by sturdy iron bars, a dead end.
Norse grabbed the bars and shook them, but they didn't budge. There was no light on the other side of them, it was pitch black and they couldn't see anything, but the passage was still quite deep.
When he suddenly looked at the wall beside them, he saw an iron lid with red rust floating on it. When he opened it, a black button appeared inside.
Norse pushed the button with all his might.
Immediately, the sound of a loud siren echoed through the passage.
"What the hell's that!?"
Raine looked around in surprise, and heard a gurgling sound. The iron bars that were blocking the passage in front of them slowly rose.
When the bars were completely up, the sirens stopped.
The silence returned, and a dark world opened up before the two of them.
Norse was about to take a step forward.
"Don't," she said. "You'd better not go."
Raine grabbed his sleeve in fear.
At that moment, an eerie sound came from the darkness.
It wasn't the sound of Zombie footsteps he'd heard before, or the dog-like Zombie footsteps Raine had encountered in the forest. It was bigger than that, the footsteps of a two-legged beast.
Slash... slash... Slash...
They were slowly approaching them. And along with that, that strange smell of decay was also coming.
Suddenly, a sharp roar echoed, and four large, shining eyes emerged in the darkness.
Then they finally appeared. Two of them. Both were monsters two meters tall, with reddish-brown hair all over their bodies, resembling sturdy gorillas. But their faces were much more human-like, and their hands were covered with sharp, hook-like claws, some thirty centimeters long.
For a moment, Norse remembered the supple silhouette standing on the hill with the full moon on its back. If that was a woman, then these guys were men. But the woman still had a human-like will, while he couldn't feel that in these guys. They just gave off an impression of ferocity.
The two monsters let out a low roar and stared at their prey, but the next moment, the lead one let out a sharp roar again and charged in furiously.
Without hesitation, Norse fired the M1911 repeatedly.
BANG! BANG! BANG!
Flashes of light went off in the darkness and the three bullets definitely hit the monster's chest and head.
The monster let out a scream of despair and fell to the floor.
But there was another one behind it.
Norse grabbed Raine's hand and rushed them back down the passage.
The monster gave chase to them. It looked slow and heavy, but it wasn't. It was surprisingly agile and followed them at considerable speed.
The distance between the two of them shrank.
A sharp roar sounded behind him again, the monster leaped and swung its long, sharp claws at Norse from the air.
After ducking and dodging the attack, Norse turned and fired again.
This time, however, he was out of position and only hit it in the shoulder and arm, and although that felled the monster for a moment, it immediately leapt up and chased after them.
Norse and Raine ran through the square with its own generator and into the left passage they hadn't chosen at first.
But the next moment, they were stood still.
In less than twenty meters, the left passage had come to a dead end.
From behind them, they heard the monster's roar threatening them, the sound of its footsteps coming closer and closer.
They looked and saw an elevator door on the right wall. Raine quickly pressed the button. However the elevator seemed to be going up and wouldn't come down.
"Come on! Hurry!"
Raine pressed the button again and again like crazy.
Finally, the monster caught up with them. At the same time, the elevator finally came down and the doors opened.
Norse threatened the monster with his gun and the two of them jumped into the elevator.
The door closed. However they didn't go up very far.
*GOOONGG*! The monster struck the door.
The next moment, the door was ripped open with a sharp metallic sound, the monster's claws plunged into the elevator.
A claw grazed the tip of Raine's nose.
The elevator began to rise slowly. But a moment later, the shredded door was pushed open and the monster tried to come inside.
Norse fired the M1911 again.
BANG! BANG! BANG!
The monster was blown backwards and the elevator left the underground passageway, starting to ascend rapidly.
Through the torn door, they could still hear the roar of the monster that had lost its prey from below.
Raine, still terrified, jumped into Norse's arms and sobbed.
What the hell's going on on this island? Why are these things roaming around, Zombies and now these monsters?
Norse gently hugged Raine and felt a tremendous sense of outrage at the presently unknown culprit behind the creation of these monsters.
The elevator stopped with a clatter and the door opened.
When they stepped out, they found themselves in a cave with a craggy rock face that'd been hollowed out of the mountain. A cold wind blew in from somewhere. Looking ahead, they could see what looked like a doorway, through which the bright sun was shining.
They ventured outside.
The next thing they knew, they were standing in awe of the sight before them.
A giant old castle stood in front of them.
A stone wall surrounded the castle and they were standing inside of it. The castle roof had several spires sticking out of it. Norse felt as if he'd been transported to a medieval world.
"It's the Beardsley family castle."
Raine peered up at the castle with a look of disbelief on her face.
She explained the castle stood on the south side of Mount Wall. Located just on the other side of the mountain from the village.
"The Beardsley family were the original lords of the island who built this castle about five hundred years ago." At that time, based out of this castle, the Beardsley family ventured to the mainland, conquering enemy nations one after another, and they were said to have at one point wielded enormous power.
In the early 18th century, however, their tyranny fell apart as a result of a popular uprising. The power of local lords gradually declined with the establishment of a parliamentary system, and the Beardsley family lost their power as they became mere wealthy landlords. But even today, in a country with a strong class consciousness, the people of the island are in awe of the Beardsleys, who've held the title of Earl for generations.
"But what's Umbrella got to do with this castle if their secret underground passage leads to this place?"
"Uncle told me something once. The Beardsley family originally owned the forest where the lab is, but when Umbrella Pharmaceuticals moved to the island, they bought the land from the Beardsleys. Maybe since then, they've had a special relationship..."
Perhaps it was so. And that relationship must still be going on today.
Raine, who grew up on the island, had been near the castle before, but had never been inside it like this. To the islanders, the castle and its inhabitants, the Beardsleys, were from a completely different world.
The two of them began exploring the castle, hiding behind trees and buildings.
There was a spacious horse-riding ground. There were beautiful flower beds and monuments. However despite the romantic atmosphere, there were strange men scattered all over the place, watching the area carefully.
Steeling their eyes, they eventually came to a position where they could see the front of the castle. They swiftly hid themselves in bushes.
A pure white limousine was parked in front of the entrance to the massive castle, with several formal-dressed servants standing firmly upright.
Norse almost shouted in surprise when he saw the man in front of them giving orders.
It was the blonde-haired man who'd been talking to the director-looking guy at the movie set in the cove.
The blonde guy's from this castle...!
At that moment, rotors sounded overhead and a helicopter came flying in.
The Beardsley family crest, a two-headed lion with a snake coiled around it, was vividly painted on the helicopter's side.
The helicopter eventually landed in the front yard, whipping up the wind with the rotors beating against the ground.
The blonde man and his servants reverently greeted the visitors from the sky.
The first to land was a middle-aged couple dressed in formal attire. They seemed to be upper class people used to this kind of welcome, displaying zero signs of timidity.
The blonde man escorted them to the limousine and the car drove off toward the castle's main entrance.
The helicopter rose again and flew away.
The wind died down, but the servants remained standing.
They were probably still waiting for the next visitor. However before they knew it, the blonde man had disappeared. He certainly hadn't gotten into the limousine, but he must've disappeared while Norse and his friend were gazing at the helicopter.
Still, judging from the man's demeanor, he must be in charge of a lot of the heavy lifting in this castle.
As Norse was pondering this, he was suddenly called out from behind.
"Who might you folks be?"
When Norse and Raine turned around in amazement, they saw the blonde man standing in front of them.
When they looked at his face up close, the depth and elegance in his features resembled that of a Greek sculpture.
His deep blue eyes however, that someone could be drawn into, harbored the coldness of a northern lake in them, and his thinly knit lips gave the impression of lacking warmth.
Even so, what sort of man is he to be able to approach a former CRW like Norse totally undetected?
"I must inquire as to where you've come from."
Norse responded briefly just as Raine stopped him from saying something.
"We lost our way."
His deep blue eyes peered back at them, as if inspecting them.
"This is private property. I'm afraid you'll have to vacate the premises."
The blonde man followed behind them as if to drive them away.
They passed through the castle gate and out the front.
When they looked back, the blonde man was still standing there with a sharp look in his eyes.
"I don't like 'im. So high and mighty."
Norse grabbed Raine's arm as she looked back and picked up the pace.
The blonde man must've already known about us. Proof of that's the fact he didn't even ask us our names when we were obviously suspicious intruders.
Norse was convinced that man was at the heart of the enemy who'd abducted Kate and murdered Bale and Paul.
The outline of the case was beginning to emerge, albeit dimly. At any rate, they had to go back home and form a plan. Norse's strategic mind, cultivated during his long career in the military, began to move at a dizzying pace.
The blonde man, on the other hand, had been looking away from Norse and his friend until they were completely out of sight, when a servant came up to him and overheard him, causing him to change his complexion quickly.
"What? The young lady?"
"Yes. She wishes to speak with you and requests that you come to her room immediately."
"So you're telling me those two got into the castle through the underground passageway, Gilliam?"
The blonde man, named Gilliam, nodded.
A young woman's voice emanated from the bedroom. The voice was a little high-pitched, but clear and carried well.
Perfume wafted up to Gilliam as he stood in the antechamber, he could hear the soft rustling of clothing.
"What a screw-up. If you had eliminated this Bale character earlier to begin with, none of this would've happened."
"But Bale was a soldier, he was tougher than I thought."
"Stop talking nonsense. You're a disgrace."
The high-pitched voice snapped at him.
"What then? The man who snuck into the castle, this Norse, is also a former soldier, which means he's out of your control."
"No, it's not that. I just don't think it's a good idea to cause more trouble than necessary."
"Enough. Leaving it up to you until now was my mistake. I'll take care of it from here on, so you may step aside."
Gilliam's eyes quickly nodded.
Norse and Raine sank their tired bodies into the sofa on the first floor of Bale's house.
The wall clock struck three in the afternoon.
Too much had happened, too early in the morning. Especially for Raine, who felt as if she'd aged an extra year in this one day.
Looking at her locket, Raine mumbled.
"Kate's... in the castle, I'm pretty sure she was taken into the castle."
"The lab and castle are definitely connected. But the fact the lab's inactive and there are Zombies and monsters... Something's going on in that castle..."
And that's not all. The blonde man was also in contact with the film crew. Perhaps the film crew has something to do with it. But now, they didn't seem like merely a film crew.
"Anyway, our first priority's to rescue Kate. In order to do that, we've really gotta sneak into that castle again."
"But how? There's only one entrance, the castle gate, and the underground passage is probably heavily guarded after today. And even if we could get in, there'd be guards all over the place."
Raine was exactly right.
It seemed to Norse infiltrating the castle would be extremely difficult.
The situation's too unfortunate. But it was too early to give up. He's successfully completed many missions in the past under far more difficult and dangerous conditions than this, after all.
Norse's mind raced as he tried to think of a way out. Despite his anguish though, the clock was ticking mercilessly, and Gaddywall was once again closing in on the evening.
ACT-3 INVITATIONS FROM THE OLD CASTLE
The long day was drawing to a close.
Perhaps it was because the tide had changed, but the clouds that had enshrouded Gaddywall Island were now clearing, and a huge sunset was about to break over the mountain ridges, staining the village red.
Out of the setting sun came a limousine, its white body dyed bright red.
It stopped quietly in front of Bale's house.
Hearing the sound of the engine, Norse slowly opened the front door with his pistol in his pocket.
The limo's back door opened and the blonde man he met at the old castle stepped out.
Gilliam, dressed in a stark white suit, slowly approached Norse as he stood in the doorway.
Their gazes met as they faced each other head-on. From behind Norse, Raine was looking at Gilliam like she was afraid.
A hint of contempt appeared in Gilliam's eyes as the edges of his lips lifted slightly. It was a wry smile.
"'You're Miss Raine Rubens and Mister Norse Chirac, are you not?"
In contrast to his deceptive expression, his words were very polite.
"You're awfully different from the last time I saw you."
But Gilliam was unfazed by Norse's words.
"My apologies about earlier. My name is Gilliam, I am the steward of the Beardsley household."
"The Beardsleys... What's the Beardsley family want with us...?"
In lieu of an answer, Gilliam stuck his right hand into his pocket.
Reflexively, Norse also reached into his pocket and tightened his grip on his gun.
But what Gilliam took out was a sealed letter.
On the front, the Beardsley family crest of a two-headed lion intertwined with a snake was vividly engraved.
"As a matter of fact, our castle's hosting a small dinner party tonight. Our host would like to invite you both to it..."
Norse let go of the gun in his pocket and took the sealed letter in his hand.
He took out the contents and quickly skimmed through them.
The text said the same as Gilliam, and the time was tonight at seven o'clock. Finally, the hostess' signature was written in her own handwriting.
Norse looked up in surprise.
"The head of the Beardsley family's a woman?"
"What does that matter?"
Gilliam's face still had the same wry smile on it.
"No... But why?
"What do you mean, why?
"Why're you inviting us?
"I couldn't tell you... Our Mistress is fickle, I'm unsure of her reasoning, sir."
Gilliam's condescending tone irritated Norse tremendously. But he knew he was playing his hand. He wasn't going to play into his palms--- Norse regained his composure.
"That's a funny thing to say. You wanna make us snacks."
Gilliam's eyebrow twitched. Gilliam and Norse's gazes intertwined. Their fight had already begun.
Raine watched their exchange with trepidation.
"OK. We'll accept your invitation."
Gilliam grinned at Norse's reply.
"...The party begins at seven p.m., as it says there. Please don't be late."
"All right. Give my regards to the hostess."
With a patronizing bow, the blonde butler's limo drove away.
"...It's a trap."
He drank half the reboiled coffee then muttered to himself.
The sun had already set and the evening darkness covered the outside of the house.
Raine shivered and hugged her shoulders. Whether it was the cold or Norse's words, Raine herself didn't know.
"Okay, let's go there."
"What? But you just said it was a trap. We don't know what's waiting for us."
"But if we don't go, we won't be able to save Kate."
Raine's face tensed at those words.
"All right. I'll go with you."
"No. I'll go to the castle alone."
"Kate's my best friend! I said I'd avenge Uncle Bale. I would... Me!"
Norse stared at Raine as she cried.
He understood how she felt. But this was a battlefield now. And the tense air of the battlefield had already brought him back to the mindset of a soldier. Norse was unsure. If it were just him, he'd already be prepared. But it was different with Raine. What if something happened to her...
What does he do? Does he take Raine with him? Or go it alone? Contemplating these thoughts, Norse turned on the light in the dimmed room and tried to pull down the window curtain.
It was then he noticed figures lurking in the darkness beyond the window. While casually pretending to pull the curtain, he quickly glanced left and right to check the number of people. One, two, three... three of them. Obviously, they exuded hostility. It was hard to believe their job was only to watch. It was no longer possible to leave Raine alone.
Norse turned to Raine with an unconcerned look on his face and casually said.
"OK. Get ready, Raine."
"Thank you, Norse!"
The girl's face lit up and she ran upstairs.
In an old sedan, they looked like two ill-fitting people.
Norse, who was steering the car, was dressed in evening attire. Raine, in the passenger seat, was dressed in a white evening gown.
Though obscured by his tuxedo, Norse had the M1911 inserted in his waist belt, with mags dispersed in each pocket. He also had a combat knife tucked into his right ankle.
"My uncle's tux fits you perfectly, Norse."
Raine spoke to Norse in a strangely cheerful tone, but despite her voice, Norse could tell her body was shaking slightly. No wonder. What on earth was going on in that castle? What awaited them? There were no clear answers. All they knew was that Norse and Raine's lives were in danger. And yet, Raine was still trying to overcome her fear and anxiety. Norse found her emotions to be quite endearing.
"You look great, too. I wish I could've met you at a different party."
"Norse...! Please. Just until we get to the castle. Just hold me...!"
With a small nod, Norse hugged Raine's shoulder.
As Raine's shivering diminished and disappeared, the old castle loomed in the night sky.
Norse regained control of the steering wheel.
The mission was on.
A deep, dark moat surrounded the megalithic outer wall. Passing over the bridge and through the castle gate, they came to a large garden with a parking lot, and on the other side, the main entrance to the castle.
When the sedan with Norse and Raine stopped in front of the entrance, a servant quickly ran over to take the car keys and drive it to the parking lot.
The main entrance's large doors, which had been closed during the day, were opened in a figure-eight pattern, with an opulent chandelier hung from the ceiling of the hall, its dazzling light inviting them into the castle.
As they stepped onto the thick carpet in the hall, the sound of rotors echoed behind them.
When they turned around, searchlights on the ground in the vestibule sent bands of light into the night sky, through which helicopters descended.
One, two, three... Aircraft descended and landed one after another.
The ones that landed were VIP-looking gentlemen in tuxedos, all accompanied by ladies in glittering dresses.
The hall echoed with the guests' carefree laughter. Norse and the other guests were led down the corridor by a servant.
The ceiling was high and the shadows of knights in armor swayed in places through ambient lighting that simulated torches.
The walls were hung with portraits of the successive lords of the 500-year-old Beardsley family, beyond which hung a huge frame depicting the two-headed lion and serpent inscribed in the family crest as they fought various demons and monsters.
Raine clung tightly to Norse's arm as he escorted her.
She was overwhelmed by the high society atmosphere, something she'd never experienced before, and she felt as if she were about to disappear.
"Don't worry, Raine, you'll be fine. You're shining brightly enough here."
Norse squeezed her hand back tightly.
Eventually, they reached a massive double-doorway decorated with gold and silver reliefs. In front of them was the figure of Gilliam, dressed in a white tuxedo.
"Welcome, ladies and gentlemen. We will soon begin the dinner party. All of you may wait in the parlor."
They were ushered into a rather large room, albeit an antechamber, where they were served drinks.
Soon after, Gilliam appeared again.
"Your meals are ready. This way, please."
They were ushered in again and the large door to the next room was opened.
In the center of the room, illuminated by the flickering flames of hundreds of candles in candelabras, was a rosewood dining table with a deep glossy finish.
There were a total of about twenty seats at the long, narrow table. They must've been waiting in a different room from Norse and the others.
Some of the guests had already taken their seats, including members of the film crew. The man in sunglasses, who looked like the director, and several others were sitting in tuxedos.
Gilliam ushered Norse and the guests to their seats with a grin on his face.
"President of Rostand Electronics Industries and his wife, please take this seat. Managing Director of Dagmar Biochemicals and his wife, seated here. Vice-Chairman of Nedug Formulations and his wife will be seated here."
Judging from the looks and names of the corporate visitors being readily guided to the seats, all of them had to be VIPs of companies in business with Umbrella Pharmaceuticals.
Gilliam guided Norse and Raine to the seats at the end.
"Mister Norse and Miss Raine, you're here."
When all the members took their seats, Gilliam slowly looked around everyone involved, and in a particularly loud voice with more dignity than before, declared;
"Apologies for keeping you waiting. Please give it up for the master of this mansion, Mylene Beardsley, seventeenth master of the Beardsley family."
Doors opposite the table Norse and the others were seated opened vigorously to the left and right and a person's small shadow appeared from the other side.
A long dress glittering with small and large gems sewn-in. A tiara and gorgeous necklace with seven colors of large jewels arranged in a row.
She slowly stood in front of the dinner table and gave a faint smile brimming with cold beauty, like an Oriental ceramic.
Even Norse and Raine held their breath at her beauty.
So this is Mylene Beardsley...
From the bustle at nearby seats, they were even more surprised to learn she was 17-years-old. They were unable to grasp her dignity and air of authority as being something of that age at all. It was bestowed by nature. Is this what's known as noble blood?
Mylene looked around the guests and gave a slight nod to them.
"Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to my Beardsley Castle. Please enjoy yourself this evening."
Her tone sounded exactly like that of a pleasant musical instrument.
When she the sponsor took a seat, waiters quickly appeared and went around pouring wine into silver glasses placed before the guests.
"Miss Mylene, thank you for inviting us this evening. You grow more and more beautiful with time."
Among the guests, a stout elderly gentleman launched the first words toward her.
"Mister White, President of Rostand Electronics? We met at a symposium in Paris two years ago. You certainly appear to be looking well..."
"That too's all thanks to Umbrella's vitamin pill compound."
The elderly gentleman expressed great delight at Mylene remembering his name. Then the guests rushed to speak to her as if a dam had broken, striving to be first.
"Miss Mylene, we incorporated your ideas into the new painkiller, but it has finally made it to market through joint development with Umbrella."
"Umbrella Pharmaceuticals' shares in our company's dealings this year eventually exceeded 70%. Thanks to that, our company's sales have displayed distinguished growth compared to last year."
Such lip service and business tales flew back-and-forth for a while at the dinner party.
Most were tales from another world for Norse and Raine, but they couldn't help but be astonished at Mylene conscientiously recalling all the names and positions of the seated guests, as well as being able to speak fluently with technical knowledge and jargon in pharmaceutical development no 17-year-old girl could possibly know.
One more thing had become clear. There was a connection between Umbrella Pharmaceuticals and the Beardsley family. As far as they heard from the guest's conversations, the Beardsley family weren't merely land donors. They definitely cut right into the nerve center of Umbrella Pharmaceuticals.
If that was the case, why'd she invite herself to this seat? Does she really have any traps prepared...
As the dinner progressed, Norse continued to simply observe Mylene. His sharp gaze was constantly stuck to her.
She could notice it. However, her eyes totally ignored his presence, as though he were air.
Norse understood her intention well enough. She wanted to imply he was someone completely worthless.
The elderly woman in the next seat spoke to Norse.
"Darling, you haven't said a single word from the start, what's your name? How do you know the Beardsley family?"
She seemed to have a vested curiosity in Norse's features which, no matter how you looked at it, were inappropriate among the upper class ladies and gentlemen sitting in the rows.
It appeared an intense curiosity had been stirred over Norse.
...Nah, I'm just a tourist who came to this island by chance.
But before Norse could eat, a voice flew from the sponsor's seat.
"Mister Norse was a super-elite soldier active in the British Army's specialized anti-terrorism unit, the CRW wing team."
All the visitors who'd taken a place at the table and noticed Norse's looks were taken aback by Mylene's words.
...That's old news.
Norse matched eyes with Mylene for the first time. There he noticed hostility, like acutely sharp ice, within those golden pupils of hers that could draw someone in.
"Two years ago in Ireland, the IRA abducted UN dignitaries. He participated in the rescue op. The mission failed was a failure, however. His team was wiped out and because of that, he left the military and is merely a drifter right now, isn't that right?"
...How'd this lady dig up my top-secret military past when there's no way it could be out in the open? In witnessing the smiles in her room, Norse again noticed the volume of her supporters.
Was Umbrella Pharmaceuticals' power still simply that of an international company?
Before long, the meal was over, and the guests were again guided to the next room and served dessert and wine as a post-meal gathering began.
Musicians appeared, playing a light string quartet.
Before they knew it, there was no sign of Mylene in the room.
"Raine, I'll go look for Kate."
Norse spoke in a low voice within the bustle of the guests and gently stood up.
Though they'd arranged it for some time, when it came to being left alone, Raine felt uneasy. But Norse stubbornly refused Raine's proposal to look for her as well. Making a 17-year-old girl who doesn't know how to fight do such a thing would merely jeopardize her and end up slowing Norse down.
Norse came out from the dining room into the hallway and looked at his Breitling to check nobody was around.
He promised to return in thirty minutes. If Norse didn't return to Raine in that time, she had to escape this castle by any means necessary. Those were their next arrangements.
Norse began walking briskly down the hall, muffling his footsteps. Kate should be held captive somewhere in this castle.
When he turned a corner for the nth time, there was a large door at the end. However, a castle servant stood before it.
"...Where might you be going?"
"Um, just a bit of sightseeing."
"Beyond this point's the Beardsley family's private rooms. You're not expected."
Although the servant was polite, he stubbornly refused and Norse couldn't help it. As long as there was no conclusive evidence Kate was there, he couldn't afford to make matters worse.
He returned to the corner and quickly walked back to the other passages.
When he went ahead through the corridors for a while, that man with sunglasses stood.
"Are you sightseeing too? This castle's got an exquisite aura. I'd like to shoot in such a place."
Norse no longer thought this guy was a movie director. But regardless of the man's identity, finding Kate was top priority now. Norse passed his side, merely lightly nodding to him.
The director said from behind.
Norse continued walking the corridors for clues. But the people of the castle were stood before every room and he couldn't go any further.
Fiery impatience flooded Norse's face.
He was running out of time. He couldn't return with nothing.
Norse gave up and returned to the room where the invited guests sat in a happy circle, however, there was no sign of Raine there.
What happened to her!?
When he asked the elderly wife seated next to Raine, Gilliam had called out to Raine and they left together from the back door.
Norse jumped out through the door into the corridor. However there was no sign of the two.
A girl's scream broke out.
It was Raine!
Norse began running toward the voice. After turning some corners a still-open door flew into his view.
His intuition immediately told him it was a trap.
The perpetrator who took Raine must've escaped and purposefully invited Norse by opening the door.
But he couldn't help but go. He pulled the M1911 from the belt on his waist and passed through the door.
A new corridor extended further on the other side of the door.
The moment Norse was about to start running, he caught a glance of cold metal in the depths.
The overwhelming sound of a gunshot struck and Norse rolled agilely on the floor.
The wall behind him broke and a piece quickly fell on his back.
This time the air-tearing sound passed where he lay, close to his ears.
There was more than one hostile. A silenced shooter able to take him out accurately without revealing his position, and a shooter with a shotgun able to knock Norse down with stopping power. How many hostiles are there in total!?
Norse rolled to the wall on the opposite side and hid there in the shadow of a decorative suit of armor. However, with roaring sounds, the shotgun blasted the armor into oblivion along with its pedestal.
Norse quickly jumped out of the armor's shadow with the M1911 blazing in the direction of the gunshots.
That moment, Raine regained consciousness on a bed.
Aside from the bed, the room was small, empty and tasteless.
The young member of the film team was encamped in front of the door. As Raine awoke, he quietly thrust forward the gun in his hands to intimidate her into silence.
Then a door opened and Mylene swiftly entered, accompanied by Gilliam.
Instantly jumping off the bed, Raine tried to start running toward the open door and the film crew youngster quickly grabbed her arms and violently slammed her against the bed.
"Aw, that was harsh. My sincerest apologies, Raine."
Mylene said sneeringly.
"Where's Kate!? And Norse?"
Mylene shrugged and lightly raised a hand toward the desperately hanging on Raine.
One of the servants pushed in a silver-covered tray. Their pale face bled with greasy sweat and their hands pushing the wagon trembled little by little.
"We were expecting you and specially prepared this main dish. Well then, why don't you open it?"
The servant carrying it left to get away.
Whatever they placed before her in a frightened manner, Raine was able to grasp it was ghastly.
She gazed at the silver lid. What was inside?
Grabbing the silver lid with her shaky hands, she took the plunge and lifted it.
It was a single ordinary soup plate with a steaming, clear consommé.
Raine was momentarily relieved but inadvertently noticed two whitish spheres the size of quail eggs floating in the soup.
The soup swayed as she timidly brought it close to her face.
The moment she realized what it was, incredible screaming surged from Raine's mouth.
Floating in the soup were human eyeballs.
Drawing in one big breath, Norse dashed.
Running in a zig-zag down the hallway, the shotgun and silencer fired at him all at once.
Despite running, Norse desperately measured the position and distance of the shooters. In particular, there was a sniper aiming at him very precisely. That guy's bullets hailed from above.
Norse dived broadly when he gauged the next pillar to hide behind.
He changed the direction of his body in the air and threw the M1911 toward the ceiling.
Norse's perception proved correct. A man's figure aiming at him from the pillar came into his sight, and he pulled the M1911's trigger without question.
With a cry, the man was shot through the chest and fell head first.
The sound of bone crashing and hitting again the floor echoed through the hallway. The Desert Eagle handgun with a silencer fell from the man's hand, making a dry sound as it rolled down the hallway.
At first, he was alone. Calmness returned to Norse. There were several hostiles, but judging from the gunshots, not many left. Probably two or three, including the man he just killed.
That moment, Raine saw Norse fighting through a television monitor. Mylene had taken her, trapped her in front of a set of monitors in the corner of a sealed room, and told her to watch them.
"It's admirable. That man fights so hard for you. But it's futile. If I activate this, no matter how well he fights, all he can do is die. You'll watch the life drain from him here."
Mylene's laughter echoed in the air once more.
Norse's battle continued. He hid himself behind a pillar while rolling. He steadied his breathing while quickly changing the magazine.
A shotgun gunshot sounded close, the pillar he was hiding behind was hit directly and considerably shaved off. However the moment it impacted, Norse jumped out of the pillar's shade and ran straight through a corridor.
He was loading seven shells into the shotgun.
Norse already knew the shotgun assailant had fired all his rounds with the latest shot.
The battle situation would change completely if he suppressed the other parties with its intense destructive power. The backup silencer fired at Norse as he ran through the corridor.
However he didn't pay any attention to it, and in a straight line, he rushed into the shade of the pillar where the shotgun assailant was hiding himself.
Just as he'd interpreted. The shotgun assailant was still reloading.
His panicked foe gawked at Norse as he bounced the shotgun barrel with his left hand and forced the M1911 into the man's side. Without mercy, Norse shot one, two, three bullets into the man's side.
Strength suddenly escaped the man's body. He leaned on Norse as if he were hugging.
Norse caught him and turned each of their bodies in a half rotation.
The silenced assailant who'd turned around for backup was immediately approaching from the side. The silencer was for not making his position known to the enemy. His panic became fatal with Norse's unexpected action as he appeared. With the body of the dead man as a shield, Norse pushed out the M1911 and shot at the other man.
The man flipped and jumped to the floor. Norse blazed away until his magazine was empty.
Silence finally returned to the corridor with the sound of an empty magazine crashing on the floor.
Each man was from the film crew. Norse took rounds from their dead bodies and drew the Ithaca M37 combat shotgun he took from them onto his shoulder and loaded new shells, putting the newly-loaded M1911 and the Desert Eagle handgun from the silenced man into his waist, starting to run once more into the depths of the corridor.
The anxiously waiting Raine had watched Norse and his battle on the monitors and let out a sigh of relief.
Along with her, Mylene was staring at the screen with an "aw" expression and shrugged her shoulder towards Gilliam behind them.
"...Your subordinates were useless after all, Gilliam?"
Gilliam quickly bit his lip at her words.
Then Mylene faced Raine again.
"Your dear Mister Bodyguard is pretty good. Just what I'd expect from a former CRW soldier."
But she flashed a cold smile and Raine's back froze solid again.
"But this is as far as it goes. Now I'll invite him to a special show..."
Norse ran. Ran with his own sense of direction in the vast castle. Around a corner, he confirmed positions of the doors and ran while drawing a mental map.
Norse gradually filled out a three-dimensional map of the entire castle in his head.
But something mysterious happened at that moment. Faced with a dead-end corridor and hurrying back to the original point, the reality ever-so-slightly differed from the map in his head.
...I'm fed up, have my senses dulled that much in just a year? A vague anxiety struck Norse as he scrambled.
But he stopped, shocked to find himself at a dead-end again at a certain corner.
Surely I passed through here a while ago, he thought. However, it was now a dead-end.
This was no illusion. He didn't go the wrong way. He figured the wall moved and altered the path. Perhaps he was being unknowingly led somewhere according to someone else's ulterior motive.
When he noticed, a heavy sound echoed behind him and a new wall protruded from the corner where he'd just been running, blocking his retreat.
If this keeps up I'll be shut in!
Norse broke into a sprint to get back. Will I make it in time!?
He dived between the gap in the closing wall.
He passed through the gap by a hairbreadth as it closed in a moment with a roaring sound. When Norse rose from his knees, he cursed it. This place... it's like a haunted house.
But a sudden feeling of being suspended struck him before he could catch his breath. The floor he was standing on suddenly vanished.
By the time he noticed, Norse's body was already being absorbed into the open mouth of darkness.
While Raine screamed, the pit projected by the monitor slowly closed.
"...It ends here. He's tumbling straight down into Hell."
A cheerful Mylene slowly brought to her mouth a cup of royal herb tea brought by her servant.
An enraged Raine looked at the girl, but was suddenly struck by a deep sense of despair, sinking to the floor in a daze.
Only Mylene's howling laughter rung in her mind, over and over.
Norse regained consciousness in the darkness.
At first he slowly tried to move his fingers and limbs. Then his hips, and neck. They ached, but fortunately it didn't seem he'd broken any bones, much.
As he rose, there was a long passage.
He could barely see in the dark. But he'd already noticed he was surrounded by an intensely vile odor filling the place, whatever kind of place it was.
He couldn't linger. There was someone nearby.
In the darkness behind him, he heard familiar footsteps.
He heard more footsteps from the front. Not alone, either. It was a considerable number of people.
Norse stretched out his hands on the floor surrounding him and searched quickly. He fortunately found the shotgun. The M1911 was still on his waist, too. But he couldn't find where the Desert Eagle had fallen.
Meanwhile, whoever the footsteps belonged to was approaching him.
In kissing distance he felt the spitting sound of lukewarm rotten breath.
His eyes accustomed. The shadows of several people floated vacantly in the darkness.
He poised the Ithaca M37 to his waist and fired towards those silent shadows.
Emerging in the shotgun's flashlight were a female Zombie with unkempt hair, a Zombie with some of its teeth missing, and a Zombie with a drooping face and single protruding eyeball.
The sound of spattering flesh exploded in the darkness.
There was impact. At least three of them were blown away.
However, foul smelling breath blew on Norse's neck from behind.
He was too preoccupied on just the front, he thought, but he was slow. Slimy hands wound around his neck.
It was over if he was bitten. Desperately he twisted his body trying to break free of the Zombie's grasp. However, the Zombie's arms were well-latched onto his neck. Rotten flesh hung from its peeling skin and that bizarre smell pierced Norse's nose.
Meanwhile Zombies were also coming up from the front. They gradually approached the prey who'd crept into their den with low moaning and groaning.
Norse hammered the shotgun he held into the stomach of the Zombie tightening around his neck.
COUGH... Rotten gastric juice gushed by his face.
He spotted a staircase.
He sprinted up.
Norse soon stood in shock.
A light shone slightly from the ceiling skylight window of the high colonnade. Perhaps the lighting in the castle leaked out. The figure of a female Zombie arose in the lambently shaking miniscule amount of light. The clothes they wore were tattered and dirty, but Norse also recognized a yellow parka.
Both of Kate's eyes had been scooped out, probably gouged, leaving the sockets dark and hollow with dark blood streaming down her cheeks.
Whittled flesh fell off her jaw which had been bitten by other Zombies, exposing a section of yellowed bone.
Kate pushed out both hands having noticed the smell of a human, approaching Norse unsteadily.
Ohh ohhh... Uhh uhhh...
"I... Insane! Kate!"
But having lost her human consciousness, Kate could no longer distinguish Norse. For her, Norse was merely food.
Ohh ohhh... Uhh uhhh...
"Stop. Please stop..."
Tears blurred Norse's vision.
Tears wet Norse's cheeks in pity for Kate being turned into a Zombie, mixed with unforgiving anger for this castle's hostess.
Kate approached until she was in front of Norse's eyes.
"Forgive me, Kate... Kateeee!"
Norse's close voice surged with a scream and the Ithaca blew like wildfire.
As Kate's head blew off into small pieces, dark blood gushed out the base of her neck as her body slowly tumbled to the floor.
This was the only way. In order to never revive as a Zombie...
Bowing his head in front of Kate's corpse, Norse tightly closed his eyes, regained his composure and began running again.
After running for a while he wound up in a considerably wide hall with assembled corridors extending in every direction.
Where should I go... But he wasn't able to choose a corridor. He heard the sounds of Zombies approaching from every direction.
Maybe there's a loophole.
As Norse hesitated, the Zombies had already gotten very near him.
Having waited until the last moment, the Zombies had cut-off his advance and retreat.
Norse tried to escape the encircling seige, putting distance between them as his shotgun's ream shone.
But there were too many. He'd surely run out of shells in this situation.
Why were there so many Zombies here?
There were Zombies who appeared to be castle servants. Some that seemed to be villagers. Others wore white coats.
What on earth's that woman Mylene doing in this castle?
Then, a suit of armor set in the back corner of the floor flashed in the corner of his eye.
...Must've been a dungeon five hundred years ago. I can't believe something like that's on display in a place like this.
When Norse somehow escaped the clutches of the Zombies, he quickly rushed up to the armor. But he found nothing strange after looking at it. The Zombies changed direction and approached Norse and the armor.
Having exhausted all his means, he took a plunge and pushed the armor.
Several Zombies were crushed by the falling armor. A pedestal appeared in a hollow-like space where a step fell in the spot. There was a large lever there.
Norse immediately leapt at the lever. There was no time to examine it. He pulled the lever towards himself with all his effort. However, there were signs the lever was probably rusted firm, so far not budging by so much as a millimeter.
The Zombies behind Norse clung to his legs and arms as he struggled with the lever.
One after another, the Zombies opened their mouths at him. Emitting groans and rotten breath that enshrouded him. But without any regard Norse used the last of his strength and pulled the lever.
The lever worked. That moment, the whole room was struck with intense vibrations. Surrounding walls fell like raindrops, as if struck by a totally massive earthquake.
The Zombies clinging to Norse fell weakly one after the other due to the vibrations.
The wall in front of him moved and a space about as large as a single person appeared that he'd be able to enter.
When Norse jumped into the space without question, a terrible shaking enveloped the room with a crash.
The parlor where the invited dinner guests chatted after the meal was suddenly struck with intense shaking.
After the meal, glasses of liquor broke on the floor one after the other while coffee cups fell off the tables.
"Is it an earthquake!?"
"Stay calm, settle down!"
The VIPs groveled on the ground and scurried about in a fervor.
A cup of Mylene's favorite herbal tea fell to the floor, shattering.
Gilliam supported her as she almost slid from her chair.
"...Wha, what on earth happened?"
Raine was also thrown to the floor.
Borrowing Gilliam's hand, Mylene stood and stared at a monitor.
But the screen had gone black and reflected nothing.
A dense cloud of dust still swirled in the hall.
Norse crawled out from the space in question while suppressing the ringing in his ears.
A heap of debris was spread before him. The limbs of the Zombies crushed by it were strewn about here and there.
He looked up over his head. The whole ceiling had fallen completely on the floor.
Maybe the ceiling dropped...
Five centuries ago, those who built the castle desired a one-shot turnaround in the event they were cornered by an enemy. It was indescribably ironic, Norse was saved by a trap built by the Beardsley family's ancestors.
He tried going back to the stairs beyond the mountain of rubble. But he noticed light leaking from part of the wall that collapsed in the shock of the fallen ceiling.
Norse broke the wall with the shotgun left in his hand.
A large white child-sized plastic tube appeared from the broken wall. Dull light leaked from it.
Norse picked up his knife and tore the tube trying to open it.
Among it, countless very thick optical and electrical cables were jumbled closely.
Norse held his breath. This may be his last remaining turnaround...
He held the shotgun towards the tube. Then he shot rounds into the tube from point-blank range one after another.
The castle's administration room was enveloped in the red blaze of an emergency lamp triggered by Norse operating the dropped ceiling trap.
More than half the surveillance cameras had fallen inoperable as water and gas leaks broke out all over.
The trap even made the walls in the passageways move, and several servants were sacrificed, caught by the falling walls.
In the midst of the chaos, a sudden blackout now struck the castle. All the rooms and corridors were enshrouded in darkness all at once.
"It's a blackout!" "A blackout!?"
They checked the switchboards and breakers everywhere. However they couldn't catch up restoring them.
In the meantime, explosions occured in several parts of the castle.
Gas leaks caught aflame, fire inadvertently filled the skylight.
However, now that the admin room's power supply had failed, and nobody knew why, a sort of panic took hold there.
"What're you doing, hurry and switch to the backup power supply!"
Gilliam's frustrated voice raced through the dark corridor.
"But the foundation line seems to be severed!"
"Then avoid those parts and rebuild the line! Hurry, you have to hurry..."
However, the curtain had already risen to a tragedy.
Servants with fire extinguishers in hand clamored in utter confusion to quell the fire caused by an exploding gas pipe. Though they should've been communicating in the passageway, they unfortunately felt lost in the darkness.
Somehow, they still tried to stem the flames.
The airflow in the castle ran hot as it fanned the heat. Riding on the wind, a foul smell like charred flesh drifted to those combating the fire.
On the other side of the flames, blazing in the passage, a swaying figure shook. Then the shadow approached them slowly, both arms outstretched.
"No way, is that...?"
A Zombie covered in fire appeared from the flames. Then it latched onto the throat of the head servant, who'd remained standing in utter amazement.
He exclaimed in acute pain and heat. While dowsed in flames, the Zombie ate the man's flesh, taking his blood.
The servants panicked, discarding their fire extinguishers and fleeing in a scramble.
But eerie footsteps emanated from the passage where they were going.
The servants quickly stopped. With that, the circuit in the reserve power supply was finally replaced, illuminating the castle.
However, it was all too late already.
Right in front of them, a group of Zombies approached.
With groans, countless arms outstretched and attacked the servants.
From the front and behind, the Zombies' fangs pierced their shoulders and throats.
Bright red fresh blood splattered from the mouths of the deeply encroaching Zombies, pouring down from above like a shower.
The feast of the dead had only just begun.
"The electronic locks have malfunctioned, the Zombies are escaping!"
Gilliam cried out while taking in the imagery from the surveillance cameras that had just recovered in the castle's administration room.
All the images displayed on the camera monitors were already filled with Zombies.
"Yes, at the same time the locks in the underground passages were also released, it's likely that allowed the Zombies through."
"Do something! The castle will be destroyed under these circumstances."
Again with that, a new emergency lamp began blinking.
"This is disastrous! The Zombies have invaded the gas research chamber. The system's been destroyed and it's likely started to leak VKQ-III, that prototype nervous respiratory failure inducing gas!"
"...A poison gas is leaking inside the castle!"
The guest room where the dinner party VIPs were gathered was now full of the smoke of the fire that flared everywhere.
They obediently believed the servants that the fire had immediately died down and were all waiting for the smoke to clear, still holding their mouths and noses with handkerchiefs, facing down on the floor.
Suddenly, the doors were pushed open on the corridor side. Smoke, thicker still, flowed into the guest room from there.
They saw shadows in the smoke. All the guests assumed it to be a rescue party.
"Oh, oh, have you finally come to help?"
The old lady closest to the door was tired of waiting and rose, approaching the shadow.
But she froze with wide open eyes at the shadow standing in the smoke.
Standing in the smoke was a Zombie whose chest was dyed in bright red blood from its mouth.
Half the flesh on its cheeks was missing, the bones completely exposed to view. It groaned, slowly approaching, air leaking.
Then the Zombie's large mouth found and clutched the old lady's face.
The guests gasped in unison at the scene. They couldn't even let out screams anymore.
In front of them, the Zombie chewed and tore off her face.
Heavy sounds of bone-crunching and eyeball chewing could be heard from its mouth.
Blood mixed with saliva dripped slovenly, falling from its mouth.
...A person, they're eating a person. The guests were horrified by the sight in front of them.
The healthy old man who praised Mylene fell to the ground due to a heart attack.
From the wide open door, Zombies entered the room one after another.
The surviving guests went to the door on the opposite side. However, the Zombies appeared from there too.
They were Zombies of the servants and maids who served them dinner just a little while ago.
Now the guests, who'd relished the cuisine and wine they carried, were their very own meals.
And then a green gas flowed into the room from behind the Zombies.
It was a nerve gas that leaked from the gas chamber. Guests who inhaled it lapsed into dyspnea one after another and died convulsing.
However, the gas had no effect on the Zombies' rotten bodies, once dead and revived.
While the devilish green gas rolled in, they began wandering in search of fresh food.
As the castle fell into a panic, the man who played the role of the film crew's director had swiftly absconded to safety in the parking lot.
He lost all his associates as a result and he himself escaped by inches. Though he pitied his dead associates, in the end they were merely relationships bound by money. He wasn't going to exact revenge at his own risk. Above all, his perception as a professional mercenary told him the stupidity of fighting those men.
...Oh well, I've already got half the contract money in my hands. I ain't gonna commit suicide with mad scientists like them.
The man opened the door of the 4x4's driver seat and hopped inside. However, an arm suddenly pushed out and pressed firmly into his throat.
Rotten eyeballs glared at the man over his ill-fitting focal sunglasses. The man was simply pinned down in the driver's seat. Rotten saliva fell, dripping onto the man's face.
The man pushed desperately as the Zombie's arm tightened around his throat. He buried his fingers into its soft, flabby flesh, only for rotten skin to slither off.
But it didn't care, the monster bared its teeth and neared his throat.
Sunglasses fell from the driver's seat, bouncing and breaking on the road. Fresh blood spilled on top of the pieces, forming a large puddle.
"Damn, this castle's done for already..."
Gilliam observed the atrocious events on the monitors in the admin office and took out a platinum disk from his breast pocket.
"What's that Mister Gilliam?"
"It's a key for opening a direct line with Umbrella's chief executives."
Gilliam inserted the disk into a slot.
After a short demo of the Umbrella OS, it indicated a direct line was now open with the chief executives.
Gilliam waited a little and quickly began to type.
"Development of an enhanced T-Virus strain here on Gaddywall Island, led by Mylene Beardsley, has just gone awry as a consequence of her selfish conduct.
Now the research facility is being annihilated, filled with test subject Zombies.
With authorization from Umbrella's leadership, I, a member of Administrative Division Special Affairs Section Two, will use my discretion to immediately strip Mylene Beardsley of all rights and clean up the physical evidence."
"Mister Gilliam, what is this...?"
The Admin Division member on the next seat looked steadily into Gilliam's face.
"...Fully verified. You will assume total responsibility."
Gilliam took a shining silver revolver from his chest.
A 6-inch .45 King Cobra manufactured by Colt. A powerful gun with a silver rotary cylinder in a long barrel shining with stainless silver steel.
"I was just starting to get tired of nursing that wretched girl. I'll bring down the partition walls in here and liquidate all of this. Contain the poison gas and open the path to me!"
At that moment, Norse finally reached the ground from the underground labyrinth.
But in front of his finally escaped eyes, he witnessed a disastrous scene unfolding. Rampaging Zombies. Bodies tumbling all over. There was definitely some that had already started to become Zombies. In another few minutes the monsters would awaken and wander in search of food.
...Could Raine really be alive amidst all this?
The situation was hopeless. However, Norse didn't intend to leave this castle until he confirmed whether she was alive or dead with his own eyes.
From the front corner, the castle servants crowded as though tearing at their chests. The green gas slowly hanged and followed them.
A nerve gas, fast-acting too!
Norse quickly began running in the opposite direction of the gas.
Heavy partitions began closing one after another behind him. The trapped gas was going nowhere fast.
Norse ran desperately. Then he passed through the gap of the final partition and arrived at what could be the very back block of the castle.
There was no sign of Zombies, monsters or the poison gas there.
Holding the shotgun, Norse advanced again.
Before long he faced a towering, jet-black and frosted metal door.
Neither a switch nor a keyhole was anywhere to be found.
But as he stood before it the door calmly opened, as if to invite him.
ACT-4 TO NIGHTMARE'S END
Norse was welcomed by chilly air within the room.
Into a stark open space there merely extended a cold silver floor.
Norse carefully entered the cold room ready with the shotgun by his waist.
Just as he stepped forward, drops of water fell at his feet, drip, drip.
Norse looked up at the ceiling. The next moment, his eyes were nailed there.
Huge flasks filled the large room's ceiling. One by one, they were entirely the size of humans. An enormous amount of these huge flasks hung from the room's ceiling.
Stored at a low temperature, their surfaces were covered in white frost. But liquids of various colors floating inside could be seen through the frost.
It was the humanoid monsters Norse had encountered in the underground passage extending into the castle from the lab, their entire bodies covered in reddish hair.
Norse slowly and carefully proceeded to the center of the room. Then a heavy sound occurred behind him. When he turned around, the door he came in from had firmly shut.
But he'd already prepared for that when he entered this room.
"You've come to my divine laboratory at last."
When Norse turned to the voice, a large screen descended from the ceiling into the center of the room. Projected on it was Mylene sat on a chair. And at her feet was Raine, lying bound with her hands tied behind her back.
A sense of relief suddenly welled up within Norse. At the same time, he boiled with anger and hatred toward Mylene's wickedness in what she'd done to Raine and Kate.
"Mylene, let Raine go!"
However, Mylene's horrifying face was projected by the screen; merely giving a cold smile.
"...How dare you, why are you in my castle? Is your desire to be torn apart? Or do you wish to become a genetic sample for monster development?"
Norse involuntarily questioned the word he hadn't heard until then.
"Yes, the information organisms pass from one generation to the next in order to obtain superior "life."
"But it's connected to the Zombies. Doesn't Umbrella's T-Virus product make Zombies?"
Mylene shook her head slightly toward Norse.
"That's correct. But they're failures. Wouldn't you want to be among my lovely monsters?"
Now that she'd put a fine point on it, Norse had encountered humanoid monsters unlike those Zombies driven merely by the instinct of hunger, then a female monster with silver hair,
"Was genetic technology used for these monsters?"
"Yes, through the artificial recombination of genes, humans can welcome novel evolution, just like myself."
"Correct, I'm the crystallization of the Beardsley family's research."
"The Beardsley family's?"
"For generations, the Beardsley family have been masters in biochem fields such as brain physiology and germ analysis studies. They swiftly commenced genetic research, which began to prosper in this century. Then by the time ordinary researchers finally got around to tinkering with cattle and mice, my father had already been successful in "dominant human" experiments through practical genetic engineering techniques."
"...And that's what you're supposed to be?"
Mylene bloomed with a smile and pointed to her temple.
"That's right, my brain. There's a common tale that the human brain utilizes merely half its functions. Father unleashed the human brain's potential via manipulating genes and devoted himself to research in order to evolve it. And I'm the crystallization of this research."
"...His own daughter was the result of human experiments?"
"He expanded the capacity of active cells by reducing electrical resistance between synapses in the brain, dramatically amplifying speed and volume of informational electric current and extensively rearranging its data bank. Through genetic recombination, he elevated its capabilities to many times that of the original brain using computers to substitute as the foundation, thereby elevating capacity and operational speed... Can't you tell?"
Mylene continued further, teasing in a retro musical-like fashion.
"I later expanded my given abilities further through modern cyber techniques. I built a DNA genotype mutual rewriting program and fulfilled a link between my brain and computers. I gained virtually infinite knowledge and networks in my hands.
Things as simple as sniffing out your career from the military's data banks. If you'd like, I could even hijack a major nation's nuclear weapons from this island at the edge of the north, and I'd be able to destroy the world like in some pulp novel!"
"But Norse, you've quite simply been getting in my way on this island. If you hadn't come here, everything would've gone smoothly."
"You needn't keep going."
"I'll have you compensate me appropriately for your crime, disturbing my ambition's success."
"That's right, my development of the Neo T-Virus to surpass the T-Virus. Then my giving rise to even more powerful monsters through combining superior genes. At last I'll literally stand at the pinnacle of Umbrella."
"Why do you dwell on the top of Umbrella so much?"
"Although the world believes Umbrella was founded by Lord Oswell E. Spencer, in truth, my father aided Lord Spencer as a business partner at the time of Umbrella's establishment."
"Since the time of its foundation, the Beardsley family's accumulation of biochemical research elevated the Umbrella Corporation to its current position in the world. After my father's death, it was a matter of course that I, his genius daughter, became an executive."
"So then you're aiming for higher than the top?"
"Naturally? Why must I have to work under these stupid humans? Using the monsters I've developed here in Beardsley Castle, I'll stand at the pinnacle of Umbrella. Then I'll control this world!"
Mylene said as she looked up at the group of flasks overhead, bearing an enchanted expression.
"But you've sacrificed so many for such an occasion."
"I think that's fine. It's in service to making my dream come true, after all."
With a look of innocence, Mylene aimed her gaze straight at Norse.
"My only miscalculation was you, Norse. A creature that arrived here breaking through all obstacles and traps I'd set. In all honesty, I acknowledge your prowess. That is why I detest you and want you dead. I'm a new, superior human being, a masterpiece forged by the Beardsley family, with all knowledge and creativity at my fingertips! I can never be outdone by an antiquated Homo sapien. Not one!"
An insane color already appeared on Mylene's golden pupils.
"...I see. But Raine's got nothing to do with it, let her go."
"Why bother with this girl, this wench who's not even worth becoming a genetic sample?"
"People aren't your tools Mylene!"
"...Why not? Foolish humans bereft of merit live worthless lives and die worthlessly regardless. Couldn't becoming a tool of mine, superior in everything from brain to visage, be a long-cherished desire?"
"We're leaving. Whatever it takes, I'll save Raine and get out of here!"
"Hehehe... All right. I'll return your princess, as you requested."
The screen's image is disturbed and becomes mere scanlines, and part of a wall slides and out comes Raine, freed from her shackles as if released from the depths, and the wall that slid closes again.
Raine was puzzled why she was suddenly freed, but quickly ran toward Norse.
Raine jumped into Norse's big chest. Even though his chest was covered in sweat, dust and smeared with blood, she knew it had all been for her and buried her face in peace.
Norse hugged Raine's body firmly. At the same time, Kate's horrible appearance a little while ago resurrected in his mind. One way or another... He must protect Raine!
Mylene was projected on the screen again and called out to the two firmly embracing in order to mock them.
"Now, protect Raine with your own hands!"
Mylene's slim, supple white fingers ran through the top of a console box at the side.
CLANK, one of the huge flasks overheard began to slowly turn.
Then the next moment, it dropped over their heads with terrible force with a lock sound outside.
Norse held onto Raine's waist and jumped aside.
In the nick of time, the flask crashed to the floor the two were standing on and shattered. Scattered bits of glass and a thick culture fluid splattered all over the floor.
Then from that moment, a man-shaped monster slowly stood up.
"Get away Raine!"
The roars of the waking monster shook the air in the room.
The shotgun readied at Norse's waist was of no use.
The monster's eyes caught the two in its sights. The next moment, it suddenly jumped. It growled with its strong muscles and its large body flew to the sky.
However, the shotgun's aim was correctly tracing its core. The awe-inspiring Ithaca M37 fired.
A large hole opened on the monster's red body as it fell before their eyes. Its two meter large body rolled to Norse's feet, leaving a long, sad scream.
However, Mylene wasn't shaken at all and ran her fingers to the console again.
A new flask dropped and a new monster awakened from there again.
Norse's shotgun howled once more toward the monster rushing at them.
The monster's head was blown away and it missed its prey, crashing directly into the wall past him, causing it to convulse on the ground.
"As expected, how about this?"
Several flasks began turning to the movements of Mylene's fingers. Locks were released and those that fell from overhead began to attack Norse and Raine one after another.
Shattered bits of glass and cloudy culture fluid danced all over the room.
Everyone for themselves, the awakened monsters attacked the two with all their strength just to avoid being crushed.
As combat shots were fired in tandem with the pump action in Norse's left hand, the monsters fell one after another.
However, seven shots were immediately spent. Nevertheless, the monsters wouldn't wait. Norse pulled the M1911 at his waist, grasped the gun and sent the pouncing monsters flying anew.
He kept squeezing the trigger towards the monsters getting up. The monsters consistently shot in the head were left screaming and sank into the sea of culture fluid.
While fighting the monsters, Norse tossed the empty shotgun to Raine.
"Hurry! Put shells into the hole underneath!"
With shaking fingers, Raine loaded the shotgun with the shells Norse handed her.
Norse fired the bullets left in the M1911's magazine toward the monsters from his right hand.
The fangs of a monster attacking from the left ballooned all over Norse's view. Now its claws quickly flew toward the back of his neck and he reflexively struck its jaw with his left elbow.
When he dodged the blow and twisted his body, Norse grappled with the monster as it rolled to the floor now overflowing with culture fluid and shards of glass.
The broken glass shards pierced his back through his jacket and a sharp pain coursed through him. The screaming monster probably suffered the same severe pain in the back as him, and at that moment, its movement dulled.
Norse didn't miss it. While rolling, he shoved the M1911 loaded with a new magazine at the monster's throat.
He squeezed the trigger. With the gun's recoil, intense convulsions raced into the monster's arms bearing down on Norse, and it expired, hunched over his body.
From the gap beneath the monster's body, Norse fired the M1911 at new monsters about to attack Raine.
Norse blazed the M1911.
The monsters ate bullets from the side to the temples, spraying blood but changing their target and attacking Norse as he lay on the floor. However, he shot their foreheads before they could reach their prey.
The monster's splattered bodies merely became lumps of meat, and Norse climbed to his feet.
Norse knew he'd emptied the M1911. Counting the number of bullets had become a habit for him under any situation.
A remaining monster approached right before his eyes.
He wasn't able to reload a magazine. Norse threw the M1911 and its last magazine to Raine and snatched the now shell-filled shotgun, firing at the approaching monsters as they exhaled rotten breath.
The Ithaca M37's full capacity was emptied in a heartbeat. The monsters lined up in front then left muffled screams, falling lifelessly to the floor one after another.
Only Norse's rough breathing and Raine's pale face remained in the sea of culture fluid, glass shards and heaps of tumbling monster corpses.
While correcting his erratic breathing, Norse fumbled in his pockets. However, the Ithaca's ammo was now at just a meager three. Looking up, there was now just a single flask hanging from the ceiling.
"You've run out of ammo, haven't you...?"
Without even turning to the screen, Norse loaded the shotgun with the final three shells.
Fresh blood from his back had already dyed his arm, dripping after being pierced by countless glass shards when he rolled on the floor. But despite the pain, his eyes were filled with fire.
"After all that, Norse, you consider this child a companion?"
Her fingers typed the touch key "M" three times.
Then, the flask remaining on the ceiling was engulfed in vibrations.
Fine cracks ran along the surface, spreading throughout and becoming a fissure.
That next moment, the flask broke, scattering culture fluid and glass shards from it, and a silver-shining shadow leapt out.
When he thought it'd spin once in the air, it danced in the air again and landed, kicking the floor at the same time.
It soared up into the air, hit the ceiling and attacked Norse, who held the Ithaca in his hands again, sparing him no time.
The next moment, sharp claws as long as knives pierced his left shoulder. Although his consciousness involuntarily drifted in the excessively sharp pain, the undaunted Norse still pulled the trigger toward the silver shadow.
However, the silver shadow surprisingly turned around suddenly and dodged the bullets fired at it from point-blank range.
Then it back-flipped three times, escaping the Ithaca's aim and letting out a high-pitched roar from its mouth; preparing to attack again. It was the silver-haired female monster that had stood bearing the full moon at the hilltop.
Norse pointed the shotgun's muzzle toward the monster. However, the opponent dodged the two rounds fired from that position. He wasn't able to pull the trigger next.
"Hehehe, looks like even Norse has trouble dealing with Mylenia. How do you like it? The power of a warrior birthed by the N•T-Virus and my superior genes?"
"...Born from your superior genes?"
"Correct, Mylenia's truly another me. She perfectly understands how I feel. She's nothing like those imbeciles spawned by the crude T-Virus, right?"
The silver monster created from Mylene's DNA slowly approached its prey while uttering a low growl.
It was like there wasn't even a single cell unfit for battle within its agile muscle-covered body.
"Raine, have you filled the magazine!?"
Flew Norse's tense-grown voice.
Raine responded in a faded voice with the M1911 in her hands.
"You can fire anytime now."
Norse's sweaty hands readied the Ithaca M37. He aimed well at the hybrid Mylenia monster. However, Mylenia easily dodged even when he pulled the trigger. There was nothing he could do. Mylenia could attack him now at this moment. He can't attack because Mylenia would simply measure the timing of his aim. Then it'll definitely pierce through his throat rather than his shoulder...
The same gold eyes as Mylene peeped out from the gaps of its silver hair. It caught Norse in the center of its eyes, aiming for even the smallest opportunity to attack.
They both gradually moved aside while maintaining each other's distance.
They didn't blink once. The one who averted their attention from the enemy, even for an instant, would die.
Low on ammo. How do I fight this damn thing? How do I beat it!?
"Neither of you are interesting right now. How about this?"
The fretting Mylene manipulated the console. Two then three new empty flasks appeared on the ceiling and began to turn and fall over the duo's heads, one after another.
Norse jumped aside to avoid them. Mylenia leapt the opposite way.
Many glass shards broke, scattering and flying in the air, obscuring Norse's view.
The next moment, all the glass shards were stained by a silver shadow.
Flick, flick, she jumped out before Norse's eyes.
He desperately squeezed the shotgun's trigger. However, Mylenia twisted her body's reflexes phenomenally and dodged all two remaining rounds.
Her mouth roared louder and her sharp fangs shined. Mylenia closed in on Norse at terrible speed.
Norse caught the fangs with the shotgun's barrel by a hairbreadth. However, her powerful fangs cut deep into the metal cylinder trying to bite it.
With both arms, Norse forcefully turned the shotgun Mylenia had bitten back toward Raine.
"Shoot it Raine! Shoot!"
"It's fine, shoot!"
Determined, Raine aimed the M1911 with both hands and pulled the trigger.
However at that moment, Mylenia's fangs crushed the shotgun's barrel right in half. Mylenia collided with Norse and both got stuck in the sea of culture fluid.
Raine's bullet cut through the air and struck the wall. She quickly aimed again. But she couldn't measure a time to fire as the two struggled, rolling on the floor.
Mylenia's fangs aimed close at Norse's throat again. He pulled the combat knife fitted on his right foot and desperately fought back. The fangs pounced straight toward their prey. An acute pain ran through Norse's left shoulder again. He twisted his body to avoid a direct hit to the throat and Mylenia pierced his left shoulder, damaging it with her claws more deeply.
Norse's knife also pierced Mylenia's left arm. However, there was no longer any power in his hand to grasp the grip. Mylenia put power into the arm the knife was stuck in. The knife was pushed back from within the muscle, being flicked off.
"I wonder how strong my other self is. What, did you think I was bluffing earlier, Norse?"
Mylene's triumphant laughter, projected by the screen, echoed.
Norse had no means for another counterattack. He was powerless, held down by the monster Mylenia, and once it pulled out the claws embedded in his left shoulder, it went for a large backswing at Norse's throat.
Mylenia's approaching claws stopped some centimeters from Norse's jugular at the sound of Mylene's voice.
As he slowly raised his body and scurried away, Raine rushed up to Norse, holding and raising him up, his left shoulder dyed in blood.
The picture on the screen switched off and the part of the wall where Raine was stuck slid again, and Mylene appeared.
"Appears the game is at a stalemate. Value your life? Then bow down before me, Norse!"
"...Never. I'm a human being."
"You're considerably dull-witted. Fine, I'll never have to hear from that insolent mouth again."
Mylenia took one step forward again, as if sympathizing with Mylene's thought.
Raine involuntarily pointed the M1911 at Mylenia.
"...Just try and shoot. But will your finger be able to pull the trigger before Mylenia's claws slice your neck from your body?"
Holding the M1911, Raine went stiff. Before long minute quivers started racing through her whole body.
Mylene was right. No, Raine would be impaled by the lowly-groaning monster, she didn't seem capable of pulling the trigger.
But under these circumstances, Norse would die...
Suddenly however the whole room was struck by huge quakes. Consecutive explosions sounded from the distance.
"W, what is this?"
Mylene cried out.
A loud explosion shook the room further.
"An explosion now, could it be..."
"Yup, that's the sound of the power reactor exploding. This castle's already finished, Mylene."
Everyone looked back toward the voice.
The part of the wall Mylene came out of had slid once more and from it emerged Gilliam, clad in a pure white unstained suit.
"Gilliam! You're not supposed to enter this room like that..."
"Oops, looks like the princess's affection has run its course. Former Umbrella First Research and Development Director, Mylene Beardsley."
"What're you saying? What's the meaning of this!?"
"Take a look at this."
Gilliam thrust a piece of paper at Mylene, who read it aloud.
"Umbrella Pharmaceuticals Board of Directors Official Mandate No.5927-DY-99. We have reached a decision concerning the enhanced T-Virus strain prototype experiments on Gaddywall Island. The Beardsley Castle research facility has been destroyed as a result of your utterly selfish operational conduct, and concurrently you have caused the deaths of all our important trading partners' corporate executives, this is beyond the pale even taking your past achievements into account. Therefore, as of today, First Research and Development Director Mylene Beardsley is hereby dismissed, and full authority is entrusted to a member of the Administrative Division!"
"Correct, from this moment on, you're just a girl, alone with nothing."
"...Impossible! There's no way, I... I was created by the Beardsley family as the perfect next generation human..."
"No, you are a failure."
Gilliam said coolly at the girl whom he'd waited upon until just a few minutes ago.
"Looks like your mischief's at an end, Mylene. It wouldn't have come to this if you'd just stayed on your leash and obeyed the company."
Mylene's voice trembled with anger and hatred.
"You made a test site all for yourself deep in the castle, repeating human experiments at random under the pretext of developing an enhanced T-Virus strain. As a result the castle's basement was full of Zombies, then researchers infected with the virus became Zombies prowling outside the castle, tossing the ball to us to wipe your ass. You're one awful princess. Moreover, the top brass kept receiving reports you were creating a monster like this."
Gilliam determinedly approached her, twisting her right arm hard.
"What do you think you're doing!?"
Not caring about Mylene's pain, Gilliam took a watch-shaped transmitter from her wrist and flung it on the floor, stamping on it.
The monster Mylenia had been lowly growling until then, but then almost ceased moving, as if it had fallen asleep.
"I beg your pardon, it's hard to talk to you when she's awake."
"...How do you even know how to control Mylenia?"
"We've always known what you've been getting up to in this room, as well as how you were doing it. Fortunately, I have many collaborators."
Gilliam snapped his fingers and several elderly men emerged from behind a hidden door. They were researchers who'd served the Beardsley family for generations, old men who'd been assisting Mylene's research, until now.
"...Gazin, Yuri, Monet! You betrayed me!"
"They've been and always will be honorable Umbrella collaborators. As of today, the Beardsley name has been erased from Umbrella's history."
"...I'm still here. The Beardsley research results exist only in my head!"
"Huh, you're a failure yet still trying to act so smug?"
"Don't underestimate Umbrella's might. We've been keeping an eye on the Beardsley family's genetic engineering research from the very beginning, waiting for them to complete it. But we couldn't allow them to succeed. Only Umbrella's own research personnel shall succeed in becoming the first in the world to completely alter humans using gene engineering tech."
"...Why have you done this to me?"
"Your father rewrote your genetic information to expand that brain of yours. When he did, he tampered a little with the programming."
"...I beg your pardon?"
"As a result, you're marvelously intelligent, but a cruel, vicious, selfish, and severely unbalanced individual. What sort of inventions do people like that make? Oh, you know, just demonic creations no normal person would ever dream of."
"...You mean this was all a scheme you contrived? Is that what you're saying!?"
"Correct. Just as Umbrella hoped, you've perfected a computer-mediated genetic rewriting program. It's precisely the sort of invention only a twisted brain like yours could produce, and precisely what we at Umbrella desired."
"So Umbrella's higher-ups were planning to steal the Beardsley research results and get rid of me from the start?"
"...Now how about that, eh?"
Mylene became more and more emotional at Gilliam's impetuous words.
"But you're not going to get it from me! Because that data's only in my head!"
"You still don't get it, do you? I have members on my side who've been studying and documenting your brain's development."
Gilliam then pulled out a disk and showed it to her.
"Taking a cue from your DNA genotyping program, we developed a brain rewriting program that enabled us to store the information within your brain. With this, all the information recorded in your brain was rewritten into computer data, then copied onto this disk."
"...So that's all my research?"
"Yes, it all belongs to Umbrella now, and there's no place in Umbrella for you to return to."
"You scoundrel! I won't let you people get away with this!"
Mylene screamed, her eyes a blend of hatred and despair. But out of the corner of her eye, she glimpsed something else as well. Raine was sat beside Norse as he was laid on his side, cradling Norse's head in her arms, desperately caring for him. On the floor at Raine's feet, the M1911 shone with a dull light.
Mylene moved towards Raine, inch by inch.
But a heavy shot bounced off the M1911 and pushed Mylene's body back. Raine screamed and clung to Norse.
Before she knew it, a thin plume of smoke rose from the muzzle of the King Cobra in Gilliam's right hand.
And on the floor at Mylene's feet was a large impact circle made by a .45 caliber revolver round.
"How dare you try to pick a gun off the floor to shoot me? Poor thinking as ever on your part, failure."
Mylene stared, dumbfounded by what Gilliam was saying.
She believed she was a new, perfect human being, but was oblivious to the fact she was actually a failed human who'd been created artificially with factors that distorted her personality.
And to think she was deprived of all the research she inherited from her father, kicked out of the company he founded...
"All right, let's get out of here. Before this castle's wiped out in an explosion!"
Gilliam led the researchers and started to disappear behind a hidden door. But...
"Stop right there, Gilliam!"
He heard a voice calling out to him. Gilliam turned around. It was Norse who called to him. He struggled to look up from Raine's arms and tried to find his voice.
"I figured Mylene was the source of all this. But I didn't realize Umbrella's top brass were the real masterminds behind everything!"
"...Have a nice day, Mister Norse, I'm sure our ladyship would be lonely without you. I hope you'll each meet your demise in this castle."
Gilliam ignored Norse's words and started walking.
Then that moment, the fallen Norse somehow found the strength to stand up, and suddenly dashed towards Gilliam.
But he brushed him off easily and struck him in the back of the head with the King Cobra's grip.
Norse fell down again on the floor, head first, covered in culture fluid.
"...You truly are a stubborn one. But now's time to say goodbye. In less than ten minutes, this castle's five-hundred-year history will come to an end."
Gilliam wiped the King Cobra's grip clean with a purple handkerchief, then tossed it onto Norse's fallen back. Then he led the researchers and disappeared behind the sliding wall, laughing.
Norse struggled to get up, holding the back of his aching head.
In the meantime, the room was bombarded with constant explosions and quakes.
Gilliam probably wasn't lying. The castle had a mountain of hazardous substances stored inside.
Now that it was engulfed in flames and the power reactor was destroyed, there was no telling what would happen.
"Raine, we gotta get out. We need to get out of the castle..."
But before they knew it, Mylene had picked up the M1911 and was standing in front of them.
"I won't let you get away with this, Norse. It's all your fault I'm in this situation."
"You can't do this, Mylene. The castle's nearly done for..."
"No, I've lost everything. So I'm going to take something precious from you too..."
Mylene said, pointing the gun's muzzle at Raine as she stood beside Norse.
"Don't do it!"
Norse exclaimed, but Mylene pulled the trigger.
At that moment, the room shook with a violent explosion.
The bullet Mylene fired grazed Raine's shoulder.
Raine screamed, spun around and fell. Norse was about to pick her up when he saw a combat knife on the floor.
Norse quickly picked up the combat knife and threw it at her.
The combat knife stuck into Mylene's right arm as the M1911 fell to the floor with a loud thud.
At the same time, Norse leaped on the M1911 and jumped up after rolling on the floor.
He then plunged the gun straight into the silver-haired beauty's chest.
Mylene's eyes widened and she spoke to Norse.
"Shoot me, you think you're going to shoot me?"
Mylene must've thought Norse was a fool, unable to shoot a woman. She even had a slight smile on her face.
The smile brought back memories for Norse.
The girl with the bomb was also smiling.
To Norse, Mylene's smile looked the same as that girl's smile.
Would he be able to shoot Mylene?
Despite the fresh blood dripping from her white porcelain arm with the combat knife protruding from it and her beautiful face being contorted in pain, Mylene kept smiling.
"That's right Norse, you can't shoot me."
Slowly, Mylene approached Norse. The next moment,
The M1911 in Norse's hand breathed fire, and as she tried to pull out the combat knife stuck in her right arm with her left hand, hatred flashed in Mylene's eyes and she leaned back limply.
Norse didn't hesitate. He had something to protect now.
She was the one who faced all kinds of horrors in pursuit of her missing uncle and friend, who believed in him and stood by him until the end.
It was because of her he was able to fight this far. And it was because of her he was able to pull this trigger.
His right hand firmly grasped Raine's uncle's M1911 and squeezed the trigger to its fullest.
BANG! BANG! BANG!
When it comes to terrorists, even if they're children, you have to mercilessly unload a whole magazine at them until you're sure they're dead. That's CRW's ironclad law.
One after another, the impact sites of the bullets popped on Mylene's small limbs.
They opened up one after another on her white dress, like blooming flowers on bright red blood roses.
Then she slowly collapsed onto the off-silver floor, bounding lightly and becoming motionless.
"She's d, dead..."
Raine muttered in a shaky voice.
Norse briefly replied.
Until now Raine had forgotten where she was and looked down lamentably at the dead body of the girl genius her age.
However, there was almost no time left for them anymore.
"Come on Raine. Let's get outta this hell as soon we can."
Raine nodded to Norse's words and they bolted to the remains of the open wall section where Gilliam had disappeared, while she supported the staggering Norse.
As they ran, the ceiling flasks fell one after another to the incoming shakes.
The only remaining room was where Mylene's remains and the monster Mylenia created from her genes were.
But at that moment, the halted Mylenia's golden eyes began to shine dully.
"Hurry! There's only three minutes left!"
The frightful night was about to dawn. In the twilight, a large helicopter parked in the castle courtyard continued to run warm. Sitting in the cockpit just as the rotors made noise, Gilliam shouted at the researchers working in the rear cargo area.
"Gathering the materials was troublesome, but we'll be okay shortly."
A researcher, formerly under Mylene's command, went up to the front cockpit and shut the door. Confirming this, Gilliam unlocked the throttle and pulled the control stick.
The growl of the rotors grew more intense, then the helicopter's legs left the ground.
This was farewell to the cursed island. His relationship concluded with the girl whose brain had merely developed in eerie fashion. Since he'd obtained the Beardsley family's research results, he'd serve in the seat of an Umbrella executive.
No, that was only his starting point. Taking that as a step, he'd eventually be the apex of Umbrella, then suddenly a light shock went through the arm gripping Gilliam's control stick. Next the helicopter leaned to the left.
"What happened!? Did the cargo fall!?"
"Negative, it's firmly secured!"
"Mister Gilliam! There's a man and woman holding on to the left leg!"
The researcher in the left window seat shouted to Gilliam.
The only way for Norse and Raine to escape the exploding castle was to jump onto the leg of the helicopter Gilliam was piloting.
"What do we do?"
"Shoot them! Shoot them down!"
The researcher at the left side quickly opened the window, took out a S&W from his pocket and stuck it out.
But before he could fire his gun, Norse fired into his outstretched arm with all the M1911's remaining bullets.
The man who'd been shot in the arm dropped his gun and fell inside screaming.
Norse then clutched Raine tightly to his back and climbed up the helicopter's legs in a rappelling motion, smashing the window with the grip of his unloaded M1911.
He thrust his arm into the door, unlocked it, and pushed Raine through the open door into the cockpit, then leapt into it himself.
"I'm not letting you get away, Gilliam!"
Knocking down a researcher who leapt at him, Norse attacked Gilliam at the controls.
He clamped his arms around Gilliam's jaw from behind.
If a CRW soldier perfectly executed their skill, a normal person would be knocked unconscious in seconds. Gilliam twisted around desperately to break free of Norse's naked choke, then blindly fired the King Cobra he'd taken out of his pocket behind Norse.
A bullet grazed Norse's side however and pierced the researcher's chest as he finally got up.
Norse's arms lashed out at Gilliam again. Gilliam quickly twisted the control stick to roll the helicopter in an effort to shake him off.
But then, the helicopter was jolted away by a powerful blast from the ground. Perhaps the explosives had ignited and blown up the castle.
Gilliam desperately grasped the controls. However, the helicopter was unable to gain enough altitude due to Norse's intrusion.
Even he couldn't control it in the end, as they gradually began to drop in altitude.
There was a particularly violent explosion that engulfed the entire castle. The blast hit the descending helicopter even harder.
Unable to control itself, the helicopter crashed into the side of the mountain. The impact blew out the rear rotors and the helicopter completely lost control.
Norse covered Raine's body and held her head tightly.
After a few more jolts and crashes, the helicopter slid down the mountainside, knocking down trees as it went.
It plunged into the sandy beach in the cove at the bottom of the cliff, kicking up sand and burying half the plane before finally coming to a halt.
Norse kicked the door open, picked Raine up, and ran off with her. There was no time to dawdle. The tank had been filled with fuel. There was no telling when it would ignite and explode.
Both their feet were caught in the sand. Even still they desperately ran for a few dozen meters, and when they found themselves in a depression in the sand, Norse shielded Raine's head and pushed her to the ground.
Behind them, the helicopter exploded.
The explosion was followed by a wild blast of heat and wind above their heads.
They both held their breath and watched it go by. Then, with a strong ringing in his ears, Norse slowly raised himself up and looked back.
The helicopter was no longer intact. The shockwave of the explosion had formed a neat concentric circle in the cove, at its center nothing but a wreck of burning steel.
"Probably the Beardsley family's private beach."
Before they had time to rejoice in each other's safety, the sound of eerie footsteps began to echo around them.
The Zombies that survived the disaster at the castle had arrived. The strong smell of decay was filling the air around them, mixed with the sea breeze and smoke.
These Zombies were the end result of the guests Norse and his companion met at the castle. They must've wandered out here in search of fresh prey, having turned into carcasses driven only by the instinct of appetite, after having boasted so much opulence.
Some of them might've been caught in the helicopter's explosion, being barbecued with their clothes on fire. But that didn't stop them from moving forward. Slowly, but surely:
They were getting closer to Norse and Raine.
"What're we gonna do Norse!?"
"...We've got no more weapons. We gotta run. Look, there's a boat on the pier!"
A motorboat was moored at the end of the narrow pier jutting into the sea.
The leading Zombie opened its gaping mouth and attacked Norse. But before it could bite him in the throat, Norse slammed his right elbow into its cheek.
The bones in its jaw shattered, splattering rotting juices all over the area. Another knee to its body and the Zombie lost its balance and fell over. It still struggled to grab its prey by the legs with its hands.
Norse mercilessly crushed its skull with the heels of his boots. Mashed eyeballs and brain plasma sprayed into the sand.
"Quick, run to the pier!"
There were too many of them for him to take them on with his bare hands. Once he got bit by one, he'd be one.
Norse and Raine rushed out, weaving in-and-out of the slow moving Zombies.
If they manage to get to the pier, what would they find...
Norse urged Raine to run as they desperately dodged the Zombies chasing them.
Pursued by snarling and rotten breath, she ran helplessly despite her feet being stuck in the sand.
As long as Norse was there to protect her, she wouldn't cry, she wouldn't scream, she wouldn't give up until the end.
She would find a way out of this predicament...
However, when she finally reached the foot of the pier, she was met by a sight that shook her resolve.
The place was already a den of Zombies. There were several Zombies huddled around a few corpses, chewing away at their flesh and slurping up the blood.
The bodies must've belonged to the people in the castle who came here in an attempt to escape by boat before Norse and Raine.
Whether by accident or ambush, these Zombies attacked them and were here to stay.
Some of the Zombies munching on corpses noticed Raine.
She was their new prey...
As if to announce itself, one of them let out a lurid growl and shakily stood up.
As if in response, the Zombies rose up one after another, opening their bloodied mouths wide, and started walking towards Raine.
"Norse, Norse! I can't go any further!"
As she stood there, Norse caught up with her. But the Zombies were closing in behind him, and from the pier as well. There was nowhere for them to run.
This is it...
A dark sense of despair overtook Norse. Raine closed his eyes tight and clung to Norse. He also hugged Raine's slender body.
In front of its new food, the lead Zombie raised its hands to the sky and howled loud.
We can't escape!
With a sudden gunshot, the head of the Zombie closing in behind Raine burst apart like a watermelon dropped on the floor.
The head of the Zombie closing in behind Norse splattered the same way.
BANG! BANG! BANG! A series of heavy gunfire echoed on the pier.
As they did, the heads of the Zombies surrounding them were blown off one by one.
Some of the Zombies had their bodies pierced by two or three at a time.
A few Zombies fell from the pier into the sea, pushed by their fellow dead falling down with their heads blown off.
They let out sad growls as they sank into the dark sea.
In the blink of an eye, all the Zombies that had been chasing Norse and Raine vanished from the pier.
Norse looked in the gunfire's direction. A dim figure was slowly approaching from beyond a cloud of smoke.
"Uh-huh, I'm not letting them kill you. I'll send you to Hell with my own hands!"
It was Gilliam. His once white suit was now scorched and sooty in many spots, to the point you couldn't tell what color it was. His long blonde hair was also singed by the hot air and covered in sand, making it look shaggy and shabby, a shadow of its former grace.
But as he glared at Norse, his eyes burned with anger and hatred.
"Gilliam! ...You're still alive!?"
To Norse's surprise, Gilliam threw away a scratched and cracked disk. It was the storage disk that had copied all of Mylene's memories.
"...Thanks to you, this disk's dead. You've ruined all my plans, how dare you. You can make it up to me by dying!"
Gilliam quickly opened his King Cobra's cylinder and dumped out his empty casings. Then he took out new rounds and loaded them.
"I'll mangle your body with one shot!"
Gilliam thrust his stainless steel revolver straight at Norse's chest.
Norse scowled at Gilliam as he held the gun, bracing himself.
"Hahaha! What're you gonna do unarmed? How're ya gonna beat me!?"
Gilliam's thumb triggered the King Cobra's hammer. The gun was still aimed squarely at Norse.
At that moment, the surface of the water on the pier at their feet rose up. Zombies that had dropped into the sea earlier and were thought to have sunk suddenly rose to the surface.
Both Gilliam and Norse watched the scene in dismay.
The next moment, the bodies of the Zombies were sliced and diced into tiny pieces of meat flying through the air.
Then, out of a swirling sea of rotting flesh and bodily fluids, a huge silver body suddenly leapt out and landed on the pier between Norse and the gun pointed at him.
"The hell's that...!?"
Landing between the two of them on the pier was the monster Mylenia, shining with a silvery luster in the morning sun.
"Why!? I thought I destroyed the transmitt..."
Before Gilliam could finish his sentence, Mylenia slowly raised its arm with huge claws extending from the end of it, razor-sharp and gleaming.
The next moment, a streak ran diagonally across Gilliam's body. A shower of fresh blood spurted out.
Along the streak, his upper body slid down and fell with a thud onto the already bloodied ground at his feet.
Raine couldn't help but lower her eyes at the vicious sight.
The monster let out a single roar and slowly turned to face Norse and Raine.
"...For the crime of assaulting me, I shall scourge the flesh on your bodies."
Both Norse and Raine gasped. Mylenia had spoken. Her voice and vocal tones were the same as Mylene's.
She smiled mischievously at them, both too startled to speak. Or rather, it looked like she was smiling.
"That's right, it's me, Mylene."
But they still hadn't grasped what was going on.
"Gilliam attempted to copy my brain and take it with him. In the same fashion, I copied my memories into my alter ego, Mylenia."
"...How's that possible?"
"And I set it up so that when the primary brain died, the memories inside Mylenia would awaken."
"You disarmed the deactivation command yourself?"
"Indeed, I am Mylene, and I'm the monster Mylenia. With this brain and this body, I will have my revenge upon all those who've wronged me!"
"...Raine, go! Start the boat!"
"Just go! I'll take care of this! In the meantime, go!"
Raine ran towards the boat moored at the end of the pier.
Norse held out his hands and slowly walked towards the monster.
Meanwhile, Raine jumped on the boat and removed the cover from the stern engine. She grabbed the starter with all her strength.
Mylene, or rather Mylenia, roared and lunged at Norse. Unarmed, Norse dashed towards the monster's chest.
The monster lashed its huge claws.
Norse dodged the blow by a few centimeters and slipped past it.
He went straight down the pier. At the end of it was Gilliam's corpse.
Having dodged its killing blow, the monster turned around in anger.
Norse lifted Gilliam's King Cobra from his puddle of blood. But his right hand from the elbow was still there, his fingers clutching the grip tight.
Norse tried desperately to pry the fingers open. But the fingers, covered in Gilliam's spiteful blood, weren't going to come off easily.
"Damn you, Norse! I despise you for shooting me dead!"
The monster lunged at Norse again. This time, he tightened his arms and folded them.
It didn't take a big swing, but she was definitely aiming for his throat.
I can't get it in time! Just as Norse thought this, there was a rumbling sound behind the monster.
The boat's engine started up.
The sound caused the monster to stop and look back.
Norse finally managed to wrestle the King Cobra from Gilliam's right hand.
He grabbed it with both hands and thrust it at the monster.
BANG! BANG! BANG!
The continuous firing of .45 caliber revolver bullets roared across the pier.
One by one, two huge gaping holes opened up in the monster's torso. The monster's shrill screams pierced Norse's ears.
Undaunted, he regained his grip as he slipped on Gilliam's slick blood, slamming all his remaining bullets into the wall of flesh.
BANG! BANG! BANG!
The monster's huge body was torn in two by the destructive force of the King Cobra fired at close range.
The lower half of the monster's body fell onto the pier, the upper half slipped on the spurting blood and tumbled off the pier into the sea along with Gilliam's body.
Norse threw the empty King Cobra into the sea, ran across the blood-soaked pier, and leapt into the boat where Raine was already waiting for him unmoored.
Norse slowly slid himself into the driver's seat next to Raine, who was at the wheel. She smiled firmly at him, covered with soot and dried blood.
Raine's eyes filled with tears of relief and joy.
"You did good."
But then the boat carrying them shook violently.
"What's wrong, Raine!? What's happening?"
"There's something stuck in the stern...!"
Norse leaned toward the stern.
His face froze for a moment, then his eyes widened.
The upper half of Mylenia's body, which must've tumbled off the pier into the sea, was clinging to the stern. And she was using her huge claws to dig into the hull as she tried to crawl up the boat.
"'I won't let you get away, Norse..."
What a survival ability, or rather, what tenacity.
The nightmare was still raging. But there was no escaping it. He had to fight to the end and survive.
Norse looked around at the equipment in the boat. He found a fishing knife with a ten centimeter blade.
But that wouldn't be enough to defeat her. He needed something, anything to use as a weapon.
A mooring anchor flashed in Norse's eyes. He jumped on it as if he'd been shot and began cutting the mooring rope tied to it with his knife.
In the meantime, the monster was desperately trying to crawl up the boat.
Norse raised the anchor with both hands and made his way toward the stern.
"Norse! A vortex is starting to form, it's rocking the boat!"
Before Raine could say another word, a strong rocking motion struck the boat.
Norse held on with both hands, knowing that if he fell into the water, it'd be the end.
It was such a small boat, for only a few passengers. If it were swallowed by a whirlpool on Gaddywall Island, it'd be flattened in no time. Raine, at the wheel, also struggled to avoid the whirlpool ahead.
Norse lifted the anchor again and headed for the stern.
He held it up to the flailing monster.
The monster's upper body suddenly writhed. With one claw, it pinned its body to the hull, while the other attacked Norse. He felt a sharp pain in his right calf.
The monster's claw had penetrated deep into his skin.
But Norse was unfazed by this, and with all his might, he slammed the anchor he'd raised into the monster's brow.
"That's it... this is the end for you!"
Dark blood surged high into the sky. The body parted with the boat's stern, leaving behind a cry-like screech in its wake.
A claw that had pierced Norse's calf had broke off.
The lifeless, upper-body monster slid off the stern and was swallowed up by the giant whirlpool.
"It's over... It's finally all over..."
Norse slumped to the ground. He pulled out the claw lodged in his calf and fresh blood began to pour out.
Raine rushed to Norse. She ripped off his clothing to stop the bleeding.
"Are you okay? It's going to take at least four hours to get to the port."
"Yeah, I hope so, Raine."
After treating his injuries, Norse lay down in the boat.
"...I'm a little tired, wake me up when we get to the harbor."
He closed his eyes. He was covered in sweat and Raine gave him a kiss on his pale cheek.
Across the raging sea the sun was rising. Their small boat was heading towards the sunrise, weaving through whirlpools forming in front of them.
Will we be able to survive this rough sea?
Will we have enough fuel to make it to harbor?
These questions flashed in and out of Norse's mind.
But he was content. He'd fought his battle.
With his eyes closed, Norse was in a comforting darkness.
But beyond that, he felt a dim light, a warm glow, perhaps of the future.