I listen to Senri’s quiet voice while enduring the stomachache. The story Senri heard from the Mayor was extremely suspicious.
“The holy ground that the undead is aiming for, huh…”
According to the Mayor, there seems to be something like a holy ground beneath that old castle that attracts the undead.
Therefore, in order to exterminate the undead that appear frequently, Dessend is calling the mercenaries from outside and having them guard the old castle. The scale of the attack last night seemed to have been outside of Dessend’s expectations.
It was just too unnatural. Even I, with my scuffed concentration ability because of the stomach ache, can clearly tell that it sounds incongruent, as if they forcefully tried rationalizing it.
First of all, that doesn’t explain why they didn’t contact the Order. It’s possible for them to force an excuse that they wanted to contact the Order after seeing how things go — but, well, it’s probably unlikely. After all, Dessend’s side isn’t losing anything by contacting the Order of Death Knights.
Senri says with a serious expression.
“They’re hiding… something.”
“To start with, what I was attracted to… was not a place.”
If it’s the holy ground that’s attracting the undead, it should have worked on me too. But, I was going there because Night Crystals were dropping there often for some reason, and that Night Crystals’ presence wasn’t something that could be easily sensed from outside the castle.
If we could capture the Necromancer that was controlling the army of the undead, we could get some information too―― but as long as that vampire with poison blood is involved, that would be difficult.
Senri dangles a key in front of me. It’s a big key, almost the size of my palm. It’s very rusty and looks meaningful.
I frown. Senri takes a slight breath. I look at her chest quietly move according to that action while enduring the stomach ache.
“That basement… has even more room beneath it. It’s the key for that. I received it from the Mayor.”
“..What’s, in there?”
Senri slightly shook her head.
It’s completely a trap. I don’t know what could be further underground of the underground passage of the former Demon King’s castle, but it’s bound to be something worthless.
But I could sense it. Senri has completely made up her mind. She is righteous. Level-headedness and stubbornness both coexist inside her. It’s way too dangerous, but I don’t even feel like stopping her when I look into her quiet eyes, reminiscent of the surface of a lake.
“I’m, coming too.”
“I can at last, act like a wall. Even in this state, I’m still much stronger than you, Senri.”
Sure, my stomach hurts, but my regeneration ability is still working and even if lacking, hitting with all my might should take care of most monsters.
Senri is strong, but she’s a human. She has neither the durability nor the regeneration ability, so in case something happens, it would be too late. I hold down my stomach and declare to Senri who’s so delicate that she might break if I hug her strongly.
“This is different from going out into town to gather information. I’ll come with you even if I have to cling to you.”
“… You don’t have to cling to me.”
“I won’t let anybody bite me anymore. I haven’t forgotten what happened with Albertus. I’ll be the one doing the biting one-sidedly.
“… it’s much more dangerous, to leave you behind. This town is too dangerous for you.”
Senri evades my arms that I stretched out to hug her, with minimal movements.
I’m stronger, but I still can’t match her delicate and flexible movements. But it’s fine. When it’s time to drink blood, she’ll let me catch her.
Still feeling the pain that almost feels like my stomach is on fire, I straighten my spine with willpower and act tough with all my might.
“This is it. Let’s finish it quickly and leave this damn town.”
There was a strange feeling behind her neck.
Like numbness ―― or like chills. It was something unique one felt when they were about to enter a dangerous place.
Senri looked up at the old castle that was wrapped in silence with no other signs of life and frowned.
Just how many times had she visited this castle at night? ―― However, it looked obviously different from before.
It was the day before yesterday that they defeated a great number of the undead. But, their remains that were piled up high were gone now without even a single bone left. If what Mayor said was right, they must’ve cleared them up, but――
She felt somehow similar to what she was feeling right before invading the mansion of Horus Carmon. The strong traces of darkness were not the remains from the Demon King’s era.
“You’re really strange, Roux, to come back here after something like that happened.”
Following behind her were Mister Lazar and the co, the mercenary group. While they didn’t show it on their face, their attitude was clearly timid.
‘It’s natural’, Senri thought. Even though Mister Lazar and the guys didn’t come in contact with the swarm of the undead, they had seen the countless remains. They were the kind of troops that were not worth considering because they had been losing to a mere ‘Black Bone’, even if it was a fairly excellent specimen.
Even so, had they taken the mayor’s request with her and come this far because they were curious or because they felt guilty leaving everything for Senri who was much younger than them?
One of the mercenaries talked. On the receiving end of his fearful gaze was the pale-faced End who was holding down his stomach.
“You also look pretty unwell today, Baron. Wouldn’t it be better if you went back?”
“I think the same too. But Roux will go even if she’s alone. As her husband, I can’t stay quiet. As her husband.”
Senri felt slightly impressed by End’s willpower to continue acting even in a situation like this.
To start with, it was no ordinary thing for End, who didn’t want to die despite being literally dead already, to come this far while feeling unwell.
This matter started for End, but coming here right now was Senri’s selfishness. And she had anticipated that if she moved, End would also want to come with her. She felt a bit ―― no, very sorry about it.
“It’s love. I love Roux, so I followed her even though my stomach hurts this much. Because I love her.”
“O-oh. I got it. I got it already, Baron. But can you even fight like that?”
End declared something embarrassing while glancing towards Senri. She had vaguely realized it a long time ago but, it looked like End… was the outspoken type. Or rather, he must have not cared what Mister Lazar and the others thought of him.
But leaving the content of his declarations aside ―― she wanted him to be a bit quiet. Even though it was unquestionable from the atmosphere of the old castle that the enemy was lying in wait, Senri couldn’t keep the tension up.
End emphasized with a face that was completely drained of all color. He was pretending to be fine, but she could see his body stop from time to time, as if it was cramping. It must’ve hurt, as expected.
“Of course! But if you guys end up in danger, you should hurry up and run away, Mister Lazar. If you guys die, my beloved Roux would be sad! My beloved Roux!”
End was strong, but Senri couldn’t rely on him for this case. She sighed deeply and quietly rebuked End.
“Baron, be quiet for a bit. I love you.”
The atmosphere of the old castle was clearly different from before. It wasn’t a very bright place to start with, but if I had to say it ―― it’s wrapped in such a terribly gloomy aura, that it almost made me feel better. If my stomach wasn’t hurting, I might’ve started humming.
But even if I’m tortured by the pain, I won’t let my guard anymore. My Lesser Vampire instincts are already in combat mode.
Senri’s leading the way. Following her are Mister Lazar and the mercenaries, and also―― me.
Mister Lazar and the guys will most likely be useless in this battle. That’s why they’re a wall.
A wall that protects me and Senri from traps. I’d like to walk around in a way that avoids letting them die as much as possible, because Senri would be sad and I don’t have any resentment towards them either, but our lives can’t be replaced. They came this far while fully aware of the dangers, they must be prepared for the worst case scenario.
Senri stopped in front of the main gate of the castle. Hesitation appeared on her face for only a second, but she instantly pulled out the sword at her waist and scratched the castle wall.
Once horizontally, once vertically. The sharp scratches made in the form of a cross gave out a faint white glow.
Perhaps I had a quizzical look on my face, as Senri looked at me and said slightly apologetically,
“… It’s a sign that I can’t return alive. It will warn those that come after.”
… I see. That’s the heroic determination suitable for the Order of Death Knights, that put their lives on line to exterminate the undead.
I’d like to compliment it as admirable, but as I’ve always loved reading, I know.
“Don’t jinx it. That’s what we call a death flag.”
Well… I’m already dead though.
I look down on the heavy machete in my right arm. My stomach hurts, but I can at least swing it around to destroy death flags.
I hesitate a bit, but I choose to simply shrug slightly.
I will use every means possible to not let Senri be killed. That’s it. I don’t need a symbol of my determination. That already exists within me.
I can hardly use my power. Sable’s curse that I failed to absorb is probably connected to my bad condition.
My physical strength and regeneration ability, my five senses and overall physical abilities are still the same, but the abilities that can be used actively aren’t working that well.
Dogification, cursed flame, sharp claw and sharp fang and silhouette are all impossible. I might be able to activate them if I risk my life and pour in all my power amidst the pain, but I really don’t feel like trying it.
Because of the constant pain, my concentration has also fallen. I take a deep breath and take my mind off the pain by only thinking about Senri. I’m sure Senri will give me a reward if we find out the cause well. Considering that, this level of pain is a piece of cake.
I walk along the passageway of the castle that I’ve become so familiar with. Usually I walk in the front, but this time alone I’ll only be a burden if I do that so I can only leave it to Senri.
Everything smells the same as usual. But the air I feel on my skin is different. We pass through the collapsed wall and descend to the underground passage.
I was slightly expectant, but I didn’t feel any presence of Night Crystals. We go deeper and deeper while being wary of surroundings.
We reached a dead-end pathway. It was a place with a few big wooden boxes that also looked like storage. It’s been a while since we’ve started visiting here but no Night Crystal has appeared.
By the way, I confirmed it when I first came here, but the wooden boxes were empty. I’ve heard that those were brought by Dessend and then abandoned here. Senri checked the surroundings once and dragged the wooden boxes away.
I peek at the stone floor that was exposed within illumination cast by the faint light of the torches Mister Lazar and the others were holding.
Certainly, when I look at it carefully, ―― there’s a gap between the slates. Anyone wouldn’t be able to recognize it by looking at it a little bit. It doesn’t smell either, so a vampire wouldn’t notice it either.
I can’t exactly let Senri turn over the stone with her delicate white fingers. As I replace Senri and move to the front, I put it in my trembling fingers and forcibly turn over the slate.
The stone audibly creaks. It’s quite heavy, but it probably wasn’t affixed. It might’ve been hard with a human’s strength, but if you turn one slate over and create a big gap, it wouldn’t be difficult to detach the rest.
I detach each one by one carefully. Hidden beneath the stone floor was ―― an old black door.
“… It’s a trap. No doubt about it.”
Did Dessend fill in this floor? Or did cover something that was originally exposed, as one would put a lid on something that smelled foul? Either way, this is troublesome. The door is tightly closed and no smell is leaking out either. I look at Senri’s expression, but she also shakes her head.
“… They have taken countermeasures.”
So the detection by the blessing also had a weakness, huh? Moreover, it’s to be expected. We are in the basement of the caste of the former King of the Dead. It would be strange if it couldn’t do that much at least.
However, even if there’s nervousness on Senri’s face, there’s no fear. She has surely always fought battles like this.
In that case, I can’t afford to be scared. I hold out my hand to her. Senri hesitates for a bit but soon gives me the rusty key.