The girl introduced as Albertus had a fire lit her eyes and looked like she could pounce on me any second. If anything, it was almost unbelievable that she had not already done so.
I returned the Keeper’s stare.
The weird man whose thoughts I cannot seem to decipher, rubbed two thinly gloved hands together and a very unpleasant expression adorned his face.
“Didn’t expect that? Neither did I. The one in your grasp seems to be more valuable than anything else to the Destroyer. Although, it’s hunting I specialize in–.”
“I need some time to decide.”
“You can’t have any.”
Upon hearing my response, Albertus gripped the table and bared her teeth at me. Her thin fingers dug into and made cracks on the thick wooden table. Quite the terrifying strength considering that it did not seem like her physical abilities were enhanced by positive energy.
That said, I could easily do the same.
I broke the rules we had set and fed more on Senri than needed because I had predicted that the opponents would be powerful. I did not come here willy-nilly without a plan.
The details of negotiation were not much of a surprise either. It was just that, their process seems… a little too peaceful than I expected.
The only thing I possess that would make them go so far as to deign to negotiate to retrieve, could only be Senri.
This… is rather a pickle.
I am a monster. Senri shows me compassion despite that because I am hunted down. If that image is broken, there would be no reason for Senri to stick close to me.
They really are clever. I doubt the Death Knights would keep their promise, but I could raise my chances of successfully evading them if I could conceal my negative energy.
“I cannot survive without blood.”
”Not my problem. You can hunt as much you want if you can conceal your negative energy. And if you really are a harmless vampire, there are any number of ways for you to survive.”
The Keeper scowled.
… This is difficult.
It is true that there are any number of ways.
The reason vampires are hunted is because they get carried away by the blood lust and exhaust their prey of all blood thereby killing them.
Moreover, a true vampire as a result of the curse, is capable of turning their prey into another being that dwells in the darkness. A vampire that expands its influence exponentially would be considered an enemy of mankind.
However, as long as I do not manifest that particular special ability, I could almost be considered harmless. The curse placed on me is useful in certain circles. Perhaps, I might even be able to find a patron.
The piece of paper that the Keeper had pulled out was the contract.
The paper by itself held no power, but written on there, were the details of negotiation mentioned earlier by the Keeper, which were : In return for freedom and the Night Crystal, I was to disappear from Senri’s side of my own volition.
“Let me have your name. And seal it with your blood. It will serve as proof that you weren’t coerced into this deal… and then we can head towards the willful princess with it in hand.”
“… this proves nothing.”
“It sure does. There’s a curse placed on vampires. Their bodies turn to dust the moment they are killed. It’s impossible to get their blood after they are dead, and as a Death Knight, she should be capable of identifying your negative energy embedded in that piece of paper.”
The Keeper’s voice was low and gloomy.
… Knowing her, it would not be too strange if she actually found it convincing.
The Keeper put his hands in his pocket and retrieved a leather pouch from within. He placed a crystal the size of the nail of the little finger on the table. It was rather small, but I certainly recognize it.
… It was the real deal.
I could tell instinctively. It is the crystal that is capable of absorbing the negative energy I constantly radiate, thereby preventing its dispersal.
I am not sure if it can completely hide my aura given its size, but it is still better than nothing.
And I am desperately in need of it.
“Though it may be small, it is rather a rare item that you won’t be able to find easily. Kekekek… beings of darkness would all kill to get their hands on it. It’s not something a mere lesser vampire can get a hold of.”
“… It still can’t replace Senri.”
Let me show my objection once. I do hope to live a peaceful life, but it is no more than a stone. Given that I have managed to already come across two, I am sure there should be a third stone somewhere in this world. However, there is only one Senri in this whole wide world.
The Keeper frowned and spoke almost as if to admonish.
“You are hindering her future. You can’t possibly think that tagging along with you is where her happiness lies. If you really do have a sense of humanity, shouldn’t you let her go?”
This is what I was talking about. This man clearly knows where my weaknesses lie.
My strength is the human will I possess which is also my weakness at the same time.
This is sad… I even feel sorry for this man before me. Although he is harder to deal with than the Death Knights, who only have strength to their names.
“Has she gained anything after being bewitched by you? There’s a black mark in her career, she is pursued by people who were once her colleagues, she has destroyed her health and is currently laid up. Don’t you feed on her as you hide behind your weaknesses and take advantage of her kindness? If you really do possess a human heart… then give it some thought.”
Cornering me with a sound argument and convincing words will have no effect on me. Because I have no sense of justice.
Everything he said is true. I am perfectly aware of it. I exploit her kindness and rely on her, while giving nothing back in return… I wanted to survive even to that end.
My plan… may have fallen apart.
What should I do?… No, the answer is obvious.
I took deep breaths as a human would do and looked into the Keeper’s eyes.
“Senri… gave all of herself to me.”
“Ahh, don’t get me wrong. I meant everything but her virginity. She remains pure. So, she can still return to being a Death Knight. I knew that I would need to return her to the Order someday.”
I do not understand how but a strong power of blessing dwells in a pure body.
That is why almost all of the Death Knights, irrespective of their sex, stay chaste. It is one of their weaknesses and the beings of the dark and demons take the initiative to target said weakness.
The Keeper’s eyebrows twitched a little.
“So you knew your place … I feel ashamed to have almost jumped to the wrong conclusion.”
I grabbed the pen on the table and did not hesitate in the least before I signed the contract with the name End.
I am sure they never imagined that I would agree to their conditions so easily. I returned the pen to the Keeper, who gaped at me.
“There’s just one thing I have to say. I wasn’t the one who bewitched Senri,… but it’s the other way around. I didn’t snatch anything from her, but she bestowed everything upon me. Senri made me human. I doubt you can understand the feeling of suddenly waking up a monster one day. Nor the happiness of being accepted by a human being despite what you’ve turned into.”
Albertus’ breath came out in puffs but she stayed silent while her pupils contracted.
I grabbed the night crystal from the table and placed it inside my breast pocket.
I bit down on my right thumb, and approached the paper with a bloody finger.
“I… hold Senri dear to my heart. So, if this will make her happy, then I would only be too glad to let her go.”
I pressed my thumb on the paper. A clear fingerprint was stamped on the contract.
I wonder how blood can remain when the undead turn to dust upon death.
This is good. I cannot think of any other way. This is fine. The rest… is a gamble.
As I stood mulling things over, the Keeper picked up the contract, gave it the once over nodded in affirmation and placed it in his pocket.
He smiled and held out his hand as if to shake mine.
“I’m glad… that you’re a reasonable vampire. That’s a load off my shoulders.”
“By the way, there’s something I wanted to ask you…”
“… What is it?”
I ignored his outstretched hand and returned to my seat, eyebrows furrowed.
The Keeper and Albertus. What a terrifying pair! Even after hearing my resolve and my convictions, they were not moved in the least.
I thought I was supposed to be the monster here, but how the tables have turned.
He is the personification of the image of a vampire hunter I had in mind.
My lips curved into a smile. This negotiation really had me sweating.
And now, I voiced my doubts.
“Do you have the permission from the Death Knights for that contract? They aren’t exactly the kind of people who’d show kindness to monsters as far as I know.”
“… kekek… No wonder they wanted me to handle this. Aren’t you a clever one?”
He reached out and grabbed my arm. I felt it go limp.
But right at that moment, I kicked the table up in the air.
The huge, heavy, wooden table flipped over and he could not hold onto my arm anymore. I regained my strength in that arm in a flash.
The table fell with a resounding bang and a moment later, the sound of screams and yelling reached our ears.
It was meant to completely take him by surprise, but the Keeper had not been crushed by the table.
Maybe he had quickly moved to the side to evade it, he gazed at me unperturbed, with a smile on his face.
I wonder if the reason I lost my strength in a flash was because he had a crucifix under his glove. Had I not turned over the table, I may not have been able to shake him off.
However, at that moment, what I felt was… huge relief.
Indeed this is how the relationship between a vampire and vampire hunter should be like.
The Keeper unsheathed his sword. It was a silver sword that gave off unpleasant vibes.
It was a crucifix. I could tell instinctively.
It clearly satisfies all the conditions to be a crucifix which vampires find dreadful. Since considering the size of the grip and the sword itself, the guard was simply too long. The Keeper smiled.
“Don’t think badly of me, poor vampire. I haven’t broken the contract. I shall mercifully condemn that soul of yours to hell.”
The customers, realizing the situation, left behind their drinks and food that they had been enjoying, and ran for the exit, helter skelter.
Oh right. Vampire Hunters do not care about humans. The Death Knights would try to protect the people but Vampire Hunters would not even attempt to do so.
The reason why they become vampire hunters is either money or a deep seated resentment towards vampires.
They are madmen with a strong will, who would not give up despite not possessing the power of blessing to overpower the undead like the Death Knights.
They would not mind sacrificing a thousand humans if it meant the death of a single vampire.
That is the kind of people the Vampire Hunters are.
Albertus picked up the table with one hand and spitted out angrily.
“I see you drank your fill before coming here. No matter how you try to fool us with your pretty words, I can smell it on you, vampire!”
“Do you intend to meet Senri right after you kill me?”
“This is just extra service. We are not affiliated with any group you see… it would be nice to have that monster owe us one.”
So they are fine if things get complicated. I see, so the request they received was to simply kill me.
It does not seem like they intend to let me live. Well, I suppose a Vampire Hunter cannot be referred to as such if they fail to hunt down a vampire.
However, I did not think they would not even let me leave the tavern….
The Keeper retrieved a bottle from his pocket and poured its contents over the blade of his sword. The liquid trickled down from the sword to the ground.
In all probability, it is the holy water that has the power to eat away at the body of undead. I cannot afford to take a blow.
I am superior in simple terms of power, but I am not aware of the effects holy water would have on me.
The Keeper and I… are similar in a sense.
I smiled amiably. The Keeper grimaced. And that is when I pulled out my hidden card.
“I haven’t broken my promise either. I never spoke about the contents of the letter to another soul.”
I never spoke about it. I simply…showed it.
I came here alone as promised. However… I had someone waiting here before I got to this place.
That was a close call. I suppose it was simply impossible to attempt to see this peacefully to the end.
Moreover, I could not act like I did not care about Senri’s happiness either.
“… Sheathe, your sword.”
And I had planned, a cold voice reverberated in the near empty tavern.