The morning gave way to noon which in turn brought on night. I woke up to Senri’s knock as I lay inside the closet of an inn in Dessend.
The inns in ‘Dessend’ are not kind to vampires. There are no curtains, the closets are peppered with the right crucifix symbol and the room was full of blatant anti-vampire measures.
The weakness of vampires to the crucifix is rather subtle. We are weak to a specific crucifix but it is not as fatal compared to our other weaknesses. That is the reason I, with few abilities then, was able to hold my own against Keeper, the vampire hunter and also why Senri’s sword is not in the shape of a crucifix.
I looked up at the clay crucifix once again and sighed. The gradual increase in annoying weaknesses and their countermeasures are a little different from the image I had of vampires. Naturally, as long as my life depends on it, I could not possibly be lazy in dealing with them….
The silver haired ex-Death Knight looked at me and smiled ever so slightly that nobody except me could have noticed it.
Senri looked as pretty as ever. Even after all the work of locating the castle last night and taking to the streets during the day, she still looked full of life.
“Morning. They should really consider human proportions when making a closet.”
“… You’d have all the space you want if you turn into a dog.”
“I wouldn’t be able to stay put if I did.”
Lately, I have been limiting the number of occasions I transform into a dog. The ability is rather convenient and I did take a liking to both forms of fluffy white dog and cool, sleek black dog, but that is precisely why I feel like I would get careless and take things too far.
Besides, I am mostly in my dog form while on the road, so I would rather not continue to stay that way once inside town.
I felt fine. I do not need to check to know that my body is in tiptop shape. Unfortunately enough, I still have a lot of blood power.
I hesitated for a bit, then opened the drawer, pulled out a pair of sunglasses and put them on.
And finally, I felt around my pocket for the Night Crystal the size of the tip of my little finger, that we snagged last night.
☠ ☠ ☠
The signs of life from the tunnels ended up being a couple of mercenaries.
It was no more than a coincidence that we saved their necks in time. Though I did pick up signs of life, I could not tell that they were struggling to fight off the skeletons.
Five men between twenty and thirty years of age. They did not seem too competent. They all looked rugged and pretty built but they were probably only as strong as the weakest soldier in Rainel’s army.
Strong people are often ones with a tenacious life force (although they do not need to have complete control over it like Senri). And these people do not have that.
They do not seem to be able to wield magic and the leader of the group who introduced himself as Lazar was someone I could take on with both my eyes shut.
Either way, I do not intend to work together with or fight them, so their strength is really not a matter of concern.
The mercenary group was perfect for the purpose of gathering information. They did not seem to doubt that I was an undead and were all captivated by Senri. Well, I also found it hard to tear my eyes away from her when we first met and still cannot, so I can’t really fault them.
If they ever try to lay hands on her, I shall beat them to a pulp, but I shall allow them to gawk for a bit.
To sum it up, we could glean no new information from them.
Looks like they were hired to deal with the undead that invade the castle. Their employer being the town of ‘Dessend’. Their job was to hole up in the castle and take down the undead that occasionally infiltrated it.
They readily coughed up details only because they had nothing to hide. Did not seem like they were lying either.
That was the extent of their job and they were not ordered to protect anything. From what I hear, they have taken up similar jobs many times before.
I did not learn what I thought I would. However, I did learn that they knew nothing.
They were no more than your typical mercenaries. Mercenaries never question their employers unless there are extenuating circumstances. Although I do think it is rather crazy to stick to that rule when they have to put their lives on the line exterminating undead, it is their choice and I cannot do anything about it.
And so, the biggest achievement from yesterday’s castle raid – was the Night Crystal that we managed to obtain.
Senri shut her eyes for a few moments after which she opened them and nodded.
“There’s no mistaking it… I can’t feel your presence.”
“Yeah. I can tell too.”
I started sensing blood energy and began channeling it during the battle with the man-eater – after I lost the Night Crystal. So, I only had a vague understanding of it, but now I can grasp it fully.
Energy was flowing through the small stone. I could distinctly see the path of flow.
I found the stone in the corner of an unassuming passageway way past the tunnel the mercenaries were guarding. It was not in any treasure chest nor on any shelf, but just lay there out in the open, ignored like any other pebble.
It was also only as big as the tip of my little finger and it probably went largely unnoticed by humans. Even if someone had noticed it, the thought of picking up a pebble in the dark would not cross their mind.
Even the Death Knights would probably not have noticed it. I was able to barely sense its special nature because of my ability to sense the flow of negative energy .
Either way, after all that is said and done, we had successfully accomplished what we set out to do in this town.
However, to be honest… everything went a little too smoothly that something did not sit right with me.
I never imagined Senri’s proposal would directly connect us to our objective. I was only hoping to find a clue or two, but given how even Senri looked flabbergasted, I guess we were of the same mind.
Nothing made sense. I have followed my head so far, but everything that happened at ‘Dessend’ has been a very odd series of events. Everything has gone off without a hitch. Almost as if we are following someone’s script page for page.
We have gotten what we wanted. Nevertheless, I have no idea why this was rolling around on the ground there, why the skeletons attacked me or who is the mastermind pulling the strings from behind the curtain.
First of all, what exactly is a ‘Night Crystal’? Appears to be no more than a mere pebble at a glance. I am aware that it can sparkle like a gem when cut and is actually more fragile than it looks.
Why was it lying there of all places? Was Senri right in that the Mirage Demon King is the origin of the crystal? But it has been ages since he was felled. Why was this left intact there? And conversely, why was there not more of it?
I heard from the mercenaries that they did a customary sweep of the tunnels. The reason why they did not discover the crystal is probably because of its simple looks as I mentioned but the undead should be able to instinctively sense it. Even if one were to argue that the tunnel was only exposed because of the wall around it crumbling down, it has been a few years since that happened.
Logically speaking, it makes no sense for it to be there.
Oh, I guess the presence of Night Crystals cannot be detected from too far away….
We got our hands on a Night Crystal. The only reason we did not leave this town right away is because the series of events have been too strange.
Moreover, if this is where crystals are created, it would be a shame to leave after finding just one tiny crystal. I have already had two of them destroyed, so might as well find a spare and then some.
I did consider swallowing the crystal, but thought it a little too hasty, taking into account that the crystal actually erases one’s presence. Placing an object that absorbs negative energy in my body might greatly reduce my own strength and not to mention I, quite unfortunately, tend to lose large portions of my body from time to time, so it would not really be the safest place to hold the crystal.
Fleeing this place should be our last resort.
Senri looked up at me and her eyes saw right through me, just like they did the first day we met.
“Got our meeting place fixed. Baron, even with your presence concealed, this town is far too harsh on you. Let me know if anything’s wrong.”
“I’m fine. I can tolerate it to an extent.”
I have been through a lot since I was revived, but they still do not compare to my previous life.
Senri sidled closer to me. Because the flowing water here and there in this town could take me unawares and steal my strength. I let my tongue graze over my throbbing fangs as I took hold of her cold hand.
☠ ☠ ☠
A high-end bar was chosen to be our meeting place. Senri looked for and found it to be one of the few places that did not add garlic to their food.
“There’s taxes levied on garlic-free food in this town.”
“… I want my father to take down the guys who decided on this rule.”
I uttered my umpteenth complaint since we entered this town, to a bespectacled Senri. Vampires have an acute sense of smell, so a simple dish with garlic cannot kill us. This is no more than mere harassment.
That said, Senri’s blood, sweet as ever, should make me feel elated as usual. She has not partaken any food with garlic for my sake. Just for my sake.
The entrance was under ground level. Down a white staircase we went and through a fancy door.
As Senri had mentioned, there was not a whiff of garlic inside the bar. There were quite a few patrons, all of them well-dressed.
I guess, there are a few who would like to dine on garlic-free food in this town.
The mercenaries we had rescued last night stood in a corner looking very ill at ease. I would have expected them to be swimming in alcohol but there were only small glasses on the table.
I raised my sunglasses and put an arm over Senri’s shoulder and called out to them excitedly as I walked over.
“Heyy! Sorry you guys had to come in so late. We were a bit occupied during the day.”
“N-No worries, you two saved our lives. Let us pay you back at the very least.”
He sounded brusque but that is probably because of the life he had led. His face held no hostility or fear.
I have not really had many dealings with others apart from a fight to the death, but I do possess the knowledge I gained from books. You need to put on a strong front when dealing with mercenaries.
I plopped down on an empty seat and ordered a jug of the bar’s strongest liquor. The bartender looked a bit surprised but said nothing.
The mercenaries looked nervous. They seemed surprised yesterday too, and probably wondered about the circumstances that brought together the strange duo of a strong man much younger than themselves, who wore sunglasses at night and a beautiful silver-haired girl, who did not look ordinary in any way. All the more so, as they had met for the first time in a castle at night.
I flashed them a friendly smile.
“Let me reintroduce myself. I’m Baron Silvis, a vampire hunter. This is… Roux, Roux Silvis.”
“Vampire hunter?! Is that why…”
Senri eyes widened. Well it might be a bit too late, but it is better to not use Senri’s real name since the Death Knights could still be on our trail.
Her name is not all that rare but we stand to lose nothing by taking precautions.
My impromptu introduction created a buzz and the mercenaries looked at each other.
Vampire hunters seem to be a rarer species than Death Knights. And from what I have seen of the Keeper, they also seem to be oddballs. It is probably the best disguise in this town. Albertus was hunting down vampires despite being a cursed one herself, so it should not really be odd for me to do the same.
I peeked at Senri before declaring brazenly,
“We have the same last names because I married into her family. And we are totally head over heels for each other. You had better be prepared to get socked if you ogle at my wife.”