༺ Marie Dunareff (6) ༻
According to the original storyline, Marie Dunareff would be subjugated by the player party. Unable to regain her rationality until the very end, the renowned mage prodigy would fall from grace and be confined at the bottom of the Academy.
That was how demi-humans that craved blood and sucked life away were treated, even more so if they didn’t understand words.
Like that, Marie would be eliminated from the scenario. Seeing that girl who fell down the abyss in the blink of an eye, the player would mumble to themselves that they would save her next time but in both the game and the previous iteration, Marie was never able to have a happy ending for herself.
Marie was a good person.
She was a nice girl with an uncannily large number of potatoes, who always baked more potatoes than necessary in the morning and carried them over in baskets to share with her friends.
It was fine for a good kid like her to have a better ending for herself.
I honestly couldn’t understand Park Sihu’s values. Life was not a math equation.
Even if there was no reason to,
Even if there was nothing in it for you,
And even though another person’s death might make it better for you…
Although you might need plenty of reasons to kill another person… you didn’t need a reason to save them.
“Wow~ Where am I?”
I uttered the most appropriate line in a semi-conscious state as a cough echoed from the side.
“Ugek… I can’t breathe…”
Next to me were a short-haired boy and a boy wearing glasses with an unkempt hair. They were clumsily dropping biscuit crumbs on the bed.
Jaeger opened his mouth after seeing me.
“Ohh, you’re awake. You…”
A memory of the past came back. It was back when I did something similar to this.
『Don’t do something like this ever again! Those bitches are nothing! Don’t risk your life for them!! Unless you want to see me go crazy!!』
My collars that were grabbed back then felt like they were about to be grabbed again.
“Please don’t grab on my collars and say, ‘Don’t do this ever again! Unless you want to see me go crazy!!’ to me.”
“…What is wrong with you? That’s a bit creepy.”
“Ugh… Are you into that type of stuff?”
Right? It’s not like I’m super prejudiced or anything right? He was the one with a terrible choice of words right?
Jaeger said while looking straight into my eyes with a serious gaze. I met his solemn gaze and gulped. Don’t tell me he…
“We were freaking cool as heck, weren’t we? Kekeke…!”
“Uhhm… yeah. Huhu… we defeated a Unique Grade. Huhuhu…”
“Damn right we did.”
The laughter of the boys filled the hospital room.
“Ah… this feels great.”
This was awesome. Now this was true friendship.
“Oh right. The doctor told us to let him know if you wake up.”
“I’ll leave the biscuits behind for you. You can… wait, can you even eat them? Shouldn’t you have porridge and stuff?”
“Just eat it and pretend like you didn’t.”
Jaeger and Lark quickly left the room before I could even stop them.
“Those heartless bastards…”
Guys, please. At least tell me how long it has been…
Fluids were connected to my right arm, and the needle might come out if I raised my body so I obediently stayed down on the bed.
The injuries that had been rather fatal were already nowhere to be seen thanks to my awesome specialty.
I scratched my neck as dried clots of blood fell down like powder. Apart from those remaining clots of blood, there was no other sign of Marie having bitten on my neck.
It seemed that my gamble had been a success.
I was blankly lying down on the bed when someone entered the room.
Thinking that it was either the nurse or the doctor, I turned to the side and found two unexpected guests.
“Mr. Chairman and Senior Professor?”
I bowed as Chairman Eriu and Lady Josephine walked up to my side.
– Tap! Tap! Tap!
Chairman Eriu sat next to me after walking over with the help of a cane.
“I believe this is my first time talking to you, Student Korin Lork.”
The chairman might not remember me, but this wasn’t my first time seeing him. I had learned many things from the chairman.
Of course, there was no way Chairman Eriu would have memories of the previous iteration so this was indeed officially our first time meeting each other.
“How do you feel? From what I heard, it seemed that you had a specialty related to regeneration or recovery.”
“I’m alright. I feel a lot better.”
“Is that so? It’s unclear why that wasn’t shown during the grading test… and there are many questions I have for you but, firstly…”
He stood up by supporting himself with the cane, before giving me a deep bow.
“Thank you. It is thanks to your courage that another student’s future has been saved. I am sincerely grateful for your dedication.”
Following Chairman Eriu, Senior Professor Josephine also lowered her head and showed me her gratitude.
“The students were in danger because of our inexperience and ignorance. We ended up making you guys shoulder the things that were supposed to be done by adults. Let me apologize regarding this matter.”
His self-deprecating tone of voice and his lowered back showed no signs of going back up. Eriu Casarr – the one in charge of one of the world’s 4 biggest academies – lowered his head.
“Words alone won’t be enough for an apology. You are our benefactor, and if there is anything you wish for, then we will try our best to give you the rightful compensation.”
The room turned silent after his words.
In fact, there were a lot of things Eriu Casarr could say as an excuse.
This was not something he had been intending on doing, and was outside everyone’s expectations. So let’s just move on.
He didn’t say anything like that. This person was someone who always acknowledged his own flaws and tried to shoulder more responsibilities than necessary.
『 I have made many mistakes, but you are definitely not one of them.』
I remembered the words that the Chairman had said to me in the previous iteration, and I believed in his goodwill.
There were many things I could gain from Eriu Casarr. He should know it better than anyone else on how impactful each and every one of his words were. He must be aware that he had given a blank cheque to a single student who could make all sorts of requests.
The biggest and the most valuable thing I could gain from the chairman were his ‘lessons’ but… now wasn’t the time. Not yet.
“Please give me a magic stone.”
“I’m trying to make a spear, but it’s hard to look for the right materials. It would be even better if you could help with the payment on top of that.”
Actually, I could probably ask for a complete spear and immediately get one. However, I wasn’t looking for an expensive spear that was just a little bit better than other spears.
It was because I was hoping for a spear that was best suited for myself that I had requested for materials instead of a legendary equipment.
“Alright. You can choose the best materials out there. And we will also provide anything else that you need.”
This was a jackpo… I mean, a really good reward. What should I make? And which blacksmith should I go to~?
“Ah. And please don’t bow like that. I feel a bit uncomfortable.”
I couldn’t make him bow the whole time so I told him to sit down before asking him a question.
“What happened to Senior Marie?”
“That student will be isolated and put in quarantine for a while. She has awakened into a demi-human, so we need to inspect her danger level for the time being.”
“Is that so?”
“We did hear most of it from the other students but… I think it will be better to hear the details from you, Student Korin. It’s okay to skip through some parts, so can you please explain it to us?”
Chairman Eriu appeared to have guessed that there was something I was hiding from them, but was implying to me that he wasn’t intending on delving deeper into the topic.
How did I know Marie had awakened as a vampire? How did I gather a party of freshmen so quickly as if I knew it was coming?
The chairman was practically saying that he won’t delve into those important details.
“So you see.”
I told them only the things that were alright to share. Although I wasn’t sure how much of my words they would believe in, I did send them the general message that Marie was fine, and that she wasn’t a monster.
After listening to my story, Chairman Eriu opened his mouth.
“Lastly, there is a request I’d like to make of you.”
“What is it?”
“We have no choice but to officially announce about Student Marie’s Awakening. It is possible for us to reveal everything that happened but that won’t be any good to Student Marie.”
In this world, demons were humanity’s greatest enemy.
Most of the demi-humans were just normal humans that suddenly turned into one because of their dormant demonic molecules being awakened against their will, but that did not change how they immediately turned into humanity’s enemy and a target of ostracization.
Vampires, werewolves, Jiangshi… the broad title of demi-human that all of them were labeled as had been bringing them to the scaffold and the stake for a long period of time. In this world, it had only been a century since people had been burned at the stake in a witch hunt.
These days, the Old Faith declined and the appearance of another religion reduced the segregation by a bit, but a demi-human that attacked her roommate and other students immediately after awakening into one… was a concerning matter that could gather too much attention from the fundamentalists of the Old Faith, who were keen on removing demi-humans, or those that believed in the supremacy of demi-humans, let alone the increased anxiety of the students.
Whatever it was, it was nothing good for Marie.
“I’m sorry to say this to you, Student Korin, but we are planning on modifying the story to be in Student Marie’s favor without mentioning what happened at the forest. Will that be alright for you?”
I unhesitatingly nodded to Chairman Eriu’s request. It was a topic which I would have brought up, if the Chairman didn’t bring it up himself.
It seemed that they had talked about it with Isabelle – Marie’s roommate – already so there should be no problems there.
“As for your recovery… Even though you do look fine, you can talk about that with Professor Josephine. I believe things will be quite busy for me from now on.”
After saying that, Chairman Eriu got up from the chair. According to what I heard at the previous iteration, it seemed that bringing Hua Ran into the school had also been quite the task.
Now that Marie had also awakened as a vampire, he probably needed to talk about it with the El Rath Kingdom, which the Academy was affiliated to, and other related facilities.
The Chairman would inevitably end up staying outside the Academy for a long time. He had been roaming around for a similar reason in the previous iteration, so this was probably about time.
‘That guy will start moving once Chairman Eriu leaves the Academy. I need to get prepared for that then.’
Even though that guy wasn’t the final boss of the 2nd Arc, he would reappear later as an annoying mid-boss, which was why I had to stop him from running away at all cost.
‘He might have run away last time, but not in this iteration.’
I immediately came to myself from the sound of a whip slapping at the air. It was seriously a mystery how she could make such a sound with a whip.
Considering how strict Lady Josephine was, I thought she would be glaring at me but what I saw instead was completely different.
“Are you still feeling unwell? If you are, then we can provide you with the best medical service.”
“Uhh… no. I’m fine. I could probably even leave the hospital right now.”
“I see. Well then… we can leave right now.”
Taking out the needle that was poking into my arm, I tidied up the room with the help of Lady Josephine.
“Would you mind going somewhere together?”
I had a rough idea of where she wanted me to go. Soon, she used her interdimensional spell and began walking off into the dark abyss without any hesitation.
The cliche in novels was to feel sick after a teleportation, but there was no such thing. It felt like we were just walking to a different room but the background changed in an instant and I saw Marie eating steamed potatoes with her bare hands behind rigid iron bars.
“U, uhh. Hello… Junior… Cough! Kehk! Kehek!”
Marie coughed as if something got stuck in her throat.
“Can you please open this door?”
“…Are you sure you going to be alright?”
“I believe it will be fine.”
These iron bars were the safety device set against the demi-human Marie Dunareff who had awakened as a vampire. Lady Josephine harboring such a doubt was nothing out of the ordinary but I had zero hesitation.
I walked into the door that Lady Josephine opened for me, and handed Marie a bottle of water.
“Hurry up and drink this. You might die at this rate.”
“Kuhuk… kehk! T, thank you…!”
“Like, who is it that gave you steamed potatoes without any water?”
Lady Josephine let out an empty cough from the other side of the iron bars. Ah… it seemed the culprit was that old lady who didn’t know anything about a proper life.
“Cough! Cough! Kuhaa…!”
After finally relieving the physical lump in her throat, Marie tapped her chest to swallow the food down. Soon, she felt my gaze and gave an awkward smile by going, ‘Ehehe.’
“I thought your eating habits would change though. It’s surprising that you’re still eating potatoes. Are they even tasty?”
“P, potatoes are always delicious! No matter how you consume them, they are always a tasty and magnificent famine-relieving crop!”
“That’s good then.”
I thought she couldn’t have anything else apart from blood after becoming a vampire. That was something I didn’t get to ask Sebancia Duke about.
“What about the bloodsucking impulse? Is that a bit different from hunger? I wonder how frequent it is.”
“N, nn… I’ll be receiving blood packs so it’s fine…”
From what I could see, Marie wasn’t in a good state. She was wearing new and clean clothes but there were dried clots of blood all over her body. Even though she was provided with food and clothing, it seemed that she wasn’t free enough to take a shower.
“You look like you’re in a horrible state. Why don’t you ask Lady… I mean, Senior Professor for some favor?”
“N, no it’s fine! I’ve been causing too much trouble already! I’ll stay here until Mr. Chairman and Senior Professor tell me it’s fi… Ahhht!!”
After seemingly remembering something, Marie flapped her two arms and covered my eyes.
“G, go over there! I stink!”
“… Look, it’s a bit late for that. You know when you were biting my neck, I didn’t even wash myself back then.”
“Ahhk! Please don’t…!”
In order to run away from Marie who was hitting me with her flapping arms, I moved to a corner and the girl finally calmed herself back down.
“…I was scared.”
Wrapping her arms around her knees, the girl started confessing about her feelings.
“That girl called Hua Ran… she was very scary. I thought I was going to die. It was very scary but… I couldn’t be like you, Junior.”
I could slightly understand what she was trying to say.
When faced with power that was too enormous to fight against, and when facing the dark shadows of death for the first time… anyone was bound to be frightened.
Scary, cold and mind-numbing.
The brain doesn’t work properly, and reality strikes at you without any consideration for your feelings. Like how a soldier at the battlefield feels ever so tiny at the face of a tempest that terrifies the heaven and the earth, Marie would have felt the same way.
Even I was the same.
Everyone would have to experience it at least once.
Marie was a genius. She was a prodigy loved by mana.
Because of that, the desperation for life and the fear of death must have been an extremely distant relative of hers until now.
It’s not that she wasn’t a hard worker, and it’s not like she lacked experience.
It was just that most of the things in existence were just unable to stimulate the genius called Marie Dunareff.
It was only recently that the girl faced reality and a true sense of fear. The thing that everyone had to experience had recently come to her.
Marie was stimulated by the danger and fear, which must have been the cause of her awakening into a vampire.
The wings of a butterfly causing a storm, huh…
Because I had been overly focused on the incident with the Murderer of the City of Fog, there was something I had missed. In the end, the cause of Marie awakening into a demi-human was danger and fear that was great enough to stimulate this genius.
After meeting Hua Ran, I aroused something inside her and it was because of that change that Hua Ran participated in the practical lesson at the hunting grounds. During her participation in the practical lesson, Hua Ran must have coincidentally come across Marie, and had probably used her true powers to contend against the Grade 1 genius.
And that was what stimulated the vampiric molecules laying dormant inside Marie’s body.
I could only sigh upon realizing the malicious quirk of fate and the combined result of multiple coincidences.
Actually, things like this used to happen quite often in the previous iteration. The backlash of the death of Alicia Arden, and Park Sihu’s failed attempt at killing Hua Ran resulting in awakening the Yaksha inside her were such examples.
No matter how insignificant something was at a glance, they had the power to change the current.
Because we were living in a real world instead of a game, and because the people that we had been disregarding as NPCs were in fact breathing organisms, they naturally reacted in different ways to the different circumstances.
“Junior… how are you able to stand back up? How come you don’t give up? Even back when you were fighting against the elemental body, I thought you would never be able to succeed. Everyone was mocking you but in the end, you pulled it off.”
— It was so cool.
The girl’s confession and question about how I was able to stand back up flushed my cheeks a little.
“Umm…… It’s nothing that amazing or anything but…”
It was a bit embarrassing. Despite the grandiose oaths I made, talking about them was still quite embarrassing.
“You see, I like happy endings.”
“Good people being rewarded, and bad people being punished. You know, I like that kind of didactic story.”
Hard-workers should be rewarded, but as for the selfish ones… Well, I didn’t feel like cheering for them.
“Senior Marie. You’re a nice person. You’re kind, and you’re pretty… Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that I want a happy ending for you if anything. So… I want Marie Dunareff to be happy.”
My cheeks twitched by themselves.
Damn it. It was super embarrassing to voice this out loud. You know, men were supposed to stay quiet and do what was needed to be done in silence! That was the coolest thing to do!
Lady Josephine murmured from outside.
Rolling my eyes, I threw a glance to the side and found Lady Josephine wearing a look of awe while covering her mouth with her palm.
Huh? What’s wrong with her?
Meanwhile, Marie continued opening and closing her mouth.
“Uh, uhh… Umm……”
I looked into her eyes and realized that her pupils were shivering profusely. Her white skin turned crimson red and she even started trembling.
What was going on? Was she having a withdrawal symptom already?
“Would you like… some blood?”
“U, uuhkk? Auh, auh… Aahht?!”
Please speak in a human language at least.
“Auhk… auhh! No… I swear I didn’t think of anything weird…!”
What was with this reaction that seemed like it would come out in a fully-optimized game on a 4k monitor?
Her entire body was flushed in red like a graphic card expressing that it will soon reach all the way to heaven, and Marie hurriedly escaped to a corner before gasping for breath to settle herself back down.
“A, anyway… did it hurt a lot?”
“If you’re talking about my neck, well, it was just a little sting.”
“There’s no need to be sorry.”
“No no no! I’m really… sorry! I just couldn’t hold myself back. That impulse was… Wait, no. That would just be an excuse…”
Without caring about her disheveled hair and her neck that had dry clots of blood, Marie deeply lowered her head.
“I’m sorry. I am sincerely quite sorry.”
Walking up, the girl held onto my hands and sincerely asked for an apology. There were tears budding beneath her golden eyes.
“Thank you for saving me and for not giving up on me. Thank you for your help. I’ll be forever in your debt.”
Without even letting go of my hands, the girl wiped her tears that were about to drop down her cheeks.
“Nn… Thank you so much.”
Marie released my hands and took a step back before turning her back to me.
“Junior! Umm… I want to wash myself now! And I need to finish my potatoes!”
“Sure. Senior Marie.”
It was probably best to leave her alone for now.
In response to my call, Lady Josephine opened a dimensional spell in front of me. I took a step into the abyss that would lead me back to the hospital room when Marie’s voice echoed from behind.
“Bye, Korin! See you later!”
“See you later.”
The girl that was sobbing bid me farewell with a smile.
I was back at the silent hospital room but soon, I could hear the clicking noise of Lady Josephine’s heels.
“Oh dear… Student Korin. That wasn’t so bad.”
Looking like a senior in life who had gone through countless vicissitudes of life, Lady Josephine shook her head.
“I shall discuss everything related to her with you from now on, Student Korin.”
After showing a faint smile at the end, Lady Josephine walked out of the room.
While scratching my cheeks, I opened the window of the room as the dazzling afternoon sun glimmered through the window.
With this, the 1st Arc had come to an end. It was a happy ending for everyone which used to be impossible to achieve in the previous iteration and the game.
There were a few things that were unexpected, and not a single thing had gone according to the original plot of the game but… that was what made it even better.
Even without the player, the world was still working in one piece.
Even without following the original storyline, we could still achieve a better ending.
I was seeing the new beginning of a world composed of things which we hadn’t been able to achieve even back when it was a game, and even back when we had a player.
It was a nice feeling.
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