༺ You Can’t Be Happy ༻
“Well spoken. But let me take this opportunity to give you a piece of my mind also. You asked for my teaching. In the heat of the moment, I took you as a disciple and imparted my knowledge. Yet…”
The cold fire did exist. How else could the vampire’s fiery red eyes feel so icy? She stepped to my side, reproaching the Regressor.
“You pay me no homage.”
“No respect, no symbol, no token, no meaning. No nothing.”
The vampire lightly hung her parasol on her shoulder, giving a quiet sigh of lament as she cast a reproving look at the Regressor.
“Even a small gift would have been fine. Or even a word of thanks, a show of gratitude would have sufficed. However, Shei, you did not give me anything.”
This time her gaze turned to me. I swiftly waved a hand at her, and the vampire smiled slightly. She was humoring me to show the Regressor a clear difference in treatment. But even if her expression was for show, it was enough to shock the Regressor.
“While this fellow is arrogant, he respected me with words. Although rude, he gave me what I needed. He told me stories upon being asked and shared knowledge when I wished for it. But what have you done for me?”
She learned bloodcraft. That was all.
From the Regressor’s standpoint, the vampire was a harbinger of the Apocalypse. The immortal was always mentioned as the reason when the world was destroyed.
But in her previous life cycle, the Regressor had succeeded in removing the vampire from the bridle of fate and made her an ally. The two were comrades who fought side by side, companions who could trust one another. As fellow people who were trapped in the flow of time, they could empathize and quickly grow close.
It was why the Regressor came down to this place to obtain bloodcraft and “protect” Tyrkanzyaka while she was at it. For her sake.
“Er, if you want something in return… Well, maybe treasure…?”
“Treasure? Does it seem I am asking for treasure because my gold has become obsolete?”
At present, the vampire wasn’t the Fragment of the Apocalypse the Regressor knew. She was here as the Progenitor Tyrkanzyaka.
“I was once the lord of the world. I adorned my hair with vast arrays of precious things, hung beautiful trinkets across my body, and laid layers of softness beneath my feet. I was a being of darkness, yet I obtained everything that glowed—everything except for the sun. So do you think I wish for power? Covet riches? Or, even, hanker for trifling honor? All I needed was but a smidgen of feelings.”
In truth, the vampire didn’t dislike the Regressor so much. She was only grumbling because she felt it a shame.
The Regressor didn’t know what to do, though. Her human relationships were based solely on her regressions, which was why she rarely experienced situations like this.
“No matter. You only wanted bloodcraft from me anyway. Since you have what you want, just go.”
The Regressor trembled as her head fell at the vampire’s cold statement. As for the vampire, she spun around with her parasol on her shoulder. The black parasol separated the two.
As if declaring the end, the vampire looked at me and spoke kindly.
“Let us go.”
“Wait a minute. Let me have a word with Trainee Shei first.”
“Make it short.”
The Regressor slowly looked up as doubt lingered in her gaze.
｢What else are you going to say?｣
I let out a small dry cough before giving her a nasty sneer. Standing with my legs spread out and my chin high, I laughed like a silly two-bit villain.
“Well, that’s how it is. Heheheh. Don’t worry, Trainee Shei. I’ll take dear care of your master.”
｢…Is he making fun of me right now?｣
She only realized that now? How utterly undiscerning. That was why she got scolded by someone as easy to handle as the vampire.
I figured I might as well take this chance to take out my ace of diamonds from
my pocket. The scarlet rhombic suit on the card was shining with a strange light that was hard to describe in words.
Realizing what was behind that color, the Regressor raised her voice.
“You, that’s…! Primordial Essence!”
“Gahahah. You finally realized? I asked for a single drop and she gave it to me right away. Your master has already given me everything of herself, heart, blood, and all! You’re finished no—!”
A red fist suddenly smacked past the back of my head. As I groaned in pain, the vampire rebuked me with a frown.
“You need to shut your mouth a little. Why do you diminish my fury so?”
“Why? I’m just giving back what I owe.”
“Be still when an adult is angry. The meddling of young ‘uns can thwart original intents.”
“Huh? What, do you seriously want the seniority treatment? Shall I do it then?”
｢Then all this time… he was not serious? He can do even worse?｣
The vampire quickly shook her head, frightened by my words.
“… No, not at all. It is your freedom to do whatever you wish. How can I blame that? Do as you like.”
After instantly making the vampire submit, I wore a crooked smile and laughed mockingly at the Regressor.
I can make her back off with a word, but you can’t, can you?
“Seethat? Well I’ll be going now. And I’m sorry, but from now on, I hope you won’t be such a bother and go nosying into other people’s affairs you have nothing to do with. Don’t be clingy alright… Kehehehahahaha!”
｢Bastard…! Just you wait! I swear to take off that mask and expose you for the ugly brute you are!｣
Leaving behind the Regressor to burn with ire, I walked away with the vampire. I tried to hang an arm over her shoulder to add insult to injury, but her parasol morphed into a billowing darkness that pushed me firmly away. It was polite but powerful, preventing me from touching the vampire.
Why is a parasol stronger than me? And how is it moving by itself? Am I incapable of beating even a sunshade?
Meanwhile, the vampire walked on slowly, deep in thought.
｢Shei. The boy has great ability, but there is a weakness about him. It is unrelated to strength or talent. Something that makes up his person is slightly lacking… However, as to what it is, I simply cannot figure it out.｣
We call that sociality.
It seemed the Regressor, whose emergency protocol was to destroy the world and escape to the next life cycle, seemed lacking enough for the vampire to be concerned.
Of all the people to be criticized by… Tut-tut-tut. A blood-sucking vampire worrying about good character. What a joke.
｢I wonder how I ended up taking that child as a disciple. It is commendable indeed to see him hard at training even out of sight, but that is only my observation as a master. The boy is not so friendly by nature. Ordinarily, I would never have given him even the time of day…so why?｣
As she followed her train of thought, the vampire’s gaze gradually turned to me, blank puzzlement in her red eyes.
｢It was this fellow back then as well. He provoked me into accepting Shei as a disciple. And whenever something happened, he always intervened and took matters into his own hands… Could it be?｣
Active thinking was good and all, but settling our agreement came before that. Bread’s better than the song of birds, they say, but you still gotta pay for the bread first.
I held out a hand to the vampire.
“Now, so what about the artwork?”
She withdrew from her thoughts at my question and slightly lifted her parasol as she gestured to me.
“…Ahh. Right. I promised you statuettes.”
The next moment, her coffin stopped in front of me and the lid rattled open. One after another, statuettes popped out from within its overflowing darkness. A stream of blackness carefully caught them and lined them up in front of me.
A totem chiseled from jade, a marble figurine carved so delicately you could even see the folds of its garment, and a statuette of a warrior riding a rearing horse.
Each piece of art possessed great value.
“These are the statuettes I have. I was not sure what you would like, so I made a rough selection of my own…”
The vampire’s tone was cautious but at the same time a tinge proud. The items seemed to be a rather cherished collection of hers. Her claim of making a selection didn’t seem false either. The statuettes looked to be made of precious materials, to begin with, and every piece contained delicate and fine details.
It was a jackpot. The vampire’s coffin was truly a treasure box. No, a treasure trove itself!
We lived in times when even the tombs of famous emperors were robbed clean by treasure hunters. These statuettes, which had accompanied the vampire for a thousand years, were still of astronomical worth.
They were created using a technique classic yet not obsolete, and furthermore, there was not a single scratch on them. I could only surmise that the statuettes were affected by the vampire’s powers because they appeared as good as new.
So long as I could get their historical worth recognized, I would be able to see El Dorado itself.
However, I needed to stop and think here.
When dealing with a sucker, you couldn’t simply loot the betting money they brought straight off the bat. Otherwise, the sucker would wash their hands of the game and only leave with some lost cash and bad memories.
The basics of fishing is baiting. You throw the bait, gently coax the target, and give some free rein. Then the moment they bite, you have to reel them in one go.
The reason the vampire was offering her works of art despite gifting me Primordial Essence—albeit a single drop of it—was because she held a sense of debt towards me. I told her interesting stories and gave her heart massages as well.
In contrast, the crown she previously gave me was of fake gold. She had an inferiority complex about her possessions and knowledge being long behind the times.
Telling her the truth and taking these pieces of art right away was one method, but a true gambler would let go slightly for greater gain.
I let my expression darken and let go of the statuette I was holding.
“But this is a pagan idol…”
“I beg your pardon? Pagan?”
“Like a local faith… Such as druism, totemism, Beast King worshipping, and so on. It’s a remnant of those days. All these things are considered heretical idols that are usually destroyed on sight.”
Hearing the pity in my tone, the vampire became uncomfortable.
“What? Who, just who treats the relics of the past as heresy?”
“There’s only one place for that, isn’t there? Sanctum.”
“The messengers of the Sky God… So it is them! They truly do not help in any way!”
I didn’t say anything wrong, merely with a bit of exaggeration.
Not everyone in the world was an apostle of the Sky God, so it wasn’t impossible to sell these items, especially in the State; it was the only country that taxed temples. With my mind-reading, it was a piece of cake getting a full selling price.
But, what if I acted like it was difficult and declined these treasures?
“I’m asking just in case, but you don’t have any paintings or deity statues with a similar feeling to Biblical illustrations, do you?”
The vampire fidgeted with her fingers.
“…I still have some, although they are stained with my blood.”
“Oh dear. My head will be wanted the moment they’re revealed to the world.”
I put on a perplexed face, hinting that the reward she brought wasn’t right for me. The vampire felt sorry because she lost the capacity to pay anything—that was what she believed, at least.
“Yet again I have failed to be of much help.”
“Naw. I appreciate the thought if nothing else.”
I acted as if I was refusing while hiding my regret, as if I wanted to accept but the things she offered were unfitting. I let my words hang in the air a little, adding to the burden in the vampire’s heart.
｢In the end, nothing I possess could be of any help.｣
Hearing the quiet, short voice of guilt inside her, I smiled inwardly.
“It’s fine I tell you. Don’t be discouraged. I didn’t do what I did expecting compensation in the first place. Well, I’ll still continue the electric massages!”
Despite my attempt to comfort her, the shadow over the vampire’s heart didn’t lift.
“It is because I am sorry. I never thought to give meaning to riches, but after all those years, I feel the sentiment was a futile one. For though I may go unchanged, everything I have is wasted away by time.”
“I’ve already gotten your Primordial Essence. I’ve received plenty enough, so don’t mind it.”
“Come on. It’s fine I say.”
Good. Since I had burdened her enough, it was time to let her loose a little.
I grinned and raised my index finger.
“Now. Let’s stop the depressing talk. I’ll give you a massage instead. Please open your chest. If you spread it for me with both hands, I’ll insert my finger deep inside and ejaculate a load of my mana.”
The joke was blatant enough for an idiot to understand. The vampire’s apologetic melancholy was wiped off her face, replaced by a grimace.
“Could you choose your words a little? You make it sound so discomfortingly obscene.”
“Then shall I describe it seriously? Now then, let’s see. Your ribs and fascia are tightly wrapped around your heart. I need to flip your lungs but I can’t get the angle, so could you move it slightly—urrph. One second. I feel sick. Orrg.”
“… Hah, I simply cannot best you in words. No matter. Do as you will.”
I had eased up the atmosphere enough. The vampire smiled wryly and promptly opened her chest.
Not long after, she fixed up her clothes with a red face as she went away, leaving behind a request for another massage next time.
Once she was gone, I sighed deeply. The finger I channeled lightning through was quivering.
A heart massage to easily win the vampire’s favor… it was all good, except that it was harmful to my mental health. It felt like that squelching sensation still remained on my finger.
Sure I could look into minds, but that didn’t mean I wanted to view the insides of natural science.
Today I cooked meat, but I felt so nauseous every time I saw the red stuff that I couldn’t manage to eat it. So I gave it to Azzy instead.
The dog-girl woofed happily, clueless to my feelings.
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