༺ The Kinship of a Maker and a Retainer ༻
Apparently, the intruder hadn’t worn their parachute properly. The blinking light was still coming closer, but before it arrived, I heard a heavy crash landing. Something, like blood, splattered on my feet from a few steps away.
Neither the vampire nor I worried, though. If whoever it was turned out to be what I thought, the crash wouldn’t even count as an injury.
This was a vampire we were talking about. While these immortal beings couldn’t gather poured-out water, they could perfectly recover spilled blood. They could easily heal a crack in the skull and get back up. So I waited for the vampire to stand. But…
“Huh? Why’s the intruder not getting up? They’re not recovering?”
“Ahh. It slipped my mind.”
The vampire waved her hand, and the blood inching toward her was pushed back to the intruder. Due to the vast disparity in dominance over blood, she exerted greater gravity toward it, exceeding the intruder’s survival instinct.
While she was at it, the vampire returned all the blood inside the intruder and even stoppered their wound. Thanks to the recovery of blood, the intruder regained consciousness, and right afterward…
“This draw in my blood, I am certain of it!”
The intruder looked up with a noisy cry. I saw a pair of eyes from beyond the dark,
red in color, but slightly murkier than that of the vampire.
Jubilation, adoration, worship, ecstasy. Intense emotions fluctuated like waves. The intruder’s eyes snapped wide as he rushed over, almost crawling, and prostrated before the vampire.
The vampire didn’t waver in the least. She seemed quite used to strangers suddenly approaching and kneeling. While she stared at him, the intruder cried out her name imploringly.
“O Progenitor! Your humble progeny, Finlay, has come to meet you. Please, forgive me for disturbing your seclusion!”
Thud, he banged his head on the ground, tearing his skin. Blood came running out toward the vampire, but when she gave it a glance, it returned to its owner like a startled creature.
She commanded the prostrating intruder with cold eyes.
“Finlay. Explain yourself.”
Faced with higher blood and greater power, faced with the Progenitor herself, an ordinary vampire was absolutely nothing. Their dominance over blood completely originated from the mother of their kind.
Be it circulating blood, speaking, or rejoicing in life, all these things were only possible under the Progenitor’s tacit permission. With a mere gesture, she could completely take away a vampire’s control over blood, reducing them to a snack for herself.
Therefore, the Progenitor was something beyond a deity to vampires. What was a light remark to the Progenitor was like a royal order—no, a divine revelation to the intruder.
So the intruder immediately replied in a loud voice.
“Yes. It was Count Erte who made me his retainer, and he hails from the direct line of Valdamir, the Duke of Sanguine. Under the duchy’s orders to collect information, I chanced upon certain news and came here with a humble request to ask of you, O Progenitor.”
Valdamir, the Duke of Sanguine. He was the lord of the Duchy of Mist, and the only vampire whose identity and whereabouts were both revealed. He was the arch-enemy of Sanctum, as well as the noblest elder vampire. He was a figure of such significance that his name became a byword for his kind, however…
“Valdamir, that boy. It has been long since I heard his name.”
The Progenitor had a faraway look in her eyes, treating the great vampire’s name as she would a child’s.
“Yes. Is the boy well? Is he still infatuated with playing king?”
To some, Valdamir was king, an absolute monarch, and a ruler. But to the Progenitor, who had watched over him as a youth full of dreams, he was the same as ever, a boy.
The intruder was momentarily unable to accept the discrepancy and stuttered.
“H-His Highness Sanguine, a boy…?”
｢No, the Progenitor anointed His Highness as her own retainer. Right now I’m facing a legend, a myth. Get it together, Finlay! I can’t make a fool of myself in this glorious occasion!｣
The intruder whipped his mind back into shape and bowed his head again.
“Yes! His Highness is well. As the true king of the Duchy of Mist, the Duke of Sanguine holds a position of success greater than ever!”
“He must have worked hard. Sanctum would not have simply watched on.”
The Duke of Sanguine had declared to the world the establishment of a country that would completely belong to himself, and it was through a series of heroic exploits that he finally achieved his dream. Who could dismiss his efforts as simply “working hard”? If an ordinary person said as much, they would’ve been castigated for being disrespectful.
Only the Progenitor, who had experienced the same war, lived the same years, and once dreamed the same dream, would be allowed to appraise him as such. Realizing this fact anew, the intruder wet his dry lips.
｢That’s right. She is a supreme being. She is the one who created us and fulfilled our yearning, the one who will bring us together and lead the way to glory! That’s who I’m standing in front of! So I can’t lose this opportunity!｣
The intruder’s throat bobbed as he gulped. Even though he could no longer produce saliva, he still retained his former human habits. That spoke for how nervous and hopeful he was.
“O Progenitor! The powers of Sanctum are not what they used to be.”
Finally, we were getting to the main subject. The reason the intruder endured all kinds of hardships to fall into this place. He gazed at the ground, raising his voice.
“The arcane has been unveiled, and the divine light has faded. Sanctum has embroiled itself in self-righteousness and created foes everywhere. The Sky God has truly abandoned them. Or perhaps, that measly deity never existed in the first place.”
Unmoderated hatred bared its fangs.
Then the intruder realized he was too emotional in front of the Progenitor, even if his hatred was directed elsewhere, and quickly smoothed his expression.
“In any case, they have done too much in too many places, and now it is time for them to reap what they sowed. Of course, it is only natural that we nobles of the night take a part in it. For the coming day of retribution, we must prepare for conflict, prepare to settle the debt of blood.”
“War, is it.”
Brief thoughts flitted through the vampire’s mind. Sadness, reluctance, aversion, weariness. Dark and gloomy emotions that were starkly opposite to the intruder’s excitement.
The contrast in attitude—although there was no difference outwardly—was like that of a post-war generation and a warring generation.
The vampire’s voice was quiet.
“Is that the will of every child? Do they all desire war?”
For a fleeting moment, the intruder hesitated. Should he answer in his own interests while maintaining the truth, or be open?
But the hierarchy among vampires was more than that of kings and monarchs. A vampire couldn’t resist kindred of higher rank. This difference that decided life and death was perhaps more disparate than a deity and their worshipers.
Gods didn’t give birth to humans and they couldn’t control humans. They couldn’t instantly take away our lives like flicking off a power switch either.
But for the Progenitor, all those things were possible. She created vampires, she could manipulate them and even end their existence with a gesture.
In the end, the intruder lowered his head and spoke the truth.
“No, that is not so. The Duke of Sanguine and the other elders have expressed that war is forbidden unless the Progenitor permits it. But…”
He paused with a smile of anticipation before continuing to speak.
“In other words, if you so much as give the word, O Progenitor, we will prepare for war.”
The vampire’s expression stiffened. This meant that the preparations for war were almost over. They had the weapons, power, troops, determination, and even an enemy to wage war against.
Finlay was saying that all they needed was the Progenitor’s permission to immediately blow the trumpets of battle.
“Such is the era we live in. A time when everyone gathers strength, readies weapons, whets resolve, and stokes hatred toward one another. All the pieces will fall into place. As long as you come, O Progenitor. We lack a pillar, and that is why we need you.”
With that said, the intruder bowed reverently, waiting for an answer.
The vampire said nothing, and silence fell over the abyss again. The two vampires, who needed no breath to live, no saliva to pass food, no heartbeat to circulate blood, stopped as if they were frozen. You could almost believe them to be a clip of a photo.
Amidst the stillness as heavy as the darkness, the only thing that made a sound was—
『Do your all to stop them.』
—the golem. It pushed its microphone into my ear, delivering instruction in a very hushed voice.
『It is not yet time to start a war. The Progenitor must not arise yet. This is a request. Do your all to stop them.』
Not yet, huh. Quite an interesting choice of words.
But that aside, telling me to butt in between two vampires talking? Isn’t she hoping for too much from an ordinary laborer? Well, I wouldn’t have listened normally, but it doesn’t look bad, the way things are going.
“Now then. Stop now.”
I strode into the conversation.
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