༺ And I’ll Incinerate You ༻
Finlay continued to be a nuisance despite getting taught a lesson by Azzy a few times. Whenever I tried to say something, he’d always interrupt with a “Why!” or a “Ahem”. If the Regressor or Azzy tried to get violent, he’d promptly flee or use the vampire as an excuse to defend himself.
Although annoying, he didn’t do anything bad enough to deserve death, and his advocate, the vampire, made us slightly hesitate to rough him up. The Regressor and I were caught in a predicament. It was like having something caught in my throat, yet I could neither swallow nor spit it out.
But sharing in suffering nurtured bonds. I had thought we’d never look for each other in our entire lives, yet the two of us came together in one place just because of Finlay.
“Tsk, now there’s twice the annoyance. I’m going to die of stress at this rate. I have to get rid of one no matter what.”
“Two? I get that one is Finlay, but who’s the other?”
As I cried out in outrage, the Regressor crossed her arms and explained.
“You guys are alike. Meddling all the time, and doing as you please under Tyrkanzyaka’s protection. That wayward behavior, barely toeing the line? Also like two peas in a pod.”
“I can endure and overlook most insults, but that’s something I can never acknowledge. No, I won’t acknowledge it.”
As angelically merciful as I was, even I had a limit to my patience.
Comparing me to Finlay? I’ll take that as a personal attack.
I methodically refuted the Regressor’s words.
“Look back on yourself! Meddling all the time? That’s your hobby, Trainee Shei! Taking Trainee Tyrkanzyaka’s protection? Who’s the one with the master and disciple relationship?! And wayward behavior? If you want to name the most wayward person in the abyss, then you’d have to look for a mirror before anything else!”
“Like peas in a pod! How about you take this chance to change your name? To Finshei instead! It’s perfect! You two will look like a married couple!”
“What bullshit are you spitting!!”
While feeling the most offended she ever felt since entering the abyss, the Regressor suddenly remembered the persona she had adopted.
“For the umpteenth time, I’m a man!”
Oh, that was the character she was playing. Right. That had slipped my mind as well,
but fortunately, I had a way to back up my words.
“Yes. A man who fancies men.”
“It’s funny, thinking about it. You’re the one who screamed your liking for men, yet you get angry when it’s mentioned. What’s wrong? Are you ashamed of your preference after confessing it yourself?”
Faced with my sound arguments, the Regressor couldn’t say anything and merely huffed angrily.
Don’t pick a fight you can’t even win. Why keep messing with me when you’ve never won a verbal fight over me?
I picked my ears, continuing to speak.
“Er, I’m sorry, but please don’t ever come to like me. It might not matter to you since it’s the truth, Trainee Shei, but I really hate being misunderstood that way. I’m a thoroughly normal guy with normal tastes, after all.”
“Don’t you worry! That’ll never happen, not even if the sky falls down on me!”
After a final sharp retort, the Regressor crossed her arms again and lowered her voice.
“Anyway. While I’d like to get rid of you, it should be easier to deal with Finlay somehow. At the very least, we have to stop him swaggering about.”
“Isn’t it a bit mean to talk about getting rid of someone in their face?”
“That was my intention.”
She shot back in a provoking manner before sinking into quiet thoughts.
｢Finlay came down to the abyss with talk of waging war. He’s probably the most radical of pro-war activists. Since I know of the great war that is to come, I can’t leave Tyrkanzyaka around a war-hungry vampire. I have to pull them apart, whether it be by persuasion or threats.｣
The heck, Regressor?
It turned out that in spite of what she told me, she had a surprisingly deep motive. In comparison, I wanted to get rid of Finlay simply because I didn’t like him.
Now that made for a bit of contrast. Hmm. I couldn’t possibly have a worse personality than her. I was the normal and kind sort of guy. Maybe the long stay in the abyss had corrupted me a little? I better be careful from now on.
“Still, you do know, yes? Despite his appearances, Finlay is a neonate. That’s a vampire ranking below the ruling elders, who have inherited the Progenitor’s blood, and their elite retainer ancillae. Neonates aren’t that rare, but the Duke of Sanguine’s lineage carries clout.”
“He’s still a small fry. You and I both can easily take out someone like him.”
Just you, not me alright? I’d need at least a holy hand grenade to deal with him.
Hearing no answer from me, the Regressor cast me a puzzled look, but she must’ve thought I was silent because there was no need to even answer. She moved on unconcernedly.
“Moreover, the guy came here hoping for war. No good will come of him staying close to Tyrkan—”
The Regressor froze in the middle of her words, struck by a realization.
｢Hang on. The warden didn’t accept the idea of sending Finlay outside. In fact, he tried to keep him here. There has to be a reason.｣
Mm? Well I did have a reason. I had no way of sending Finlay outside, after all.
｢Come to think of it, the State always tended to encourage and engage in wars. That’s right. Imprisoning the Progenitor must be part of their plan.｣
I mean, I don’t know about that…
Actually, something did come to mind. I was sure Captain Abbey mentioned this through her golem. War shouldn’t be occurring yet, she said.
Thinking the other way round, that meant war had to happen eventually. So having the vampire relaxing in the abyss had to be part of the State’s war plan.
What are they up to? Can they even handle the consequences? According to the Regressor’s memories, a huge war was going to break out in the future.
But I stopped thinking about the matter at that point. Oh well. Everyone except for idiots knew the State was preparing for war. How important could it be? It was like saying there’d be snow in the coming winter.
What mattered more than that right now…
“…I intend to pull Finlay away from Tyrkanzyaka. You better not interfere.”
｢I have to stop the war. If only to prevent them from running amok in the chaos. If this man stands in my way, then…｣
…was the Regressor eyeing me with an air of murder.
Now, what to do?
Mm. Right, this is what I’ll do here.
“Me, interfere? I’d help out for sure, but why would I hinder you, Trainee Shei?”
“If you think about it, the reason Finlay couldn’t leave the abyss is all because of your persuasion. You’re claiming to help me after what you did? That doesn’t make sense.”
The Regressor didn’t even wait for a reply as she kept going, fixing a cutting gaze on me.
“You’re thinking of getting in my way, aren’t you?”
Her reasoning wasn’t bad, but she was wrong.
As I had mentioned time and again, I just didn’t want anyone to find out I was an insignificant laborer. But since I couldn’t tell her that, I put on a bright smile instead, waving a hand in denial.
“Ahaha. So that’s how you took it. How naive.”
The Regressor’s expression remained fierce. She snorted as if prompting me to try and give an excuse.
“Think differently. Now, I spoke up to keep Finlay here, so that he’ll stay close to Trainee Tyrkanzyaka.”
“I know. I was there too.”
“Are you taking the things I said at face value? Did you have that much faith in me?”
The Regressor’s eyes widened. She didn’t look as on edge as before, but instead, she showed doubt.
｢…He was after something else? But from that man’s perspective, is there anything else to be gained by putting Finlay and Tyrkanzyaka together?｣
“Instead of believing everything I said, think about the result of my actions. Then you’ll know there is no reason at all for us to be at odds.”
I hinted at her instead of being direct, like sprinkling bread crumbs on a trail. I waited for her to pick up each clue and trace the truth.
｢Wait. Maybe I thought wrong. If his purpose isn’t to stick the two together… What if it was to simply have Finlay remain?｣
She couldn’t suspect the answer she had “worked” to find—though she had merely followed the clues I handed. Because when you put effort into something, you think you deserve a worthy reward. The puzzle you struggled to complete has to be beautiful. The solution you arduously deduced has to be perfect.
That was how the minds of people worked, and the Regressor was no exception.
｢Is it possible that he detained Finlay to prevent information from leaking out? Because if he goes out to the surface and starts blabbing, the forces that are trying to use Tyrkanzyaka might act!｣
The Regressor jumped to a thrilling conclusion of her own. She seemed to be trying to hide it, but I could see her lips curving proudly.
I felt curious again. What if she found out the truth? I was merely incapable of letting Finlay escape.
“Not everyone in the State desires war, after all. We can become comrades, I’m sure of it.”
I had successfully eased the Regressor’s wariness for the time being. She let down her guard enough to ask for my opinion despite still feeling uncertain.
“Do you have a plan?”
“Persuasion, to start with.”
“Persuasion? That’s all?”
｢Not kidnap, blackmail, or gaslighting?｣
I change my mind. Whichever way I look at it, I have the better personality here.
“…I have no idea what you’re thinking, but we should take the most common means first.”
“Fine. Leave the persuading to me.”
“I’m capable of doing some convincing myself you know. After all, I’m her disciple right now. It’ll be much easier for me to speak with her in that regard.”
Hmm. She didn’t seem very dependable, but since she was so strongly committed, I chose to see how it went.
I did murmur a few words of worry, though.
“…I’m saying this just in case, but you can’t go cutting arms, okay? Even a vampire will get ticked off.”
“Are you taking me for a psycho?!”
“How’d you know?”
* * *
After deciding to persuade Tyrkanzyaka, the Regressor took a deep breath and marched over to the vampire alone. I hid behind a corner not far away and watched them.
“Tyrkanzyaka. One moment, I have something to tell you.”
The Regressor trying to coax somebody… now that was a rare sight. I found it hard to believe in her since she looked like the sort who tended to solve adversities through strength or money. But still, she was the Regressor, a woman who had gone through heaven and hell. It wouldn’t be strange for her to possess an ability I didn’t know about.
Let’s see how well you can talk the talk.
“Don’t meet Finlay!”
The heck is this? What’s with your choice of words? Are you playing the daughter who doesn’t like her stepdad? Who begs mom not to remarry?
The vampire paused for a second before replying.
“How abrupt. Why do you say that?”
Her question was borne of incredulity, which was a very natural reaction. Compared to that, the Regressor’s reply was…
“Anyway! That guy said he wanted to wage war! War is bad! It’s dangerous!”
Oi, Regressor. Could you demonstrate some vocabulary? What are you a foreigner? Or is it that you never really talked to people all that often? But then again, didn’t you talk just fine with me?
I couldn’t bear to listen further, so I decided to close my ears and read her thoughts in advance.
｢Before I regressed, you joined the war in a mangled state. It’ll be a bloodbath that no one stands to benefit from. All that waits at the end of it is total destruction. I’m trying to stop that future from happening, and for that, it’s better that you stay far away from the war.｣
Well her thoughts were pretty normal, so what was with her blabbering? What in the world was the problem with this Regressor?
Ohh. I think I get it somewhat.
Holes formed in her logic because she wanted to hide the truth about her regression, and her attempt to force those holes shut was what resulted in that childish outburst.
I was starting to pity the woman now. What was I to do with her?
“I thought you would understand. Finlay is a much lesser retainer of mine. He cannot even oppose my will.”
“I know! But still!”
“And I will not take back a decision I have made. A bearer of heavy responsibility must weigh their words. I shan’t be changing my mind for the time being. I understand what you want to say, so you may stop speaking.”
The Regressor merely nodded a few times, turned around, and returned to the corner where I was hiding. Then she evasively reported the outcome.
“So she says.”
“Er, I’m sorry for making an unreasonable demand. Forget about persuading and whatnot from now on. Use power or money to solve things if you can.”
｢Eh? I feel oddly annoyed. Is he being sarcastic?｣
The fact that she was confused showed how miserable her communication skills were. I felt sorry for the world this Regressor had to save.
I stepped out with a sigh.
“Wait there. I’m the master of mind games, the magician who toys with the heart of man, and the paramour who does secret things with Trainee Tyrkanzyaka in secret places. A mere disciple can’t compete. I’ll handle the case.”
“Right. You try th—What? Paramour?”
“Heave-ho. I’ll be right back.”
I sprang out of the corner before the Regressor could say anything and swiftly raised a hand in hello while approaching the vampire.
“Trainee Tyrkanzyaka. What a coincidence.”
“…What in the world are you two scheming?”
“Haha. Scheming? Oh, would you like a massage? My fingers are in fine condition today.”
The vampire didn’t withdraw her suspicion despite my offer.
“You are being too obvious. Why would a fellow who is usually so reluctant come to me first with his fingers outstretched? Not to mention that Shei is still watching from over there.”
She was being distrustful for once, which was a surprise. Was she the same person who promptly opened up her heart after seeing me defibrillate the undying? Did she develop an awareness for danger?
“So, is it a no?”
“…I did not say that. A little later. As in, when no one is looking.”
I take that back. Maybe it was because she was dead, but this corpse utterly lacked awareness.
“I’ve come to warn you in place of Trainee Shei.”
“It may be wearisome to hear, but my advice is golden, I tell you. The vampire called Finlay. Something about him is off. I think you better be careful.”
I was being serious, but the vampire didn’t pay heed.
“It seems I have brought too much hate upon Finlay. I understand. I shall henceforth exercise discretion.”
“By discretion you mean?”
“I shall not bother you lads with his acts of service. He submits to my commands, so a word should suffice.”
The vampire presumed the Regressor and I had come to her because Finlay was being a bother, so she promised to remedy the situation.
Huh? Isn’t this fine? I mean, it’s honestly a tempting offer. I was just annoyed by Finlay, after all.
So I immediately nodded.
“If you’ll do that for me, then great.”
“Ah, wait. At what time should I visit you?”
“When did you ever consider the time? Come when you feel like it.”
Whew. Now this is a win-win.
I went back with a delighted face. The Regressor, leaning against the wall, greeted me with a cold expression.
“What have you done?”
“What? I achieved a human triumph.”
“Triumph my foot. You only scheduled a tryst with Tyrkanzyaka instead of solving anything!”
“There was no scheduling. She said she’d come at her own time.”
“I couldn’t give a damn! About something! Like that!”
“Didn’t you ask?”
“Argh, anyway! Since you’ve decided to cooperate, do it properly!”
And so I was reluctantly driven back to face the vampire.
I met her eyes awkwardly. She heaved a sigh.
“I cannot for my life comprehend your aversion. What is so strange about him? I have bonded with the two of you, so what reason is there for me to not keep my retainer Finlay by my side?”
“Er, it’s the difference in time spent together, I guess? It’s irritating because Finlay hasn’t been here even a week, yet he acts like an ass in a lion’s skin.”
“What does it matter? It has not been a month since I met you boys either.”
To a vampire, a month and a week both amounted to a blink of an eye. She would hardly feel a difference between us and Finlay.
With no words to refute, I nodded.
“Thinking about it, you’re right. A month or a week is like the fleeting glitter of a firefly compared to your lifetime, Trainee Tyrkanzyaka. Even humans with ordinary lifespans consider a month short, so for a 12th-century girl, well…”
The vampire fell into confused silence for a moment.
“Oops. I’ll be going now!”
The Regressor was still waiting on the other side, but that wasn’t the only place with a corner around the walls. So I made a run for the opposite corner.
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