༺ Living Wholesome ༻
The classroom was already pretty quiet, to begin with, but my proclamation brought deathly silence. The Regressor stared at me with a gaping mouth, while Azzy continued to stare gloomily at Mr. Chap. Nevertheless, I remained on my knees and kept my exalting attitude.
It was a childish, old pick-up line that should be found in a museum, but it was effective on ancients who were older than most national relics. In the case of the 12th-century vampire girl, she was deeply satisfied despite knowing this was an act.
｢So you know how to humor a lady. Well then, though I know it is a joke, shall I listen a little more?｣
“…I permit it.”
“Thank you, my lady.”
As the vampire held out her hand, I kissed the back of it without a single hesitation. Drunk on the atmosphere, she accepted even that without discomfort.
I picked up a free chair with a low posture and placed it opposite the vampire, then bowed toward the vampire, asking for her permission again. It was only after she nodded that I sat across her a beat late.
｢Hmm. You are fairly versed in etiquette.｣
She was incredibly immersed. Like someone who teared up at musicals or plays, she overflowed with emotion even though she clearly knew this was a show. How could she claim to be fine when she had such susceptibility to sentimentality? I couldn’t even imagine how she would’ve ended up if she still had a working heart.
Regardless, I continued the act.
“Pardon me, but may I ask which noble house you hail from?”
The vampire’s reply was brief. However, her thoughts weren’t as short.
｢When I was busy roaming the world, many had approached me, drawn by my looks, assuming I was noble-born. When I gave them this reply, they would show three responses. Change their attitude into contempt, treat me like a servant, or pretend to be something special, consoling me like a hypocrite.｣
The vampire tapped her desk as if to prompt an answer, intending to test me.
｢Let me see. This situation itself is an act, but I wonder how you will answer.｣
I had thought wrong. The sentimentality of a 12th-century girl far exceeded my expectations. Why was she so late in realizing that this situation was an act? Wasn’t she too immersed in her role?
Well, being focused wasn’t a bad thing. I figured I should answer in kind.
“I knew it, the heavens brought you unto the world.”
“Are you truly a fairy? I suppose there is no other way to explain such otherworldly beauty appearing out of nowhere, so suddenly without reason or rumor. I am lucky to be the first to discover the graceful fairy gifted to the earth by the sky.”
I made an embarrassingly ostentatious big deal out of her looks, but she was a vampire who retained the sentiments of past times. Back then, it was ordinary conversation to exchange such cringeworthy lines.
“I am sorry to betray your expectations, but that is not what I meant. I have no family name to give. My father came from a collateral line of an unnamed family. He ran out of home as if chased to make a living of his own. In short, I belong to no noble house.”
“Ahh. So you were human, not fairy. I find myself relieved, yet another part of me despairs. One so beautiful as yourself must already be protected by a knight as brave as a lion and as stately as a peacock, vigilant on the lookout for wolves that might covet the treasure you are. As someone who has nothing more than the clothes on his back, I surely will not have even an instant’s chance…”
I put a hand on my chest in mourning, and the vampire laughed quietly.
“You leap to conclusions in my silence. Did I not tell you I have no family name to give?”
No family name to give. Until now, she had no one close enough to exchange names with. According to the old way of speech, this meant she wasn’t in a relationship with anyone. And in all ages and countries, saying “I’m not dating anyone” spelled passive affirmation.
“The world must be blind! To leave a lady like you alone! No, perhaps all the other men have formed a treaty? To only watch, from a distance, the most beautiful flower on the high cliff?”
The vampire giggled, pleased.
Then she smiled in a self-scorning way.
“Perhaps, they have realized a fault in me.”
“That is what I call blind. There is no sin in beauty and no distinction in elegance. Some say it isn’t possible to perceive the true nature of those sitting across themselves, yet those are the kind of worldly fools who quibble over money and power that can’t be seen.”
I reached out to take the vampire’s hand as I spoke. She didn’t avoid my touch. In fact, she held my hand with slight strength.
“I trust in my eyes that reflect your figure, my ears that hear your voice, and my hand that holds yours.”
“…You do not know what I am.”
“Whatever you may be, I’m not afraid.”
After making that concisely clear, I turned my gaze slightly aside.
“What I fear is being unable to satisfy you, weak and ugly as I am. I fear that I can’t fill all your heart. That is all.”
“How arrogant. Did you assume that being strong and handsome would easily satisfy me? Did you take my heart for the scales of a merchant?”
The vampire spoke up, suddenly raising her tone. As I pretended to wince she scolded me with a deliberately angry look.
“The heart can only be filled with time. Looks and money, none of that matters.”
“If so, will you allow me to stay by your side, so that I can fill you with my time?”
“Go on then, have at it.”
I got up from my chair. While I turned around the desk toward the vampire, she kept her gaze forward with her chin high.
I sat at her left side as if it were my place from the start, and took her left hand with my left hand, which brought us closer together. I held out my right arm as if it were the most natural thing and wrapped it around her slender shoulder. Our bodies would touch if I pulled her, yet the vampire showed no sign of rejection.
Hmm. Pulling her would be fun on its own, but that would be a little off from what I calculated.
Are you just going to watch, Regressor?
“S-Stop it! Just how far are you going to take this?!”
Nice timing, Regressor.
She slammed her table with a crimson face. With the flow of events broken, I chuckled and raised both hands high as I stood up.
The act was over, and the melting sweetness in the air turned instantly cold. After changing my attitude like flipping a hand, I walked over to the vampire.
The vampire answered a beat late.
“Let’s be honest. You were slightly drunk on the atmosphere, right?”
At the question, she was baffled for a very brief moment by my drastic change in attitude.
But her mind caught up to her body. The confusion was short. The vampire with the unbeating heart recovered her composure within seconds, and her unflowing blood cooled her body just as quickly.
She replied in a relaxed tone no different from usual.
“W-What are you talking about? I merely played along as it was a rather amusing distraction.”
“Indeed. A distraction.”
Distraction my foot. A vampire with virtues of the 12th century having this attitude? Talk about ridiculous.
“It was a moment of entertainment, then?”
“Of course. You said it was all an act, which was why I played along light-heartedly.”
The vampire nodded on her own as if trying to persuade herself, keeping her back straight with feigned composure.
I smirked mischievously and swaggered a step closer to her.
“Well now, I see how it is. So you would gladly enter the embrace of an unfamiliar man for a moment of amusement, Trainee Tyrkanzyaka? You were such an easy person?”
“What are you saying? I would nev—”
Denial would be self-contradicting. It didn’t match the attitude she showed earlier.
I’ve always felt that people lead themselves into ruin. Why utter words you can’t take responsibility for?
“D-Did I not tell you? I knew it was an act, hem-hem, and played along light-heartedly.”
Her hasty excuse had lost effect. I crossed my arms and lowered my voice to a mutter.
“Your very person switches just by lowering a single psychological hurdle. Is this okay? Didn’t you say something about me simply holding Azzy’s paw?”
Azzy reacted to her name being mentioned. I figured this was the perfect time to show the vampire what we did a minute ago.
Azzy promptly gave her paw, and I took it. I touched her fluffy paw with its hidden claws while examining the vampire’s reaction.
As I expected, she looked offended by the sight… even though we were sitting side by side a moment ago.
“See? This was how you were like earlier, Trainee Tyrkanzyaka.”
“Ri-Ridiculous! This is slander!”
“Trainee Shei. How was it? Please be impartial.”
The vampire’s and the Regressor’s gazes met. The latter slightly averted her gaze and nodded shyly. Her attitude was bigger evidence than anything else.
Driven into a corner, the vampire covered her face with her parasol and started shouting.
“Yes! I was lax for a moment! I admit that! However!”
She jabbed the tip of her parasol at me, continuing in a resentful voice.
“What of it! In any case, you have already seen the inside of my chest already!”
The Regressor staggered on the spot, falling down in the most unsightly manner possible. She looked this way amidst her floundering.
｢What? Seen what? Chest, the inside? What the hell did they do together?｣
Oh dear. It seemed she was getting the wrong idea completely.
Regardless, the vampire was too mentally cornered to care whether she listened.
“Your fingers have touched me countless times already, even this morning I received your service! What am I to be wary of and how?”
｢This morning?! What the heck is it? What did they do straight from morning?!｣
Geez, how noisy. I was losing my senses with one side talking and one side thinking.
“It may sound a little odd coming from me, but you tend to trust too easily, Trainee Tyrkanzyaka. I think you have that attitude just because you’re immortal and a bit strong, but these days, that’s just the right recipe for disaster. Try to get into the habit of doubting a little.”
“Going by your words, then I should not have shown my heart to you from the start!”
“Oh, that’s correct.”
I didn’t expect her to realize it so easily. How impressive.
“What kind of person do you think I am to show everything? If I happened to have bad intentions, not even you will be able to avoid great suffering. That’s how dangerous it is to open your heart or chest to others.”
“But you did not do so.”
The vampire slightly raised her parasol. Her glowing red eyes held reproach toward me.
“Despite having numerous opportunities, you did not harbor malice against me. Yet you want me to doubt?”
“There’s no saying that won’t change in the future.”
The vampire shot up, then for once, she strode over to the classroom door on her own feet.
“As you say, I shall suspect everything from now on.”
With that said, she left. The undulating darkness behind her slammed the door shut.
After the vampire was gone, the Regressor stiffly turned her gaping mouth to me and began to point fingers.
“Well then. I presume you believe me now? Since I’ve planted doubt in her, she’ll take anything Finlay says with a grain of sal—”
“No! Not that! What the heck are you going around doing to Tyrkanzyaka?!”
Mm? What… I made her wary as you wanted so she’ll keep some distance from Finlay, didn’t I? What the hell is your problem?
Really, the girl’s only cool with her words. She gets over-immersed herself. Ugh.
I replied with a sigh.
“I became your stepfather today. Try calling me Father.”
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