༺ Era of Lost Memories ༻
The firmly closed steel doors swung open heavily, turning the heads of Azzy and Shei.
Finally, the warden and Tyrkanzyaka were emerging after three days of confinement.
“Oi! Just what the heck were you doing in—!”
The two quickly approached the opening doors, but Tyrkanzyaka proved faster, squeezing out through the narrow gap in a panic. She scanned the area and, upon spotting Shei, hastened her pace.
“Shei! Shei! It is a disaster! He—!”
Tyrkanzyaka had always carried herself with leisure, gracefully perched on her coffin, embodying her title as the Vampire Progenitor and Queen of Shadows. Yet in this particular moment, she was rushing with a flustered face.
Observing this unfamiliar sight, Shei wore a puzzled expression as she called out to her.
“Huh? What’s the matter, Tyrkanzyaka? Where’s that coffin you always ride, and that man…?”
Her question was solved as soon as it was asked. Just as the steel doors opened completely, the warden emerged, sitting daintily atop the vampire’s great coffin, occupying Tyrkanzyaka’s exclusive seat with a glazed, soulless look in his eyes.
That shameless face of his brought a mix of relief and renewed anger to Shei. She yelled at him.
“Just in the nick of time! What in the world kind of ritual did you perform? And what did that note mean? Get down here immediately and—”
“That is not the issue, Shei!”
Tyrkanzyaka grabbed Shei urgently, clearly revealing she wasn’t being her usual self.
What on earth was going on? Why was Tyrkanzyaka in such a state of panic, and why was that man sitting zoning out on the coffin?
As these questions rose in Shei’s mind…
“He has lost his memory!”
That outburst swept away Shei’s thoughts.
Tyrkanzyaka proceeded to explain the situation to Shei, although it didn’t take long since she herself wasn’t fully aware of what was going on.
Upon hearing about the outcome of the ritual, Shei sounded dubious.
“Your heart is really beating? That man pulled it off?”
“Indeed! It truly started beating!”
“But that’s ridiculous. Even a mage wouldn’t be capable of that feat, and he isn’t even a mage. How in the world…? Is it really beating again? You’re not mistaken?”
Her question could be considered sensible in a way, but not tactful, putting a damper on Tyrkanzyaka’s mood. She had been experiencing a mix of joy and worry upon fulfilling her wish.
Tyrkanzyaka erased the faint traces of lingering excitement in her chest and glared at Shei.
“Do you think I would possibly lie to you about something this important? Or are you suggesting that he deceived me, and my bloodcraft? Or what, must I show you a palpating heart for you to believe?”
“No, that’s not what I meant. I just, if reviving a heart were so easy…”
If it were so easy, then why wasn’t it possible in her previous life cycle? But Shei barely held back from saying this; she didn’t want to reveal the truth about her regression yet.
But that only further displeased Tyrkanzyaka.
“Easy? You say that despite seeing the state that child is in right now?!”
Shei flinched at Tyrkanzyaka’s harsh tone. Before she had a chance to defend herself, Tyrkanzyaka pointed at the warden on the coffin, raising her voice.
“For 3 whole days, he did not consume a drop of water. He did not even touch a morsel of food. He severed himself from all sustenance, remaining completely motionless, as still as a vampire in a coffin! And in the end, he revived my heart, paying the price of losing his memory! He endured such a reckless act, yet you call it easy?”
Shei wanted to remark that it was easy considering he did something no one could for the past 1200 years… but Tyrkanzyaka looked much too serious for that. So Shei shut her mouth and pretended to agree.
‘Still… seeing how upset she is, her heart really must be beating again.’
If Tyrkanzyaka’s heart was still silent as before, even if she disagreed with Shei’s words, she would’ve been understanding at the very least. Cold-blooded vampires were emotionally resilient and typically observed things from a detached perspective, after all.
Her agitation proved that she had regained her emotions.
‘It’s a good thing. I should quickly help that man regain his memory and find out how he did it! That’ll make it much easier to persuade Tyrkanzyaka from the next cycles. And even if he never regains his memory, I can just make him an ally in the future! Either way, it’s fantastic that I found a breakthrough!’
Having completed her calculations from her perspective as the Regressor, Shei was genuinely delighted.
“Anyway, congratulations! Now we just need to wake that guy up!”
“Haah. Shei, you are…”
Tyrkanzyaka was on the verge of saying something, but she halted and closed her eyes, suppressing her emotions. Such a process wasn’t necessary when her heart remained motionless, but now that she had it back, her emotions no longer obeyed her will.
With a fresh realization of what she had obtained, or regained, Tyrkanzyaka once again felt gratitude towards the warden.
“No matter. I am not here to argue with you. So, tell me. Do you have a way to restore his memories?”
“Mm, well in my case, I mostly handle things with Heavenly Counter Domain…”
The ultimate defensive Qi Art that responded to attacks with precise movements engraved into the body, Heavenly Counter Domain. In its lower levels of mastery, it involved reflexive counterattacks against unexpected approaches. Its true value, however, gradually revealed itself in higher levels of proficiency.
The mind would synchronize with the body. Through the repetition of familiar movements, it was possible to maintain the tranquility of the mind and restore the spirit and soul to a stable state.
Thanks to her Heavenly Counter Domain, Shei became immune to mental attacks such as curses that could stop the heart or disrupt the mind. So to safeguard against psychic attacks and prevent sudden death during unconscious states, Shei would zealously prioritize mastering the Heavenly Counter Domain in each regression.
“…But he probably doesn’t have anything like that. Even if he does, I wouldn’t know.”
Tyrkanzyaka’s expression crumbled into despair.
Once again, Shei observed the remarkable new diversity in Tyrkanzyaka’s expressions, a contrast to typical vampires. But following this realization, her thoughts returned to the note she had received three days ago.
‘Could it be… those incomprehensible instructions meant something?’
While Shei rummaged through her pocket, Tyrkanzyaka murmured to herself with a despondent face.
“Then, is he to remain severed from his memories…? Goodness, to save me he…”
“Wait, Tyrkanzyaka. Hold on a minute.”
“Truly, I have no words to say. I have stolen his future to sate my unfading desire…”
“Take a look at this.”
“There is no other choice… Surely I must give back as much as I took, his whole life… so a life of caring I shall give, by your side…”
As Tyrkanzyaka’s words grew heavier, Shei interjected, taking out a note and gently shaking it.
“Hold on! Just one moment! There’s a note he left for me!”
Tyrkanzyaka’s gaze shifted toward the note.
Shei unfolded the note and held it up, pointing it out in front of her eyes.
“Here, there’s not much written in the note. It only says to take care of Azzy and to stay away from the underground armory. But here, something else is written near these impressions!”
“Impressions? I cannot see them.”
“Oh, that’s right. Then I’ll read it aloud for you.”
Shei read the hidden words by using Fathomsight, then folded the note away again before continuing proudly.
“He must have anticipated the possibility of encountering an abnormal state. Look. It says, ‘even if my condition becomes strange after everything’s over.’ He probably entrusted the note to me for this moment.”
“…But why go to the bother?”
“It says not to go to the cafeteria, but that’s practically an invitation to do just that. We should find something if we go there…?”
As Shei was explaining, pointing at the note, she suddenly looked up and found Tyrkanzyaka looking displeased with pouting cheeks.
Shei felt something off about her attitude. She should be pleased since they found a clue, so why the dissatisfied look?
“Why is it that he specifically gave you that note?”
Shei inadvertently let out a daft exclamation, feeling that the situation was taking a peculiar turn of events.
Meanwhile, Tyrkanzyaka shot Shei a sidelong glance, displaying her discontent.
“He could have simply passed it to me. Why complicate things by giving it to you? I would have been the first to see him as soon as I opened my eyes. Had I known the contents of the note in advance, I would not have worried like this.”
Shei needed a time-out. She was bemused by the vampire’s attitude, to the point of being rendered momentarily speechless.
Regardless, Tyrkanzyaka let out a deflating sigh. In the next moment, she clenched her fist and struck her palm, as if she had just realized something.
“Ahh, I finally understand. It is surely you, Shei, who mustn’t go to the cafeteria. He gave only you the note to prevent you from going. Otherwise, there would be no particular reason to entrust it to you.”
“And regardless of the circumstances, you were the only one left outside, Shei. I assume that is why he chose you out of convenience. Very well. I shall take him to the cafeteria. We will find something there, no doubt.”
As Tyrkanzyaka showed signs of rushing off, Shei broke out of her daze and hurriedly called out.
“Wait, Tyrkanzyaka. I’ll come too! You’ll probably have a hard time finding—”
“Do you intend to ignore the note’s instructions? Wait here. I shall call for you should I require assistance.”
‘I mean, what’s the fuss about following that note? It’s written by that guy anyway, so a minor digression shouldn’t matter!’
However Shei felt, Tyrkanzyaka remained steadfast, displaying a firm resolve to leave the former behind no matter what.
Shei couldn’t help feeling indignant.
‘If I’d known this would happen, I would’ve gone ahead first. I followed that note for nothing!’
Shei scolded her past self from three days ago for being excessively virtuous. If there ever came a next life cycle, she swore not to blindly do as that man told her to.
At that moment, they heard Azzy barking joyfully in the distance. It had been days since she last sounded so satisfied.
Shei reflexively turned around and saw Azzy playing with the warden. With unfocused eyes, he chased after her, tossing a ball. The ball weakly flew up and down.
When Azzy happily returned with the ball in her mouth, he petted her, still wearing that vacant look. In her excitement, Azzy leaned against him, causing him to lose balance and topple over.
Azzy barked in surprise.
Tyrkanzyaka rushed over, startled out of her wits.
“K-King of Dogs, release him for a moment!”
“Woof-woof-woof! What do we do? What do we do?”
“Release him I say!”
Chaos ensued. Azzy barked in surprise while Tyrkanzyaka was at a loss for actions. They circled round and round the fallen warden.
Watching that scene, Shei murmured to herself.
“Looks like he really did lose his memories… I did suspect, but it doesn’t seem to be a joke.”
Then, out of the blue, Shei mused that it was a tad callous of her to harbor suspicions even in this situation. She took a moment to self-reflect.