༺ Contingency…? ༻
The back alleys of the Military State is a brutal realm where the inept can’t survive, and I’ve long been a denizen of that place. You really think I’ll submit obediently to your country?
It was all for this moment that I risked losing myself to revive Tyr’s heart!
“Tyr! Please reveal your might!”
I didn’t think she would turn away from the one who brought back her heart, however indifferent she was to worldly matters. As I sprang up crying out to her, Tyr also rose and stood half a step ahead of me.
“Yes, It is as he said.”
A jet-black parasol draped over my head. Tyr had raised it slightly, leaning toward me. Conveying her intentions through the parasol, she gazed imposingly at the officer.
“I declare here and now, that if even the slightest harm befalls Hu’s body, if even a drop of his blood is spilled… I will exact a blood debt a million times greater from you, and your country.”
The weight of a warning varies depending on its credibility. Someone might threaten the entire human race with death, yet no one would take it seriously; it’s only natural to dismiss such threats as empty words. Even if that person were determined, they would fail.
But if a promise of murder was directed at a single individual? That person wouldn’t be able to sleep soundly at night. This was why the Progenitor’s warning had such a profound impact. Tyr was capable of turning her threat into reality.
Even the officer was cowed by her aura.
“…He is a petty criminal, Progenitor. You would go against the Military State for someone so insignificant?”
“Soldier, let me ask you. Are you prepared to provoke conflict against a nation, merely to ensure a misdemeanant remains branded a sinner?”
As the officer faltered, the gray, hazy cigar smoke that had permeated the room began to stir, only to abruptly freeze in place. The vampire began to radiate power, causing the smoke to transform into inky blackness.
The Vampire Progenitor, her power was the pinnacle of bloodcraft. But that wasn’t all. For centuries, she had relentlessly warred against the devotees of the Sky God. Throughout this long battle, her Blood Aura was seared by light and her body was consumed by fire. Every time she drew blood from her adversaries, countless retainers were reduced to charred ashes in return.
Though her followers had pledged themselves to the dark path, their desire was only to live. Yet they met their demise in the agonizing throes of death, leaving nothing but echoes, a burden for the Progenitor to bear alone.
Then at one point, she acquired power over darkness, the shadows forsaken by light.
Light vanished from the room as the entirety of Tantalus began to tremble. Amidst it all, we could only hear Tyr’s voice, piercing through the murk with imperious serenity.
“I am Tyrkanzyaka the Progenitor, the monstrosity destined to devour the world, the Queen of Shadows. I am the beginning of all vampires, the very essence of my kind, and the nightwalkers that roam the earth are but extensions of my limbs. I ask again, soldier of the Military State. Do you possess the power, the authority, and the resolve to face me?”
Even a superior officer of the Military State couldn’t dare to stand against Tyr’s power, stepping backward. Despite straining herself, withstanding Tyr’s presence was the best she could do.
But sheltered beneath Tyr’s parasol, I remained unaffected by that energy. I stood unscathed while even the prison itself quaked in fear.
With crossed arms and a grin painted on my face, I pondered how… odd it was. I felt something inside me, some kind of weight. While I did anticipate her protection, the extent of it was a bit…
I only expected her to stop at a stern warning to keep me safe.
“… I understand ma’—I mean, very well. I shall… consider it…”
The officer clicked her tongue before turning away. She was obviously fleeing, but still, it was commendable that she didn’t lose her composure until the end.
As the officer made her escape, the energy filling the room vanished in an instant. The stormy atmosphere subsided, leaving only Tyr and me behind.
A moment of silence ensued. Tyr stopped glaring outside the door and began to steal peeks at me. Eventually, in a slightly awkward manner, she called my name.
I answered, wondering what it was all of a sudden, and Tyr chuckled softly in satisfaction.
“Hehe. You turn around even with this name. So, is your original name Hughes?”
“It is. I’m registered under that name.”
“I prefer to call you Hu.”
“Why is that?”
After a moment of hesitation, Tyr took her parasol away from me and answered abruptly.
“…Because I heard it directly from your own lips. Why, do you not like the brevity of it?”
I felt that weight again, heavy enough to break a weighing scale.
I could read minds, but not the future. The choices and emotions of a changed person belong to the realm of uncertainty. I thought she was gullible, but to think her emotions had grown so deep while I was senseless… Was it because she had finally achieved emotional release after 12 centuries?
“How was it? Did I help?”
“Of course, you were more than helpful.”
But it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. The person in front of me was the Progenitor of Vampires, a great Calamity that had only ever appeared in history books, and rarely at that.
I’d be happy to have a walking army like her watching my back.
As I entertained such thoughts, Tyr spoke in a slightly softer voice.
“Should that soldier cause you distress, do tell. I can dispose of a mere soldier without leaving even a corpse.”
I’d be happy indeed… even if her feelings were a bit overwhelming. Haha.
I responded vaguely, waving away her suggestion.
“Come on, how can you go killing someone so carelessly? That’s no joke. It’s not right to do that to someone who wants to live.”
Tyr looked puzzled as she replied.
“Then, does that mean it is fine if they have no will to live?”
“Well, I suppose it doesn’t matter? But still, do you really need to kill them?”
“That is a strange thing to say. Who would wish for death? And even if there were such people, how does one tell apart those who want to die and those who want to live?”
“No one can do that, normally.”
“Then is it not pointless?”
“Haha, is it?”
I shrugged, while Tyr briefly made an odd face and burst into wry laughter.
“You are kind.”
“Wow! That’s the first time I’ve heard that since my mom disappeared!”
“…Did you not say you were an orphan?”
Tyr’s gaze turned incredulous at my cheerful reply. She leaned the parasol against her shoulder again, murmuring.
“I understand. I see you do not wish for me to kill. Despite being given great power, and the chance to wield it against your oppressor, you are not particularly inclined to do so.”
“Well, it wasn’t like she was trying to kill me.”
“Judging by her inflexible attitude, I do not think she will bend easily. She may tyrannize you someday.”
“You never know how people will turn out. How can you resort to murder just because there’s some bad possibility? Now that’s savagery.”
Unless I was dealing with a severe case of schizophrenia, it was easy enough to read murderous intent aimed at me. It wouldn’t be too late to do something when something did happen.
Besides… there was something I discovered from the officer. I couldn’t have her dying so soon.
I pushed away that subject for the moment. Since we were alone, I figured I’d ask Tyr a question that was on my mind.
“By the way, did you do nothing while I was unconscious? Are you really not hiding anything from me?”
“B-but of course! What would I do?!”
Tyr raised her voice, her leisure from earlier disappearing. She was desperately trying to hide something… but fat chance.
｢Whew. Thank goodness he did not notice. Otherwise…｣
My power was starting to come back. It was time to read what she had done while I was out.
I went through Tyr’s memory, not too far back. She was sitting beside me in my room, getting ready to feed me some breakfast as I was zoning out.
But as Tyr helped me up, she looked at my hand and froze. She kept staring, for some reason, then cast a furtive look around. She was being suspicious, like a child who was about to do wrong, such as thievery. If she behaved like that in the back alleys, she would’ve been swarmed by a crowd eager to get a piece of the goodies… though a single gesture from her would send them all flying.
Anyway. After a while of staring at my hand, all fidgety, Tyr seemed to make her mind up about something and clicked her finger, causing the room to fall into darkness. It was the Progenitor’s power.
Once she blinded the world with her supreme power over the shadows, Tyr reached for my empty hand with both of hers.
I reacted to her touch in the dark.
“…Who are you?”
“Hush. It is I.”
“Yes, Tyr. Be still for a moment, as you are.”
After silencing me, Tyr cautiously took my hand and guided it toward her chest. Thump. Thump. Thump. Her heartbeat grew stronger as my hand drew closer.
There were likely multiple reasons for this, such as her body remembering the electric massages, and the card embedded in her heart reacting. Either way, to Tyr, my hand was like a magnet, a heater, maybe even a drug.
In other words, there was nothing whatsoever in humanity’s shallow history to compare it with.
From thumping to thudding, and from thudding to pounding. Her heartbeats began like soft ripples on the water’s surface, swiftly evolving into resonating drums that reverberated through her entire being. The palpitations were so powerful that I could feel the vibrations in my hand.
As Tyr savored that evidence of restored life, a sudden thought occurred to her.
“Just by being this close, it reacts like this. If we were to get a little closer…”
It’s already almost touching your heart, what more do you want? How could we get any closer than this?
Tyr’s eyes flickered ominously.
“Be still, Hu.”
I had no sense of self at the time, which was why I nodded despite being somewhat wary. Tyr, after glancing around discreetly once more, lifted her finger to her chest and slid it downward.
Oh, hang on. Don’t tell me?
Tyr’s finger parted the flesh of her chest, revealing the interior. Although her heart was alive now, her bloodcraft remained undiminished. Despite the incision, her blood continued to flow within her without spilling out, though it did take more effort than before.
And so, my hand moved closer to Tyr’s heart, within her wide-open chest…
At that point, I ceased delving into her mind. Normally, when uncovering weaknesses of influential figures… I would contemplate how to exploit such knowledge, how to extract something from them. However… for the first time in my life, I decided to act differently and bury this monumental secret deep within my chest.
Some secrets were never meant to be revealed to the world, after all.
* * *
‘He’s not associated with the State. That means the warden responsible for Tantalus’ downfall is someone else entirely! Tsk. Talk about being confusing!’
Gloomy thoughts emanated from a certain dimly lit room.
‘Right. Even for the State, there’s no way they could corrupt Azzy or Tyrkanzyaka like that. They’re extreme control freaks. They’d rather use blackmail than drive them into a frenzy and release them outside. That’s not their way of doing things. And it’s not what they want either.’
Shei pushed Chun-aeng’s blade at an angle, and sparks ignited in the empty air as spatial friction occurred.
Chun-aeng was a widthless sword, which made it infinitely sharp and capable of cutting through anything in existence… or so it was said. But that wasn’t necessarily true.
A fierce wind may sometimes send shivers down your spine, but that doesn’t mean it’s the sharpest spear in the world.
‘The root cause of corruption lies with him… More precisely, the other two must have gone mad because the Military killed him.’
If the wielder lacked the necessary skills and couldn’t stabilize the spatial formation of the blade using Qi Art, Chun-aeng would be nothing more than a hilt. Conversely, as long as the wielder was skilled enough, it would become the most powerful sword in the world.
The regressor honed the blade in the darkened room, restoring its sharpness. Its spatial material had been wearing out slowly all this time.
Shei sharpened her mind along with her sword, contemplating.
‘…I really didn’t expect him to be an ordinary laborer. I thought he was an inmate impersonating a warden, but that’s all he turned out to be? No, could it be more deception…? A move that managed to fool even the State administration? Or did he switch places with a laborer named Hughes?’
It was a pity that her conclusions were off the mark, but nonetheless, the topic was quite interesting for the regressor.
‘His identity and purpose are still unknown… and I don’t know what he wants to do by charming Tyrkanzyaka…’
Done with honing Chun-aeng, the sword with the power to cleave the very gaps in the wind, she gave it a swing, cutting through the darkness in silence.
‘It’s fine though. I still can’t trust the man, but at the very least, I now know his death was the trigger of that tragedy. I just need to try to keep him alive from now on.’
The scales of fate tilted. Slightly, yet irreversibly. The judgment that came from this young girl’s heart was trivial, yet extraordinarily impactful. Because a certain somebody’s life had been spared in every future that lay ahead.
‘I’ve made some gains. Now…’
She only had to take one more step than before. Learn just one more thing than the last time. After all, what awaited the regressor was a path of suffering that could never be completed, even if she were to face death dozens more times.
A smile adorned the regressor’s face, brimming with a sense of accomplishment, as she tightly clutched Chun-aeng in one hand.
‘Now I can die as I please.’
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