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  “Stu… Ko…”

 

  ‘He might have run away last time, but not in this iteration.’

 

  – Slap!

 

  “Uahk…”

 

  I immediately came to myself from the sound of a whip slapping at the air.
It was seriously a mystery how she could make such a sound with a whip. 

 

  Considering how strict Lady Josephine was, I thought she would be glaring at me but what I saw instead was completely different.

 

  “Are you still feeling unwell? If you are, then we can provide you with the best medical service.”

 

  “Uhh… no.
I’m fine.
I could probably even leave the hospital right now.”

 

  “I see.
Well then… we can leave right now.”

 

  “…”

 

  Taking out the needle that was poking into my arm, I tidied up the room with the help of Lady Josephine.

 

  “Student Korin.”

 

  “Yes?”

 

  “Would you mind going somewhere together?”

 

  “…Sure.”

 

  I had a rough idea of where she wanted me to go.
Soon, she used her interdimensional spell and began walking off into the dark abyss without any hesitation. 

 

  The cliche in novels was to feel sick after a teleportation, but there was no such thing.
It felt like we were just walking to a different room but the background changed in an instant and I saw Marie eating steamed potatoes with her bare hands behind rigid iron bars.

 

  “Ah…”

 

  “Good morning.”

 

  “U, uhh.
Hello… Junior… Cough! Kehk! Kehek!”

 

  Marie coughed as if something got stuck in her throat.

 

  “Can you please open this door?”

 

  “…Are you sure you going to be alright?”

 

  “I believe it will be fine.”

 

  These iron bars were the safety device set against the demi-human Marie Dunareff who had awakened as a vampire.
Lady Josephine harboring such a doubt was nothing out of the ordinary but I had zero hesitation.

 

  I walked into the door that Lady Josephine opened for me, and handed Marie a bottle of water.

 

  “Hurry up and drink this.
You might die at this rate.”

 

  “Kuhuk… kehk! T, thank you…!”

 

  “Like, who is it that gave you steamed potatoes without any water?”

 

  “……Kuhum!”

 

  Lady Josephine let out an empty cough from the other side of the iron bars.
Ah… it seemed the culprit was that old lady who didn’t know anything about a proper life.

 

  “Cough! Cough! Kuhaa…!”

 

  After finally relieving the physical lump in her throat, Marie tapped her chest to swallow the food down.
Soon, she felt my gaze and gave an awkward smile by going, ‘Ehehe.’

 

  “I thought your eating habits would change though.
It’s surprising that you’re still eating potatoes.
Are they even tasty?”

 

  “P, potatoes are always delicious! No matter how you consume them, they are always a tasty and magnificent famine-relieving crop!”

 

  “That’s good then.”

 

  I thought she couldn’t have anything else apart from blood after becoming a vampire.
That was something I didn’t get to ask Sebancia Duke about.

 

  “What about the bloodsucking impulse? Is that a bit different from hunger? I wonder how frequent it is.”

 

  “N, nn… I’ll be receiving blood packs so it’s fine…”

 

  From what I could see, Marie wasn’t in a good state.
She was wearing new and clean clothes but there were dried clots of blood all over her body.
Even though she was provided with food and clothing, it seemed that she wasn’t free enough to take a shower.

 

  “You look like you’re in a horrible state.
Why don’t you ask Lady… I mean, Senior Professor for some favor?”

 

  “N, no it’s fine! I’ve been causing too much trouble already! I’ll stay here until Mr.
Chairman and Senior Professor tell me it’s fi… Ahhht!!”

 

  After seemingly remembering something, Marie flapped her two arms and covered my eyes.

 

  “G, go over there! I stink!”

 

  “… Look, it’s a bit late for that.
You know when you were biting my neck, I didn’t even wash myself back then.”

 

  “Ahhk! Please don’t…!”

 

  In order to run away from Marie who was hitting me with her flapping arms, I moved to a corner and the girl finally calmed herself back down.

 

  “…I was scared.”

 

  Wrapping her arms around her knees, the girl started confessing about her feelings.

 

  “That girl called Hua Ran… she was very scary.
I thought I was going to die.
It was very scary but… I couldn’t be like you, Junior.”

 

  “…”

 

  I could slightly understand what she was trying to say.

 

  When faced with power that was too enormous to fight against, and when facing the dark shadows of death for the first time… anyone was bound to be frightened.

 

  Scary, cold and mind-numbing.

 

  The brain doesn’t work properly, and reality strikes at you without any consideration for your feelings.
Like how a soldier at the battlefield feels ever so tiny at the face of a tempest that terrifies the heaven and the earth, Marie would have felt the same way.

 

  Even I was the same.

 

  Everyone would have to experience it at least once.

 

  Marie was a genius.
She was a prodigy loved by mana.

 

  Because of that, the desperation for life and the fear of death must have been an extremely distant relative of hers until now. 

 

  It’s not that she wasn’t a hard worker, and it’s not like she lacked experience.

 

  It was just that most of the things in existence were just unable to stimulate the genius called Marie Dunareff.

 

  It was only recently that the girl faced reality and a true sense of fear.
The thing that everyone had to experience had recently come to her.

 

  Marie was stimulated by the danger and fear, which must have been the cause of her awakening into a vampire.

 

  “Haa…”

 

  The wings of a butterfly causing a storm, huh…

 

  Because I had been overly focused on the incident with the Murderer of the City of Fog, there was something I had missed.
In the end, the cause of Marie awakening into a demi-human was danger and fear that was great enough to stimulate this genius.

 

  After meeting Hua Ran, I aroused something inside her and it was because of that change that Hua Ran participated in the practical lesson at the hunting grounds.
During her participation in the practical lesson, Hua Ran must have coincidentally come across Marie, and had probably used her true powers to contend against the Grade 1 genius. 

 

  And that was what stimulated the vampiric molecules laying dormant inside Marie’s body.

 

  I could only sigh upon realizing the malicious quirk of fate and the combined result of multiple coincidences.

 

  Actually, things like this used to happen quite often in the previous iteration.
The backlash of the death of Alicia Arden, and Park Sihu’s failed attempt at killing Hua Ran resulting in awakening the Yaksha inside her were such examples.

  

  No matter how insignificant something was at a glance, they had the power to change the current.

 

  Because we were living in a real world instead of a game, and because the people that we had been disregarding as NPCs were in fact breathing organisms, they naturally reacted in different ways to the different circumstances. 

 

  “Junior… how are you able to stand back up? How come you don’t give up? Even back when you were fighting against the elemental body, I thought you would never be able to succeed.
Everyone was mocking you but in the end, you pulled it off.”

 

  — It was so cool.

 

  The girl’s confession and question about how I was able to stand back up flushed my cheeks a little.

 

  “Umm…… It’s nothing that amazing or anything but…”

 

  It was a bit embarrassing.
Despite the grandiose oaths I made, talking about them was still quite embarrassing.

 

  “You see, I like happy endings.”

 

  “Nn?”

 

  “Good people being rewarded, and bad people being punished.
You know, I like that kind of didactic story.”

 

  Hard-workers should be rewarded, but as for the selfish ones… Well, I didn’t feel like cheering for them.

 

  “Senior Marie.
You’re a nice person.
You’re kind, and you’re pretty… Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that I want a happy ending for you if anything.
So… I want Marie Dunareff to be happy.”

 

  My cheeks twitched by themselves.

 

  Damn it.
It was super embarrassing to voice this out loud.
You know, men were supposed to stay quiet and do what was needed to be done in silence! That was the coolest thing to do!

 

  “…Oh my.”

 

  Lady Josephine murmured from outside.

 

  Rolling my eyes, I threw a glance to the side and found Lady Josephine wearing a look of awe while covering her mouth with her palm. 

 

  Huh? What’s wrong with her?

 

  “Uhh.”

 

  Meanwhile, Marie continued opening and closing her mouth.

 

  “Uh, uhh… Umm……”

 

  I looked into her eyes and realized that her pupils were shivering profusely.
Her white skin turned crimson red and she even started trembling.

 

  What was going on? Was she having a withdrawal symptom already?

 

  “Would you like… some blood?”

 

  “U, uuhkk? Auh, auh… Aahht?!”

 

  Please speak in a human language at least.

 

  “Auhk… auhh! No… I swear I didn’t think of anything weird…!”

 

  “Huh?”

 

  What was with this reaction that seemed like it would come out in a fully-optimized game on a 4k monitor?

 

  Her entire body was flushed in red like a graphic card expressing that it will soon reach all the way to heaven, and Marie hurriedly escaped to a corner before gasping for breath to settle herself back down.

 

  “A, anyway… did it hurt a lot?”

 

  “If you’re talking about my neck, well, it was just a little sting.”

 

  “…I’m sorry.”

 

  “There’s no need to be sorry.”

 

  “No no no! I’m really… sorry! I just couldn’t hold myself back.
That impulse was… Wait, no.
That would just be an excuse…”

 

  Without caring about her disheveled hair and her neck that had dry clots of blood, Marie deeply lowered her head.

 

  “I’m sorry.
I am sincerely quite sorry.”

 

  Walking up, the girl held onto my hands and sincerely asked for an apology.
There were tears budding beneath her golden eyes.

 

  “Thank you for saving me and for not giving up on me.
Thank you for your help.
I’ll be forever in your debt.”

 

  — Sniff!

 

  Without even letting go of my hands, the girl wiped her tears that were about to drop down her cheeks.

 

  “Nn… Thank you so much.”

 

  Marie released my hands and took a step back before turning her back to me.

 

  “Junior! Umm… I want to wash myself now! And I need to finish my potatoes!”

 

  “Sure.
Senior Marie.”

 

  It was probably best to leave her alone for now.

 

  “Senior Professor?”

 

  In response to my call, Lady Josephine opened a dimensional spell in front of me.
I took a step into the abyss that would lead me back to the hospital room when Marie’s voice echoed from behind. 

 

  “Bye, Korin! See you later!”

 

  “See you later.”

 

  The girl that was sobbing bid me farewell with a smile.

 

  I was back at the silent hospital room but soon, I could hear the clicking noise of Lady Josephine’s heels.

 

  “Oh dear… Student Korin.
That wasn’t so bad.”

 

  “Pardon?”

 

  “Ah~”

 

  Looking like a senior in life who had gone through countless vicissitudes of life, Lady Josephine shook her head.

 

  “I shall discuss everything related to her with you from now on, Student Korin.”

 

  “Umm… sure.”

 

  After showing a faint smile at the end, Lady Josephine walked out of the room.

 

  While scratching my cheeks, I opened the window of the room as the dazzling afternoon sun glimmered through the window.

 

  With this, the 1st Arc had come to an end.
It was a happy ending for everyone which used to be impossible to achieve in the previous iteration and the game.

 

  There were a few things that were unexpected, and not a single thing had gone according to the original plot of the game but… that was what made it even better.

 

  Even without the player, the world was still working in one piece.

 

  Even without following the original storyline, we could still achieve a better ending.

 

  I was seeing the new beginning of a world composed of things which we hadn’t been able to achieve even back when it was a game, and even back when we had a player. 

 

  It was a nice feeling.

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