Chapter 7 – The Sanguine Letter
Life was a novel.
One with a foreword of birth, and a conclusion of death, filling the rest up with time and age as you went.
If we thought of it that way, my mind reading could be compared to reading a book.
I could simply skim what was currently being written through the character’s current thoughts or just flip through the pages from start to finish.
If I wanted to, I could read it completely, from start to finish.
However, it would take too long and also pose a risk to me.
Amitengrad, the capital of the State, was a monster that grew through devouring nearby cities.
The explosive growth pushed all its original contents out as it grew.
People, houses, money, and even culture.
All of the things that were pushed out had their own story to tell, and I had met plenty of interesting people while living there.
Yet as they said, there was always something greater than you could ever imagine.
Within the great underground prison of Tantalus, there resided prisoners far beyond anything I had experienced.
The Dog King.
The Progenitor of Vampires.
And a regressor.
Beings who could obliterate a city by themselves.
And befitting their strength, their books were extremely unique.
Azzy’s book was like reading cave-script out loud.
I could read it, but I couldn’t make sense of it.
It was jumbled.
She didn’t care about concepts like left or right, or why someone would ever not toss a ball.
Those types of worries didn’t exist in her book.
She never thought about them, as if it were something obvious.
Maybe it was to be expected.
Dogs certainly didn’t think in the same logical process as humans.
As long as I am a human, I would never be able to fully understand Azzy’s book.
I might be able to read her mood if I tried, but I could do that by just looking at her expression.
The vampire’s book was thick.
Fit for a monster that had lived over 1,200 years.
The number of pages that exceeded a normal human’s by over a dozen times overwhelmed me.
Even skimming it would be an ordeal.
Furthermore, it wasn’t only thick, but it was also packed with crazy events.
How she became a vampire, the history of discrimination, her time in the battlefield, her regime, her downfall, escape, and sleep… Judging from the names of the chapters, I couldn’t even dream of touching the rest of it.
The style also changed according to the time period it was recorded in.
An archeologist might have fallen in love with it, but unfortunately, only I could read books of the mind.
And I am no historian.
Lastly, the regressor.
Shei’s book didn’t fall under any of the aforementioned categories.
The regressor’s book… was a novel series of fourteen volumes.
Despite having met an end to a story, she continued on.
Almost like a bad author dragging on a series, without any sign of it ending soon…
That was what got me confused.
I read it, but I couldn’t fully understand it.
She may live her current life, but all her experiences and strengths were from previous lives.
Her motives, enemies and dreams were all already brought up in previous volumes.
And unfortunately for me, all I could read from her mind was the latest volume.
The previous volumes hadn’t even been written yet in this world.
Imagine if you picked up the latest volume of a series you have never read.
You can’t really follow the story fully.
So, although I knew I would die in the future and the world would end, I couldn’t see the exact details.
I could only predict it from her flashbacks or actions she had done in this life.
In order to find out, I needed to hear it from her own mouth…
Or force her to reminisce about the past.
Either way, I need to get close to the regressor.”
Understanding my situation, I sighed.
Not like it changed anything.
In a prison without many things to do, people are naturally drawn to the field outside.
I pushed open the steel bar doors and headed into the yard.
A peculiar sight greeted my eyes.
“Tyrkanzyaka! I’ve come to meet you! Open the door!”
Shei had her arms outstretched, shouting in front of the underground armory.
The underground armory.
It was a place meant to store the weapons that could subdue the prisoners in the case of a riot and was made with three stages of security in order to access it.
Although, in the case of Tantalus where they had no chance against the prisoners, it stored something else.
You could call it the strongest weapon of them all.
Either way, it was a zone no normal prisoner should access.
Execution was justified just for approaching it.
In front of the underground armory, the regressor was performing some peculiar ritual.
‘What’s she doing?’
I then remembered that I had introduced myself as an instructor.
If I’m an instructor, should I stop a prisoner from trying to get into the armory? I don’t want to lose my head.’
The regressor was like a terrorist—no, a mad scientist who performed experiments on the entire world.
If things went haywire, she could always just hop on to the next trial.
However, she would suspect me more if I didn’t perform my duties.
If she believed me to be something more of a variable than an instructor, she may try to eliminate me.
Let’s stop her.
She won’t actually kill me, right?’
I spoke out with an angry voice.
“Trainee Shei! Did you—”
But I can’t let him stop me.
If he does, I’ll have to get rid of him somehow…」
“D-Did you have a good night’s sleep? Good morning.
It was my first time sleeping in a prison, but I slept well.”
Barely stopping myself, I started smiling as I approached her.
‘I didn’t think she’d actually try to kill me.
Alright, from now on, I’ll let her do whatever she wants.’
As I continued to stare at her with a smile on my face, the regressor scrunched up her face and turned away.
Fortunately, she had the courtesy to not spit in my face.
Good morning to you too.’
After exchanging greetings by myself, I walked towards the closed-shut armory doors.
“Screaming in the middle of the morning? Just what are you doing?”
“You don’t need to know.”
“You want to meet the person inside?”
The regressor clicked her tongue in frustration.
It seemed that it was her way of saying yes.
“Why do you want to wake up someone sleeping so badly?”
“Don’t worry about it.”
“I can’t ask anything, huh?”
The regressor was so wary of me that she didn’t try to take any actions while I was watching.
It was quite annoying to deal with.
Only the regressor knew the answer to how the world would end or what exactly happened here.
So, I needed the regressor to think about the past while she was next to me.
However, with the current attitude, I doubted I would be able to get much from her even after a year.
What to do…’
I looked back in the direction of the armory.
Tantalus lacked weapons in its underground armory.
Unlike other normal prisons, an outbreak was almost always impossible for the prisoners here.
However, since the prisoners wouldn’t escape, the facility didn’t allocate weapons to subdue them.
They put in something else instead.
The first vampire, sinful beast, and queen of darkness.
The Progenitor, Tyrkanzyaka.
A palace and a prison for the vampire who refused light and slept deeper underground.
And the regressor was attempting to wake that ancient vampire right now.
For me, a being who feasted on human blood waking up was not in my best interests.
Especially if I was the only normal human around.
However, in the process of trying to get close to the regressor, helping out with tasks like this would better our relationship.
What to do…
My hesitation was short-lived.
‘I’ll help Shei.
The vampire won’t kill me.
Now that everyone else is either dead or gone, I’m a precious source of blood for the vampire.
I doubt she would cut open the belly of the golden-egg-laying goose just to quench a moment of thirst.
At worst, she’ll turn me into some half-dead drone to pump out blood till the end of time.’
…It’s not the best future.
But it’s better than dying.
Having made my decision, I made a proposition to the regressor.
“Why don’t you break the doors down?”
“It’s under Tyrkanzyaka’s control.”
Looking in the direction she pointed, a glowing red bloodstain replaced the position where a keyhole should have been.
I couldn’t read energies or auras, but I could still tell that it was something ominous.
“That blood engraving.
As long as that stain glows, the steel doors are akin to one of her familiars.
It won’t open without her orders.”
“I’ll let it pass this time, so you can try to break it down if you want.
Who knows? Maybe after a week, it’ll go down.”
“…It’s possible, but I don’t want to.
I’m trying to ask Tyrkanzyaka for help, not to fight.”
‘Huh? I was just teasing her, but she can actually do it? Normal humans can’t slice through steel doors.
This one in particular has a strength level of three, strengthened by the State’s special alchemy.
It wouldn’t budge even if it took a cannonball at point-blank range.
But she’s claiming that she can break it down if she tries? A human can break those doors if they try? At that point, it’s just rude to the person who designed it.’
“You have more common sense than I thought.”
Killing someone’s familiar is even ruder than just breaking into their house.”
“Look who’s talking, huh? When they tried to slice off my arm out of the blue.”
I was just mumbling.”
Ignoring the regressor’s suspicion, I began to think.
‘The alchemic strength level of a typical bunker is level three.
If I use “that” it might work.
Should I try?’
I dug through my pocket to find the item.
It was the bell I had used to train Azzy yesterday.
“What’s that for?”
“It’s a dog bell.”
It wasn’t too loud, but it would be clear to Azzy’s acute senses.
Of course, she would normally have ignored the bell.
There were too many sounds in the world to pay so much attention to a single one.
However, Azzy spent the entire day training with the sound of this bell.
That was why I kept ringing it as I played with her yesterday.
I raised the bell above my head and rattled it.
As the clear chimes resonated from the bell, I heard barking from afar.
Soon after, Azzy started running down the side of the building to get to me.
She was actually running down the wall of the building.
It was several times the speed of gravity.
Tracks were left in the concrete walls as she pushed off, indenting the stone.
With a loud crash, she bounced off the floor immediately as she touched the ground towards me.
Almost like a rubber ball bouncing on the ground, her change in velocity was that drastic.
If she had hit someone, they would undoubtedly die.
I rushed to rummage through my pocket to find the piece of meat I had prepared.
Just before Azzy arrived, I managed to toss it towards the doors of the underground armory.
The Dog King followed in chase of the meat and slammed directly into the steel doors.
A grand vibration echoed throughout the prison.
No bell could produce a sound as large as that.
Almost as if we were within the body of an instrument, I could feel the air itself vibrating.
I also wasn’t quite sure about this, but I thought I felt the ground tilt a little.
Shocked, the regressor grabbed me by my collar.
“What… do you think you’re doing?!”
“I told you! I need Tyrkanzyaka’s help!”
“Our doggy just happened to run into her doors by accident.”
And Azzy, who produced that impact…
“Yum, yum! Woof!”
…Was lost in her own world, happily chewing on the meat.
I took a glance at Azzy and then the doors.
It was more than enough to destroy level three steel.
The stain’s enhancement far exceeded my expectations.
It’s level four at the very least.”
Despite Azzy impacting the doors at max speed, she only left a footprint on it.
Maybe if she had somehow gotten mad and punched it with her full paw strength, it would break.
Unfortunately, there was no reason for the carefree Dog King to be mad at the steel doors.
Now that I verified it wouldn’t work, I didn’t need Azzy anymore.
“You heard the bell.
Now head back.”
After violently shaking her head, she hopped around my side, tail waving.
“Woof! Let’s play!”
“But we played yesterday.”
“So let’s play more!”
‘Yesterday and today are two different things to her, huh? It’s a very positive way of thinking to not worry about the past.’
“I’m busy today.
“No! Let’s play!”
Azzy pretended to gnaw at my calf, trying to show her frustration.
‘Does she think I’m the pet here, trying to boss me around? This is all the regressor’s fault.
I needed to fix her manners yesterday, but the regressor prevented me from using the whip.’
I glared at Shei.
“Wh-What are you looking at me for?”
Don’t worry about it.”
I was the only one who looked out for the dog.
Only I actually played with her.
However, unlike dogs, humans actually worried and improved by learning from the past.
I had already prepared for a situation like this.
I couldn’t let myself be some pitching machine like yesterday.
“Now, Azzy, sniff my hand.”
Azzy rubbed her nose on my outstretched hand.
Making sure she could remember my scent, I made sure she got the smell of my entire hand.
After enough time had passed, I pointed at the prison.
“Azzy, I’m sorry! I left the ball over there.”
“You remember the smell, right? Go find the ball for me.
Then I’ll play with you.”
Without a hint of doubt, Azzy burst off the floor back towards the prison.
I grinned as she went further and further away.
I thoroughly washed the ball and hid it deep inside some concrete rubble.
It’ll take ages even for the Dog King.’
I bought time.
I turned back towards the regressor.
“There’s a limit to brute force, I guess.
Now, let’s look for different ways.”
‘Huh, she’s giving me that weird look again.
As if she has a problem with me treating Azzy like a dog.’
The regressor glanced at Azzy running far away before turning back to me with a confused face.
“…When did you get so close to Azzy?”
“We’re not that close.
It’s only been a day.”
She barely acknowledges me even though I’ve seen her for a week…”
‘That’s because you keep trying to treat her like a human.
Asking a dog “How’s the weather today?” means nothing to them.
You need to train them like me.’
Back to the point.
Now, I needed to figure out how to get into the bunker.
“Anyways, the doors won’t break to a dog missile.
And if you don’t want to knock it down… we’ll need to make her open it.”
“I’ve tried everything.
I’ve screamed and knocked, but she hasn’t responded.”
I know what to do.”
The regressor raised her brows in suspicion.
Putting her aside, I thought about when I had first arrived at Tantalus.
At that moment, the vampire had woken up from her slumber for a short moment.
I could faintly make out her thoughts.
Why did she wake up then? To give the new inmate a warm welcome?
There was only one answer.
“We need to offer her blood.”
Back then, when Azzy bit my ankle and pulled me, I bled from skidding on the hard floor.
Just as water flowed downward and ripe apples fell off the tree, Tyrkanzyaka absorbed the blood on the concrete.
And what, she complained about the taste? What a fussy eater, especially considering she had taken it from me.
Regardless of whether she woke up because it tasted bad, she did react to blood.
“We need to offer blood to wake the vampire.”
As I proudly announced that, Shei scoffed as she thrust her finger at me.
“You think I haven’t thought about that? I already tried.”
Her fingers were still light and delicate, not yet having swung the sword much in this life.
I could see the thin wound already beginning to close up.
“I slit my finger and offered my blood, but she didn’t wake up.
The blood was just swept inside.”
“Hah, you acted like you were smart, but I guess you don’t have anything else, do you?”
The regressor crossed her arms as she teased me.
She seemed to be happy that I had messed up.
‘Why is she happy that a plan to get inside failed? If the blood was absorbed past the doors, Tyrkanzyaka can undoubtedly “sense” blood.
But a little drop won’t wake her up.
To vampires, absorbing blood is done unconsciously, just as breathing was.’
Well, only one way left.
“Let’s write in blood.”
When it came to the Dog King, the sound of the bell used to merely mean ‘a noise produced by metal clashing against metal’.
However, after ringing the bell each time as we played fetch and giving her treats, she began to associate the ringing with positive emotions.
Quite a poetic expression.
In reality, it was plain training.
The same logic could be applied to the vampire.
She would absorb blood normally, but she would undoubtedly notice if the blood formed a word.
“It’s clear that Trainee Tyrkanzyaka can sense blood.
However, typical blood lacks meaning, so she just absorbs it without noticing.
If we write words in blood, we’ll be able to at least see if she wants to meet us or not.”
「I-It makes sense… He’s not so dumb after all.」
‘I wish you’d give compliments out loud instead of just clicking your tongue at me.’
“Alright, I’ll try it.”
Shei clutched the air behind her head.
It was only then that she began to imagine her weapon floating behind her head.
‘I was wondering where she kept it, but she just levitated it in the air using her energy.’
It was such an unconscious action that I didn’t even notice with my mind reading.
I thought she was unarmed, but she had her weapon beside her the entire time.
‘She did that unconsciously? Although Chun-aeng is a weightless sword, it still requires precise control.
That’s not a level achievable by talent.
It’s an instinct gained by carrying a single sword for over a hundred years.
Just how many cycles had she experienced holding the Aerial Blossom? I’ll need to watch out from now on.
Her empty hands aren’t as they seem.’
As I had that thought—
The sword traced a horizontal arc.
It included the edge of the regressor’s finger in the trajectory.
With extreme control, she barely grazed the surface of her finger.
A barely visible cut formed on her slender white finger, and red began to bubble out of it.
Soon after, blood began to rush out like an open tap; to the point where I worried for her health.
It was a painful sight to watch, but I was completely calm.
It was because the regressor didn’t even feel any pain from the wound.
I was overwhelmed by the strange calmness.
“What should I write?”
As if she were holding a brush, she raised her finger and asked.
I could see the droplets flowing from her finger.
“Write down what I say.
The regressor carefully made sure to not let the loose droplets interfere with her writing.
“G, R, A, N…”
“G, R, A, N, N, Y—”
When the regressor realized what she had written, she whipped her head back up.
‘Granny, it’s time to wake up.’ Write that.”
“Hold on, what are you trying to pull here?”
“What do you mean? I’m just trying to wake the elderly grandma.”
It appeared the regressor was not very informed about Tyrkanzyaka.
Maybe she didn’t have a chance to meet her in her previous lives.
I tried my best to explain it to her.
“Tyrkanzyaka is a trainee who is over 1,200 years old.
Especially back during her time, how you treated the elderly was a very important value to have.
We should treat her with the necessary respect.”
“No! What kind of woman would enjoy being treated like a hag?!”
‘What are you talking about? A woman who’s lived 1,200 years isn’t just a hag.
They’re an ancient relic.
They’ve lived longer than most countries.
You really think someone like that would dwell on things like that?’
At that moment—
[How bold of you two…]
A dark, deep voice rumbled as the steel doors opened with a clean echo of metal.
Darkness waved past the doors.
The searchlights that lit up Tantalus made up most of the light here.
Since it was focused light, places not lit up by it were rather dark.
However, the darkness in the armory was different from just a simple absence of light.
A pitch black that sucked in light.
Nevertheless, I could see a shade of blood red glistening within.
It was dark, yet red as blood at the same time.
An irony incomprehensible by common sense.
Yet the monster that resided within went far past precognitions.
Days, months, years, centuries…
Legends and history.
The harvester of all the deaths that faded from history.
The condensed culmination of the history of blood coiled beyond the darkness.
Before mentioning strength, it was a matter of mythology.
Mentioned in fairy tales and taking up an entire page of a history book, the woman who became a legend.
The Progenitor, Tyrkanzyaka.
Goosebumps appeared throughout my body.
The monster inside the armory had survived over a thousand years on human blood alone.
The darkness that had waged war against the Sanctum alone.
As I was questioning my decision to wake her from her slumber…
[Come on in.]
As the sturdy steel doors swung wide open, the shining mark of blood gazed down upon me and the regressor.
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