Chapter 8 – A Monster Lives in the Basement
I came to the conclusion after deep deliberation.
‘I’m pretty sure I’m utterly fucked.’
The moment I took a step into the armory, I could feel my regret rushing in.
The mouth of a whale would feel safer than this.
At least whales didn’t feast on human blood.
A land where a vampire had resided for several decades.
The moment I took a step in, my blood was no longer my own.
I could feel my blood shifting to a single side in my veins.
The liquid that should be carrying my vitality kept attempting to derail.
This wasn’t something I could solve with reading minds.
If the vampire wished for my death, the moment she had that thought… I’d dry up in an instant.
‘Is the regressor okay? Her sharp senses must make her feel even more pressure than I do.’
「It’s an amazing amount of power.
Just as strong as last time… But this is before ‘that event’.
Will she become more aggressive? Or more passive? Will she lend a hand before ‘that’ is resolved?」
‘What is “that event”? What is “that”? Could you please stop just thinking about the things only you know and maybe have a flashback or something?’
「Let’s not worry about it.
I haven’t recovered the strength to fight against Tyrkazanka.
If I die, I die.」
It’s been proven that it’s not good to get involved with the regressor.
She may have plenty of lives left, but I’m on my last stock.
“If I die, I die”? If you follow someone who thinks like that, even ten lives wouldn’t be enough.’
I turned around and headed for the door.
“Alright, I believe you were the one who wanted to take care of business, so I’ll take my leave no—”
The steel doors slammed shut in front of my eyes.
The red sigil flickered, as if mocking my attempt to leave.
Seeing my expression, the regressor chuckled.
If you can, that is.”
My way out was gone.
Darkness, black enough to obscure me from my own body, engulfed me.
I sighed as I followed the regressor.
“What? I thought you were leaving.”
“On second thought, I’ll need to observe in order to verify why you needed to come to the armory.
Let’s go together, shall we?”
Since we were here together, our fates were the same.
The regressor nodded.
I clasped the wall, trying to navigate my way through the dark.
It was strangely slippery, and it required immense concentration to take even a single step.
‘Shit, there’ll be stairs soon.
Will I end up tumbling all the way down if I slip? It’d be more suspicious than a simple mistake if an instructor of the State tripped on the stairs.
What’s Shei doing anyway?’
「Seven Colored Eyes, activate.
The regressor stabbed her eye with her finger.
A glistening tear gathered in her eye and began to burn a blue light.
Even in the ravenous darkness, the blue flame illuminated every nook and cranny.
「Azure Eyes, the fifth of the Seven Colored Eyes, perceives depth.
It can even see through the dark gathered by a vampire.」
‘She’s really got everything.
It feels really unfair compared to someone like me, who can only read minds.’
The Azure Eyes could see the world as lines and surfaces.
It couldn’t sense fast-moving objects or faded and round parts, but it could track the general layout even in the darkness.
The regressor shone her blue gaze everywhere.
A stark ceiling and wall obscured her view.
The only path was downwards.
In her vision, a zig-zagged line headed downwards faintly appeared.
It was the staircase.
Without any hesitation, the regressor stepped onto the stairs.
After taking a couple steps, she glanced back at me.
「Now, let’s see if you can navigate the darkness.」
Thanks for looking at me.
I wasn’t aware of it until now, but I had already arrived right in front of the stairs.
The step was half broken, and I would surely have tripped if I had taken another step.
‘Phew, that’s a relief.’
I made sure not to step on the broken step.
I heard a familiar tongue click in front of me.
「He even saw through the excessively thick darkness created by a vampire? I can’t see the limit to his skills.
To think someone who looks so daft would be able to do so much…」
This was why people needed to experience being a lowlife.
She spent so much time with people like saints and swordmasters that she couldn’t judge regular people properly.
Regardless, the regressor and I headed down side by side.
「Why’s he walking so close? It’s annoying.」
She was uncomfortable with our distance, but I kept sticking close.
I was borrowing her sight right now, so I needed to be close to her to see my own feet—feeling as if I was being carried
After we arrived at the bunker, she looked around using her Azure Eyes.
Within the bunker was a long hallway and a large room to the side.
In the case of an emergency, you were meant to hide in that small room and wait for help.
In this case, someone was already there.
The regressor glared at the misty shadows that watched us from the room.
A horse tall enough to reach the ceiling was staring at us.
「Is it her familiar? I thought she had lost most of them during the war… but Sanguine Horse Ralion seems fine.」
‘Just what is she using the armory for? Why is a horse that large taking up the whole bunker? More so, why does a familiar get a better room than me? Where are my human rights?’
After tossing the sanguine horse a glance, the regressor began walking again.
I quickly followed.
At the end of the long hallway, a peculiar door stood out.
The State, who prioritized function over form, did not ever integrate art into their doors or walls.
A door was for sealing off an area, and walls were to divide the area.
Any more was considered a luxury.
Maybe you could hang a picture on the door, but something as inefficient as engraving art into the wall itself was considered a sin.
However, it appeared that even the State wished to gain the favor of the god known as the Progenitor of Vampires.
Cast from steel, a picture worthy of a biblical excerpt was engraved on the door.
The walls had angels blowing horns painted onto them.
With the horns pointed at the door, they felt as if they were ready to punish whoever opened the door.
Sculptures and paintings you would typically see at a church.
Although the underground armory was dark, I could make out the door and walls clearly.
Because in this darkness, the holy works of art were slathered with glowing red blood.
Facing them, I slowly turned my head back to the regressor.
“…Hey, Trainee Shei.”
“What is it?”
“Should we head back?”
“Are you scared or something?”
The regressor pondered my honest answer.
‘This is way too scary, you know.
I’d have preferred not being able to see it at all.
If the Sanctum had been notified of this, they would have immediately dispatched their inquisitors at the blasphemy.
But if they heard who did it, they would immediately cancel their orders.
The inquisitors would end up as mere blood offerings.’
That was what the ancestor to all vampires signified.
Regardless of how strong you were, the ancestor deserved to be feared.
The regressor stared at me.
“You’re more easily scared than I would have expected.”
“That’s why I’m still alive till now.
Fear of danger is essential to survival.”
「Maybe that’s why I died thirteen times.」
‘Oh, that’s right.
You don’t need to worry about dying.’
The realization made me salty.
“You call her a granny despite fearing her?”
“Is she not one?”
I won’t even bother.”
The regressor marched forward and placed her palm on the door.
Although she didn’t push it open, the door easily swung open, as if it were the maw of a beast waiting for its prey.
“Oh bloody Mother Earth.”
It was inevitable.
If we had already been eaten, the mouth probably wasn’t too different from going down the throat.
Before the door closed, I followed the regressor into the final room.
A torch, somewhat outdated compared to the modern lights and bulbs, hung on the walls.
It was carved from stone and had a strange shape, like an inverted birdcage.
With the intricacy that went into chiseling each detail, I could almost expect a phoenix to rise out of the flames.
Blood-red flames thirsted for the sky and roared upwards.
However, the rise did not last long.
This was the lowest place in the world; an underground floor in the abyss.
It was too harsh of a place to fly to the skies.
The corpse of light dissipated as it touched the ceiling.
Ironically, light had its meaning in being able to fade.
The fragmented embers birthed red shadows, lighting up the walls.
Thanks to that, I was able to see the room.
The room was not just red because of the flames.
Several thousand litres of it coated the room.
It was slathered on the ceiling, the walls, the ground.
As if the room was a living, beating heart, too much blood gurgled and squirmed within.
However, despite all the blood, I couldn’t smell any of it.
The smell of blood fell under her control as well.
Unless she allowed me to, I wouldn’t even be permitted to smell the blood.
[For what reason have you come to meet me?]
A black wooden coffin was in the middle of the room.
A treasure crafted with precious juniper and coated in lacquer, adorned with a winged red cross engraved into it.
A voice echoed from within it.
My blood raced.
The blood that should be serving me to preserve my life was ready to run out to greet its master.
Faced with it, the regressor…
“Tyrkanzyaka, I’ve come to bargain.”
…She firmly stood her ground and asked.
“Teach me bloodcraft.”
‘Bursting in out of nowhere and asking to be taught…’
The vampire may have been fazed, but she didn’t show it.
She had gotten used to it.
After all, there had been thousands of people who approached her in search of something.
The ability to control blood.
After hearing the name for the first time in a long while, Tyrkanzyaka quietly replied.
[Do you wish to be my servant?]
If you became a vampire, allowing the blood of the Progenitor to flow in your veins, you would naturally come to control blood.
There had been numerous ones who felt greed for her blood over time.
Feeling a bit of boredom, the vampire asked the regressor if she was just another one of those people.
However, the regressor had no intention of being a vampire.
Instead, she wanted something deeper—more original.
“No, I don’t want to gain it that way.
Teach me what you learned before you became a vampire.”
For a split second, emotion quaked.
Deep confusion emanated from the coffin.
All the blood drew close, waiting to pounce.
Still, she was a vampire that had lived for over a thousand years.
It took much more to make her blood boil.
The vampire calmed herself before replying.
[How did you find out about that?]
The regressor faced her with a thought that only a regressor could have.
「You told me yourself in a previous life.」
With a faint smile, the regressor momentarily basked in her memories.
Before Tyrkanzyaka became a vampire, when she was still a normal girl, it was said that she could already control blood.
Helping out her father, who was a local doctor, many people preserved their lives thanks to the young girl.
As a human, all she could do was stop blood from flowing, but it was plenty to buy people’s smiles.
The vampire from the previous life told Shei the story and advised the regressor to learn from her… before dying a lonely death.
The flashback ended.
I put my palm to my head, feeling as if I had just been launched from the depths of the sea.
‘So this is a flashback.
It was extremely short and fragmented, but I gained something from it.’
Not only did I read her mind, but I found out some information about the ‘calamity’.
A calamity would come, and it would be strong enough to kill a monster like Tyrkanzyaka.
[I’ll ask again.
How did you find out about that?]
“If you teach me, I might let you know.”
A short pause.
Thousands of emotions and grievances passed by.
All of a sudden, her focus shifted to me.
[What do you think?]
‘What, me? I made sure to stay quiet.
Why’s she looking at me?
I stuttered out a reply.
“Do as you please, elder.”
‘Huh? Her blood just quivered.
Did she get mad?’
I rushed to solve the situation.
“Since our positions come before age here, I’ll refer to you as a trainee.
However, since your age is, uh, well… impressive, and the State doesn’t wish to enact harsh restrictions on the elderly… I believe the same.
As long as you don’t think about leaving the facility, you can do as you please.
If you want to keep resting here, that’s fine as well.”
Something dark scratched my cheek as it flew by.
A tiny slit opened up.
Clutching its freedom, blood pushed its way out of the wound, floating and fluttering to the vampire like a butterfly.
I couldn’t even see it.
I didn’t think to dodge as there was no intention to kill, but nothing would have changed even if I tried.
Feeling my hairs stand up, I took a breath and stopped talking.
I heard a voice with a clearly angered tone from the coffin.
[…I’m old, so I should just stay inside?]
“No, not particularly.
If you just did as you had been doing all this time.”
The black lid opened.
Just like its exterior, the coffin’s interior was also filled with black.
Parting the darkness, a white and delicate hand emerged.
My blood, that was fluttering across the room, perched on the back of her hand.
It sucked in the red droplets, like rain on scorched land.
I felt a slight sense of disgust from the vampire.
[…As expected, even your blood is tasteless.
It’s completely the opposite of my preferences.
You really have no redeeming qualities…]
However, because of it, the coffin stood up.
With wavering darkness, it pushed itself up and faced me and the regressor.
[I usually only prey on the blood of virgin maidens.
Bloods of boys like you two… I use as materials.]
The inside of the coffin remained dark.
With only a pale hand reaching out, a new ball of blood flew in.
It was the regressor’s blood that was used to open the door.
Quenching her hand with the blood, she continued speaking.
[But your blood is alright.
It’s a first… for a man.
To think I would voluntarily drink a man’s blood…]
‘Because the regressor is female…’
Even with such a terrible attempt at crossdressing, the vampire was clueless about the regressor’s gender.
Shei clenched her fists, rejoicing that her disguise was perfect.
The vampire went on.
I will teach it to you.]
[…Having a guest after so long has tired me.
Take your leave now.]
After saying that, the vampire closed the lid to her coffin.
Having gotten what she wanted, the regressor desperately withheld the desire to hop up and down in joy.
「It worked! I didn’t think it’d go so smoothly!」
Suppressing her joy, the regressor carefully asked again.
“When are we starting? It’d be nice if we could start soon.
[Then… let’s start when the next moon begins to wane.]
That meant in about a month.
Obviously, the regressor refused to wait that long.
“What? That’s too late.
Let’s start tomorrow.”
[What causes this haste? It makes little difference whether we start now or the next month…]
“There’s a huge difference!”
[Have some patience.
The cycle of the moon is the goddess of the night opening and closing her eyes.
It takes that long in order to observe things carefully.]
‘They’re quarreling again.
I need to step up to diffuse the situation.’
I blocked the regressor, ready to give a sermon.
“A month may be long to you, but it’s only a second for Trainee Tyrkanzyaka, who has lived for over 1,200 years.
Please consider who you’re speaking to! Time may seem fair, but it’s more subjective than any quality of the world.
“…Shouldn’t you be worried about considering the other person?”
‘Hm? What about it? I’m giving her as much respect as I can.
Why else would I treat her with so much emphasis towards her age?’
While we were arguing, a slow voice came from the coffin.
[…So my slow behavior… is because I’m too old?]
“I mean, I didn’t mean anything negative.
I was just teaching this brat the difference in wisdom that comes from age.”
Then let’s start tomorrow.]
Keeping her eyes on me, the vampire pointed to me and said one more thing.
[Both of you.]
‘Wait, why me too?’
As I was about to retort—
The world fell far away.
That was the only way to describe it.
The regressor and I were moved backwards.
No, not us.
The walls, the ground, the door, the corridor, the ceiling, the room, the stairwell—everything in our surroundings moved forward.
The world slipped right past us, as if we were watching the river flow downstream.
A dark liquid retraced the steps that we took.
Suddenly, we were at the entrance of the armory.
Without having taken a step.
And with a resounding ‘Boom’, the now-closed steel door brought us back to reality.
I felt as if I had just escaped the jaws of a tiger.
Quite literally, the armory… was like the vampire’s body.
She had just spat us out.
The regressor, who seemed as if she was used to it, patted off her clothes.
You look out of it.
‘I merely just discovered that an insanely strong monster was actually an irrationally strong monster.’
On my answer, the regressor smirked.
“Let me give you some advice.
Don’t mention Tyrkanzyaka’s age in front of her.
That’s how you treat a lady properly.”
The regressor continued to boast and headed off.
I stared at her in disbelief at her attitude.
‘I didn’t act that way because I don’t know what women dislike.’
I didn’t feel the need to reply.
Brushing off my clothes, I stretched my body.
My back is aching from how stressed I was.
Let’s go and sleep early tonight.
I’ll check the kitchen for any leftover cans of food…’
As I was about to head off as well—
I heard a noise that I shouldn’t have heard.
I slowly turned my head.
There sat a dog who had chased my scent and dug through mountains of rubble for the sole purpose of playing fetch—Azzy.
That’s… impossible, right?
The ball rolled to my foot.
Azzy wagged her tail as she tapped the ball with her nose.
The meaning was clear.
‘Toss the ball, human.’
I attempted an immense act of diplomacy.
Dog and man, asking for a compromise surpassing species.
“I-I’m a little tired today.
So how about we… uh…”
“…Push it… back a little…?”
Azzy waved her forearms, showing her frustration.
The winds it generated shook my clothes.
As her arms got closer, it seemed to be a threat, trying to get me to throw the ball.
‘Just when did she even learn the word “promise”? Who taught a dog something as useless as a promise? Even if she breaks a promise, I can’t get anything from her.
But if I don’t uphold my side… she can get whatever she wants from me.’
Looking up towards the unobservable sky, I sighed.
I’ll try to finish in 250 throws today.”
I gripped the ball.
I never thought I’d hate to see a dog smile.
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