Arc 2: Chapter 21: The Bond Known As Hatred

A small battalion heads towards one of the factories owned by Vermillion. At the same time, a Hellfire heads towards a rendezvous point from where he plans to go to the Ghost Nation.

The battalion is led by Reid, Bronzer and Darcy. There are hundreds of Vampires following them.

The Hellfire is alone.

And yet, anyone with but a single shred of sanity would instantly know that, in case they clash with each other, the lone Hellfire will come out on top.

And so,

Reid: “We need to run away!”

Reid says as soon as he senses that overwhelming aura in the distance, his expression being enough to show how desperate the situation is.

Like many Vampires, Reid has porcelain skin and dark and rigid facial features. So, seeing a despaired expression on him makes him seem like a doll used in a haunted house.

And hence,

Bronzer: “That expression really doesn’t suit you.”

The strategist says in a joking tone.

Reid: “This is no time for that. I can sense the presence of someone really dangerous. If we ended up clashing with that person, we would surely die.”

To make this man so sure of the fact that they would lose, and even more so, die, that man whose presence Reid has sensed must be a force to be reckoned with. That’s the logical thoughts process in the minds of those who hear his voice, including Darcy.

Everyone who hears his voice thinks so, save one of course.

Bronzer: “Nah, let’s keep going.”

Reid: “Are you sane? Do you understand-”

Bronzer: “No.”

Hearing that abrupt response, Reid loses his momentum as he tries to make sense of what this man is even saying.

Bronzer: “You asked me if I am sane. My answer is no. And well, there’s no fun or benefit in being sane. So, my dear friend, let’s keep going.”

Reid tries to retort but before he can say anything.

Darcy: “I and everyone under me would keep on going.”

He is told so by the one person there who holds almost as much authority as those two.

Darcy: “So, if you still decide to back off, only half of the troops will go with you, and also, you’ll be splitting the forces and possibly sabotaging the mission.”

With a straight face, the porcelain brunette vampire declares so.

Reid: “…”

Left at a loss for words, Reid struggles to maintain his composure.

Bronzer: “Well,”

At a little loss for words himself after hearing Darcy’s statements, Bronzer gives a smile as he says.

Bronzer: “there you have it.”

Reid: “What the heck is wrong with the two of you? Do you not get we are going to end up in a direct confrontation against someone who could kill all of us? Why won’t you back down?”

Reid, utterly confused, asks so.

Darcy simply shrugs it off, knowing the question isn’t really directed at her for the majority, as she has established herself as someone who follows Bronzer’s orders no matter how crazy they are.

Bronzer, on the other hand, answers while loosening his smile into a little plainer, less sinister version of it.

Bronzer: “The person you are so terrified of, that we are going to end up in a direct confrontation against, won’t do anything to us.”

Knowing that Reid would ask for an explanation, Bronzer states simply,

Bronzer: “And you’ll just have to trust me with that.”

Hearing so, Reid has no choice but to back off as he has become acquainted well enough with this strategist to know that he is not going to give any more explanations even if Reid keeps insisting.

So, left to make an important decision, Reid puts a hand at his forehead and stares up at the half-moon.

Bronzer: “…”

For a moment, Bronzer showcases a painful smile at that, which no one notices.

Reid: “Fine!”

And so, Reid says.

Reid: “It would be terrible in so many ways if the most powerful person in this battalion decided to turn tail while the weakest one remained.”

Bronzer chuckles and Darcy shows no reaction. And with that, the battalion keeps marching on.

The ominous and threatening aura has grown much closer now and so, even others beside Reid can sense it. However, since they have been ordered to continue, they continue marching on, despite their personal doubts and fears.

*******************************

Clothes with blood on them – were burnt in the fireplace a few days ago.

Ethan Kales has deduced so, and questioned the owner of the house about the story behind that.

Naturally, everyone finds themselves interested to know the answer to that question, especially as the owner of the house doesn’t deny his claim.

Trisha: “A former colleague of mine was murdered a few days ago. I was tasked to dispose of her clothes, which had a lot of blood on them.”

Ethan cackles and says with an accusing glare,

Ethan: “That’s far too much of a summary. I’m sure all of us would love to hear a more detailed version of the story.”

Trisha smiles on hearing that, and leans back on her chair.

Right now, the one most surprised by all of this is Abgere, whose aunt is being accused of being an accomplice in murder.

Trisha: “A week or 10 days ago, someone came to visit me, at around midnight.”

That’s not a time one expects house visits at.

Trisha: “That person was a former colleague of mine. She was much younger than me and we had only spent a year or so working together, but we had a friendly relationship and sometimes used to hang out.”

Even so, a visit at midnight would still be suspicious, wouldn’t it?

Trisha: “When she came to meet me, I allowed her in, and immediately asked the reason for her visit.”

Seems fair to do that.

Trisha: “She told me that she thinks … that someone was trying to kill her.”

Trisha: “She showed me many texts on her phone. Apparently, some anonymous had been constantly texting her puzzles and riddles and such things. And, every single time she solved those puzzles or riddles, the answer would come out to be something like that ‘die’ or ‘your time’s up’ or ‘say your farewells’ or ‘enjoy the last moments of your life’ or things like that.”

That sounds pretty messed up.

Trisha: “Not only that though, she told me that she has felt that someone had been following her for quite a while.”

Like a stalker? Now, that really is pretty messed up.

Trisha: “She said that she didn’t know what to do or where to go so she came to me.”

… Not gonna lie, it does kinda makes sense for her to go to an older friend at a time like this.

Trisha: “I told her that we should call the cops, but she was too scared of doing that as the person following her was obviously much closer and can reach her faster than cops will be able to.”

That also makes sense. However, I can’t help but feel that there’s something wrong about that situation.

Trisha: “I told her that it’ll be alright, and that I’ll call the cops for her, so she should stay there and try to relax. And saying that, I went to call the cops. However, just as I was about to do that,”

An uncomfortable expression finally creeps up on her.

Trisha: “My doorbell rang again.”

And a little semblance of the anxiety she would have felt back then shows up on her face too.

Trisha: “Peeping through the peephole, I found myself staring at a figure of a rather tall man with white hair, despite not looking that old, and who had an enigmatic aura around him.”

Ethan cackles again, dryly.

Seeing that, Trisha stops her story and looks at him with confusion.

He merely smiles as he says, with a really, really angry smile.

Ethan: “Don’t mind me, continue.”

It’ll be hard to not feel discomforted by it if you are not accustomed to his wide barrage of emotional behaviors, and so, Trisha feels somewhat conflicted about continuing.

But, seeing that he says nothing past that, as he just casually looks away, she is left with no choice but to continue.

Trisha: “Well, I asked through the intercom the person who he was and he answered ‘a prey among hunters’ and smiled.”

Trisha: “I was confused, and unable to respond, and just then, 2 or maybe 3 people broke into the house through the windows and attacked … her.”

They broke into the house through the windows? That needs quite a bit of force to do.

Trisha: “They were Vampires, and I only realized that as they started gouging on her flesh and I was pinned down by one of them by a single hand. They also broke the door pretty easily, allowing that man to enter.”

This really is a disturbing story, but that introduction – a prey among hunters – I feel it rings a bell, but I am confident I haven’t met whoever this person is.

Putting her hands to her mouth, Trisha uncomfortably continues,

Trisha: “They … the vampires, they didn’t eat her completely. In fact, when they were done, it looked like they weren’t even trying to eat her, but to turn her into a bloodied corpse, as if to show it to someone to send a message.”

Oh crap! The dots just connected.

*******************************

The Hellfire has sensed the presence of a large group of Vampires for quite a while now. They are close enough that if he tried to, he could kill all of them and not a single one would be able to escape.

And that is exactly what boggles him so much.

They should also be able to sense his overwhelming presence. They should be able to tell that they are nearing an enemy. Yet, they continue marching on. They don’t turn back and run.

He has been waiting for the moment they try to run away, the moment they back off, to launch an attack.

But, they have merely kept marching on, as if they don’t see him as a threat at all.

Walter: “Are they just stupid or something?”

He questions himself, unable to understand the situation.

The group has finally started to enter his naked vision. Till now, he has only sensed their aura but now they are actually becoming visible to his naked eye.

And as that happens, he realizes that they are a battalion of the Vampire Kingdom.

Walter: “… Don’t tell me they are actually trying to fight me.”

It’s not hard to see why he would come to that conclusion. However, he can tell from their aura that is not the case.

Walter: “What the hell is even going on?”

Confused and starting to feel anxious, Walter stops in his tracks.

For all intents and purposes, they are in the middle of a city. Yes, it is night. However, that doesn’t mean there’s no one out on the streets. So, the battalion isn’t marching in a group.

They are walking at safe distances from each other, as if they are all people with no connection to each other.

This would be enough to fool most people.

However, those who can sense the aura can sense that these Vampires are relaying information constantly, taking glances at each other, and all in all, coordinating their movements, despite how unorganized they look.

Walter: “Tsk!”

And that leaves the Hellfire even more confused.

If these Vampires were a bunch of insane freaks who couldn’t think properly and therefore, were approaching him, it would make sense. However, if they can coordinate like that, how can they not sense the danger he is to them? And if they can sense him, why aren’t they backing off?

It just doesn’t make any sense.

As his mind keeps thinking and he starts to become wary of them, they approach him, relatively less nervous.

The man at the forefront takes a glance at him and then turns away, as if Walter is nothing more than a stranger you’d pass by and instantly forget the face of as you do.

Walter: “…”

This man, Walter recognizes him.

He is a leader of the Vampires as well as a reputed army general. He is known for his general intelligence and his loyalty to the Vampire Kingdom and the queen of the Vampire Kingdom. His name is Reid.

And seeing him, a person who is known to be level-headed at most times and even more importantly, intelligent, it is only more mind boggling why he is just casually ignoring Walter.

A woman he does not recognize but who seems to be one of the more powerful Vampires in the battalion also glances at him and then turns away.

The soldiers following them do the same.

Their nervousness is not completely hidden, which just goes to show that they know who he is.

Walter: “W-what the heck … is going on?!”

He voices all his emotions in those words. And as he does so, he realizes that, in the midst of all these Vampires, there is a human whose presence Walter overlooked because of him likely being just a passerby.

However, that is not the case. He is not a mere passerby, not at all.

This human, walking among the Vampires, is in fact someone more complicated than all those Vampires.

Bronzer: “Well, well, isn’t that a refreshing sight?”

Walter: “…”

This human, casually stands back-to-back with Walter as he says with a smirk,

Bronzer: “To think that a bunch of Vampires would not give more than a glance to you and walk away, you must be humiliated.”

Walter: “…”

Bronzer: “But the thing is, Walter Schmidt, you are not as much of a big shot as you think you are.”

The strongest man in the present war stays silent as the weakest man in the war continues speaking.

Bronzer: “After all, even with all the powers you have, can you take the burden of an entire race’s fate on your hands and win an impossible war?”

Walter: “…”

Bronzer: “You can’t, can you? That is to say, that even though you are infinitely more powerful than I am, you cannot do what I do.”

His smile finally fades, and the strategist says with bloodshot eyes.

Bronzer: “So, as you can see, you are not that amazing, not at all. In fact, you are no one.”

Walter looks straight ahead, at the few Vampires who still haven’t crossed them.

Walter: “I see. So you are the immensely hyped-up strategist of the Vampire Kingdom, the man the entire race’s fate rests on.”

Bronzer: “Indeed.”

Walter: “Well, it doesn’t seem like you are anything that impressive.”

Bronzer cackles. Why wouldn’t he? It makes sense, completely makes sense for him to cackle at that remark. It makes complete sense, at least in his mind.

Walter: “But you are right, I can’t take the burden you are taking on. That said though, if taking that burden has made you so retarded that you’d stand next to the man who can kill you with a flick of his fingers, I can’t possibly feel jealous of you.”

Bronzer: “Ha! Ha! Ha! Haha! Haha! Haha! Hahaha! Hahaha! Hahaha!”

Deliberately, Bronzer laughs. His laughs can be discerned as fake by anyone. Even so, he keeps laughing.

Walter: “…”

And, for some reason, Walter Schmidt doesn’t stop him.

Hence, the weakest person keeps laughing. He keeps laughing until his throat feels dry. And then,

Bronzer: “Walter Schmidt, don’t die. Survive!”

Walter: “…”

Bronzer: “Survive, so that when the time comes, I can kill you myself.”

Saying so, finally, the strategist starts walking again. And so does the Hellfire.

They walk away, walk away from their greatest enemy in the war, doing nothing to hinder the other.

*******************************

Trisha: “I was terrified. I was utterly terrified and helpless.”

Considering the fact that she had seen a former colleague been murdered by Vampires right in front of her eyes, and in her own house nonetheless, ‘terrified’ and ‘helpless’ would be the most normal reactions to it.

But, what I am more concerned about is the man standing near the fireplace.

Trisha: “That white-haired man looked at me with a gaze of pity and told me to dispose of the clothes and repair the windows if I didn’t want to suffer the same fate in the near future.”

Is that so?

Trisha: “He, or rather, his Vampire minions, took her bloodied corpse.”

So, the gist of it is that some Vampires were stalking her for a while, probably that ‘white-haired man’ was texting her all these puzzles and riddles that always ended with a pretty negative remark.

She ended up freaking out and coming to Trisha’s house that night but that is when they attacked her and Trisha became a witness, and in trying to save herself from being framed for the murder, she also became an accomplice.

Abgere: “Why didn’t you call the cops?!”

Stunned by what he has just heard, Abgere asks so.

Trisha: “Would the cops have believed me if I told them that a bunch of Vampires did all that? And if I had tried to fabricate some lie, that might lead them to some inconsistency and I would have become a suspect anyway.”

Ethan: “Hmm.”

Hearing all that, Ethan merely sighs and then, sighs again.

Looking at the fireplace, he asks,

Ethan: “That white-haired man, was he taller than me and Kais? Did he have natural-colored skin? Were his eyes silvery blue? Was he a quite handsome person?”

Trisha: “… H-how do you know all that?”

So, it really is like that.

Ethan: “This former colleague of yours, did she happen to be a sister at some orphanage?”

Trisha: “Y-yes, that is where we met and worked together for a year. B-but, how do you know that?”

He cackles, and says,

Ethan: “Why don’t you ask your crystal ball?”

Hearing so, and as it seems like a fair suggestion, Trisha puts her hand at the crystal ball. A moment later, as I surmise that she would have understood the situation, she finds herself completely shocked.

And, seeing that,

Ethan: “Ha! Ha! Ha! Haha! Haha! Haha! Hahaha! Hahaha! Hahaha!”

Deliberately, Ethan laughs. His laughs can be discerned as fake by anyone. Even so, he keeps laughing.

And for some reason, I don’t stop him, neither does anyone else present here, regardless of whether they understand the situation or not.

Ethan: “You know,”

As his deliberate laughs come to an end, he says while directly looking at me.

Ethan: “When the opportunity comes, I want you to kill someone for me.”

I … do know who he is talking about.

And the thought of a man like that even existing, it is equal parts terrifying and equal parts fascinating.

Oh well, I guess, despite trying my best to be a normal person, I am a nutcase myself.

So,

Kais: “Well, when the opportunity comes!”

I smile.

*******************************

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