Thud! A stack of paper files dropped onto the desk, heavy enough to startle you, just next to a desktop computer. Seeing it, the owner of the workstation frowned. "Why waste a bunch of papers… Just send me the reports through the Weave!" The woman had an annoyed expression plastered on her face.
"Sergeant Ishihara, please." The man who brought the papers complained. "We’re merely a small Military Police squad, not Hunters of the Association. You know the Chief Inspector wanted to suppress the budget of our squad, I am yet to be equipped with a personal digital assistant."
Sergeant Ishihara sighed and dropped her police cap, revealing her shoulder-length black hair, her black eyes gleaming under the low-light of her office. She wanted to curse her corrupt superiors, but there’s nothing that she can actually do.
She took one of the files and began reading it. "This is the 94th this month. Several homeless people have been disappearing one after another every night, and there’s no end in sight." She glanced at her subordinate. "Kurata, how’s our plea of support to the Secret Division?"
"Denied." The man, Kurata, took a seat while sighing. He then took out a piece of paper from his uniform’s chest pocket, giving it to Ishihara.
"Dispatching an Inquisitor would warrant a stronger reason than almost a hundred missing homeless people?" Ishihara slammed the paper onto the steel desk in anger. "Those motherfuckers!"
She stood up, walked to the back portion of her office and started kicking the sandbag which was installed for training (and venting) purposes. Her military police uniform-covered pale arms and slender legs which look fragile broke the sound barrier everytime it hit the sandbag. Naturally, the sandbag is made out of special sand that dissipates kinetic force like how an insulator blocks electricity, designed to withstand high-rank punishment..
Dum! Dum! The suppressed explosive force of her kicks and punches that could destroy metal plates kept on resounding for fifteen minutes, yet, her body does not sweat even after the intense workout.
‘Oh no, Captain Ishihara has entered ‘that’ state.’ Kurata decided it was wiser for him to keep quiet and let the captain vent her emotions. It was obviously better if the punching bag was the sandbag, not himself.
Boom! The sandbag split into two, spilling extremely fine black metallic sand all over the floor. The bag was supposed to be made from a rare rank 1 material, yet it still tore apart by her fist despite being specifically chosen for its resistance against tearing.
"We didn’t even ask for a Lord Inquisitor, we only wanted an Inquisitor, even an Apprentice Investigator is acceptable! Our team simply lacks the investigative power to find the traces of the murder victims, what the fuck are those people doing?" Ishihara wanted to destroy the building, but that would warrant an explanation and tons of paperwork. The only thing that came even close to the amount of disdain she held for her superiors was paperwork. Knowing the inefficiency of the Military Police, it’ll mean a long delay in her investigation.
"May I offer my opinion, captain?" Kurata asked, which was given a nudge of affirmation by the sergeant. "I think the higher ups purposely denied our request for support because the victims have always been homeless people who nobody cares about. In fact, their disappearance has reduced the amount of minor crime in the city, helping the mortal police..."
"You, think?" Ishihara’s tone became chilly. "YOU THINK I DON’T HAVE A BRAIN? EVEN A MONKEY WITH AN ASS BETWEEN THE EARS CAN SEE THAT, DUMBASS!!"
Kurata shut his mouth. She was correct. If she’s incapable of inferring that fact from the shallow clues, she won’t be appointed as a sergeant of the Military Police in Elestra City. One thing for sure was, if she wasn’t as short tempered as she was, she might be able to climb higher in her career.
"Haaah…" Ishihara took a seat and breathed out superheated steam. She does not sweat, but her internal body’s temperature is searing. This is her way of regulating the internal heat of her body.
"That’s it. I’m going to commission the Hunter Association for this. Even if the disappearance of the homeless has been steadily helping us in reducing minor crimes in the city, even an idiot like you know it’s an early omen of some scheme. It’s like those fuckers completely forgot about the necromancer organization whose hideout was decimated a while ago by Kubikiri Clan’s ‘Gray Steel’ Sword Saint. There must be some connection one way or another."
Ishihara took some papers and began scribing on them. "Here. Give it to that old Sebastian. See if he can dispatch some Hunter or two. It’s even better if they are Hunter-Killers."
Kurata took it and saluted his captain. "Roger that, Sergeant!"
A few days later.
"Nana, a rank 1 lightning-path mage… During her mission to investigate the environmental condition of Mount Kashada and the harpy-slave clans under the rule of the Capricious Thunderbird, her team met an unlucky demise under those feathered race. After this event, she no longer has interest in being dispatched outside the city. She had taken a conversion examination from a Hunter into a Hunter-Killer. Although she’s a two red star [DPS], she retains a high degree of flexibility and erudite knowledge in various historical lores due to her background as a mage." Kurata reported as she handed a file to Ishihara.
"We don’t need someone who can fight. I need someone specialized for investigation… Why are you bringing me a [DPS] instead of a [Specialist]?"
"Sergeant… With the rewards that we can offer, it’s a miracle that a Hunter-Killer wants to work for us, even if she’s a new one. In any case, the Association wouldn’t let a random nobody take missions without the qualification to finish them. If she’s approved by the Association, then she should be capable."
Ishihara shook her head in disappointment. She was disappointed at her condition in not being able to lure in a true professional, not the Hunter Association. She wasn’t going to dip into her personal coffers either. "Alright, call her in."
The junior police officer left the room to fetch Nana. A few minutes later, he returned with a sapphire-blue haired woman donned in mage apparel. Strangely, the normal mage weapon which should be either a staff, a wand, or a grimoire is absent in her person. As a replacement, there’s a conspicuous large caliber pistol in her left thigh.
‘A mage using a pistol?’ Ishihara thought in her heart, she started to doubt Nana’s combat ability. Pistols are rarely used as a main weapon. A mage-gunner would usually choose a rifle or other long-barreled magic guns because beasts are simply that powerful and a pistol can only unleash a limited amount of harm towards them. However, the Hunter Association is rather strict at their role assessment, her weapon of choice shouldn’t be merely a simple pistol.
‘Ah, I forgot. She’s no longer a hunter. There’s no need for large caliber guns to kill or apprehend humans, I guess.’ Ishihara thought.
"It’s a pleasure to meet you, Sergeant Ishihara. I’ve been dispatched by the Hunter Association to assist you in your investigation, please take care of me." Nana bowed respectfully, her voice was soft, her youthful charm radiating in the room.
For some reason, Ishihara’s senses are having difficulties in detecting the young Hunter-Killer. Thinking about it for a moment, she felt it was natural since Hunter-Killers are trained for handling intellectual lifeforms instead of beasts. "It’s a pleasure to meet you." The sergeant takes out a stack of files and gives it to her. "Let’s get down to busines-’
"Sergeant, someone is here for you." A voice from another officer is transmitted from outside of her room, cutting off Ishihara.
Kurata raised his head, looking at Ishihara for an agreement with his glance. Ishihara knew if the officer outside her room bothered her like this, then this someone must be someone of high importance.
"Please wait one moment." Ishihara told Nana, before giving an affirmative nod to Kurata. The man opened the door and let the new guest enter.
"Sergeant Ishihara, I presume?" The newcomer is a lady donned in what could be best described as a swimsuit.
Her tight silvery-gray swimsuit is covered by a near-translucent loose robe that glitters as if it was made from pure white crystal ice granules, interwoven by magic craftsmanship. Starting from her exposed thigh and armpits towards the edge of her limbs, her skin color changes from unhealthy pale human to that of gray shark-like creatures.
The most striking feature of this woman is the chainsword and bladestaff holstered on her back.
Ishihara was inwardly surprised, but she kept her expression in check.
"Lady Larissa Agatha… It’s a pleasure to meet you." Ishihara stood up from her desk and gave a respectful half bow towards the Hunter-priestess. The police sergeant was aware of her reputation.
Not only is she powerful as a frontline combatant, she also boasts powerful supporting blessings and has quite a few powerful puppets under her sleeve, making her an extremely potent and efficient Hunter of the Association. Her mission completion rate is extremely high at 100%. Due to this, her name had spread far and wide despite merely a new character that rose in prominence barely two months ago.
"Please, just call me Larissa." She scanned the sergeant’s room and for some reason, her attention lingered longer than usual when her gaze laid on Nana before pulling it back. "I heard you are looking for an experienced investigator… I might be able to help you with that." She passed Ishihara an official letter with the Association’s mark on it.
When Ishihara read it, she smiled. "Even though I can only provide you with something so little, you're still willing to take on the mission that I requested…"
"I'm looking for someone…" Larissa elaborated. "I cannot speak too deeply about it, but I had my own reason. My information leads me to you."
"Please, although I am delighted that a person of your caliber is willing to join my investigation, I am first and foremost a Military Police officer. If I cannot know of your motivation… I am afraid there will be a conflict of interest." Ishihara explained.
"Ah, you’re right. Fine, I’ll tell you. I’m looking for someone, a benefactor of mine. He’s a vampire." Larissa paused, observing the reaction of everyone in the room.
Naturally, as the vampire race is grouped under the banner of [Undead], it is usually taboo to befriend one.
However, it was only absolutely taboo in the Central Continent. The Hartina Kingdom is merely putting it as a ‘taboo’ so that the kingdom does not incur punishment from the Sacred Alliance and the gods.
Of course, the Hartina Kingdom had its own Patron Deity, but said patron deity had a softer perspective on undead. Thus, it isn’t a taboo to talk or friend some undead if not exposed.
This has become a public secret of the people from the Hartina Kingdom. Some people know of it, but people don’t generally talk about it.
"And, what do you intend to do if your benefactor is our suspect?" Ishihara inquired with a dangerous light gleaming from her eyes, ready for any sudden movement.
"Be at ease." The hunter-priestess waved her hand, indicating there’s nothing to worry about. "Professionals have standards. I’m sure he is not someone who survived by killing mortals, nonetheless homeless people whose blood would probably taste like fermented turd to vampires."
Ishihara stared blankly before laughing. "Hahah, you’re right." Her moods suddenly changed, "Then, Miss Nana and Lady Larissa, both of you will be temporarily under my command. I hope you get along well."
The two ladies exchanged pleasant smiles and bows.
The sergeant then pushed a stack of folders on her desk towards them after the two exchanged introductions. "These are the data we’ve gathered so far. Please share with us your insights."
Larissa and Nana wordlessly took the stack of folders and began reading them one by one. Though, both of them were merely scanning the documents instead of going in for the details. After all of them were skimmed in less than five minutes, Nana raised her head.
"The corpses are found desecrated, their skin texture is dry like that of a tree bark. This is caused by the blood being drained pre-mortem." Nana paused. "However, a sergeant of your caliber wouldn’t ask men from the Association for this type of insight."
Nana took one of the files and opened it up, pointing at the photographic report that depicted the status of the victim. "As you can see from the two holes in the homeless person’s neck, it was obvious that his blood was drained by a vampire… or not." She smiled. "There’s absolutely no reason for a vampire to siphon blood from his neck. Most vampires are all blood-path experts, they can drain blood from every opening, even the pores. Only perverts with special kinks or low-level vampire thralls who bite people’s neck. Therefore, it can be said that this is a half-assed effort of someone wanting to defame vampires in Elestra city."
Ishihara raised her eyebrow, seeing Nana in a new light. "I admit, I’ve underestimated you, but this is not enough."
Nana nods, sparing her attention towards Larissa as she begins elaborating her next findings. "Most major vampire clans reside in the Seas of Eternal Winters, but the Land of Autumn Rain can also offer natural protection from the sun due to the frequent rains. That being said, there are multiple signs of pre-mortem torture by slowly draining the victim’s blood away. Even if it was to attack or trigger some vampire clans… it is too detailed."
"Provocation?" Larissa inquired, intrigued.
"That’s right. As you might know it yourself, vampire clans have their own specialty and naturally, bloodlines. Vampiric bloodline powers are unique or special in their own way, and to cultivate it… there’s a need for vampires to gather special resources such as menses blood, rare genetic materials that could be found in certain blood-type, or in some cases, the blood produced by females in their first night. Naturally, vampiric bloodline power is a closely guarded secret. If there’s a faction which has been provoking a certain vampire clan or a vampire by showing off their knowledge regarding the clan’s bloodline power… it means there’s a vampire hunter trying to smoke out the rat."
"But… vampires are granted limited citizenship in our country. As long as they abide by the rules and regulations of the Hartina Kingdom, vampires can live with ‘human’ or ‘beastman’ identity." Ishihara touched her chin in ponderation. As one of the law enforcers of the kingdom, she was quite knowledgeable in why vampires are present in the kingdom.
The Kingdom does not see vampires as an absolutely evil race. There are some uses of them. Altough their diet does raises some concerns, murder for blood can be mitigated if there’s a chain of supply and demand for blood since one does not necessarily have to kill to get them. Naturally, if they are found by the public, then the Nine Master Clans would officially dispatch vampire hunters.
"Is the Sacred Alliance involved in these mass killings?" Ishihara asked Kurata’s opinion, but the man could only shrug as he is less erudite than Nana, the lightning-path mage. In the first place, he’s just a junior officer, unlike the Sergeant who had years of experience under her belt. A grunt, so to speak.
Nobody knows for sure since the eccelsiastical countries under the Sacred Alliance are condescending towards non-Sacred Alliance members. Any random murder relating to religion happened outside the central continent can be blamed to the Sacred Alliance, and it’s not even a black campaign at this point because statistically speaking, it should be more true than false.
Considering the Sacred Alliance fanatical view on undead, it’s not strange if they are related in some capacity.
"We wouldn’t be able to know for sure… since the Sacred Alliance would deny any involvement. And even if we have proof, it’s not like we’re powerful enough to demand compensation from the Sacred Alliance." Nana voiced her opinion, her tone containing fatigue as if she recalled unpleasant memories.
"You’re right." Larissa shared Nana’s sentiment.
"Do you have any idea about our vampire?" Ishihara asked Larissa.
"I am unsure. My benefactor should be a pureblood vampire…"
"A pureblood?" Nana’s eyes went wide in surprise. "They are the original vampire bloodline bestowed by the Grim Reaper, the 3rd Otherworldly Invader… Are you saying that you’re acquainted with a vampire from that three-thousand-years old clan?"
Larissa can only smile wryly. "If only it was that easy." She glanced at Ishihara. "You know that the Kingdom grants limited citizenship for vampires… It’s only natural that the Nine Master clans hide their identity, their mere presence is classified. How am I supposed to know the true identity of my benefactor? All of my clues are unclear rumors and hearsays."
"Then… If our information is correct… the one who’s causing all this ruckus is trying to provoke your benefactor." Nana muttered.
"But… why? In the first place, her ‘benefactor’, if he is in this city to begin with, would follow the rules and regulations set up by the Nine Master clans of the Kingdom. Otherwise… the kingdom’s Secred Division would act…" Ishihara pondered.
"Then, shouldn’t we dig the archive for-" Larissa’s words were cut off by the office door being opened by a Military Police officer.
"Sergeant, we found a new body!" The man is gasping for breath as he reports to Ishihara.
Half an hour later.
The concrete floor and walls are caked with blood. Although it is a dark alley with low traffic, Elestra city is one of the larger cities of Hartina Kingdom. Influenced by the Kingdom’s proximity to Galatreon, the city had a late 20th century appearance of a city in Holy Terra. Despite not being a concrete jungle of skyscrapers, there are multiple Mage Towers of precious magic materials, so it wasn’t too far off.
"Laceration in her lower belly. With only her womb gone and leaving the rest of her innards intact, it can be inferred that the attacker is well-versed in human physiology. The killer should have medical knowledge sufficient for life-alteration surgery…" Ishihara instantly made an assessment when she saw the female corpse in the alley, showing off her experience in crime forensics.
While she took multiple pictures with a non-combat artifact known as a camera, there are passerby curious of the murder scene but the Miltiary Police have deployed mortal police officers to block the scene from being contaminated.
"There’s almost no trace of the killer’s movement, not even an elemental particle undulation." Ishihara frowned.
Unlike in the countries in the Land of Sand and Fire where mortals or even cultivators being murdered is a common occurence, law and order have a heavy influence in the Kingdom, even more so than the laws of the church.
Even so, since the victims are not only homeless people, they are also mortal. The Military Police wouldn’t dispatch manpower to investigate mortals since mortals died in droves everyday, an increase of one or two doesn’t matter. In the first place, this was the jurisdiction of mortal police.
Unless there’s literally a genocide or mortals under the Nine Master Clans being murdered senselessly like this, then there no need for the Military Police to waste time. There's literally no reason for an inquisitor to be dispatched for this.
However, if the victims are cultivators, things would be different. In this case, it seems like the murderer knew this particular fact, thus, being able to murder people without retribution.
"Pathetic." Ishihara complained to herself. "What’s the use of having greater power if they are not used to protect the weak? The Military Police aren’t doing anything to solve these murders…"
"You seemed to view them highly?" Nana raised a question.
"Them?" Ishihara glanced at Nana.
"Mortals. Your point of view is rather… unique."
The sergeant shook her head. "It’s not like there’s a special reason for this, but we’re all mortal once. I know the world of cultivation is a dog eat dog world, but with the power we have, we can at least make the life of those weaker than us a little bit better. Not to the point of complacent or excess, but enough so that they have time to spend with their family without worry. It always baffles me that nobody has the same point of view as mine." Ishihara shared her thoughts.
Nana stared blankly at Ishihara, distracted. "I see your point. We mustn’t forget our roots, even if we ascend as demigods. Without mortals as foundation, the cultivation world wouldn’t be able to flourish, but most demigods… no, even Lords or Legendaries oftentimes forget it."
Ishihara stared at Nana with surprise. "You’re… I see. I thought that I’ve seen you in a new light, but you kept on giving me surprises."
Nana smiled, her cheeks flushed pink in embarrassment. "Let’s get back on track. The victim this time is not a homeless mortal that lived in the slums, but someone in the residential district… a mortal with full citizenship, jobs, and role in our society. If we ignore it, panic would spread amongst our mortals… It would be more prevalent since the mortal police can't deal with their capabilities. "
Ishihara noticed Nana trying to change the topic, hiding her embarrassment from being praised. The sergeant felt she was a bit cute, "You’re right." She started to rub Nana’s hair. Although they are cultivators of the same rank, she felt closer to Nana after seeing her side, despite merely knowing her for a short time.
"He- hey, stop…" Nana tried to brush away Ishihara’s hand, but it was obvious that a mage cannot win against the sergeant.
"Heheh, you’re not bad, kiddo. You remind me of my little sister, you’d have been good friends…"
Nana suddenly stopped her resistance, allowing Ishihara to rub her hair to her heart’s content.
"Can… can you stop? We’re in public."
"Oh, so you’re saying that if we aren’t in public, we can do more?" Ishihara teased, which warranted a silent treatment from Nana. "Heheh, my bad."
At this point, a hunter-priestess of the Church of Shallow Waters reached the pair. "Sergeant Ishihara, I’ve found a new lead." She nudged, asking them to follow her.
"You're like a shark that smells blood in the waters…" Nana jokingly made a light remark.
"Well, you are technically correct." Larissa, the person in question, smiled. "I am from the Seas of Eternal Winters and my bloodline is from a shark-beast. My knowledge on vampires might not be as deep as you, but I had experience in dealing with them. In any case, I am quite familiar with their concealment methods." She led the pair towards a certain building.
Five minutes later, they reached a worn-down house in the residential district. The abode's design was old, and the lawn's grass reached a person's waist.
Larissa sniffed, taking in the scent of blood in the air. "If my senses are correct, then the victim's womb was taken to this place recently."
With her warning, Ishihara and Nana raised their guard.
Between the three, Ishihara has the highest body specification. She led the group towards the run down house with vigilance. Threading the grass-filled walkway, each of the three spread their senses to envelop the old house.
Ishihara’s Reduced Force Field grants her ‘true sight’, the ability to absolutely sense things three hundred and sixty degrees in a radius of 10 meters. When she reached the house’s front door, she already knew something was inside because her reduced force field was blocked but she wasn't aware by what.
While the police sergeant is threading slowly, Larissa makes a signal towards Nana through the near-inaudible sound of her muscle vibrating in a weird frequency.
Just as Ishihara raised her leg to kick the door down, the house exploded in dark crimson fire. Demonic power is contained within the dark flame, an evil aura of death, decay and corruption engulfed the three.
However, the sergeant has already expected something is wrong. She leaped back while carrying the force field-covered Larissa and Nana on both of her waist like sacks of potatoes. She landed a few dozen meters back. "Fuck!" She cursed as the dark red flame tried to burn her body. The sergeant used several healing methods to contain the demonic fire from spreading but it seemed like it was for naught.
Her flesh twisted, ignited, growing puss which exploded in toxic yellowish-red fumes and mutated under the dark red flame.
"Sergeant!" Larissa activated her blessings to heal and contain the fire and clean the demonic corruption.
The sergeant activated one of her most powerful methods. Suddenly, the dangerous flame quickly faded out after all of her burnt skin tissue had been covered by a pale white layer of minerals.
Soleil I apologize for the delay and the absence of last week's chapter. Been busy with work, it's a fulltime one and mixed with my class, I literally had no time for leisure . Am so depressed and tired that I want to kill someone. Preferably myself. In any case, I'll try to slip up some extra chapter next week if possible. Am really sorry ;-;