"It was… most likely created just recently."
Senri said quietly.
Death Knights and the Undead have always been on hostile terms. The scales were tilted towards the side of the Death Knight for a long time, because they had the absolute authority to deal with the undead.
One of the reasons for that is their probing ability. Death Knights can sense where the undead are by using only a small amount of power, even if they’re quite far away. This ability is the reason why Death Knight almost never let the target of their subjugation get away.
Senri allowed Sable to escape because she prioritized my rescue and because unlike the original way the Order of Death Knights did things, she was alone.
That’s why it’s natural that Death Knights were wary of the ‘Mirage King’ who had the troublesome ability to block his presence.
"Your ‘Dark Stalker’ abilities and ‘The Stake King’s’ powers can also suppress the presence, but those are not perfect."
But ‘the Mirage King’s’ blocking of presence was perfect. And the same could be said about the power of ‘Night Crystal’.
In retrospect, the ‘Night Crystal’ is not a widely recognized item. Senri’s senior knights―― Neville and the co didn’t seem to be wary of the possibility that the presence could be hidden.
It’s hard to think that the Death Knights would overlook the item that could overturn common sense for such a long time. Senri’s words make sense.
And, so far those two have been the only things to completely shut down the probing ability of the Order of Death Knights. It’s understandable for somebody to question the connection between them.
If it was discovered only recently, that crystal must be more than just a mineral. Now that I think back on it, it’s doubtful whether or not it even was a mineral in the first place.
How did the Lord really get that crystal?… It’s really a pity that he hasn’t come out at all recently.
I run on the highway like the wind. I have fur and I’m extremely resistant to the changes in temperature, so I’m fine. My back is fluffy so I’m sure Senri’s good too.
I’m not lonely either. I might really get into letting people ride on me. I think I really do like this kind of thing.
"I wonder if it’ll be bad if somebody saw me."
"Right now you… don’t really look like a monster."
I’m just an outlandishly big dog, after all. They might get startled, but my current form doesn’t look the least scary.
The body of a dog is really good. I can run more than 10 meters in one leap with my robust limbs and if I build momentum, I can even cross a small river. The flowing water can steal the vampire’s power, but it can’t steal inertia.
I immerse myself in the sea of my thoughts while moving my legs.
For me right now, the power of the Mirage King is something to kill for. And with my ‘Curse Steal’, there’s a chance that I can steal it.
It doesn’t have to be from the Demon King himself. The power of the Ancestor is transmitted to their retainers too. It doesn’t seem to be inherited perfectly, but that power would be reassuring for me even if it was weakened.
"… If the Mirage King was still alive, I might’ve been able to steal his ability."
I unconsciously voice my thoughts and immediately realize my blunder.
I shouldn’t have said something so thoughtless. For Senri, the power of vampires is something abominable. She wouldn’t think good of me unnecessarily using it, even in a hypothetical situation.
However, words that left Senri’s mouth after some silence weren’t laced with disappointment in me.
"That would be impossible."
In reply to my question, Senri clung tightly to my back and said with a voice, so chillingly cold, that it was unbelievable to be coming from that warmth.
"According to the legends… The Mirage King ―― wasn’t a vampire. He was the Skeleton King, so he didn’t have blood in his body."
A small country town. The men wrapped in silver cloaks were walking on the street of a not well known medium-sized town.
They were a duo, but their conduct was too unsuitable for this town. Their unfamiliar appearance got the attention of the townspeople, but the duo didn’t seem to care about their curious gazes.
Without hesitation, from the main street they entered the narrow alley where people hardly passed.
The two stopped in front of the old, two-story apartment. The iron stairs were rusty, creaking with just a little bit of weight put on them.
"Ah… does he really live at this kinda place?"
"That’s what the investigation at HQ deduced."
In reply to the man with blue hair and alert eyes―― namely Neville, ―― the brunette in the lead, third-class knight Lufry Radhutt, shrugged.
It took them a lot of time to find this place. As expected from an experienced fighter, he sure knew how to do things, as evidenced by the fact that he sent the results via a letter.
They only came to talk this time, but they couldn’t let their guards down.
They headed towards the innermost room on the second floor.
It felt like there was no presence on the other side of the door, but after Lufry used a little blessing and deployed the web of sensations, he noticed two lifeforms in the room.
It was just as described in the report. And from the looks of it, the other person had also noticed their visit.
He knocked lightly on the door but there was no reply. The door was made of metal, but it was made for ordinary people. Death Knights could easily break it.
But, he avoided violence first and called out.
"Leno Choros. We know that you’re in. It’s the Order of Death Knights. We need to talk."
There was no reply. There was only a sign of a living being moving inside the room. Neville said mockingly.
"Ain’t no way he’s coming out! We should break in and catch him before he runs away."
"Neville, you’re too violent. He’s a human, do you get it?… Hm?"
Gripping the handle, Lufry frowned.
The door wasn’t locked. He scowled and carefully turned the handle.
The moment the door was about to be opened, the presence inside the room moved. A body blow from the inside made the door flung open.
What appeared was a small shadow. No, ――it was a girl. She was probably still in her early teens. Her limbs, extending from her black dress, seemed to be trained, but she was absolutely thin.
However, her sharp black eyes were reminiscent of an injured beast,
In her hands was an axe the same size as her. Lufry avoided the swung down blade by taking steps back.
Being as thin as she was, the girl’s swing wasn’t that strong. But since it had momentum, he’d be in trouble if he took the hit directly.
The girl swung the axe by rotating her whole body. At first glance, it looked like she was swayed by its weight, but she was definitely doing it on purpose.
She had thin arms with no blessing and she was short too. There were only a few choices she could make to utilize her power, but she didn’t seem to be very experienced at what she was doing,
Lufry didn’t pull out the sword and evaded the axe by only moving his right leg back. Its thick blade hit the stair handrail, making a shrill sound.
Lufry realized that the blade was slightly chipped. If one looked closer, they’d see that the blade of the axe was missing parts here and there.
Apparently, the blade was made of silver. Silver was a soft metal, to the point that it would be unusable in a battle even if it was used as alloy.
"Stop. We only came here to talk!"
But the fighting spirit simmering in the depth of the girl’s eyes didn’t change at all. She was clearly younger than Senri, but her fighting spirit was much stronger than Senri’s.
It would be easy to beat her up, but Lufry felt reluctant to suppress an amateur like her.
At that moment, the girl threw the axe. Neville in the back easily caught it with a single hand.
Then, despite being unarmed, the girl threw herself at Lufry without a hesitation,
Her unexpected actions made Lufry open his eyes wide. The girl had her mouth open wide. Her sharp silver canines shone bright.
And the girl bit Lufry’s right arm.
Her fangs collided with the thin hauberk he was wearing under his clothes. Naturally, it was the hauberk that won. There was no way a child’s bite would work on a Death Knight.
But the girl didn’t open her jaw. She desperately kept biting even when Lufry shook his arm. She was like a crocodile… or so he wanted to say, but because of her looks, it would be more appropriate to call her a snapping turtle.
As expected, even the veteran Death Knights didn’t have the experience of being bitten by humans.
As Lufry was at a loss at what to do, she was stopped from the back of the room. It was a deep voice that sounded like it was echoing from the depth of hell.
"Alber, stop. These people… are guests. They’re uninvited guests, but… kukuku… looks like they have some business with me."
The girl called Alber finally let up her bite after hearing that voice and agilely moved back. She seemed to be wary of them.
In the back of the room was a man dressed in all black. His limbs and half of the face were bandaged and there was a silver cane set against the wall near him. But he had the presence peculiar to somebody who had tenaciously survived over the many years,
Leno Choros. One of the vampire hunters. He was the man known as ‘Keeper’ in this neighborhood.
Lufry frowned at the strong herbal scent.
"So you’re injured… but why didn’t you report about it in the letter?"
"I’m not shameless enough to ask for additional compensation after failing to finish the request. You see, the trick to being a vampire hunter ―― is to be humble."
"You sore loser… you sure have balls to spout that nonsense after hiding at this kinda place."
"I’m honored to receive the compliment. But I’m not on the level of Lord Knights who barge into the house of a good citizen. In addition, I was even called by the name which I never gave… I can’t help admiring you all the more."
Keeper shrugged at Neville, who had veins popping out on his forehead. Alber unleashed her killing intent, glaring at Neville.
And Keeper said with an exaggerated gesture. His cloudy eyes were looking at Lufry.
"Oh, I can guess what you’re here for. The ‘Night Crystal’, right? Due to my occupation, I’m quite tight-lipped, ―― but since it’s between us, I’ll tell you for a cheap price."