Joachim opened his eyes and stared at the man through the prison bars in front of him.
“…I don’t know how my older brother gained control over everyone in the castle, but the security must be terrible if a suspicious-looking person like you can just waltz into a high-level prison.”
The man who came to see Joachim looked as suspicious as hell. In a prison cell where not even a ray of light could shine through, the cloaked man covered himself from top to bottom. But the man did not reply. Instead, he hung the torch on his hand to a sconce next to him. Then the man stepped one closer to the prison bars. His body was huge. Compared to Joachim who was skinny and tall, the man was extremely buff, and he was about a head taller than Joachim. However, Joachim looked straight at him without a shred of fear in his eyes.
“That’s impressive. Your eyes are not full of despair yet.”
“Stop saying nonsense and get to the point.”
Joachim usually addressed everyone with respect and honorifics, but he dropped his manners and spoke roughly to the man—that was how shaken Joachim’s mental state was. The man’s mysterious appearance also played a significant part.
“Fine.” The man didn’t like talking for long. “Don’t you want to fix what has gone wrong?”
“What has gone wrong?”
“I’m talking about the current state of the Dracul family. Do you seriously think the current state of the Dracul estate is normal?”
There was no way Joachim thought the current state of the Dracul estate was normal. The Count was bedridden, the heir was only obsessed with power and controlled his vassals like puppets. Currently, everything about the Dracul estate was going wrong.
“I can’t say everything is going normally. But I can’t believe such a suspicious-looking guy like you is worried about the state of the Dracul estate.”
“Of course, I have my own reasons. So, answer my question.”
“Then how would you fix it?”
The cloaked man took out something from his body. In his hand, there was a marble the size of a half-closed fist. The marble was red to the core, as if it was condensed from blood. Joachim, who had hemophobia, scrunched his face. However, he didn’t move his eyes away.
“This is called the Bloody Vessel.”
“It looks like an ominous object.”
“But the effects are potent.”
The man who had been talking in a monotone voice so far now had a sliver of excitement in his voice.
“Absorb this into your body, and you will be able to obtain an enormous amount of power. Then you can pay back your brother who insulted and even tried to kill you, and all his obedient followers!”
Joachim stared at the Bloody Vessel. As if the marble was calling to him, it reflected the light from the torch fire and shone temptingly. But the man was not able to get the answer he wanted.
“I refuse.” Joachim’s answer was firm, and he did not even hesitate. Under his cloak, the man twitched his eyebrows.
“Because I don’t believe in magical fairies that suddenly help me in my time of need. I’m too old for that.”
“Are you hoping that someone will take you out of here? No matter how much you persist, your only fate is execution. Your life is over anyway. Why don’t you try trusting a magical fairy?”
“If a fairy’s gift ends with just killing my life, I would take the chance without a single hesitation, but I don't know how it will affect the people around me.” Joachim continued, “From the first place, it’s already too strange that a fairy would give me this gift. Even in all the stories I read, no fairy is a huge, buff man covered completely in a cloak.”
The man looked at Joachim. No, he stared at him. At this very moment, he wanted to break into Joachim’s jail and shake some sense into Joachim. But he couldn’t do that. No, he shouldn’t do that. It was okay to fail in changing other people to Demon People, but not Joachim. In his organization, Joachim was a significant figure in their future plans.
‘If everything was going according to plan, he would have been so angry at Biyom that he would have taken the Bloody Vessel without hesitation.’
Everything was going smoothly in their main headquarters, but their plans in Ospurin went awry. Nobody imagined that Joachim and his task force would stop Igram in such a short period of time. According to the initial plan, Joachim shouldn’t have been able to stop the spread of Igram. And during this time, funds and resources would stop coming from the Dracul estate; thus, Joachim would fall more and more into despair at his inability. At the same time, his anger towards Biyom would grow to an astronomical size—to a point that when someone offered him enough power to commit his revenge, he would take it without reason or additional thought.
‘But because of that variable, everything has gone to waste!’
Whenever the man thought about the unknown variable, Zich, he grew irritated despite his lack of emotions. On the other hand, they had to carry out this plan without fail. His job was to lead people on the ‘right path’ when things were going amiss.
“Are you not concerned that the Dracul estate will collapse at this rate?”
Joachim did not reply. But even though his eyes were half-open, there was not a trace of hesitation in them. He looked like an ascetic that didn’t waver in front of any temptations. However, the cloaked man did not easily back down.
“You experienced all sorts of diseases since you were young, even diseases that have never appeared in this world and many of them at once. Didn’t you think that was strange?”
“Of course, you thought it was weird. However, even after all that, you probably didn’t think it was some sort of conspiracy against you.”
Even if lightning struck down every village in the country and burned them all down simultaneously, most people would not think it was a result of a conspiracy. The most they would do was cry out to God in anger, and the reasoning for that was simple—it was because such a natural phenomenon was impossible for humans to perform. No matter how great a person’s master plan was, there was a limit to human ability.
“But what if there was a human who could control infectious diseases however they wanted?”
Even Joachim was shocked by this. He was about to deny that such a human could exist, but the words did not easily come out of his mouth. As soon as he thought that a human could possess such an ability, everything came into place and made sense.
“…Was it you guys?”
“No, not us. We are just providing some small assistance to that person.”
The man was happy that Joachim showed a strong reaction. However, he showed no signs of delight and tried harder to mess up Joachim’s emotions.
“It was your brother who directly collaborated with that human. But really, a power-hungry dictator is a fearsome thing to behold.” The man continued, “Just to kill his younger brother, he decimated so many villages with diseases.”
When Joachim showed a reaction, the man felt glad; but he hid his feelings again and tried to mess up Joachim’s emotions even more.
“Your brother is the one who joined forces with a person like that. A powerful person’s obsession with power is truly scary.” And the man continued, “I mean, he burned down several villages to ashes just for the sake of killing one person: his own younger brother.”
A chilling sound rang out of Joachim’s teeth, but the man continued speaking.
“But you didn’t die like he wanted, so he released the epidemic even in Ospurin. Even a guy blinded by power wasn’t crazy enough to burn his capital city to the ground, so he released a weaker infectious disease such as Igram. And in the meantime, he tried plotting against you, but all his plans were completely ruined by your victory against Igram. In the end, it seems like he decided to use all means possible and finally imprisoned you.”
Joachim’s haggard-looking face looked even more drained than before.
“How about it? Are you still not going to change your mind? If Biyom Dracul becomes the Count, the hell you experienced will continue. Since he is a pig who is only greedy for power, the rest of the world will soon join this hell. It’s definite. Are you going to throw away your one and only chance to change reality because of some anxiety?”
“…Didn’t you say that you helped my brother?”
“We worked out of necessity. It’s not like we are going to be collaborators forever. Besides, the period for us to work with your brother is over.”
Joachim stared at the ‘Bloody Vessel’ that the man was holding. If the man was telling him the truth, this matter would not just end with a power struggle for the Count’s position. The man’s words were difficult to believe, but if Joachim thought about everything he had gone through, they didn’t seem so far-fetched.
The man urged him on.
“What are you going to do? Take it? Or leave it?”
It almost seemed like a snake was darting its forked tongue at him. Joachim’s eyes shook. He thought for a moment and was about to say his decision when—
“That looks like a great item. Could you give me a chance to buy it?”
The man jumped in surprise. He placed the Bloody Vessel inside his robe and heightened his senses towards the area where he heard the voice. In the entrance, hidden by the darkness, he heard footsteps. A moment later, the owner of these footsteps entered into the torchlight.
“…Mr. Zich?” Joachim was surprised to see someone he didn’t expect at all.
“You don’t…seem well, sir,” Zich commented cynically after seeing the state Joachim was in.
“How did you…?!”
“It was frustrating to see how everything was progressing, so I forced myself in.”
“F-Forced yourself in…?”
It didn’t seem like Zich had entered by normal means, and Joachim wondered if Zich had really jumped over the castle’s gates by his own might. Listening to Zich’s way of speaking, it didn’t seem like he used a peaceful method to get in.
“Sir Joachim, I have a lot to say, but I will have to push my conversation with you a bit later,” Zich said and looked towards the robed man, “I need to speak to someone else first.”
“…Are you Zich?”
“Yeah, I’m Zich. Are you the leader of the assassins?”
The man’s demeanor, aura, and everything were different from the ordinary assassins Zich had seen. The only similarity he shared with the other assassins was that he wore a dark robe that stuck to his body like his own skin. The robed man didn’t deny Zich’s claims.
“If you are talking about the assassins who ambushed you, yes, you are right. I have greatly troubled you.”
“You are taking words out of my mouth. They dashed towards me continuously like moths to a fire. You should have sent more skilled ones.”
A vein popped out of the man’s head, but his robe hid it. The man didn’t show his agitation and replied back flatly, “Are you here to save Joachim?”
“I heard that someone was about to fall into a devil’s trap, so I came running,” Zich said.
Zich’s eyes pointed at the man’s chest—specifically, the Blood Vessel in its grasp.
“But, you know, I have an interest in that thing called Bloody Vessel. Could you explain it to me too?”
“Even if I tell you, you won’t know.”
“Don’t be like that. Don’t you have compassion for me who went through all kinds of troubles because of your attacks?”
“You don’t need to know.”
“Come on, just tell me.”
Zich sighed after seeing the man’s tightly shut mouth.
“Your companions weren’t like this.”
“…What?” the robed man finally responded.
“I saw guys like you at Suol. I realized it then—that you all were going around trying to corrupt people. Let me see…what should I call you guys?”
Zich stroked his chin and looked like he had just naturally thought of something. “Should I try calling you Demon Maker?”
The man’s eyes turned sharp, but Zich wasn’t bothered.
“Yeah, Demon Maker sounds good since you are an organization that makes Demon People. And the person you are trying to corrupt into becoming a Demon Person is Sir Joachim over there.”
At the mention of his name, Joachim’s eyes widened in surprise.
“I think the first step of your plan was to make him absorb the Bloody Vessel.”
Zich noticed the robed man’s hands flinch. The man looked like he wanted to fling his fist at Zich in that instance. However, the man endured and didn’t say anything.
“Tch. It’s annoying to deal with someone so unsociable. The last guy I talked to was a blabbermouth and responded to everything I said.”
The last assassin leader had been someone who Zich could have some fun and ‘converse’ with, but the assassin leader in front of him right now seemed like he was a different type of person.
‘I won’t learn much from this guy.’
Since things like torture didn’t work on people like them, Zich had to extract information from each and every word they said. Thus, Zich tried to make it his standard to talk as much as he could while fighting these assassins—especially their leaders. However, it seemed as if this man’s personality was naturally reticent.
Then, they heard noises from outside the prison. It was the sound of many footsteps. As if the owners of the footsteps were wearing armor, Zich, Joachim, and the assassin heard the loud, chaotic sound of iron clacking against each other. Joachim’s expression darkened while the man’s expression brightened up in contrast. Both of them thought Biyom’s troops were making their way down to the basement.
However, that wasn’t the case.
“Sir Zich!” Hans shouted.
“We have secured the surroundings around this prison.”
Joachim and the man’s faces flipped. Zich smiled widely at the man.
“Why is your face like that? As you wanted, I bought you some time with useless conversations. Isn’t this what you wanted?”
The robed man couldn’t find the right words to say.
“It’s obvious why a poor talker like you would grit your teeth and endure my provocations to let me continue. You were probably waiting for your reinforcements to arrive—are you shocked that my reinforcements came instead?” Zich mocked as he continued, “How was that sweet moment of hope?”Previous Chapter Next Chapter