38 – Concurrent
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Typing 10k words were hard, damn it…

"Explain this, Blake! Did you know about it from the start!?" Garga, my very trusted friend and comrade asked out loud, representing the rest of the people in the room.

"I did not. It's just that one night-" as I was explaining, the twins suddenly said something unnecessary.

"I heard that vampires could do brainwashing and stuff, is that right, Li?" Lo asked her twin, Li. To which she replied, "Yes, I think I heard that too…" and threw the whole room into confusion.

"Blake, you-!? Tsk, tie him up! We don't know what would happen if we let him free now that we know!" Garga said as he pulled the escape rope. The doors opened because of that and the children stood there waiting.

"No, I am not! Listen to me, Garga. You of all people should know me the most!" I desperately sought out to him to try and calm things down.

"Yes, I do! That's why I am going to tie you up so we can talk in peace and with no fear of having you suddenly stab me with that spear I myself made! So just comply and no one gets hurt!" He shouted, looking unnaturally excited.

"I-I don't mind but, why are you looking at me like that while you say that..?"

"No reason, now give me your wrists…" now he looked unnaturally serious. I quickly complied and he tied my wrists and wrapped the rest of the rope around my upper torso.

"Hmm," they all hummed at once.

I naturally felt uncomfortable and asked, "W-what?" while backing away a step.

"… somehow it feels good to see Blake tied up all tight like that, doesn't it?" Li said and her sister Lo reluctantly agreed, "Y-yeah…"

"Leaving those girls aside… Why don't you talk now, Blake?" Old Man Kler said as he sat right in front of me.

I stared at him eye to eye (even though he doesn't have any) as if he could see through me and spoke, "I am not under Celeste Crourem's control and never was. Not even once had she attempted such a thing,"

I nervously claimed and stared deeper into his empty eye sockets. He replied, "And?" as if understanding there's more.

(If there's more then it has to be that time…) I thought to myself.

"We did fight. It was when she nonchalantly drank blood in front of me like how she did before this. I do not understand why she would do that but I just assume that she deemed me and you guys trustworthy enough for her to stop hiding that fact…" I said without hiding anything more.

"Even so… you know that of all people here, I hold the worst grudge against vampires. If there are others that hold the same grudge that is," He said while feeling his face.

"… yes, I understand. That's why I leave all the decisions to you. Do as you please. I could only hope that you could come to terms with her as we are still yet to pay her back. At this point, the requirements should have been met and soon we might become her subordinates. However, do remember that you're on your own…" I said as I looked down.

"Right… I see… then just this once. I want to ambush her, right here right now," he said as he pulled on the bandages that wrapped around the cane he uses to "see" and walk. He then wrapped those into his fist and clenched them hard.

He then whispered, "I'll be the judge to her genuinity…" that only I could hear.

"Alright, Li and Lo, I want you to do one of those combination shots you do with the bow. Strongest shot. The rest, you go back to the entrance along with Blake. Don't undo the ropes just yet. I'll decide if she is our enemy or not, that's all. You could go now."

(Not the children, too!) I could only think so. Those children aren't entirely unrelated so I could not hold them back to stay.

As I get pulled up and signaled to walk, we all retreated back to the entrance and we watched the three of them get into position. I could not help but break a cold sweat, knowing what Kler and Celeste could do.

With the discomfort and worry weighing on me, I sat down along with everyone. The children didn't say anything and stayed quiet. They might have guessed that something serious is about to happen and quietly watched along.

*****

As I was playing along with Aurias' stupid display of resistance, the voices I have been listening to suddenly quieted down.

(About time they finish over there too, anyway.) I concluded.

"What do you think you're looking away for!?" Aurias said angrily. For the past 10 or so minutes, I've been analyzing this guy's attitude and appearance. The conclusion is that he's your everyday depressed delinquent at the back of the school building. Not so chubby nor fit. A common face that most delinquent has. A scary and wrinkled face noting that he is quite old. And his status says;

:Name:Aurias
:Race:Celestial Vampire
:Level:2

:Stats:
STR:1
AGI:1
DEX:51
INT:51
LUK:1
VIT:1
Total stats:106

Accumulated Strength:
Potential:310/730
Senses: 80/730
Physical: 90/730
Mind:130/730
Emotional:135/730

:SKILLS:

Active: Appraisal, Self Status, Dungeon Edit 1, Space Manipulation 2, Blood Manipulation 1

Passive: Monster Language, Eternal Youth, Vigor 10, Vigor II 1, Magic Control 2

:Attributes:
Space: 25/100
Fire: 80/100

:Titles:
[Former Dungeon Master]⟩ The creator and now co-owner of the "" dungeon. The title has been passed onto the individual, 'Celeste Crourem'
[Bordering Blood]⟩ After being granted the blood of the royal vampire, allowing the title bearer to evolve into a pseudo Celestial Vampire. Further Requirements are needed to evolve into a genuine Celestial Vampire fully
[Exhibitionist]⟩ Increases favoritism from the opposite gender, more effective when the user is naked up to some extent

Accumulated strength… I still know nothing about it. Not even what it's for. I got it to show after drinking Lory and Orto's blood, but this time it's the other way around. He drank my blood. That confirms that it may be one of the vampires' abilities, but it could also be just the effects of drinking blood.

And I am going to ignore the fact that he suddenly has the exhibitionist title. How'd he get that?

(I'll ask him later. There's something more important right now that I have to deal with.) I thought to myself while dodging around Aurias' punches.

"Well then. Why don't we meet with your soon-to-be new bosses, oh cute little Aurias?" I said to the Aurias whose head is now under my black leather shoes.

"… You.. bitch… o-ooh, actually never mind…"

Whoops there, this guy might be a pervert so I'll just go ahead and…

"ACK! That hurt!" He-

"I do not care. Stand up and follow me already. That would be an order," I calmly said.

I started walking and he also stood up as fast as your father left to buy milk and walked stiffly just behind me. As we walk through the corridor, I noticed that he constantly stops when he catches up to me when I walk. I guess that couldn't be helped, there's quite the difference in height after all.

After a while, the entrance came to view and I ordered him to stop and stay without doing anything else if I did not say so. I haven't heard any complaints about a while now either which is great. I can only think that the orders shut him up.

Now then, onto another experiment. For now, a solid barrier using 50% of the magic power I got from the core… goodness, that's solid alright. Too bad I can't absorb all of those into my body. My chest ached when I tried to so I just brought it with me. If only I had some form of container…

Alright, the insurance is up now I just have to learn it. Velocity Manipulation. Ability to manipulate the speed of anything that is moving within sight including the user's speed. Perfect Agility's effects are also still working. For that, I am grateful.

That said, time to meet up with the three of them.

I came closer to the entrance and went out of it, and then suddenly- "COMPOSITE ARROW!" I heard two girls' voices and saw in my vision what seemed to be an iron arrow with a spiral tip slowly approaching my chest and a fist beside it from Kler. They're probably planning to destroy my barrier and then finish me off with that punch. They seemed slowed down probably because of how focused I was, this also happened when I was deflecting feathers. With that as the perfect opportunity, I used my newfound skill.

Up until now, I have only used active skills that involved magic. Blood Manipulation is different because it's comparable to water magic. While Appraisal, Stealth, and Self-status only required thinking of the skill name. This time is quite different, this skill can 'adjust' speed either faster, slower, or a complete halt, and I don't know how to do that adjustment. If I could master this skill, I could simultaneously stop anything within sight. Would be better if it wasn't single-target.

(Velocity Manipulation… thankfully it only requires to be activated once to use it multiple times on different targets.) I knew that because I felt that when I used it now.

Now comes how I'll figure this out. Velocity is proportional to momentum, right now I don't know how to fully stop it but I think I know how to instantly slow it down so that it will seem like it just stopped in midair. Imagine how a car decelerates to a halt using breaks. Or how a fighter jet decelerates to land using parachutes. Apply that concept to this arrow and slow it down. Even if this doesn't work, I could somewhat survive. I think.

*****

I waited beside the entrance to the Master's room and waited there with my fist tight and clenched.

I have been hoping for an opportunity such as this to come. The opportunity to kill a vampire, ever since that day my life has only been nothing but suffering until I met Blake and everyone. If I could save our lives by killing this sly vampire, then I won't have to worry about being betrayed by one again. I'll be able to sleep without the worry of having my eyes almost sucked out of my skull, or having my blood almost drained dry. None of that. I want none of that near my family. But still, I have even the smallest small hope that this one is sincere, that is why I am going to go all out on this one strike.

My body won't be able to move afterward because of the restraint on my body. This is also one of the permanent damage that that vampire has done to me. My muscles got weaker probably because of the constant lack of blood, that b***h barely kept me alive saying that my blood is delicious and she wants more of it… enough. I don't want such a bad memory to resurface now of all time.

A few minutes passed and I felt it. A terrifying amount of dense mana approaching from the dark sloped corridor. So much so that I could feel it crawling through my body. I guess she found out, that's a vampire for you.

But I expected as much. That's why I asked the twins for one of their special combination moves, an arrow shot so powerfully that I doubt anyone even a lord could take it head-on and not take even a scratch. That is how powerful of a shot it is. We'll break all the barriers with that and I'll unleash my strongest punch straight to her chest, where her heart lies. Too bad that the iron arrow might not survive but destroying all that barrier is plenty. She should not have enough time to react to another attack with little to no gap between.

I turned to the twins and signaled to them 'shoot' with hand signs. And after that, I also launched my punch. I instantly felt the arrow pass side by side with my punch and broke the single barrier that she had. Or it should have been… but it was my fist instead that hit the barrier, making but a single dent on it, and ended up breaking my bones up to my right shoulder. It was painful, but I'll manage… not, my whole body is trembling and I can barely stay on my feet… just like that the ambush came to an end…

When my mind calmed down from the massive pain I attained, I saw the arrow, right in front of her, stabbed onto the floor as if it lost its power.

"I see… I only managed to slow it down, not completely stop it… oh well, that in itself is a result. I suppose that's it, Mr. Kler?" She whispered something and then spoke to me in a low-toned voice while walking past.

"Yes… that is it…"

"I was listening earlier the whole time, you underestimate a vampire's senses. And you underestimated mine of all vampires you could have. So you hold a grudge against vampires?" She kneeled behind me with her hands on my neck and chest. I could not do anything, I felt all of my muscles tense up and freeze in place the moment she touched me.

At the same moment, I heard several throwing knives flying toward us. Li and Lo, huh… they don't even realize the gap with what happened, they still got a lot to learn… if only I didn't pull them into this mess I made and this petty desire of mine for revenge… seriously, I wonder what is Blake's expression right now… I could vaguely feel his anger from all the way there, goodness.

"Yes, that's right… it is only I so please, could you spare those two youngsters? If it is you, I doubt we will win even if all of us here banded against you… actually, I should have realized that I won't have a single chance just from the display you have shown before any of this. Beating an S-ranked monster solo without the use of magic, I was blinded by revenge and didn't think things through…"

"Now, don't feel so bad. It was a gamble for me earlier, I have decided to leave everything to a new skill I got from that same battle you are talking about. Without it, your plan of ambush would have been a success, I doubt I can dodge that combo you guys had come up of. Also… you really expect me to leave the keys that could have killed me alone? Had my skill not worked, I would have a hole on my chest now with that punch you released," she got closer as she say those and said once more. She ignored the arrows and said arrows bounced off her barriers without leaving even a scratch on them.

(Just how tremendous is her mana pool!?) I couldn't help but think to myself.

"Now, as compensation, let's see how you would like to become the very thing that blinded you… onto another experiment we go…"

"YOU-!? Arrgghh!?" After that, drops of warm liquid entered my eye sockets and I could only feel my whole body feel like its being torn apart while also healing at the same time.

*****

And so, Kler's body went through the same process that Aurias went through. However, I didn't force him to drink my blood but injected it into his now empty eye sockets. The last time I saw it his rotten eyes were still in them, they must have fallen off or he plucked them out. Well, what matters now is that it's convenient for me.

Thinking of Aurias…

"Aurias! Get over here. After that, you're free to act freely again," I could only guess that orders make him lose control of his body so I said that. As he walked toward me I also started walking toward the twins.

"Now then, you two. Was it Li and Lo? Hmm, I see that you two have used most of your mana. Now then…" I extended my hands to reach for the two, they let out small screams in response.

""Hi-hiiiiiiii, get away..!"" they both tried to get away while holding onto each other but their bodies only trembled in response.

(About time…) I thought and…

"GET AWAY FROM MY GRANDCHILDREN-!" Kler came rushing with a punch that I blocked with my barrier. This time I had the barrier shaped into a cone. I don't want him to hurt himself again with punches like that.

*****

Kler's ambush failed and all three of them were brought to their knees. The twins lost all strength to even stand after that powerful shot they launched, they probably misjudged their own mana pools, they're still inexperienced after all. As for Kler, after going all out, his body and wrists couldn't stand the impact.

Compare that to Celes who could regenerate tremendously fast because of her race and drinking blood.

"Shouldn't we stop them!? I don't know the situation but Miss Celeste is the enemy, right!? If all of us go all out on her then we could win!" Wallack says to me full of vigor.

"… You can't even feel the tremendous amount of mana she is using on that barrier and you dare say that… clueless brat," I simply replied.

"Eh? W-what do you mean? Mana? Wait, that barrier isn't a skill but magic!?" He asks in shock.

"Yes. Anyways, this is Kler's choice due to his grudge and his only. We may be comrades but revenge is something you yourself accomplish. Celes isn't even his actual enemy. And they may have agreed to it, but it's Kler's fault for dragging the twins into this and we're not helping. Just hope that Celes spares them," It pains me but this is his.

(You are family but this is still wrong, Kler!) I could do nothing but watch as Celes has her ways with Kler.

Karl seemed like he had something to say but he instead clenched his fists and stayed quiet. As if thinking, he looked at me and said, "Mr. Blake…"

"Yes?" I questioned, half knowing what it would be about.

"You said that revenge is something we should take ourselves, alone… right? Then, if something happens to those twins…" His expressions seemed grim and I, couldn't say anything.

"You… yes. That's right. All of us in the village have decided to forget about our own pasts, and if you still seek revenge or still hold grudges even after that, then we are not helping. That's how it is… that's what we have decided…"

"I see…" He looked satisfied with a slight hint of determination.

(Yes, I know that those twins aren't entirely unrelated, but KLER! You yourself should no better as the elder here-!)

As I was having those thoughts, Celes poured droplets of her blood into Kler's empty eye sockets. He let out a loud scream and his body started turning redder and redder.

"What did she..?" I incidentally blurted out.

"Hey, should we really not help!?" Wallack said to me in panic.

"…" But I could only remain silent.

*****

Now then, how do I tell him I used him to try out Healing Blood?

"First calm down and take a LOOK at the grandchildren you're talking about," I said while binding him with ice chains.

"As if! I'm..! blind… Huh?" he's now confused so I released the chains.

"I-I could see? And better than back then…" his confusion continued.

"Yes. It seems to have worked," I slightly bowed and added in, "Better than I thought it would…"

:Name:Kler Alexander
:Race:Apex Human
:Age:82
:Level:38

:Stats:
STR:98
AGI:84
DEX:64
INT:42
LUK:8
VIT:78
Total stats:384

Accumulated Strength:
Potential:135/195
Senses: 135/195
Physical: 135/195
Mind:135/195

Emotional:135/195

:SKILLS:

Active: Body Barrier 4, Break Assault 10, Swift Turn 10, Ogre's strength 10, Giant's strength 1, Flicker Turn 10

Passive: Magic Control 5, Physical boost 10, Hand-to-hand combat 10, Martial arts 10, Reinforced Muscles 10, Swift Limbs 10, Blade Limbs 10, Cane Mastery 7, Forced Regeneration 1, Blood boost 1, Longevity III

:Attributes:

Fire: 43/100

Dark: 1/100

:Titles:
[Grandmaster]⟩ Master of masters. Doubles INT.
[Vigor Craver]⟩ Increases EXP gain by tenfold.

"… Why do you have Vigor Craver when you didn't have it last time I checked your stats..?" I was confused so I asked, but he too was still confused, so I kept it to myself.

(Wait, could it be? That's the only reasonable explanation why since Aurias also got a title that he should not have… thankfully there's no change to his race… not visually at least)

(That's another thing to think about for later. For now, I will just deal with what's going on.)

"How? My… my eyes…"

"I'm sorry but I used your disability to test a skill of mine that I didn't know how to use. The worst that could have happened is that you turn into a vampire, sorry for not asking for permission first. I went along the flow and took advantage of the situation to test it out," I slightly bowed as I apologized.

"What..?" He replied in confusion.

"For now, why don't you talk with your grandchildren? I bet they are exhausted. Seriously, dragging children into your plot for revenge… you're disappointing…" I said to him while keeping the latter half to myself.

"Grandchildren?" Li muttered in confusion, "What do you mean by that, Mr. Kler?" Lo followed.

*****

I ignored everything else and discarded my confusion as soon as those sweet voices entered my ears.

"Li… Lo…" I gasped for air as tears started to swell in my new functional eyes.

(Aah, to think that the day that I could see the faces of my beloved family again like this…) I didn't know what happened at the time, but all I knew was that this is the happiest that I have ever been in my life aside from my marriage ceremony.

I rushed to the confused twins and hugged them tightly.

(Hey dear, are you watching? I could see again, after all these decades, I could see again… could you believe it? I'm looking at our granddaughter's faces, could you believe it?) My tears started to fall uncontrollably.

I stayed just like that for who knows how long. I was only brought back again when I heard them talk.

"Mr. Kler..?" Li and Lo looked up at me confused.

At those looks, more of my tears formed and dropped on their faces.

I wiped it off of them and answered, "Yes?" with a bright smile on my face.

(Aaaah, looking at you two like this… I'm glad I made it out of that castle alive.) Was what I thought. No one can take this away from me. This is my peak, one of my life's happiest moment.

Later then, I heard "Sorry to ruin your intimate moment but this isn't the right place for it…" Blake came in and tapped me on my shoulders.

"You're right, it is not but at least let me give them a small explanation," I said.

"No, idiot. They're in a mana exhausted state you'll only confuse them, explain it when they have taken a good night's sleep," Celeste Crourem, the vampire that sneaked into our village and turned our lives for the better. Even if just in contract, I am very grateful to her now.

"I guess you're right…" I called out to Karl and told him to take care of the children for now and went to talk to Celeste who is currently talking to a middle-aged man. Probably the Dungeon Master. She might have enslaved him from what I can see… but anyway.

"Little girl, no… Lady Crourem," I got her attention and continued, "I don't know what you did to me but for it, I am more than grateful. Anything but my life, I am willing to do anything in exchange for this deed…" I kneeled and stated such.

"Indeed, you must want to continue living now that you could see once again, right? For now, think of it as compensation for trying out my skill on you that didn't have certainty of working," she said as to shrug off something that normally should have been impossible.

"Seriously, what am I supposed to feel over this..?" I couldn't help but scoff at myself.

*****

"Now then, let me introduce you to… no actually, introduce yourself and follow what blake says without questioning it, somehow… I am feeling tired…" Just like that, after entrusting this Aurias guy to me, she fell and collapsed on the spot.

"Celes!?"

"Miss!?"

I and kler reached out to her quickly. It seems she has collapsed due to exhaustion. I couldn't tell what kind of exhaustion it was though… mana exhaustion makes you look like your blood turned white while physical exhaustion is just normal exhaustion.

"For now, we're going back home. Everyone is exhausted so it's better that we discuss any of this tomorrow," I ordered to which everyone agreed. Except the Wallack and co. everyone seems quite exhausted.

"What about that guy? He was entrusted to you by her and I don't think we should just leave him to his own device," Kler stated his opinion.

As if hearing our conversation the dude introduced himself in a slightly infuriating manner, "The name's Aurias, master of this dungeon, a Psuedo Celestial Vampire apparently," which surprised us more than Celes' race.

"A pseudo Celestial vampire!? How did Celes get you to obey her when she's supposed to be a lot weaker!?" I couldn't help but ask in surprise.

"Hm? She's… wait, you didn't know?" He seem to have figured out something and formed a creepy smile on his wrinkled face.

"What do you mean..? There's still more that we don't know about this girl?" Kler asked.

"I see, I could use this to get back at her…" He was whispering something but we couldn't hear it.

"Alright, listen up! That girl is likely hundreds of years older than all our ages combined so careful! I also can't see her stats but if there's one thing I am certain of, then it's the fact that she is the last Celestial Vampire! The Vampire queen, you could say. Though I don't know much about vampires…" is what he said…

Eh?

"Eh?"

"Kler, you didn't have to voice it out," I said to the flabbergasted Kler…

"… wait, if that's so then it makes sense, not. If she is that old then how did she not know about the vampires' blood abilities..? Or could it be that she's a newborn?" I was having a hard time thinking so I just, "Everyone, we're going home!"

"Stopped thinking about it, huh?" The Aurias guy said.

(Thankfully only we who were inside the room heard that.) Which are Kler, Karl, and me.

"Get to walking, you're coming with us," I calmly said.

"Eh? Why the hell should I? You're not my master, she is. And she didn't give a proper order so even if you try to order me around it ain't gonna work. Hmph," he said with the most annoying tone there possibly is.

And as if hearing what was going on, an ice arrow flew towards him from the sleeping Celes and grazed the side of his neck. We all looked at her but she was just cutely sleeping on my arms and we could only shudder at the thought of attacking her even in her sleep.

"… R-right, got it… mister..?" He was scared.

"…Blake, call me blake…" I too was scared.

"Is there any end to her surprises..?" Kler looked like he was having fun and is back to his usual self. I'll keep it to myself that his legs were visibly shaking.

"Guess we're going then?" Aurias asked, arrogant as ever.

"Yeah," Blake replied. "Well then, let's go. Everyone's prepared right?" The man asked the others and received a tired yes from everyone.

They then started walking… except Aurias…

"Hey, I said we're going, what are you still doing there?" Blake shouted at the guy and stepped closer a little.

"Hmph. What do you think dungeon masters are? Within my domain, transferring anything around it, animated or inanimate, is a very simple task for me. Not to mention that I am too lazy to walk. We're teleporting directly to the entrance!" Raising his chin, Aurias exclaimed.

"Well isn't that convenient? How does it work?"

"Eh, no questions, just stay where you are and we're going."

"This is why I hate people who don't listen to others…" Blake sighed hard before getting spooked by his surroundings suddenly dyeing bright magenta.

By the time he could see again, he was looking at the vegetation that covered the entirety of the first floor.

As he was stunned in awe, "Oooh, they're as good as harvestable. Dungeons are just the best for growing crops!" Aurias said loudly. Blake ignored him and started walking out just like the others. It was apparently noon so they were heading back. This is why dungeons are dangerous, you lose your sense of time and could die due to it.

"Wait, where are you going with that vampire in your arms?" Aurias seems to have noticed him and suddenly grabbed him by the shoulder. They were the same height and body build, so it didn't feel weird for either of them.

"Going home, where else? You come too, the others are getting ahead already," he shrugged off the hand and started walking.

"The sun's presence will kill her, idiot! She's a vampire!" Aurias rushed towards the entrance, blocking it.

"Sun? Celes has always been able to walk around under the sun's influence… WAIT!" Blake was just about to explain to him and seem like he had realized something important--

"Celestial Vampires are vampires said to absorb any form of mana without even knowing. That would explain why she could walk under the sun. There's no other way for a vampire to do that unless they're a relative of or a Celestial Vampire-! How could I miss such detail!?"

--it was indeed important…

"What are you talking about all of the sudden..?" Aurias asked in confusion.

"I'm saying that Celestial Vampires don't die under the sun, you dull suck!" Blake said greatly annoyed.

"!!"

Aurias was surprised as the man haven't shouted at anyone the moment they entered his dungeon. Well, he's probably angry at himself for not noticing earlier and ended up venting at the poor Dungeon Master.

"Anyways, move aside! We're heading home, and you're coming too! You're a Celestial Vampire too, right!? Seriously, why are there two of the most ridiculous race here!?"

And so, Aurias couldn't say anything to the man and was forced to stay quiet while they walk away from his home. He also kept to himself the unbearable itch he felt as soon as he exposed himself to the sun.

(Calm down Aurias, this is still better than the burning pain you felt after stepping out just a foot into it, calm down…)

*****

"I am telling you that she's resting, you can just come again another time!" loud voices from not so far away woke me up as I try to clear my head from drowsiness.

(Was that Lory? I guess I'll just leave to her whatever is going on out there…) I thought as I try to get back to sleep.

"Liar! You're just prejudiced towards former slaves! Damn elf and your damn pride!" a boy's voice argues back.

"Which part of "she's resting" do you not understand? I'll just let you know when she's back up again," Lory says in an attempt to send away the boy.

"Why are they being so loud? I want more sleep…" My sharp hearing backfired on me.

"Right, screw you, elf! I'll just go in through the windows!" as the boy say those, I heard hurried small footsteps through the walls coming towards my window.

(He's not actually thinking of going in through them, right?) I thought still trying to go back to sleep.

At the same moment that I thought about it, a loud crash came from my side and…

"OOF! That… hurt…" the boy really came in through the windows and along with a few shards of wood, he crashed right on top of me, poking me with toothpick-size pieces of wood.

"Boy…" I muttered as I got up from the stupid boy who really came in through the window.

I dumped on him the blanket sheet that I was using, only to find myself naked.

As he rummaged around the sheets, I quickly took a black nightgown that could be worn hastily. Blood Stream isn't so convenient that it would let me wear the gown as I take it out.

"Fuah!" The boy had managed to get out of the covers just the moment I had put on my gown.

He looked around and his eyes momentarily landed on me and said, "Tsk! Wrong room!" then stood and rushed out of the room.

"… He didn't even pay attention to me…" I said as I walked on his trails.

"Where are you!? Get out! This is our house, you're trespassing!" Lory came in from the living room and dashed towards where the boy currently is.

I greeted her with a "Goodmorning, big sis," to which she greeted back, "Oh, you're up, good morning," with a smile and continued pursuing the boy through the corridors.

(Any moment now…) I thought before her head suddenly popped out from her room with the boy on her left.

"Celes! You're awake! Are you sure you should be up now!? Do you feel any pain anywhere!?" She then threw the boy out the same window he came in from and hugged me as she patted my back and head.

"I am fine now. More importantly, how did I even fall unconscious? Did Blake and the others say anything about what my condition was?" I asked as I pushed her a little back.

"No, they said that they had no idea what it was, so we could only wait for you to wake up so you could tell us how you felt and deduce what it was with that information," she explained as she raised and sat me on a chair in the kitchen.

"I'll cook you something easy to down so please think about how you felt back then for now and then tell me as you eat,"

(Even if you tell me that, I only suddenly felt sleepy out of nowhere when I was about to introduce Aurias to the group… we can't really deduce much from that, can we?) I thought about what happened before suddenly fainting.

"Hmm…" I got nothing.

"Ah, that bo-" as I was just about to ask Lory about the boy earlier, said boy suddenly barged into our kitchen and shouted.

"Where are you, VILLAGE CHIEF!?" his voice was so loud that Lory had to cover up her ears.

"Right in front of you," I said. Only to be ignored again.

"Huh? I knew it, you lying elf! I knew you were the village chief right from the start!" He shouted as he ran towards Lory, looking at his posture, he was going to tackle her.

"Why can't you understand a thing!? I am running out of patience here!" she said as he dodged the dashing boy which resulted in him tackling the kitchen desk and almost spilling what Lory was cooking. By the smell of it, it's probably Spanish bean soup.

(Did she use the leftovers of the ingredients I used when I last cooked it? Did she use other similar ingredients? That's impressive as I only made those with Magic Creation and only had a few leftovers.)

"That's dangerous, you annoying child! I AM NOT the village chief! You have been at this nonsense for 4 hours now, and you're starting to get into my nerves!" Lory said as she readjusts the pot back into the stove I made. Quite primitive and not magical, but it works. Not everything has to work on magic.

"Shut up and just accept my request!" He said.

"Request..? Hold on, boy. Why don't you take a seat here for now and let's talk about it with the chief?" I suggested as I pointed at the seat across the table.

"Shut up! Who are you to call me a child when you look so much younger than me!?" He shouted as he got back up on his feet.

(He certainly is a head taller than me but he seriously can't take the hint? This is why this appearance is troublesome…)

"Boy, take the hint already. I am the village chief, temporarily only though…" I stated while keeping to myself the latter half.

"Wait, what?" He muttered and looked at Lory and then back at me then on Lory and on me again. Lory nodded as he was doing so.

"WHAT!?"

...…

"So, care to explain what your request was? I might take it depending on the contents…" I said as I scoop and eat away at the bean soup. It tasted the same but with a different texture. Not like I have eaten an actual Spanish bean soup but its texture was different from what I had made.

"R-right, first I'm sorry for how I treated you, miss chief…" He said as he fidgeted here and there. Now that I get a closer look at him, he doesn't seem human. With the whiskers.

(Appraisal…)

:Name:Jacob
:Race:Halfling
:Age:21
:Level:3

:Titles:
[Former Slave]⟩A slave that has fairly bought back his freedom

(He is indeed older than me… even with this life and my previous life combined, he's still older than me. Well, like I'm letting him know.)

"Right, that's not the first, that's the third time you've said that. How about stop wasting my time and get on with it already?" I hurried him up as I'm better off outside doing what I should be doing.

"I'll leave you two for now, okay? I'll let Blake and the others know that you're awake," Lory said with a sweet smile on her adorable face as she left.

After I heard the front door shut I said, "Right, I'm a very busy person, if you haven't realized yet, so could you?"

"Yes, it's just that…" he shyly said.

"Just that?" I said as tilt my head to the side with a smile.

"… I-I… damn it, she's cute…" I heard him say in volume that someone normally won't hear.

(And here I thought that the smile will help him loosen up some tension… I underestimate my own charms… wait, is it because of my certain title? Better not think about it…)

"What was that?" I asked this time without a smile.

"I, no, my friends need help… you see, we were all former slaves that bought our freedom and…"

"And then you, rather they, got caught after getting free? And only you got away safe?" I asked, expecting to be right.

"H-how'd you know!?" He said as he slammed his hands on the table.

"It's pretty simple really. it's also a good way to get back more if not double the money owners used to buy their slaves. I would do it too if I ever find a slave I bought no longer necessary," I said as I played with my spoon and plate.

"What do you mean by that!? Explain it so I could understand!" He angrily said.

"Quite slow in the uptake, aren't you? You technically did buy your freedom, but you're just lucky to have gotten away," I said to which he responded with an "Eh?"

"… did you really think that because you bought your freedom means you will never be a slave again?" I blatantly stated the cold truth. If he still doesn't get it then that would make one wonder how he got away.

"I-I…"

After looking down at him I said, "It seems that it has finally sunk in. Now, don't ask me if I could help you get them back as I stand to gain nothing from doing so. Now, if you'll excuse me," I put on a coat on top of my nightgown and left the house. I doubt he could even think of stealing after that mental damage.

"Unique skills…" he whispered which sure piqued my interest, stopping me from my tracks.

"Hehe… now you're interested..?" he giggled as he looked at me.

I stood there and said, "Elaborate."

"Right, a girl among us has two equally terrifying unique skills. They were what allowed us to gather up the gold we needed to buy back our freedoms, the only problem is that she can't use it if there's no one that is on her side. By side, I mean as someone who will help her," he said, still grinning.

"Those skills are?"

"Hehe, not telling until you promise to help them," he said with a bigger grin on his face.

(He's desperate enough that he's willing to barter his benefactor just so I would help him and his friends. But it looks like he doesn't understand his place on this table, does he?)

"Is that so? Then I guess there's nothing more to discuss with you," I said as I headed for the living room.

"Eh? Don't you want it? It's a unique skill, you know!? What's more, is that she has two of them! Everyone wants someone who has unique skills, right!?" He desperately reached out to me and fell off the chair he sat on.

(This boy…)

"You really don't get it, do you? This has never been a negotiation, you're begging. You're offering a promise, that is uncertain to be fulfilled, to me. And who do you think you are to use your friend's skills, that helped you be free, to win me over? Know your place, brat. If you're going to beg, do it properly."

"Right! I beg of you! Please save them! They're the only ones I have left! I don't want to lose them..! Please, I beg you… please…" he wept and wailed on the floor with his fists clenched tight around his head so hard that I think I saw some blood.

"… now that's more like it. Come follow me," I said to him as I head for the door.

"Where to?" he looked up to me and asked in a raspy voice.

"To the new village chief."

"New village chief?"

"Speak of the devil, come in Blake. This boy has something to ask of the village chief," I said with a smile to Blake that has come along with Kler, Nar, and Lory.

*****

(Not that smile agaaain-!)

"Right, for how long was I asleep?" She asked like what she had just said before wasn't a big deal.

"Three solid days…" I facepalmed myself as I answered her annoyingly genuine question.

"That long, huh? Nar, can I assume that you have devised a way we could take advantage of the dungeon for profit?" She then turned to Nar who nodded in response.

"Good, just as I had expected. Now then, to the village hall, we go!" She happily skipped and did as she said, we could only follow suit and couldn't even ask if she was feeling just fine.

As we walk to the center of the village, the village hall that we decided to call as such, she told every person to go spread the word that she's now choosing the village head for us.

As they say, rumors fly as fast as the wind. By the time we reach the village hall, we only had to wait a few minutes until all 110 hunters has gathered up in front of the building. This last week that we were gone, the village was as good as done, and we finished up when she woke up. I don't know if she knew that or just wanted her part of the bargain as soon as she woke up. I could never understand this vampire, at all.

After half an hour of discussion inside the hall, we came to a conclusion and went out to greet the crowd that had built up outside.

"Alright, since everyone is here, we're starting! I, as per contract, have made this village into a better place. Now, it is time that we choose a village chief that I think will be able to lead you all to flourish even more than I have," she pause her speech and smiled at me again for a single second, which was enough to send shivers down my spines.

"I suppose that all of us think that Blake here is the best fit for the position, right!? You all have said that too when I just got here, after all. So that position is settled. This brings the question, who are going to be his assistants!? We can't just leave everything up to him, after all! That said, I say that Nar and the dungeon master, Aurias, should become his assistants!"

"What does everyone say?" The majority of them agreed for it to be Nar, and the majority of them too were confused as to why it should be Aurias. They all got used to him and had accepted the vulgar guy as these three days went by, the fact that he's publicly known as a slave of Celes helped too.

She then goes ahead and explains why.

"Aurias, please come forward and explain how your abilities work," which he did, surprisingly calmer than he usually was when he speaks to us.

"Tch, right. I'm a unique type of dungeon master. My powers allow me to turn any place I've walked on and had seen into a part of my dungeon. But for that, I need mana points. I get mana points when there are invaders in my dungeon. I had enough to turn the whole plaza around the village hall into part of my dungeon and should have enough by the end of these discussions to turn this whole village into part of it. Meaning, that I could provide security through my dungeon abilities and tamed monsters from wherever I am in the world. And if I were to do that, I could get more mana points by the end of the week I would have enough to be able to upgrade my dungeon that we will use to attract hunters, that way, you guys could make businesses or whatever," he then sat back again. He was so against it at first but when he thought of how much mana points he would get every day, he is now so into the idea.

All of the people showed positive reactions to that.

(He could do that? This guy is more useful than I had initially thought…) Celes thought as the possibilities piled up in her head.

"Yup. And need not I explain why it should be Nar who becomes one too, but I will. He could manage the businesses and assign the right position for everyone. Think of it, it is the rise of a Hunters' city! If you guys are able to further improve this small village into a great city, you will be able to live mostly freely along with your loved ones!"

Everything from there then went smooth-sailing and we then came into the contract signing.

"All that said and done, you guys are to make a mercenary group and then give me a share of your sums for the next 25 years. Just 3% of the total sums. Only that small as I assume and expect for this village to further flourish and become a successful city. And Blake, as your representative, will decide if he agrees to it," she then hands me over the contract and I read through it.

It has become a very detailed contract that I found no way for it to be exploited. It also says that a copy of it should be submitted to the commerce guild to further strengthen its credibility.

Its content was the same except that there is now no way for both of us to exploit it. At the very end, it also says that the village chief could request three things from Celeste Crourem. This will also be renewed after we or the village chief resigns the contract with Celeste Crourem after the 25 years passes by. I don't think I'll live till that day, but I will make sure that my descendant that will inherit this position will resign it.

"Sigh… alright. As the official village chief, I accept. Is that fine with everyone?" I sighed and along with it, I discarded my doubts and held onto my resolve, and strengthened it.

(For a future that will be remembered throughout history… and for my friends and comrades. To my future family, too.)

Everyone has agreed to it and I have signed the contract. This contract uses blood and a special kind of ink that will mark its signs.

Notice: Title [Hunter's Chief] acquired
Notice: Skill :Chief's Resolve: acquired through title [Hunters' Chief]

(I got titles and skills… does that mean…) I looked at everyone who are all standing right now at this plaza, who are all looking at me as well. Without a single hint of doubt in their eyes.

"I have gotta live up to their expectations, as the chief…" I whispered to myself to further solidify my resolve.

"Right, I once again introduce to everyone who are here. The Hunters' Chief Blake!" Celes announced and all of them applauded.

*****

"Nar, make sure that after a month or two, this village has two equally huge buildings that could house the commerce and hunter's guild's staff. Because by then, Aurias' dungeon should be big and developed enough to attract hunters and merchants alike," I said to Nar who is currently uninstalling traps out of my house.

"That's the tenth one, how many did you place?" I asked of him.

"One more and there would be no more," He said with a smile that he has never shown or directed to me.

"…" As I was skimming through things that needed attention, I felt Nar stare at me.

"Is something the matter, Nar?" I indifferently asked without looking at him.

"… it's just… no matter how I look at it, 3% is too less for what you did to the village, it's like you turned a seed into a whole beautiful tree. And you did it within two months, no less. Looking at this village, the architecture won't lose to that of the capital's. If it were bigger and has a castle, people would mistake it for a noble's city," With a solemn look on his face, Nar explained.

Looking at him, I understood his worries. As someone whose background is that of a merchant's, his worries are justified. He might be thinking that once the city improves more, I will come back to demand greater things and they will not have any choice but to comply as the dungeon that they're planning to profit from is under my control, there's also the matter about greedy people. Yup.

"I see, I understand," I simply said.

"Understand what?" He solemnly asked.

"Bluntly said, it is not the money that I want from you guys as I can make more than you'll ever make in your entire life in a single scheme. Hearing that, do you understand why I am helping this group of mercenaries and their base to develop so much?" I dropped everything I was holding onto the table, looked him in the eyes, and asked.

"… you want us to work with you when you needed something..?"

"Bingo. I don't need money, I need people I can rely on. I can't do everything on my own after all."

"But why us?" Confused, Nar couldn't help but mutter, which I heard clearly.

"To be honest, at first it was just the money but having heard of your and your friend's circumstances, I changed my mind. You guys are just the perfect people to put my trust on," I said before once again picking up the stack of leather papers.

"What makes you think that? We could be scheming behind your back-"

"Would you really be saying that if you were?" I mustered up a smiled and asked while looking at him in the eyes.

"… I guess not, you win."

As our small conversation finished, the door to the office opened and came in Blake with the halfling, Jacob.

"What do you think?" Standing up, I asked.

"I heard the gist of it," Blake said.

"Then what do you want to do? The decision's all yours now, Chief," I cheekily said as I presented to him the chair that I was sitting on. It's a wooden version of the modern office chair that you would see in the CEO's office. I made it myself using leather and some real sturdy wood I stole from Aurias' dungeon. Then carefully and thinly varnished it.

Sitting on it, Blake said, "In all honesty, I want to help them, but now that I have more responsibilities and people relying on me, I can't risk offending some underground group that profits off of slaves," true to the role, Blake said so.

(These people truly are so much better than I had initially thought.)

"Humu, that's right. You're no longer just a bunch of hunters, but a group of mercenaries. Speaking of such, have you sent someone for the registration?"

"Yeah, I have. Should arrive in a week or two, considering how far the capital from here is. Now back to the topic at hand, help me think of what to do with that halfling. My conscience is making it hard to make a decision," He pointed at Jacob and said.

Looking at him, I asked "Right, Jacob, do you have any form of information you can provide us? Like what kind of people were they?"

"Yes! They're evil bandits that attacked travelers that are traveling from the capital to the port city!" With his fists clenched he enthusiastically told us.

(If their range is only that much, then they're quite small-scaled. But to be sure…)

"Are you certain about that? If so, do you know who the leader is?"

"Yes! The bandits called him Boss Nolandro!" Jacob said to which Nar and Blake reacted.

"Did you just say Nolandro..?"

"Do you know him, Nar, Blake?" I asked.

"Yeah, I know him alright. That's because that scum was my mother's former assistant. If it wasn't for that bastard, my family would still be alive…" As he talked his voice turned deeper and his face irked.

"Nar…" Before Blake could complete his sentence, Nar interrupted him.

"Yes, Blake. I know. I'm not like old man Kler who's new to the group," He said before turning to Jacob.

(What are they on about?) Looking at Blake and Nar's behavior, I wondered.

"Who is this Nolandro?" Ignoring their behavior, I squeezed in and asked.

"You don't know- wait, of course you didn't know…" Blake looked like he was about to say something but instead whispered to himself.

(Just tell me already if you figured it out.)

"Right, Nar call Kler while I explain to her," Blake said to which Nar replied with "Roger" before leaving.

"Listen up…" Blake called out to me and started explaining.

Nolandro. He took over all of the property of Nar's family(at least what they had with them at the time of their travel) while killing all of them in the process. Nar's mother, his father, sister, and even his best friend that happened to be traveling along them, except for Nar, none was spared. Nar only miraculously survived because of their family's treasured item. A one-time-use item that would protect the user, transferring damage from them to it until broken. Nar has not used this item ever since as a memento of his deceased family and a reminder of his dark past.

Nolandro did it by hiring a group of bandits to attack their carriage that they were riding to the port of the Hyuu continent. These bandits are now working under him after he stole the riches of Nar's family and ran to the human continent as they were being hunted in the Hyuu Continent, the biggest reason being the fact that Nar's family was widely known and are a step away from being promoted to being aristocrats.

"In the Hyuu continent, this guy has a bounty of ten million Krus, that would be a hundred million Seya here. That was how much damage he did by massacring Nar's family."

(A whole brown gold coin? That's enough to feed me alone for the next twenty to thirty years… I want it.)1Can you see where this is going?

"Alright alright, enough about my family, I've brought Kler," as we were discussing Nar's past, he came knocking and entered with Kler.

"Hello there, chief, young miss. Are you feeling better? Do you have any idea as to what caused you to faint back then?" Kler bowed and asked of us.

(Since when has I become a young miss in his head? He use to call me a little girl, did his opinion of me had changed after that?)

"I'm fine now, kler. As to why I fainted, I don't have any idea either. We can discuss it later after this discussion. For now, tell us all you know about Nolandro," I pushed his questions to the side and asked him instead.

"Nolandro, huh… that's one unpleasant name you got there. Yes, I do know quite a bit about the guy, if that helps."

"Right, very sweet, now spill," I said as I sat on the couch. I made this too. This is what I meant when I said that I could get as much money as I want. Not through creating magic but through selling these kinds of things.

(The bounty aside, those unique skills he was talking about… if what he said about it helping them gather the seya they needed in order to escape then it could be related to…

Combat's out of the question since they're just children. No way they would be used to fight, that if they weren't cannon fodder.

What about gathering, no that won't work. They are slaves, they are used for labor or relief. Unless they were given some form of freedom by their previous masters then that could be it.

Still, I can't make any assumptions, there's too little information about her skills. Guess I'll ask him…)

As I was partially ignoring Kler's explanations, I interrupted and audibly said, "Jacob."

"Y-yes?"

Gathering everyone's attention, and getting Jacob's reply, I continued.

"Your friend's skills, depending on that person's skills I will decide to either help or not."

Hearing what I said, everyone's faces lit up, Jacob's being the brightest.

"Yes! She has the title [Metal's Gift]! It lets her make and control any metal as long as she knows about it! We sold one hundred iron bars to our master so he would free us!"

!?

Everyone was speechless except one person. That person then said…

"I want her…"

*****

I MADE A MISTAKE AND INPUTTED 45 YEARS INSTEAD OF 25. AAAAHHHH

This chapter sure took a weird curve and I just went with it cause I was having too much fun. Also, I'm finally free from school! I am about to graduate now!

Unlike the previous covers, this new one isn't entirely made by me. It is generated using Waifulabs and I made some changes to it here and there. Like the eyes and facial expression.

The schedule would be every Thursday 11 pm GMT+8.

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