The place where Milia led Claire turns out to be a crumbling house. The interior is, for some reason, buried under a thick layer of dust.
In that place where the air is filled with the smell of dust and mold, Milia lights a lamp.
“If you want to sit, there’s a chair over there……”
So offers Milia while standing.
That chair looks like it’d collapse at any moment.
“Suit yourself. So, you said your name is Claire, right? Your younger brother is most likely within the Red Tower of Elizabeth the Queen of Blood.”
“What did you mean when you said ‘sacrifice’?”
“In order to explain that, I have to first tell you the story of Elizabeth the Queen of Blood. Elizabeth was a progenitor vampire queen. More than a thousand years ago, there were other progenitors aside from her and vampires reigned over the night of the entire world.”
Milia speaks indifferently with eyes that seem to be looking somewhere far off.
“The vampires reigned, but eventually knowledge regarding the weakness of vampires spread among humans, and the hunters became the prey.”
Vampires have three weaknesses.
First: They die when their heart is pierced. Their astonishing regenerative abilities made them feared as immortals, but they can no longer regenerate when their heart is destroyed. This fact lent great strength to the humans who used to fear vampires.
Second: They cannot maintain their powers if they do not regularly suck blood. Vampires who go without blood for a long time end up with strength not much different from that of normal humans. Their very race requires them to coexist with, and never annihilate, humans.
Third: They turn to ash upon being exposed to sunlight. No matter how strong the vampire may be and how weak the human may be, anyone can kill a vampire by making use of sunlight. There are any number of methods, such as setting traps or destroying their homes. Thus daytime became the execution ground of many, many vampires.
“You sure know a lot about this.”
Claire is impressed while listening to Milia share her knowledge.
There are very few humans who know anything much about vampires.
The reason is because vampires are thought of as something from the distant past, and casualties due to them in recent day is almost zero. That is, with the sole exception of Outlaw City.
The Magic Swordsmen Guild staff who headed the meeting earlier also admitted to never having seen a vampire firsthand, and did not know anything beyond what the ancient texts they found said.
“The humans succeeded in whittling down their numbers. Eventually, vampires disappeared from the night of the world, and everyone began to forget that they ever existed. But then, a thousand years ago, a certain horrifying incident occurred. On a night when a Red Moon hung in the sky, a single country was wiped out of existence in one night. It was a country so small that now even its name has been entirely forgotten. But it was undoubtedly the work of Elizabeth the Queen of Blood and her kin.”
“By ‘Red Moon,’ are you referring to how the moon has been strangely red lately……?”
Milia nods in response to Claire’s question.
“The Red Moon significantly boosts the strength and abilities of vampires and their kin. On the night of the rise of the Red Moon, the vampires who had been driven into a corner rose up in revolt. The Red Moon lasted a total of three days. Within the first night, one country was obliterated. Within the remaining two nights, three more countries were damaged beyond the point of recovery. When the Red Moon finally went down, the Queen of Blood and her kin abruptly withdrew and hid themselves, waiting until the day when humans forget about them entirely……”
“Are you implying that very soon the vampires will once again rise in revolt?”
“They see humans as nothing more than livestock. The humiliation of having been cornered by livestock is something that they can never forget. Right now, the Queen of Blood has yet to awake from her thousand year long sleep. The one who is leading the vampires of Outlaw City is an aide of hers named Crimson. When the Red Moon begins, Crimson will surely resuscitate the Queen of Blood. If he succeeds, then the tragedy that took place a thousand years ago will be repeated again……”
“Don’t tell me, ‘sacrifice’ means……?”
“To revive the Queen of Blood, the lifeblood of a young man who possesses abundant magic is necessary. Claire’s younger brother will surely be presented to the Queen of Blood as the sacrifice……”
“As if I would let that happen! When does the Red Moon begin?!”
Milia looks through one of the holes puncturing the wall at the moon in the sky. The moon is already dyed deep crimson.
From far away can be heard voices that seem to be shouting.
“Just now, it has begun……”
Then screams reverberate throughout the night of Outlaw City.
“IT, IT’S A GHOOOUUULLLLL!! R-, RUN AWAAAYYYYYY!!”
People run helter-skelter in panic and desperation as the smell of blood suddenly pervades the air.
“The Rampage has begun…… the Red Moon grants them tremendous power. But the cost for that is an insatiable thirst for blood. This is where everything starts……”
“!! What about Sid?! He’s in the Red Tower, right?!”
Right as Claire is about to rush out, she is called back by Milia.
“Crimson will surely perform the revival ritual when the Red Moon is the deepest shade of red, because that is the moment when the ritual will have the highest chance of success. So, there is still about half a day’s time.”
“Half a day? Wouldn’t that be in the afternoon then?”
“The Red Moon continues for three days. During those three days, day never breaks. Don’t worry, I have a plan.”
So saying, Milia begins pulling up some of the worn-out floorboards.
“For the sake of this day, I……have dug this hole.”
Claire tilts her head.
That…… is definitely a hole.
Beneath where the floorboards used to be, there is a hole big enough for one person to crawl through at a time.
“The Red Tower is normally so overrun with vampires and ghouls that it’s impossible to enter. However, now that the Red Moon has begun, almost all of them have gone out. Which means this is a golden opportunity to sneak in……”
“In other words, this hole……”
“Sneaking in from aboveground would be difficult. That’s why I dug this hole to connect to the Red Tower from below.”
“…… I see.”
“I wish to confirm one last time. My aim is to kill Elizabeth the Queen of Blood. Your aim is to rescue your younger brother. We are agreed to help each other, yes?”
“Yes we are. I’ll be in your care, Milia.”
“And I in yours as well, Claire.”
Both of them spontaneously reach out to exchange a handshake.
“Now that that’s settled, let’s get going. Wait for me, Sid.”
Without hesitation, Claire heads into the hole.
While waiting for Claire to go first, Milia turns around and takes one last look at the red moon.
There seems to be traces of sorrow quivering within her eyes.
“Elizabeth-sama, it won’t be long now……”
After murmuring to herself, she proceeds to follow Claire.