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Chapter 143: Bankhouse

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Author: TypeAxiom Original Source: Scribble Hub

Having Elyss nearby certainly attracted glances, but soon Camilla realized that she really had been a big fish in a small pond.

Elyss wasn’t that unique..

While it wasn’t to the degree that they were everywhere and most weren’t anywhere as big as Elyss was, there were still a surprisingly large number of mana beasts in the streets. However, many of them were collared, and some, like a largish horned wolf that just passed by them, led by a burly orc dressed in thick hides, were muzzled.

She looked at Elyss to see her reaction, but then she remembered that this was Elyss she was talking about. Elyss was the last person who would care about this kind of thing and if anything, she would probably join right in with the hands holding the collar if she could.

No wonder Lavitte and his party didn’t seem surprised when they saw Elyss, other than being a little startled by her size.

Not much longer later, they arrived at a rather busy part of the city. It wasn’t exactly crowded, but there were still many people dressed in all kinds of attire. The marketplace permeated the air with the smell of food.

Camilla didn’t know who it was, but someone’s stomach growled. When she looked around, no one in particular jumped out at her as the hungry one, neither did anyone confess.

“Any of you hungry?” Lavitte asked, sweeping his gaze over everyone.

The members of his party shook their heads. No one in Camilla’s team seemed like they were hungry, so Camilla rejected his offer. “Even if we were, we should probably see if we can exchange the money we have. We can’t impose on you forever.”

“No worries. Thanks to you, we managed to keep our catch without having to pay out or get into a troublesome battle. Little things like this are pretty minor compared to what you did for us,” he said, but faced with Camilla’s continuous rejection, he could only shrug and give up. “The exchange is right up ahead. Really though, it’s a bank of sorts.”

“And it’s close to the marketplace. That’s convenient.”

“Yeah. There are other banks all over the city though, like near the guilds, the governor’s hall, the arena, but I like this one the most even if it’s a bit out of the ways.”

Camilla made a show of looking around at all the people filling the streets. “I wouldn’t call this place sequestered in any sense of the word.”

“It’s pretty popular, but considering we base our operations near the hunting guild on the other side of the city, it’s quite far.”

“And you’ll notice there’s not many people carrying weapons,” Eva chimed in from next to Lavitte.

“It looks normal to me.”

Forestalling questions from Lavitte and Eva, Kagriss cut in to further explain Camilla’s reply. “In human cities, at least the one I’ve been to, most people don’t carry weapons in public. Only guards visibly carry weapons.”

Camilla nodded her thanks to Kagriss. “Yes. So this is the norm for us. Is it not for you? Isn’t it safe here?”

“I wouldn’t say it’s unsafe here,” Lavitte said, hesitating “Most people carry at least a small dagger and many of them can use it to a passable degree. But that’s because we live near the forest, you know? Mana is denser here than in the forest, so sometimes those beasts rush out and cause havoc.”

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“Not just the ones in the forest; you see those birds?” Eva said, pointing up.

Camilla followed her finger. “Yes.”

High up in the sky, birds constantly flew overhead, although most of them blended into the dark sky. However, whereas most of them disappeared into the distance without so much as a pause, a few circled rather ominously over the city.

“Are you talking about those circling ones?”

“Yes. Some of those are mana beasts as well—albeit small—and it’s not impossible that they attack. It never hurts to be careful, and it’s a lot dangerous fighting back with a knife and with your bare hands.”

“I see…but doesn’t having so many armed civilians destabilize the power structure?”

Lavitte and Eva stared at her blankly. “I’m not sure what you mean?”

Even Kagriss didn’t seem to understand, based on how intrigued and focused on Camilla’s next words she looked. With a start, Camilla remembered that just like how she grew up in a different environment and thus knew less about living such a free lifestyle than non-humans like Lavitte and Eva, they too were limited in their knowledge about things they weren’t familiar with.

Leading a small, close knit party was different from leading a large military organization, a discrepancy that she became intimately aware of during her early years as commander. It was more different still from the stresses and intricacies of governing a civil body. Most people wouldn’t have the requisite knowledge.

“Never mind then.”

The three of them immediately rose up in protest.

“Hey, that’s not fair!” Eva cried.

Lavitte nodded. “That’s right. You can’t throw out something like that and just not follow up.”

Kagriss didn’t even need to say anything, as Camilla could feel her displeasure through their bond, creating a skulking discomfort in the back of her mind that was more unsettling than anything Lavitte and Eva could say or do. She swallowed and backtracked. “I was just kidding…”

“Ah wait, we’re here,” Lavitte said, interrupting her.

They arrived in front of a building made of what had once been polished white stone, but now seemed worn and dirty from the wear of time and being located in such a busy part of the city. But the wear and tear apparent on the walls didn’t detract from the overall aesthetics but rather added to it—a modest building accented in blue, with roofs made of slate-like stone tile, again with the blue colors.

The bankhouse was elevated slightly and the marble steps that led up to the front entrance had little indentations from past visitors. Lavitte and Eva went up first. Camilla was going to let the rest of his party go as well, but Alayna paused and swept her hand, indicating for her to go.

Camilla smiled at her and went with Kagriss up the steps, feeling her feet naturally slipping into the grooves. It reminded her of some of the stairs in the older buildings of the Cloud Order, worn down over the years by steel-soled greaves. To step into these faint footprints brought a strange feeling to her heart, a feeling of belonging…

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The thought lasted no longer than a second and then she was at the top where Lavitte waited. “Come on.”

The bank’s interior was pretty much as Camilla expected—rather dimly lit yet still seeming bright thanks to the darkness of the night outside. As she walked, she ran her hand over the wooden furniture, feeling the texture and hardness of the wood. Heavy and durable.

She didn’t know what kind of wood it was, but it seemed solid and with a rich enough reddish-brown color that it would probably be considered a luxury wood back at Moltrost.

Compared to the bustling night activities, the bank was quiet, even though there were half a dozen or so people in the lobby, a fraction in line for the teller’s window. The number exploded with the arrival of Lucienne and the others following close after Kagriss. Alayna didn’t follow.

Camilla looked at the admittedly limited space inside, as well as the entrance. The latter was large, probably to accommodate orcs, but it was nonetheless nowhere near large enough for Elyss who was peeking in through the entrance. Her mane filled up the door.

“Maybe the rest of you should stay out as well?”

“I’m not inside.”

“I’m curious about this, though.”

Camilla sighed. Sometimes these two could be super immature, especially Elyss. Size did not equal maturity, especially the way that Elyss immediately went into pedantics. She could just imagine someone who wished to use the services of the bank coming here, and then getting eaten after ignoring the warnings of Alayna and poking Elyss’s behind or tugging on her tail.

What was sure to follow was them having to flee the city.

Of course, all this was just a fantasy in her mind and Camilla rolled her eyes at Elyss to show that her humor wasn’t appreciated. She turned to Lucienne. “You’ll have plenty of changes to look around later, but we don’t want to crowd this place up. Look, someone’s leaving.”

One of the people at the teller’s window, an elf, had just finished up his business and he jumped a little upon seeing Elyss’s huge face.

Lucienne pressed her lips together in disappointment.

“How about you stay and I’ll go?” Kagriss offered.

“No, it’s fine. Come on Elyss.”

With a little rumble from her chest, Elyss pulled away, leaving the door again. The outgoing customer gave them a glance that Camilla couldn’t read before leaving.

“He didn’t look very happy, that’s for sure.”

“Can you blame him?” Camilla replied, laughing a little at Kagriss’s observation. They got into line with Lavitte. It didn’t take that long before it was their turn. But she quickly found a problem with the teller’s window.

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When the teller said in her song-like voice “Hello,” Camilla ignored it. She was too busy stepping on her tiptoes to reach the window which was high up. Really high up.

Perhaps it was because the bank had orcs as regular customers, but from Camilla’s perspective, the window was made for giants. It reached Kagriss’s chest, which meant her own eyes were level with the lip of the window.

To the teller, a lady vampire, it was like she didn’t exist. The teller gave a friendly, professional smile to Lavitte, Eva, and Kagriss, and offered a patronizing smile like one would a child before focusing back on Lavitte.

“How may I help you this evening?”

Lavitte shook his head. “Oh, I’m not the one that needs something,” he said, a sly smile on his face.

The teller tilted her head and turned to Eva, a vampire just like her, but Eva shook her head as well. Finally, the teller looked at Kagriss, who nodded at Camilla. Camilla’s gaze burned into the teller’s eyes.

“Are you serious?” she asked as her face turned red.

The teller winced. She must have been sitting on a high chair on the other side, because there was no way she could reach the window so comfortably while sitting otherwise. “I’m so sorry! I didn’t… Ahem, Do you need a stool?”

“No!” That’s even worse.

She hadn’t needed to use a stool to reach something since she was a tiny trainee at the Order, and she didn’t want to start now. The little hints of amusement she felt through her bond with Kagriss didn’t help matters at all.

Also, she was pretty sure that the teller was going to say something rude before she thought better of it.

When hands from behind her reached around and tightened, she shrugged it away. “Lifting me up isn’t any better!” she snapped at Kagriss. The amusement only grew and Kagriss stopped trying to pick her up, although she continued to hold on. The feeling of Kagriss hugging her made up for the humiliation from before, somewhat.

“I’m really sorry! Please wait, I’ll lower the window,” the vampire teller said.

“Lower the window?” Camilla asked in suspicion as she backed up a few steps to look at the teller incredulously.

“Yes. Please wait a moment.”

The teller did something then and with a quiet clank, the counter shuddered. Camilla had been holding on to it so when the wooden lip moved, her heart jumped with it and she had to stop herself from springing back.

Kagriss felt her start and hugged her tighter and Camilla blushed harder. Her embarrassment turned to confusion right after. “What in the world…”

The counter began to lower with an ominous, repetitive clack, clack, clack and the sound of grinding metal. It stopped when the entirety of Camilla’s startled face was visible over the wooden lip.

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If it wasn’t for her being too proud to look like an ignoramus, she might’ve taken a closer look at the counter. Of course she knew how it worked. Gears. But what startled her was how hidden the mechanisms were and the fact it was used for something so minor.

It didn’t seem like it would be worth the trouble, but she supposed it wasn’t that much of a stretch to make it so that a reasonable number of races that lived in the city had easy and comfortable access to services…

Was her height going to be a problem from now on? But she didn’t want to show her wings, because doing so would reveal her as a vampire lord to everyone, which would be troublesome. So flying was out of the question.

Hiding her irritation behind a poker face, she looked up at the teller who was descending as well with that same gear mechanism that Camilla couldn’t see—only hear.

“I apologize for the trouble—”

“No, I should say that. I’m sorry for being so short and making all this necessary,” Camilla muttered, though she regretted her words right after, as it wasn’t the teller’s fault.

The teller averted her gaze. “Um…sorry. Like I said, how can I help you?”

Camilla pulled out her pouch of crests and placed it on the counter. The teller took it and looked inside, shaking out a coin. “This is…?”

“Crests. It’s a human currency. Do you recognize it?” Camilla asked, though from the teller’s experience there was probably no hope. Her stomach dropped.

“A human currency…it doesn’t seem to be from anywhere nearby, so I don’t. If you were hoping for an exchange, I’m afraid that won’t be an option.”

“I see…” Camilla’s head dropped in disappointment. She was about to reach for the bag when she realized that the teller wasn’t returning it. A small bit of hope flared in her chest. “Wait, would I be correct in assuming that there’s options other than exchange?”

The teller smiled and nodded, looking much more cheerful now that her customer was looking less displeased. “Yes! In fact, since even the humans know to at least put some inherent value in their currency…”

Camilla chose to ignore the superiority with which the vampires spoke about the humans.

“…these will likely have some precious metal content, which means there is probably some value in extracting them. The only problem is that there are also costs associated with extraction, not to mention we don’t know if the metals are of value to us.”

While that wasn’t the best alternative, it was also the only alternative aside from just retaining the coins. While it seemed attractive to let the teller have the coins be melted down, the value was likely going to be far below the worth of crests in Moltrost and its surrounding area.

She was planning on going back eventually to deal with the undead problem, so perhaps it wouldn’t be the best idea to keep the crests handy. Her party could probably last until they took down a beast nearby.

After thinking her decision over, she shook her head. “No, never mind. Thank you for your suggestion.”

The teller smiled and handed the bag back, bowing slightly to her. “No problem. I’m sorry I couldn’t help you more, and… I’m sorry.”

It wasn’t hard to guess what the last apology was for and Camilla nodded. The teller’s smile widened.

“Hopefully I can be a customer in the future,” she said, half-joking. Only half, because she had no idea how long she’ll stay here, or if she’ll be able to move on the Dianene soon.

With the teller calling out her goodbyes behind them, Camilla led the way out of the building.

“Don’t feel too bad, I guess?” Lavitte said.

“I’ll manage somehow.”

“Are you sure?” Eva asked. “We can spare some money to get you a place to rest.”

As Camilla was about to reject them further, a cold hand clamped over her mouth, preventing her from making a sound. Her eyes widened as Kagriss leaned over her.

“Please, that would be helpful.”

Eva beamed. “Great!”

Only then did Kagriss let go.

“What was that for?” Camilla hissed, hanging back out of the elf and vampire’s earshot as she glared at Kagriss.

But Kagriss didn’t seem to have a single speck of guilt in her eyes as she evenly held Camilla’s glare. “From what I observe from living interactions, there is a limit to how much one can politely reject a sincere request. If you said no one more time, I think you would’ve crossed that threshold,” she whispered back.

Although Camilla wanted to argue, her lover’s words doused the subtle heat that had gathered in her mind without noticing, starting from when she couldn’t reach the counter and only grew when she found out that her options were rather bad. That tiny anger, undetected by her undead physique, distracted her and clouded her mind so much that she had become rude without even noticing it.

But…she was still a bit upset, after all…

She didn’t want to apologize, so she settled on reaching for and squeezing Kagriss’s hand, trying to communicate her feelings over their touch and bond. Kagriss probably received it.

Once out of the bank, the four that went in found the others sitting on a bench nearby eating skewers. Or rather, from what Camilla could tell with her nose, Ariel and Sariel were eating meat skewers while what Alayna and Celaen were having seemed less like meat and more like vegetables with much of the same seasoning. Whatever it was, it wasn’t meat.

As for the last two, Duura and Elyss, their portions were much bigger. Duura was tearing at what seemed like the entire lower leg of a hog, roast whole, while Elyss picked at a mass of really, really rare flesh behind the food stand. Blood seeped into the cracks of pavement from her mear.

Camilla paled. “Where did she even get that? Also Eva, what exactly do you eat here?”

She looked for Marion, the other vampire in Lavitte’s party, but he was standing to the side next to Alayna holding her drink. And they were awfully close together. In fact, they were never far from each other. With a start, Camilla realized what she was seeing.

And when she looked toward Eva for her answer, she found Eva clinging onto Lavitte’s arm.

The words died in her throat and she looked pleadingly at Kagriss, only for Kagriss to not even be paying attention to her. Biting her lips, she pulled on Kagriss’s hand. When Kagriss looked over, Camilla hugged her arm.

Kagriss’s eyes widened. “Is something wrong?” she whispered. Camilla shook her head. Confusion swirling in her eyes, Kagriss nonetheless pulled Camilla closer.

Satisfied, Camilla called out to Eva again.

“That’s easy. All vampire cities have something called the blood tax. Basically, all citizens have the civil duty to feed us! Of course, some of us don’t need it,” she said smugly and looked up at Lavitte.

Camilla narrowed her eyes and sniffed. So what? She had her own source too.

Still, the idea of a blood tax was interesting. She’d never had thought of something like that. Ever since she first drank Kagriss’s blood, drinking blood had become something intimate—coming a long way from when she convinced a random cow to donate some.

But in the end, simple necessity prevailed over the emotional aspect of drinking blood for single vampires.

“How do you participate if you need blood?” she asked.

“Are you in need of blood, my lady?”

Suddenly, the way that Eva addressed her changed and something glinted in her eye. Something dangerous. Unsure what it is, Camilla took a step back and watched the vampire wearily.

“If you are, you can always have my blood!”

Camilla quickly shook her head. “No, I—”

“I really don’t mind!” Eva let go of Lavitte and stalked closer while Camilla took another step back behind Kagriss.

“No, I have Kagriss…” She might have blushed if it wasn’t for her alarm at Eva’s strange condition.

“Are you sure? A vampire’s blood is better than any other race’s,” she said as she tilted her head and exposed her neck. It was a slightly lighter color than her face, being hidden from the sun most of the time. “Come!”

Seeing the snowy white skin, Camilla swallowed despite herself, but before she could dwell on it any further, she shut her eyes. The dull sound of flesh hitting flesh rang out and her eyes flew open to see Eva reeling back from the blow Kagriss delivered with her palm.

Kagriss’s arms were still extended. “Stay back from my Milla,” she growled.

That name again. Camilla’s heart prickled with a strange feeling.

Holding her forehead in pain, Eva crouched down.

“I’m so sorry!” Lavitte bowed down and apologized in Eva’s stead. “Eva, you too. What’s gotten into you?”

Eva slowly stood up, rubbing the red mark that remained. “Sorry…I kind of lost control. But I couldn’t help it. It’s not every day that you get to have a vampire lord drink your blood and I kind of got excited. I thought if I missed this chance, I’d never get one again!”

Camilla was speechless. That was it?

Even Lavitte pinched the bridge of his nose. “I really don’t get you vampires no matter how much time I spend with you,” he said.

“Hmph. You won’t. But I wouldn’t have tried in the first place if I knew you were taken, Miss Camilla,” Eva said with a guilty smile.

Then something hit the back of her head and she spun around to face Lavitte, who stared at her with disbelief. “You really couldn’t tell?” Lavitte asked. “Really, after all this time? Oh right, I forgot. You were oblivious to your own brother getting a lover until they kissed in front of you.”

“Ah ahhh, you promised you wouldn’t talk about that!”

As Eva kicked Lavitte’s shin, Camilla had to stop herself from making more than a small smile and holding tight onto the arm of Kagriss who stood protectively in front of her.

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