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Chapter 144: Something Off

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Author: TypeAxiom Original Source: Scribble Hub

After a quick tour around the marketplace, Camilla got a fairly good idea about the prices in Dianene. According to Lavitte, many of the other cities nearby had similar pricing when applicable, as long as they weren’t located near a mine or something that drastically lowered local prices.

Like Celrantis, Dianene was a city under the banner of Tuldor which bore the name of the local ruling dynasty. Unlike Celrantis, which had Victoria at its head, Dianene wasn’t ruled by a single vampire lord but was rather governed through a council consisting of thirteen senators, two from each of the five major races and three that represented the rest. Of course, each race could only vote for their own senator without interference from other races.

Even the vampires were not exempt from the rule, nor did they have more immediate power than the other races, having only two seats on the council. Still, Dianene’s location precluded the possibility of a revolt against the vampires, nor did the vampires of Dianene ever give their fellow townsmen reason to.

“So that’s what you mean by destabilization?” Lavitte asked, playing with his dagger.

Somehow, the topic of average prices turned to the system of governing. Well not well versed in it, Camilla at least knew the basics and theory. “Correct. The circumstances here are different from what I’m used to. Back in human lands, most countries are city-states. Larger countries may have multiple cities under their rule, but never more than five. As a result, to prevent any uprising, rulers in most cities restrict the ability for their subjects to carry weapons or learning to fight, unless they need them for war.”

“…that’s kind of messed up. Not sure about other cities, but that kind of thing will never fly here. For one, no one likes being sitting ducks when mana beasts attack.”

“There’s not many beasts around in human lands,” Camilla said. “But the fact you have these…elections…does make revolt much less likely, especially when everyone seems to have a say in the matter of governance. If there is dissatisfaction, you can simply change out the senator, and you can’t just scapegoat a single person for a problem.”

Lavitte laughed at that. “Oh, you have no idea. Everyone on the council is a scapegoat for one thing or another. But you’re right about the other things, though. Now, I’d love to talk more about this, but we’re here.”

“I think we’ll be staying here for quite a while,” Camilla replied with a sigh. “It might even be faster to go to Celrantis on foot and pass by some other cities, no? A bit of sightseeing.”

“Valid. If you do leave early, our party will always welcome back here at Dianene, right?”

The rest of his party nodded at his words.

Camilla smiled her thanks and walked into the building they arrived at. Inside, between two heavily armed guards, was a door. The teleporter lay in the room beyond.

When she looked at the teleporter, Camilla sucked in a deep breath and held it in awe at the sight of it.

Looking at it, she felt her skin prickling. The longer she stood in the thing’s presence, the more the feeling grew.

Without realizing it, she reached out and grabbed Kagriss’s hand, who squeezed back.

Even Elyss who seemed so nonchalant to everything stared at the teleporter in silence.

The teleporter was encased in a formation of five dark-red pillars that reflected and refracted the light, adding its own ominous glow to it. They seemed to be made of opaque rubies. Column after column of glyphs that Camilla didn’t recognize ran down the length of the pillars, barely visible thanks to the reflections.

The pillars themselves stood on a raised, circular platform. Complicated lines that reminded Camilla of large-scale ceremonial magic that required multiple archpriests to perform, like the Harvest Blessing, ringed the platform. Yet, strangely enough, there were grooves with little dark red made of the same dark-red glass as the pillars set into it, as if it was meant to be slid around.

At the center of this grand, mystical structure, there was a solid red ball that pulsed as if alive, but the pulsing seemed almost illusory—half solid, half not. Camilla couldn’t tell if the ball itself was growing and shrinking, or it was just mana. The ball floated between the five pillars. Unlike the mirror-like pillars, the ball seemed like a pool of blood, seeming just translucent enough to betray its depth that extended down deeper than it’s size allowed. The longer Camilla looked at it, the deeper she lost herself in the utter nothingness of the void.

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She gripped Kagriss’s hand to anchor herself.

“T-that’s the teleporter?” she asked, recomposing herself.

“That? No, well yes, it’s the teleporter. But that’s just it’s dormant form,” Lavitte said.

Camilla looked at him. “What do you mean dormant form?” she asked.

“Dormant meaning it’s not active. The pillars and stuff around it are filled with spell structural runes that sustain the spell,” he said. He pointed at the ball in the center. Instead of bobbing up and down, undulating like Camilla thought the thing ought to, the ball was completely still. “When it’s not in use, the teleporter is shrunken down to that state where it consumes the least mana.

“Only when it’s activated does it reveal its true form, though I’ve never seen it. I heard that while activated, it consumes a gigantic amount of mana, which is why it’s so expensive. If it wasn’t for the Tuldor crown mandating that all cities must have an active and maintained teleporter, I doubt Dianene would have one.”

“Mandated by the crown, huh?” Camilla murmured, half to herself. From what she heard, the Tuldor crown rarely interfered with each city, so this kind of thing was a huge exception. But, the teleporter was a great enough asset that it was probably worth it. If she was interpreting the teleporter correctly, the teleporter essentially extended the blood projection ability that vampire nobles had to all people, as long as they were willing to pay the price of the immense amount of mana it required.

“So how expensive is it?” she asked.

Lavitte looked at one of the guards. Both were vampires taller than Lavitte, entire heads taller than Camilla. Catching the elf’s gaze, the guard produced a piece of paper. “Current rate is seven thousand bloodstones per person”

Hearing the price, Camilla winced while Lavitte gave her a knowing look. She sighed and turned to leave. After familiarizing herself with the value of a single bloodstone, the cost of using the teleporter was put into context for her.

“Don’t worry. There’s still some time until the next opening. Maybe more people will sign up.”

Camilla stared at Lavitte in disbelief. “You’re insane if you think we’ll come close to getting enough.

Lavitte just laughed and shrugged.

——

“Seven thousand bloodstones per person…” Camilla muttered as she sat down on the bed in the inn room she and Kagriss booked. Lucienne, Sariel, and Ariel had another room to themselves.

Although she tried to get Elyss into a facility for tamed mana beasts, she had snorted. “As if I’ll let you stick me in with those pets without a trace of the wild left in them.”

Helpless, Camilla had to get a magical collar that marked her as an “owned” mana beast. As much as Elyss protested the collar, Camilla made her put it on anyway if she wanted to roam outside the city walls. It was the only way to keep her safe from hunting parties and eventually, Elyss gave in.

That left just her and Kagriss in the room, alone together. “Kagriss…what do you think? I don’t really know what to do.”

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“I’m not sure. But, whichever option you choose, I have faith that it’ll go right,” Kagriss said, putting her arms over Camilla from behind and hugging her.

“You’re a lot more confident in me than I am in myself.”

“Don’t say that. You should believe in yourself more. What’s gotten into you now anyway?” Kagriss said. “You didn’t used to be like this, but ever since you crossed the border, you changed.”

Camilla sighed. “Did I?”

“Perhaps other people can’t tell since outwardly you didn’t change much, but the way you speak…it’s subtle, but it did change. Not to mention, I can feel your doubt ever so slightly over our bond.”

“Sorry.”

Thunk!

“Ow!” Camilla held her head as Kagriss knocked her knuckles on her like a door. “What?”

“You’re doing it again! Stop apologizing to me and apologize to yourself for being like this, and change back to what you were like before!” Kagriss said, and hit her on the head again. “Believe in yourself. Your decisions, once you have made them, are correct.”

Kagriss’s knuckles didn’t hurt, but they knocked solidly on her head. For some reason, the places she knocked on began to itch and Camilla rubbed at it.

“But what if I’m wrong? I don’t know nearly as much as I thought I did…”

“Do you think I know more, then? What about Lucienne and Elyss?”

Camilla thought about the question and the answer came readily. She shook her head. Kagriss was really good at magic, and lately people, but that was it. Lucienne was an inexperienced former-templar, and Elyss used her instincts a lot more than her mind. Put like that, she really was the person most knowledgeable and best suited for making the decisions, but—

“I can feel your doubt again.”

Kagriss interrupted her thoughts and Camilla blinked.

“Sor—ah. Um, okay. But if I were the person making the decision, I wouldn’t have accepted that,” she said, pointing at the pouch sitting on the dresser by the bed.

The pouch contained the bloodstones that Lavitte had given them in front of the hunter’s guild.

His party went inside to turn in their request while Camilla decided to wait until day to check out the guild, and so they parted. Before Lavitte went inside the large building, he gave Camilla the pouch, totalling one thousand bloodstones in total, more than enough for Camilla’s group to live in comfort for a while as long as they weren’t wasteful.

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Kagriss had accepted them in her stead, but Camilla still felt a pit in her stomach when she looked at the pouch.

“That’s different, though. You’re too prideful.”

“…am I?” Camilla asked, rubbing her face, as if pride was something stuck on.

“I think so, yes.” Kagriss let go of her and sat back down next to her, but as she did, she adjusted Camilla’s pose so that they sat face to face.

Faced with Kagriss’s violet gaze, Camilla felt herself bared to her lover, unable to hide anything. But the feeling wasn’t intrusive, not much at least. Instead, she felt hope. Hope that Kagriss would be able to find whatever was broken inside her and fix it, so that she could go back to normal.

“From what I learned, pride is both a boon and flaw, but it’s invisible. No one thinks that they are prideful, they merely think that what they do is normal. But I think you are prideful,” Kagriss said. “You have your ideals as a templar—generosity, especially—no matter if you decide to ignore it. For example, if you can, would you help someone without asking for payback?”

Without thinking, Camilla nodded, only to freeze as she realized that her answer was exactly what Kagriss described.

Indeed, a templar should be generous. When a person is in need, they should extend their hand in an offer to aid. At least, that’s what Camilla grew up getting pounded into her head at the Order.

But that was in the past. Too much generosity was a fatal flaw as Victoria put it. Costs and benefits should be weighed before every action. Although it didn’t sit well with her, Camilla did her best and took her mother’s advice to heart for the sake of her own future.

Had she been unconsciously failing? Camilla licked her lips uneasily, even as Kagriss took all of it in. Kagriss grabbed her hand and enveloped it between her own. It was…warm.

“I don’t think that generous part of you is bad, but when combined with your pride, it’s rather strange. When you decided to help Lavitte and drive away the humans, you didn’t think of it as a transaction, right? It was a favor, a helping hand.”

Camilla nodded. Of course, there was also the sense of duty she had to protect Eva and Marion, but that was just a part of it.

“Since it was a favor, naturally you don’t want any payback. That’s normal, but when taking into account your pride, don’t you think you’re rejecting it a bit too much?”

With a twist of her finger, Kagriss sent a wisp of black mist over the pouch and pulled it into her hand. “Even when it would be helpful, you rejected it since it didn’t fit your ideals. Despite knowing that it was out of Lavitte’s own generosity, after your repeated refusals, you prioritized your pride without knowing it.

“Lavitte has his own pride, you know? Imagine if you were grateful for someone’s help. It meant a lot to you, yet that person refuses to let you pay them back. Just like how you are taught to be generous and help without expecting or accepting repayment, others don’t want to feel like they are in debt.”

Camilla remained silent when Kagriss finished, her mind spinning as she tried to process what Kagriss said. Her mind had been in a fog for the longest time that she failed to notice things that she should’ve been able to observe. Now, a bit of that fog was starting to clear.

What Kagriss said made sense when laid out so clear, but when it came to the flaws…Camilla didn’t want to admit it. Her pride wasn’t a flaw. To be proud wasn’t a bad thing.

But, she had been inconsiderate to Lavitte and his pride as well. In a way, that made her a hypocrite.

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As Camilla mulled over her words, Kagriss fished a bloodstone out from the pouch and began to play with it. The bloodstones were made of a reddish-orange metal that smelled heavily of iron and copper, of blood. They were cut into ingot-like bars, wide and flat for stable stacking. Each was marked with a number that marked its denomination, and the color varied slightly between each value.

Bloodstones were the second type of currency she’d ever seen, the first being the crests used by humans in Moltrost.

Her eyes shining, Kagriss began to play with the bloodstone. She fiddled with it, first turning it over as she admired the design. Her gaze stopped on the insignia stamped on the stick—a bat, leathery wings and all, but crossed in front of it were a pair of feathery wings like one would see on a bird.

She had seen it before on Camilla’s clothes, hidden in rather inconspicuous locations like buttons or the ends of some ribbons. It seems to be the emblem of Tuldor, so it made sense that the clothes Camilla received from her mother would have the emblem embroidered or otherwise marked on it.

Still, why would a family of vampires have feathery wings on their emblem? Camilla never mentioned anything about it, although at the same time Kagriss had her suspicions about whether or not Camilla knew the reason in the first place.

Keeping the thought to herself, she smiled.

The smile, seen from the corner of Camilla’s vision, made her stir from her thoughts. Kagriss dropped the bloodstone back into the pouch and turned back to Camilla.

“Have you thought it through?” she asked.

Camilla hesitated, and then shook her head. “I tried, but I don’t think I can give up my pride even if it’s a flaw.”

Kagriss’s mouth twitched. Camilla thought that she might’ve just suppressed a smile, based on the amusement coming over from Kagriss’s side of the bond.

“Sorry, I shouldn’t have said that pride was a flaw. That was probably the wrong word for it, but it does restrict your thinking at times.”

“I know…” Camilla sighed again, pinched the bridge of her nose. “But I don’t know what to do.”

“I don’t think you necessarily have to do anything though?” Kagriss said, and Camilla looked up, a bit surprised.

“What do you mean?”

“As long as you’re aware of your pride and accept it as a part of you, keeping it in mind when you make decisions, it won’t be a problem anymore. You should control your pride and not let it control you. Just like I probably shouldn’t be greedy…” Kagriss looked at the pouch in her lap and handed it back to Camilla. Camilla looked at the bag speechlessly.

“Greedy?”

“Just a little.”

Camilla laughed. “Even if you’re greedy, I think I’d do my best to indulge you.”

“Then, I suppose that when you’re feeling proud, I’ll sing your praises?” Kagriss suggested.

“No, don’t! That’d be a bad influence on me.” Camilla’s voice dropped low. “And if I get too proud, I’d probably forget what you just told me. Control my pride, and not the other way around.”

“That’s right.”

“If I keep that in mind, I…probably, just maybe, will be able to accept Lavitte’s money by myself.”

At that, Kagriss rolled her eyes. Kagriss rolling her eyes looked really weird and out of place, especially since Kagriss didn’t usually make expression. “Sorry, but I doubt it. You’d also have to take into consideration Lavitte’s own pride. Speaking of which, you used to be more perceptive.”

“Yeah, I was.” Camilla looked at her lap, and after a brief moment, she leaned back and dropped onto the bed, kicking her shoes off and letting her legs dangle. She looked up at the ceiling, painted white and smooth. “While I was thinking about my pride, I also realized something. I had a lot on my mind.”

“I guessed as much. You seemed out of it. Changed.”

“Yeah! I know why now. It was because everything felt so unfamiliar. I felt like I couldn’t do anything, because all of my knowledge was useless.”

A shadow fell over her. Camilla blinked and there was Kagriss, looming over her. Kagriss’s black hair fell down around her face, strands of it tickling Camilla’s cheeks. She stared down in Camilla’s eyes and Camilla looked back.

“That’s not true.”

“I know, but regardless of what I do or do not know, it’s how much I feel I know that’s important.”

“…I guess you’re right. Was that why you seem different?”

Camilla nodded. “I felt lost. I think it’s gotten better now though. Thanks to you hitting my head and waking me up.”

Kagriss knocked her on the head again, a lot more gently this time. “I can do it as many times as I need.”

“Haha, please do. Now, with that said, I still want to ask about what we should do. Seven thousand bloodstones for each person, forty-two thousand for all of us total. All of it down the drain if we use it to teleport to Celrantis.” Camilla listed out the first option. Kagriss nodded. Then, Camilla began on the second. “On the other hand, it’s a month-or-so long journey on foot, but we save that money.”

“If you put it like that, the answer is pretty obvious, isn’t it?” Kagriss asked.

Camilla was about to argue, but as the denial was at the tip of her tongue, her sanity kicked in. Again, Kagriss was right—the answer was obvious.

How long did forty-two thousand bloodstones take to earn? Camilla had no idea, but a month or so would be a minimum, probably. Her judgement had been so crowded by her worries that she failed to do basic math…

She closed her eyes, a bit disgusted with herself, yet deep inside, warmth began to spread from her center all the way out to the tips of her fingers and toes. It was as if she had been repaired, turned better than new.

“Kagriss?”

“Yes?”

Camilla pulled her down and kissed her on the lips. “Thank you.”


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