243. Nightsveil Part 3
Saffron climbed off my back and dashed forward, hugging the man I’d just saved. So, that was her brother, huh? He was pretty strong according to his levels, but he didn’t look strong. In fact, he looked very weak with how scared he was.
He turned to her with a blink. Then he slowly hugged her back.
“How are you… who is this…?”
“I said: I’m Salvos!”
I waved at him, and he looked between us. Saffron stepped back, tears streaming out of her eyes.
“She’s a friend of mine— that doesn’t matter for now. I’m so glad you’re alive. I… where’s Father?”
She looked around, a worried look on her face. Her brother gestured behind him.
“He’s there— he’s fine. I mean, not fine. But we’re alive. I…”
He trailed off, scratching his cheek. Saffron exhaled deeply, placing a hand on her chest.
“I’m so glad we arrived in time.”
Nodding, he gave her a small smile.
“Thank you. And I’m glad I got to see you again.”
“Come on, where’s Father?”
Saffron started past him, and he quickly showed us the way. Before I continued, however, I looked over at him.
He shrank back as I crossed my arms. I leaned closer, and he began to tremble.
He spoke in a shaky voice. I frowned.
“Aren’t you going to introduce yourself? I gave you my name!”
Saffron’s brother blinked.
“I’m, uh, Cinne.”
“Well, nice to meet you, Cinne! I’m Salvos!”
I proffered a hand, and he shook it. He scratched his cheek.
“R-right. You’ve said that before… three times now… actually.”
With that settled, I followed Saffron to where her father was. I glanced over at Cinne and pointed at the lain man.
“What’s his name?”
I turned to the last man in the room— a knight who looked relieved to see Saffron. I opened my mouth, but Cinne spoke first.
“And that other man there is Harold.”
I nodded as Saffron placed a hand on Crocus. She pursed her lips.
“What happened to him? Why is he— his body is fine, but he’s not waking up.”
“Unfortunately, Lady Saffron, your father was cursed by the Primeval Demon. We’ve managed to mitigate most of its effects with what we had on us, but it’s still not enough. He will remain unconscious until we properly treat him.”
Harold spoke with a dour look on his face. Cinne closed his eyes.
“And we’re not sure if we’ll even get the chance for that.”
I glanced between them.
“Are you saying he’s cursed?”
I cocked my head back, tapping a finger on my chin. Then I nodded to myself.
“Let me try something—”
I walked past them. Harold and Cinne sputtered, but Saffron stopped them.
“Wait, don’t stop her.”
I sauntered over to the unconscious Crocus. The man was completely unscathed— no, he was recently injured. I could still see the marks on his skin. The signs of a healing potion being applied.
Then I lifted his hand, pulling something out from my own finger. I inserted the ring into his finger. A flicker came over his body as Cinne narrowed his eyes.
“What is that?”
“A Ring of Lesser Curse Resistance. A Cyclops gave it to me.”
Harold crossed his arms, snorting.
“Did you think that would work? The curse that Primeval Demon used was beyond the power of such trinkets. I suggest you step back and—”
With a jolt, Crocus sat up.
Edithe just watched them go. When they were gone and tensions had cooled, she sat down on a stool and massaged her temples.
“I need a drink…”
A mug was placed in front of her. Hadrian pulled out his own seat, shaking his head.
“Thank you, Edithe. For standing up for me.”
“I didn’t do it because of you. I did it because Jake was wrong.”
She scoffed as she gratefully accepted the drink. She sipped from it before sputtering.
“This— this is water…”
“I never said it was alcohol.”
Hadrian chuckled as he drank from his own mug. Actual ale. Edithe rolled her eyes.
“Jake was… partially right. You are to blame for this mess, but so am I. What he was wrong about was everything else. The Valiant Dreamers Company represents something more than just to protect a sword. After all, Baris sacrificed himself and the weapon to save us.”
She shook her head, and Hadrian nodded.
Should I not have said that? Edithe sighed. She didn’t know what to say anymore. Everything was fucked. And Hadrian agreed.
“Well, I just hope that Noah is right. That a [Hero] would save us all from this entire mess.”
Edith pressed her lips thinly together.
I know a [Hero], and I don’t know if he wants to involve himself with Belzu.
She changed the subject.
“That Demon… he knew about the Sword of Alexander. I just don’t understand his… its motivations. Why would it go for the sword before destroying Nightsveil? Could it not have done this beforehand? You saw its power— you heard about what it did to that coalition army a few weeks before, right?”
Hadrian drank from his mug again.
“And I think I know why it went for us first.”
Edithe blinked as he closed his eyes with a sigh.
He started, but hesitated. He needed a few more gulps of alcohol to inebriate him enough to speak.
“I believe that it may be collecting all the pieces of Alexander’s artifacts. It targeted us so it can challenge the other treasure’s powers. The Crown of Alexander. The Breastplate of Alexander. The Greaves of Alexander. And the Boots of Alexander. None of them would be able to counter that Demon now that it has the Sword of Alexander.”
“What do you mean?”
She narrowed her eyes.
“Shouldn’t all of the treasures of Alexander hold the same power?”
“They do, but they differ in purpose. And only the Sword of Alexander is designed with destruction in mind. The rest is for protection— either for oneself, or for one’s allies. And so, it doesn’t matter which of the artifacts that Demon may encounter in battle. The destructive effects of the Sword of Alexander will negate the protective effects of the others.”
“And that’s it’s now rampaging without a worry?”
Edithe placed a hand on her chin, but Hadrian shook his head to her surprise.
“No. It’s not just mindlessly killing others. It’s rampaging with purpose.”
Hadrian nodded gravely, drinking another mug of ale. Edithe probably should’ve said something about him drinking too much, but she really wanted to join in more than anything, really.
“Then why’s it there? Why’s it attacking Nightsveil of all places?”
“It’s because of what’s in the city— the other piece which he must be looking for. He came for the Sword of Alexander, did he not? So, logic would dictate that he’d go after the next piece of Alexander’s Mythical grade artifacts.”
“Why is there another of Alexander’s treasures in Nightsveil?”
“Because the one who carries it has traveled to its aid.”
Hadrian explained with a sigh.
“The Merryster Family. One of the greater Vampire families charged with protecting one of Alexander’s Mythical artifacts. They are in Nightsveil, and they have with them the Breastplate of Alexander.”
Crocus panted heavily, looking around the room.
Then his eyes widened. He spun around, swinging a fist.
“Where is he? Where’s that Demon bastard?!”
Cinne and Saffron exclaimed at the same time, rushing to their father. They embraced him, and he blinked slowly.
“Cinne, you’re still— and Saffron, what are you…?”
“Alright, now that he’s up and able, how about we get out of here now?”
I spoke over him, clapping my hands together. All four people in the room looked over at me as I gestured out the broken windows.
“Because, you know, this place isn’t safe?”
“Salvos is right. We should leave now.”
Saffron stepped towards me.
“She can fly us out of here before that Primeval Demon comes down at us.”
“That’s… It’s still alive?”
Crocus choked as he stared at me. I nodded.
“Yep! Last I checked, he was destroying the city.”
“Then that means— I… failed.”
He gritted his teeth as he lowered his head. His eyes lowered and closed as Cinne averted his gaze. Saffron looked at them, a pained look on her face.
“I understand how you feel, Father. But we cannot stay here any longer.”
Crocus spoke defiantly. He stumbled to his feet, pushing his children out of the way.
“There is still a chance. We need to get it to Bellward the Blademaster. If we give it to him, we may still win. Even if that Demon has the Sword of Alexander. Even in spite of the curses. Its magic can abate any curse— any foul magic that Demon has to throw at us.”
“What is this ‘it’?”
I cocked my head, but Saffron sputtered.
“The Breastplate of Alexander won’t change the tides of the battle. Look around us, Father. You can’t be this stubborn— we’ve already lost.”
Cinne shifted slightly. His gaze darkened as he spoke softly.
“Bellward the Blademaster is dead. And Alder the Elder fled the moment that happened. There is no longer any hope. We need to leave.”
Crocus clenched his fist as his own children rebuked his suggestion. I watched from the side, not caring enough to get involved. I just wanted to leave as soon as possible. But before I could once again assert my suggestion, I saw a flicker. The ring I had given Crocus flashed, and its magic died.
The man collapsed as he gripped his chest. I stared at him.
“Wait, did my ring’s enchantment just wear off?”
Both of the Merryster children yelled at the same time. They tried to help Crocus back up, but he was in too much pain— on the verge of passing out once more. Cinne cursed as he took in his father’s condition.
“We can’t leave him like this. He’ll die if we don’t help him— the curse is too powerful.”
Saffron stepped back, eyes widening.
“No, please… Father—”
I tilted my head back as they fussed over their dying dad. I raised my hand.
“What about that thing you were talking about?”
They looked over at me, confused, but Harold instantly knew what I meant.
“You mean to have master Crocus bear the Breastplate of Alexander?”
I nodded eagerly, explaining.
“I mean, you said it can defend against curses, right? Well, as far as I can tell, this curse on Crocus is an active curse. That’s why it managed to overpower my Ring of Lesser Curse Resistance. And that means it can be dispelled by a strong enough artifact. So, why not use that strong artifact you guys have?”
Saffron and Cinne exchanged hesitant looks.
“We can’t use that, Salvos. We’re forbidden from using Alexander’s treasures.”
I raised a brow.
“I see. Oh well, I guess he’ll just die then.”
“You can’t just say that!”
“We can’t just let Father die!”
“Then stop being so stubborn.”
I crossed my arms. He took a step back as I met his gaze.
“Do you want to save your father, or do you not? If you do, then put the Breastplate of Alexander on him. Otherwise, let him die. It’s your choice. Both of your choices.”
I slowly faced Saffron, and she pursed her lips. She stood up, reaching for a necklace on Crocus’ neck. Cinne narrowed his eyes.
“What are you doing, Saffron?”
“I’m saving Father.”
“You can’t do that!”
“I can and I will.”
She continued fumbling at Crocus’ necklace, furrowing her brows when nothing happened.
“I know you’re scared of the consequences, brother, so I will do it for you. Let Father punish me for disobeying our sacred rules. Let the other greater Vampire families persecute me. But… they should hold themselves accountable too, for their incompetence over the past few centuries— their incompetence that let this happen in the first place.”
Saffron scowled when she still couldn’t work the necklace, so she undid its chain and held it up. Her forehead creased as she tried to figure out what was wrong, but then a hand raised to stop her. She turned to Cinne.
“You can’t stop me.”
Cinne shuffled his feet uncomfortably. Steeling himself, he let out a sigh.
“That’s why I’ll help you.”
Saffron’s eyes grew wide before she smiled. She handed over the necklace, and Cinne whispered something underneath his breath. The necklace flashed— and it began to glow. He explained.
“This is a High Grade storage artifact, Saffron. It can’t be easily accessed by anyone who gets ahold of it. It has a password— one that activates its use. Now, you can summon the Breastplate.”
Cinne smiled as he passed it back over to Saffron. She nodded at him.
“Thank you, brother.”
“And I’m sorry, Saffron. For being a coward. For not being the older brother you deserve. For needing you to save me.”
Her eyes welled up as she blinked.
“What are you talking about? You’re the one always looking out for me.”
She laughed as she punched him lightly on the arm. They both held a shared moment of laughter as I watched from the side.
I felt my lips curling up at this scene. I placed a hand on my chest.
“This is very nice. It makes me feel good inside. But, unfortunately, you guys took a little bit too long.”
“What do you mean, Salvos?”
Saffron frowned, turning to me. I gestured out the broken stained glass window— at the figure hovering over the temple.