As soon as she left the house, Serena hastened her pace to get to somewhere safe. However, she had been followed.
It was risky being so visible within the slums during night, and three men caught her on a dark alley.
”Give us whatever you have in that bag, we..- we’ll let you go soon.” The men looked at her lustfully.
There was no negotiation, nothing.
She had a dagger that they hadn’t noticed, but so what?
She showed her vampire fangs, but they weren’t noticed since it was so dark. Instead, one of the men punched her straight to her cheek out of impatience. She dropped the dagger.
Serena was staring at the red velvet bag in a complete daze, and slowly emptied it in her hand. Her eyes were fully open and her breathing was not coherent. She was afraid.
”St.. Stop,” her shaky voice only enticed one of the men further. Her facade had dropped. He grabbed her thigh and she was afraid, but she used all her strength to punch him.
Her punch hit the man’s chest, but he didn’t even seem to notice. He put her on her stomach, and Serena’s mind went blank.
“Wow, she’s so hot. Are you sure she isn’t a princess?” one of the men was hesitantly unbuckling his belt.
The man was about to lift her dress, when he had his throat slit. Some of it came down on Serena.
As soon as she was released from the grip, she turned her head around. She still couldn’t stand due to the shock.
It was him. It was the boy she had robbed twice.
With a numb expression, he leaped towards the two other men who were still confused. They all died within a few seconds.
She looked at him, then realised. Serena had finally met her pitiful end. She started crying. She didn’t remember the last time she cried.
Her unhurt cheek took a weak slap from the boy.
The slap made her open her eyes and she saw him looking at her with agitation.
His indigo eyes were stern and scolding. It was the same look he had given her when he had tied the strings of the velvet bag onto her waist. It was the look a predator gave their prey before finishing them off.
She looked at him for a bit. She couldn’t take it anymore. She burst into tears again, and fell down on her knees.
“..Stop crying.” His voice was now softer, and his sharp eyes turned lazy.
As soon as she realised she wasn’t going to die, Serena did the unexpected.
She jumped into his arms. She was hugging him, while crying on his shoulder even louder than before.
She never hugged anyone like this, not even her father. Maybe that’s why it felt so good to her.
The boy wriggled out of her hands, picked up the money on the ground and began walking away.
Serena was left dumbfounded. That relief she got from crying on the shoulder of someone who just saved her, it was taken away just like that.
”I…” she was trying to say something.
The boy looked back momentarily with a numb expression, but then looked to the blue night sky and disappeared.
After finally collecting herself, Serena drank blood from the wrist of one of the corpses.
She had to survive. She required this blood to live, now she would be secure for another week or so.
Serena stared at the ground. The boy had taken his money back, but the empty red velvet bag was still there. She picked it up and dusted it off carefully with her hand.
Thomas woke up early and took a 10-minute walk to a certain reception office. The winds were cold that day, so he had put on a scarf.
He struggled with reasoning his own decisions in the past day. He must have spared her because she reminded him of his little sister. His sister is one of the few childhood memories he was fond of.
Inside the wooden building, there were a lot of people. Each of the receptionist desks had a long line, and commotion could be heard from each direction.
These were vampire hunters. Most of them were busy blaming the receptionists because they were poor at their own jobs.
“Whaa-? So you’re telling me I don’t even get paid?“ A bulky man in his thirties appeared beet red from anger, scratching his head. There was a fresh wound on his arms that went through his shirt.
“Sir, if you let a vampire get away, you don’t get the reward for extermination.” A younger man by the reception desk with a sharp nose and blonde hair seemed agitated.
The vampire hunters’ office wasn’t new, it was established the same day as the kingdom was. Something had to be done against the monsters.
Vampires were the most human-like creatures out of all the monsters. However, if they didn’t get enough blood, they would lose themselves to their bloodlust before long. Once a vampire loses their mind, they become a force to be reckoned with, slaughtering anything from their way.
Not only that, but the vampires were vicious creatures that viewed themselves as supreme beings. Humans, that were ‘below them’, were mere toys filled with sweets. These toys were also essential for their survival.
The number of vampires had grown in the past years, so hunting them had become a trend. It paid so well, that many would risk their lives to exterminate one of them and gain enough to feed a family for twenty or so years.
The power level of the vampires varied. They could all be killed with traditional ways, the same ways that killed humans. But the closer to the ancestor vampires their bloodlines were, the faster their reflexes and speed normally were. These vampires were hard to deal with, since their speed was simply inhuman.
Thomas did wander about the city searching for targets, targets were assigned to him. There was an intelligence team gathering information on the most powerful monsters within the kingdom. That information was then relayed forward to him to act upon.
Thomas was a bounty hunter of sorts, he was the kingdom’s personal bouncer. The higher-ups gave him jobs to do, and he did them.
Vampires were the most common monsters within the walls, but sometimes even more powerful ones made their way in. Those jobs were then assigned to someone in the special branch, which Thomas had been promoted to.
Walking around and checking on the receptionists, there was a tall woman with her light-coloured hair neatly tied into a bun. She had glasses and a suit on. The angry look on her face seemed permanent. She was much older than Thomas, and carried herself with a grace that was even beyond her age. Thomas had always admired the woman’s eloquent demeanor.
The woman wasn’t an ordinary worker. She spotted Thomas and slowly walked to him.
“Sir Thomas, right this way.” She was taller than Thomas, and her well-sized breasts were hanging slightly within the suit as she bowed.
She took Thomas to one of the individual rooms, and gestured for him to sit down on a sofa. She inched closer.
Her eyes narrowed, as if inspecting every speck of his body with a wide vision as she asked the silent question. “You smell of a vampire.” She grabbed the back of the sofa with both of her hands while leaning on it, with Thomas in-between her arms. Her face was a few inches apart from his.
Thomas’ conduct remained the same.
“Yesterday’s job.” He crossed his leg on purpose, to appear relaxed.
Within a split of a second, that frightening look on her face turned into an amiable one.
“Beautiful as always, Catherine.”
“I told you not to call me that! It’s fine for you to call me mother, you know?” She hugged him tightly with a smile plastered on her face and rubbed her face on him.
Thomas didn’t reject her, and waited for her to finish hugging him instead.
”How about grandmother?”
”I’ll kill you.”
”You do know that you have zero social skills, right? You’re so cute, but your personality is like a dry tart. At this rate, how are you ever going to get friends, let alone a girlfrie..-” She paused.
Then she shook her head slightly and that smile of hers froze. “Scratch that, my daughter wouldn’t let you.”
This woman wasn’t always one of the leading members in the prestigious vampire hunters’ office. She used to be a hunter herself.
Thomas doesn’t remember it well, but when was thirteen years old, this woman had found her in the slums while chasing a lead for one of the vampires. Apparently, he had been sitting on the ground, holding his knees with a lifeless look on his face. She took him to a doctor, and later on took a liking to him.
Thomas lived with the woman and her daughter for a year, before collecting enough money to buy his own house from all the hunting he had done. Catherine wasn’t restrictive towards him; although she disapproved of him being a hunter from such a young age, she did not stop him.
However, her daughter had turned out to be a bigger problem.
“I assume Claudia’s well,” Thomas stated, thinking of the girl who he held as a little sister with a faint smile on his face. Claudia didn’t like him doing his job.
She had been through her mother’s rigorous physical training for what Catherine called “self defence”, ever since she was a child.
Later on, she put the training to a good use as she managed to join the Kingdom Corps, a line filled with talented fighters. They would perform crusades outside the walls for monsters, as well as fight for the kingdom against other humans. They were, essentially, the kingdom’s army.
Thomas hadn’t seen Claudia for a week now, since the Kingdom Corps were currently on a mission outside the walls.
Catherine leaned on the palm of her hand with her eyes closed, and sighed.
“We both know she is well. I’m just hoping for her not to act too childish once she gets home.”
Claudia was seventeen years old, a year younger than Thomas. It wasn’t weird for her to still live at her mother’s at that age.
But when Claudia got tired, she would get lazy and expect the finest service from whichever poor soul happened to be within the range of her voice. When she was like this, anyone was her butler without a choice.
She was one of the reasons Thomas moved out so quickly. While Catherine was away for her job, it would be just the two of them and Thomas would have to serve her for the entire day. The times after she was done with Catherine’s physical training were the worst.
Thomas never complained, but when the day he could move away came, he felt relieved. The twelve-year-old Claudia had cried and promised to treat him better, and he had to assure her it wasn’t her fault.
Well, not entirely.
Thomas also enjoyed his peace and independence and didn’t want to rely on Catherine’s family too much.
Catherine served him some tea and took out a mountain of pastries out of nowhere. She would often try to fatten him up sneakily like this, offering various delicious items in front of him.
Even Claudia did the same, telling him how embarrassing it was for her to weigh more than him.
Thomas didn’t remember his own family, but appreciated the one he found later on. He understood how lucky he was; being brought up from the slums by such good people.
He knew his life wasn’t normal, but he tried to make the best out of it. He enjoyed painting and art in general, and hated uncleanliness.
He didn’t expect anything out of people, but didn’t think badly of them. From his perspective, everyone just tried to live their own lives and he was to respect that. He didn’t feel bad for killing, but spikes of conscience would occasionally rise within him.
Catherine’s face took a smug smile.
“I made sure you got each and every coin you deserved from yesterday’s job.” She had her arms crossed while she was bragging.
The pay for monster hunting within the walls came from the Crown’s funds. The Crown’s funds consisted of all the money that exceeded the amount of money people were allowed to have. So basically, it was the taxings of the nobility.
One might think that the nobility would spend their money before they reached the threshold, but that was almost never the case. Paying the taxes was public information, and social ties were everything in the upper class. Those who were often seen not paying taxes were silently ostracized from the community. While most of their fortunes were hidden, everyone would still pay taxes every once in a while to avoid being excluded from anything.
There were also nobles who never made enough money to reach the threshold. The envious nobles who did pay taxes could only assume they were evading the taxings, and they would be put into the same category as the tax evaders.
But Thomas didn’t need money, he already had a house. He also didn’t eat much, so living costs were little. The slums had made him see money from a different perspective.
He didn’t care about paying taxes. He wasn’t a noble, after all.
He had calculated around the amount it required for one person to live a good life by the standards of a nobility, and whenever he surpassed that amount he gave the extra away. He had already reached that amount years ago, and would now give almost everything he got from the new jobs away. He could retire, but he didn't mind the extermination job.
”Jobs?” Thomas asked.
Catherine's expression turned serious. ”A chimera has gotten through, it seems it came from the sewers. It has already killed at least three people.”
There was a slight pause. Chimeras were among the most dangerous monsters, to the point where they were almost mythical beings.
"You shouldn't take it, just leave it to..-" Catherine was obviously worried for him but Thomas shook his head.
He drank the rest of his tea. "I'll do it."