32 The War Starts
"Him, too?" Theperes asked in a bewildered manner. "How about after that? Do you plan on taking over the world?"
"I might do that," Hell said and started walking towards her. "Would you not like to be the Queen of a whole world?" He hugged Theperes, realising she was worried all the time because of how he acted. He couldn't help it, however, it was in his nature. He was given such a gift by the System, he would not spend it just idly trying to survive as a scavenger.
"I might like that," said Theperes, landing a brief kiss on Hell's lips.
"Do you want to get stronger?" Hell asked. "Do you want to have the power to destroy tens of vampires if it came down to it? What do you desire?" I can give that to you.
"My only desire is to be with you and rule alongside. I am, however, content with simply being around you," Theperes got the words out in a slow-yet-charming fashion. "Why does it feel like you are trying to get yourself killed at times? Please be more careful."
Hell looked into her crimson eyes and found comfort there. He caressed her blacker-than-night hair which was softer than anything he touched. Her snow-white skin, on the other hand, created such a beautiful contrast that Hell knew, the moment he saw her achieve her true form after eating that vampire's heart that, he would at least want her to be around so he could simply look at her. Hell appreciated beauty.
As he gazed into her eyes, and put his hand on her chest, giving her the skill:
*Lion's Heart: Passive skill, strengthens the heart and grants resistance against all charm effects*
"We all have our demons, Theperes," Hell whispered into her ear and walked towards the door. "I know you were on that small podium with us, but if any of the new vampires try to give you trouble, let them know who you are."
"Okay." Theperes nodded.
Hell left the room to walk around the base, contemplating at the same time. He had just gotten a new ability, one that would be unlocked at level 46. He didn't have a chance to look at what it does, yet, so he was looking at it, now.
*Gaze of Pain: Varying mana. The user attacks one's soul with his gaze, looking into another's eyes. The target suffers great pain as long as enough mana is supplied*
"Right, not a very useful one, then. We'll have to use it on someone."
Hell wanted to observe his vampires with his Shadow Step but it felt like he was quite literally being deconstructed into a shadow, and such a disturbance caused the skill to collapse, not even activating it past into his heels. Although he had fantastic agility, he wasn't a stealthy enough person like he'd want to be.
Hell visited the fighting grounds, already hearing sounds of arguing. It surely sounded to be a noisy environment. He opened the door and saw Annette trying to stop a fight between two parties, one seemed to be from the initial army and the other one from the new one. Hell then gazed into a vampire on the ground with a hole in his chest. The vampire seemed to be Alfie.
Hell summoned the Imp Needle and threw it right between them using all his strength and caused the fighting to abruptly halt. The new vampires all looked at that direction with hatred at first, immediately kneeling right after when they saw Hell. Hell had told them to kneel to show their respect instead of bowing. He didn't quite favour the latter.
"Lord Hell!" All vampires in the scene chanted at once.
"Rise," Hell said. "Annette, speak."
"My Lord, it was a duel and—" one of the new vampires who was arguing with Annette spoke up, met by Hell's Gaze of Pain supplied with 100 mana to start and that vampire fell the next moment on the ground, shaking and convulsing in pain.
"Who asked you?" Hell asked and cancelled the ability. As an addendum to learning how effective the spell was, he also learnt he could shut the spell off on a target after achieving the intended effect.
The vampires in the scene were all silent including Annette. The person in front of them was a complete enigma to these vampires. They were extremely fearful to their leader who could torture someone with but a look if he wished so. Annette finally spoke up after Hell's gaze landed on her, awaiting an explanation.
"Knight Alfie was challenged by one of our new friends and killed after he accepted defeat," Annette said, glaring at the vampire who killed Alfie.
"I see, I see," Hell said. "What do you suggest we do, then?"
"Me?" Annette said suddenly, she was still only getting used to the idea of authority, just a low-level vampire previously. She added:
"Vampire Jack, step forward!"
A vampire distinguished himself among the others, stepping forward with visible pride. He looked untamed and rebellious. Perhaps it could be said that he didn't even show the proper respect to Hell. One would expect respect bordering on fear in an encounter like this. He looked younger than Hell, perhaps 15-16 years old. He had messy black hair and
It was fine, however, even though enjoying it at times, Hell disliked this sort of authoritative outlook.
"Explain why you killed Alfie Smuggler," Annette said with a stern tone. Hell thought she looked more like an angry cat when her tone compared with her petite figure, almost letting a chuckle out.
"He was weaker, unworthy of standing beside Lord Hell," the young vampire spoke.
Annette seemed to be enraged, which was even funnier to Hell so he stopped her by raising his arm before her.
"Lord Hell, this vampire killed—"
"Shh," Hell said and turned to Jack. "Do you still understand that you killed a Knight, and will be punished for it?"
Jack seemed he didn't like that idea very much, but could only answer with a nod.
"Look at me," Hell said, using 500 mana on his Gaze of Pain. As soon as Jack was hit by the ability, he also fell on the ground similar to the other vampire, but the difference was that he broke his vampire teeth half-way through after clasping his teeth so hard, foaming from the sides of his mouth.
Hell ordered two vampires near him to take Jack back to his room and that he'd have an announcement to make.
"We decided that the Knights could change every month if a stronger vampire beat them in a duel. But there will be no killing in the said duels anymore and the reason for disobeying will be death. However, since our family has now expanded greatly, we'll hold another bout of duels to be organised by Annette. Anyone disagreeing with this, step forward now."
No one dared to move in any direction for the fear that they'd lose their balance and step forward by mistake. Such a foolish action could be catastrophic for them.
"Good, they'll be held tomorrow. Be prepared," Hell said and promptly left the area. He wanted to go out today and improve his flying. Suddenly having wings was an odd feeling, it felt as if they were always there but still incredibly foreign to him, nonetheless
He went out and altered his body once more with his skill, creating the wings. He looked at the devilish wings that came out, thought perhaps he could change how they looked. But to no avail, he failed. He had a wingspan of 7 metres, it was hard to even walk around comfortably with these.
He tried flying for minutes which turned to an hour, but as he got used to the wings, it became easier and easier to control them. He used it with Quickening, creating a deep cut in one of the trees as the bone protruding from one of his wings slashed across. There was some damage on his wing as well, but it healed in the next moment.
"This… is liberating!" Hell said out loud, flying in the skies. It was truly nothing like he had ever experienced before. He decided he'd perfect his flying before the next raid. He was also surprised to realise how versatile these wings were, almost like another arm or two.
He surveyed the area as he flew around, seeing an uncountable number of odd creatures he couldn't name with some dinosaurs. He also saw his vampires trying to catch a few rideable dinosaurs and two who were caught was being brought to his base. He rose further, to see what else he would see from high enough altitude.
What he saw, however, was an endless jungle and dense foliage swarming with beasts and bugs and never-before-seen fruits. He breathed the air in, it was such refreshing air compared to the one from his town. It wasn't an industrial town either, not a place fumes are present all around, but the air from the heart of nature was absolutely different. It was more refreshing; made you feel both vigorous and sleepy. It was a splendid piece of land he owned.
Hell was informed by Miur that his reign of these two bases had virtually granted him the lordship of hundreds of thousands of miles spanning into the endless greenery. Talking to Miur after their duel when they were alone and Hell mentioned of his ambitions to go after the Queen herself and following the Demon of Pride soon after.
The system always brought about other challenges, each one harder than the last. Thanks to his nightmares, Hell knew what to do in a zombie nightmare. He had tons of those while half-lucid dreaming. He dubbed it half-lucid dreaming as he couldn't always wake himself up but he could think normally, aware that it's a dream. He always tried to prioritise winning dreams related to zombies quickly. He still remembered the valuable lesson he learned after losing in some of those dreams. He remembered the pain of your flesh being torn apart. He remembered the immense pain you felt as teeth bit into you bit by bit. It was the worse when they didn't have much strength in their jaws. They'd just chew and chew without an end.
He learned how to win soon after in his dreams. Sometimes you had to leave a friend behind, betray others or just risk it. He had to win, no matter what, to not experience that feeling once more. He was cut and shot thousands of times before as well in his dreams, but those deaths, although hurt, too, it was incomparable to being eaten alive. He had to become something inhuman…
Hell went back to his base and landed on the ground, two vampires at the gate kneeling as soon as they saw him.
"Perhaps I shouldn't have told them to kneel specifically," Hell murmured and ordered them to open the gate. Before they could open it from Hell's side, however, it opened by itself, apparently from the other side.
"Oh, cool coincidence," Hell thought until he saw a bloodied Aurus dragged outside by someone he doesn't recognise. It was 20-ish looking vampire with deep-set eyes and knee-length grey hair featuring a side-part. The man wore old, tacky clothes and a large-gem necklace. The sweater he wore really looked something you'd never see in this world, but here he was, wearing it. His fair skin oddly distinguished itself with the evening sun looming over in the distance.
"Who the hell are you?" Hell asked, taking the Sword of Blood out and activating his Copies ability to make 5 copies. "You have a lot of balls barging here like this."
"You have a lot of stones yourself, daring to invade a second base even before the Queen's acknowledgement," Uriel said with an accusing tone. "I was lamenting that I would have to use magic and dwindle the strength of our casters for even a second but I was being a fool. I should have come back immediately to stop this mess!"
"So, what happens now, then?" Hell asked.
"I am Queen Medusa's representative Uriel. You, and this piece of shit who dared talk about invading yet another base will come with me and directly answer to the Queen's right hand, Lord Ralio."
"Nah," Hell quickly replied.
"Nah?" Uriel started walking toward him, looking at his copies and weapon. "Are you thinking about rebelling, boy?"
"I am not in the mood to be someone's bitch," Hell said callously, igniting unbridled rage from the inside of Uriel.
"You dare?!" Uriel yelled as he melted into the shadows and moved around with great speed. It took Hell a moment to lose sight of him. Sun was almost no more, it was the perfect environment for a vampire to use the Shadow Step ability.
"I really should learn to use that," Hell murmured to himself and began using Quickening, trying to see where the attack would come from. The copies were also protecting Hell from each side, they were ready to counterattack anything that would come out. They also made sure to blood their blades to boost their abilities.
Uriel, instead of going for Hell immediately, attacked the copy in the outer perimeter and even with its Quickening, it couldn't react to the second attack from his side and his head was cut-off and the body started falling on the ground. Other copies immediately attacked Uriel but the one who arrived first was counterattacked by a shadow-man that existed for only a brief moment.
"Another ability similar to Leila's?" Hell murmured. "Perhaps it really was a blessing she became a vampire."
As the shadow counterattacked, Uriel became a patch of shadow once more and started moving on the ground. One of the copies, instead of chasing Uriel, stayed back to reattach the copy's head. He wouldn't die before the heart was ripped out.
Aurus seemed to be getting better. It would be fine as long as he wasn't dead. "Kill him, Hell. Kill him, now!" he yelled and collapsed once more. The shocked soldiers finally came to themselves with Aurus' voice, helping him up.
The almost setting sun was creating long-shadows on the ground and unbeknownst to Hell and the copies, he didn't continue running after that, momentarily using his shadow ability to misdirect the other copies. Uriel quickly sprung up from the ground and dispatched the copies. Hell was also waiting for something to happen to them. At the very moment Uriel attacked, Hell warped to him while still using Quickening.
It seemed Uriel couldn't use a second shadow so until the brief moment it disappeared, couldn't use it on Hell. Otherwise, he wouldn't be pierced by his blade right now. Uriel tried to melt into a shadow once more while impaled, but Hell used Fire Channelling to burn his insides, finishing him off.
"You will pay for this, you will all pay for this!" Uriel said as he melted into a shadow, leaving a charred area on the ground. He didn't die and ran away. Hell didn't want to let him go especially after Aurus' warning to he gave chase while he created 5 more copies on the road. They all looked for him, but he was even speedier compared to Miur. Hell wondered the limits of that ability.
Each time he saw a vampire well-versed in the use of Shadow Step, he was amazed further and further. Uriel quickly used it to leave the area to inform his Queen. This was a rebellious vampire who already occupied two bases.
"I will be back with an army, just you wait," Uriel murmured under his breath in anger. His organs were charred and the only reason he was alive was that he was lucky enough that his heart was only slightly damaged…
"Did you kill him?" Aurus asked as soon as Hell got back.
"No, but let's prepare for an invasion since the rat got away. Alert Virgil, we are moving to destroy as many bases as we can during these few days." Hell said. He was also concerned. He didn't like being unable to fight back at all. Losing his army also didn't appeal to him by much. He would then try to decimate as many bases as he could. If he attacked with the concentrated strength of Hell's base and Virgil's, any base would fall.
"I don't have to ability to move so many vampires in such short—"
"Take this," Hell said, putting his hand on Aurus' chest and giving him the ability "Mana Recovery".
*Mana Recovery: The user can focus his strength inside to recover large amounts of mana. The amount restored in one minute equals to 5% of the entirety of the mana pool*
"We should just prepare for their attack. They must have thousands of vampires under them in total, how are we even going to fight them even if we gather everyone?!"
"You will do it, right?" Hell asked. He knew sometimes one had to be decisive or you would lose everything. It was better to have fought for it instead of just losing it while doing nothing else than hoping for it. Doing nothing was the worst regret one could have.
"All right," Aurus accepted when he realised Hell didn't ask with a callous, silly tone this time. This was an order.
The following days would be their likely end, Aurus was thinking. As soon as Uriel found one of the portals, he would find a way to travel through them. And soon after he managed to go back, a wretched battle would follow. Each Vampire Lord was a General and each vampire was always a killing machine ready for battle. Ruling vampires were akin to ruling a nation of warriors.
"I hope Lord Virgil has a contingency plan," Aurus murmured as he left for the portal.