「This is some spot he chose. It certainly seems likely there is prey around here. And it’s suspiciously getting cloudy.」
I weave through a cluster of trees on my horse.
Even if I consider that I’m not riding Schwartz, it would have taken me well over an hour to travel from the city.
The forest is also pretty dense and took considerable effort to get through.
「Well, I’ve never heard him going out to hunt. He might not know of good spots.」
If he lets me decide next time, I’ll find a better area.
The random horse I chose advances with heavy steps and finally arrives in a clearing.
In the somewhat open space, I hear the sound of rushing water and smell the distinct scent of a waterfall.
There is a cliff at the back and a creek that leads into the waterfall.
My cheeks instinctively relax.
「How convenient is it for there to be a creek and a waterfall. It was worth it to carry this.」
I turn around to check on my baggage, hoping I didn’t drop it.
I feel bloodlust and brandish my canteen.
Something with weight hits the steel container, sending sparks flying.
I dismount from my horse as I glance at the dagger and my dented canteen.
As if waiting for me to do just that, the patch of grass next to me suddenly rises and I see the glimmer of a blade before it thrusts at me.
I lean my body to the side to avoid the first strike, tilt my head to dodge the second, and parry the flat part of the sword with the palm of my hand.
「What’s all this?」
I sigh, smiling at my opponent.
It was more of a troubled smile than a provocative or belligerent one.
「You surprised me with the sudden attack, Antonio.」
The one who threw the dagger and swung the adult-sized long sword was Antonio.
He retracts the sword after it was deflected and jumps back, then points the sword at me again.
I retrieve the baggage I didn’t mean to throw and brush the grass off.
「That thrust was good though. Any other guy would not have been able to dodge it even if you didn’t ambush him. I’m impressed.」
I smile at Antonio, giving him genuine compliments as he glares at me.
He doesn’t reply.
He only shifts the tip of his sword, as if trying to wait for an opening.
「Why don’t we go hunting now? It’s gotten cloudy and it might rain later. Let’s prepare while we still can――」
Antonio charges at me right as I spread my arms.
The thrust that initially targets my eye changes course at the last second and turns into a slash across my neck.
I carefully watch the incoming thrust before acting, and use the leather hunting glove to block the slash.
As soon as the distance is closed, I feel real bloodlust being emitted.
The horse I rode gets frightened and flees.
「You scared the horse away. It’s going to be a hassle to get it back.」
I give Antonio a disapproving look.
Surely, he will see me annoyed and be unsure of what to do.
However Antonio doesn’t reply.
He jumps backward again, and glares at me, readying another attack.
「Hey Antonio, let’s go hunting. Isn’t this enough? If you’d rather not hunt, then――」
He charges at me.
He will feint a triple thrust and go for a leg sweep, then a punch to the solar plexus with his left hand, then he’ll slash down my shoulder when I falter――
I retreat to avoid the sweep, then catch his fist.
Then I grab his hand before he can swing down his sword.
「――if you don’t want to hunt, I’ve got other things planned. Those activities can be done even if it rains. Although, they might not be considered exercise.」
Antonio groans for the first time, snatches his hand and jumps back.
That sounded pretty miserable.
There was no way I wouldn’t know.
I was invited to go hunting by Antonio, who very clearly dislikes me.
This place isn’t popular, the way I came is blocked, and there is a waterfall and creek on the other end……I haven’t lived such a carefree life that I won’t realize what’s going on from all the signs.
In fact, I realized even earlier.
On the day right after the turmoil with Catherine and Rose, I had sensed bloodlust directed toward me at the dining hall.
「Let’s stop this. Let’s put aside the trivial matters and play together.」
「Trivial, you say!?」
His piercing scream is followed by a slash.
I knew about it.
But I didn’t accept that he would try to kill me for real.
That’s why I left my Dual Crater and Keravnos behind despite considering bringing them.
I didn’t take Carla or Brynhildr along.
I didn’t speak to anyone about where I was going or who I was meeting.
I sweep Antonio’s legs and make him stumble.
「Stop this already.」
I repeat, looking down at my fallen son.
Antonio once again goes silent.
When I take a step closer, he springs up and aims at my head from below my chin.
I evade his sword by a hair’s breadth, grab his arm and throw him.
Antonio rolls on the ground toward the cliff.
I naturally wanted to run after him, but he landed safely and got back up.
After letting out a big sigh of relief, I smack my forehead and call out to him again.
「Incredible. Your swordsmanship is unbelievable for a 14 year old. You’re way stronger than I was when I was your age.」
Even though it’s forced, I try my best to smile.
「It’s very impressive. But you’ve shown me enough. See the river in front of you, I have something that’s perfect for――」
He pounces when my eyes shift to my baggage.
My words of praise to Antonio are not lies.
His strength, sword speed and combat tactics which include mixing in feints are not that of a child’s.
If a 14 year old me were to fight him, I’d be cut down immediately.
I block his downward swing with my canteen, and parry the attack.
He transitions to a spinning sweep, but I hit the origin point of the rotation with my canteen, disturbing his swordsmanship.
Antonio abandons the longsword after swinging at air, draws a one-handed sword hidden on his back, and charges at me.
And right before he slashes, he reaches for a dagger on his waist and throws it.
I predict all of his moves though, catching the dagger, grabbing his sword arm, and then throwing him to the opposite side of the cliff.
He showed wonderful technique yet again, but it won’t work on me.
From a 14 year old’s point of view, his power, speed, and skill may be overwhelming, but looking at him as an enemy, he doesn’t pass the boundary of a slightly formidable foe.
「What ridiculous thing am I thinking about? He’s not an enemy.」
I slap my forehead and shout out to him.
「Right now, you are no match for me. When you are 18 or 20, then you can come back to challenge me. So for now……」
His only response is a frustrated stare.
「You really want to fight no matter what?」
I sigh, and pick up the one-handed sword Antonio dropped.
「Why do I have to point a sword at my own kid?」
What kind of wrong deeds have I……actually, I’ve committed quite a few.
Let’s not think about it.
Antonio picks up the longsword he used in the beginning and gets into a stance.
I guess he determined the previous openings he targeted would not be available now that I’m holding a sword.
I check the state of the sword.
Alright, I know the weight of the short and thin sword.
I’ll just break Antonio’s longsword with this, give him a quick jab in the stomach and head, then take him home.
Antonio inches forward carefully in a standard stance, keeping his sword in front of him and the tip at eye level.
Meanwhile, I raise my sword high.
It’s not so I can unleash a full-powered strike.
The thing I have to be the most careful about is Antonio impaling himself on my sword using his own strength.
If I lift up my sword, that won’t happen.
My body is full of openings, but I should be fine if I take into account the difference of speed.
Will it be a thrust or a slash……most likely, he will want to start at the furthest point from my sword, which is the bottom left, then slash upward diagonally.
I’ll strike from above and crush his sword.
If my sword remains intact, I’ll use the flat side of the blade, if both our swords break, then I’ll use my fists to knock Antonio out and bring him home.
His intent to kill will probably cool off if I bring him to his family.
Then, we can just have a nice long chat.
「I purposely brought this for you too.」
My eyes glance at the baggage on the ground.
Antonio rushes in.
As anticipated, he swings up diagonally――
He accelerates faster than my eyes can follow, but I use my instincts to dodge.
A scooping motion lifts up my leg.
Rather than just my sword, my entire body was lifted, and by the time I realized it, I crashed into the tree ten meters behind me.
I was in a daze for only an instant.
I grit my teeth.
As I bite down, my lip gets cut and the taste of blood enters my mouth.
I look not at Antonio, but within the cluster of trees as I shout.
「Why did you do this!?」
Lightning speed and the brute strength to knock my body around like nothing, those aren’t things a kid can gain merely as a result of training.
And most importantly, Antonio’s black eyes are glowing red.
The voice was as beautiful as a bell.
It had a playful and teasing tone like usual.
「Are you asking me why I supported Antonio? Or perhaps――」
Drops of rain start to fall from the sky.
The sun is completely gone.
「You’re asking me why I turned your son into a vampire?」
Lucy giggles as she walks across the space between us and over to a rock, where she lays a handkerchief and sits down.
It’s like she’s having a picnic and in her mind, not a single thing was out of the ordinary.
I shake my head and ask Antonio as he glares at me with brilliantly shining eyes.
「Damn you, did you sleep with Lucy? How did you do it!? How many times!?」
「I didn’t!! She just made it scatter when sucking my blood……it’s not important right now, is it?」
Lucy cackles atop the rock.
Antonio runs at me to hide his embarrassment.
When I receive his slash that is several times faster than before, my sword cries out and the bone in my arm creaks.
I promptly shift the weight and parry the sword to the ground.
But Antonio follows up his disrupted balance with a leg sweep……or so he fakes and aims for a kick to my torso instead, which I swiftly intercept with an arm, though I get knocked to the ground.
「This is it!」
Antonio rushes forward to deliver the finishing strike.
The moment both his feet lift off, I kick the pit of his stomach and send him back.
No matter how strong or fast he is, the moment he becomes airborne, the only thing he can do is thrust. Antonio, who took a direct hit, hunches over on the ground and coughs.
「Hey Antonio……did you know?」
That strike just now is not to be included as a child no matter how trained you are.
Even if it doesn’t kill, it’s strong enough to make you throw up and writhe in agony.
However Antonio gets back up after a few seconds.
There’s no mistake.
「You’re still 14. What should I say to Catherine?」
Turning into a vampire is not some magic that makes you stronger.
The price for gaining overwhelming power and eternal life is humanity.
Body temperature, emotion, the ability to procreate……you lose all of that.
To be a vampire is essentially to be dead.
Antonio has died as a human.
When I glare with true bloodlust at Lucy, she just averts her eyes.
「I knew. I was told persistently that I would not be able to live like a human anymore!」
「Then why did you do something so stupid!?」
Antonio flinches when I yell at him with genuine feelings of anger.
Then he yells back.
「I can’t beat you unless I do this!」
Those words certainly go straight to my heart.
「You really hate me that much? You want to kill me so much you don’t mind dying?」
I thought I was trying in my own way to talk to him.
I guess it failed splendidly.
I take a deep breath and compose myself.
The sound that came out of my mouth was more threatening than expected.
「And what will you do after killing me?」
Antonio trembles, but answers with bloodlust to hide it along with his words.
「A king like you, who is constantly infatuated with women and wages wars according to his moods, must be removed or the country will die. All the people will be unhappy――」
I ready my sword and charge forward.
「With this power, I won’t lose to you!」
Antonio receives my downward swing head-on.
His small body slides back as our weapons collide loudly, but his stance doesn’t break.
Even when I try pushing my sword, he stops me.
Antonio, confident he can win in a battle of strength, gathers energy in his lower half.
In that instant, I ease up and back off.
Antonio moves forward to overcome me, but loses his balance due to an abundance of strength and stumbles, allowing me to grab his collar and use his falling momentum to throw him to the ground.
I place my foot on the upper half of his back as he tries to get up.
By suppressing this part, he can’t move regardless of how powerful he is.
「Tell me the truth. Or have you forgotten even your own desires?」
If so, can I forgive Lucy?
She covers her face with her hands, acting scared of me.
I face Antonio and address him again.
I do so while stepping on his back, like I’m making an entreaty.
「We pointed swords at each other as father and son. It would be terrible to fight based on false reasons.」
Antonio remains silent briefly and I relax my foot.
「Yeah, she’s a lovely woman. She hasn’t lost any bit of her beauty since the day I knew her.」
Why is he stating the obvious?
「Rose has also……become pretty.」
「Undoubtedly so. Although she’s still young, she’ll become more and more beautiful.」
That’s also obvious.
It’s nice of him to praise his relatives, but I don’t get what he’s trying to say.
「Both of them……are obsessed with you.」
「Well, we are husband and wife after all. As for Rose……we’ll return to having a wholesome relationship. Umu.」
I hear him grit his teeth.
「That’s what I can’t stand!」
Antonio glares at me.
「Do you know how much mother suffers when you are away from home for trivial reasons?」
I don’t intend to make light of Catherine, but I have other women too so I can’t spend every night with her.
Saying that to Antonio who prioritizes his mother is pointless though.
「Mother is a pervert! She pleasures herself every night thinking of you! Some king you are, you should be ashamed to even be a husband!」
「……so she also did it in front of her son.」
I was unconsciously pushed back by his passionate speech.
「But my mother is not even the worst part. The thing that irks me the most has to do with Rose!」
There’s no excuse for that.
However, it’s not like I forced her.
Rather, I was partially deceived, although telling him would be like pouring oil on the fire.
Yes, let’s talk.
We’ll talk with Catherine and Rose together, trying to kill each other is fruitless.
I think to myself as I remove my foot from Antonio’s back.
「I was going to make Rose my lover when I turned 16! We’re only half-siblings so we can still have children. Rose is a pervert in mind and body so I can definitely make her fall if I push her into sleeping with me once――guaaah!」
「What a ridiculous thing to say. It made my foot slip and step on you with full force!」
I thought he was angry at me for disrespecting his family, but that’s what he is mad about?
「I’m handsome and my lower half is amazing. Even my practice partner, Sulama, told me she’d do anything if I make her my lover. Mother as well, if I grew a bit older……I could have taken advantage of how she was agonizing from the scarcity of men and……」
In other words, this guy――
「I want to make mother and Rose mine. I want to steal them away from someone like you, who only sleeps with them during spare time! That’s why I’m going to beat you!!」
「What the hell……so that’s how it is.」
It makes sense, now that I think about it.
When he was a toddler, he was the fastest to learn how to crawl and walk, yet he was the last to wean off of breastfeeding.
He always lost when playing with his sister Rose, but only when they play-wrestled did he attack and use all sorts of throwing moves.
So Antonio wants Catherine and Rose as his women.
Then, as his rival, nothing I say or do would open his heart.
「I thought you were just hard to please, but you turned out to be quite naughty. She’s your mother and your half-sister. What are you thinking, you perverted son!」
「It’s because of your blood, incestuous rapist!」
While I was busy being troubled, Antonio escapes from under by foot.
「You shamelessly took Rose’s virginity……the virginity I was going to take! And in such a preposterous place! I’ve been hearing about it nonstop since that day!」
Antonio springs up and shouts.
Then he lunges with a strike like a thunderclap.
「There are plenty of things I want to point out, but you responded with your true feelings.」
I accept his strike head-on.
I thought the fight would be a full-fledged duel to the death, but both our swords couldn’t withstand the force of the clash and shattered into iron scraps.
There was a brief moment of repose after our weapons broke.
I once again smile, thinking the next collision will be the last.
「Aiming for them is fine. I will also do my best not to let them be stolen. If we wait a few years though, I will fade and you will grow……so why don’t we stop now?」
「No. If I wait, Rose will be pregnant. Besides-」
Antonio stares at me with eyes full of determination.
「Mother and Rose are the most precious to me. I must prioritize them over everything. I can’t stand to see them be put below other woman for one more day.」
I ask if he can accomplish that through my eyes.
I never intended for them to be under anybody.
It’s just that I can’t replace Nonna with Catherine as the legal wife.
I’m sure I can’t regard Catherine higher than Lucy either.
「Then……it can’t be helped.」
There’s nothing that can be done if neither of us are willing to yield.
And neither of us want to yield.
This was probably something I wanted to do the least, but it’s unavoidable.
If men have to fight over women, then so be it.
It’s winner takes all.
「I brought your weapons, which do you prefer?」
Lucy presents the Dual Crater and Keravnos, materializing them seemingly from out of nowhere.
She takes one look at my face and giggles, then tosses me the Dual Crater, and Antonio the Keravnos.
Lucy then waves to us and wishes us luck.
Although I have many questions I want to ask, there’s no time.
Antonio immediately charges with the Keravnos in hand.
He doesn’t scream or yell needlessly, and is intent on killing me for real.
I imagine myself being like him in some way, and receive his strike.
We cross weapons in the rain, which has become a total downpour before I knew it.
I deflect the deadly strike he unleashes with his vampire-enhanced strength.
I step in close to his chest before he can return his spear and swing my sword down for a deep diagonal slash.
However Antonio easily dodges, then sweeps the spear in a circle at about knee-height.
Forced into jumping to avoid the attack, my feet leave the ground, and the moment I’m in the air, a kick targets my side.
I promptly block with an arm, but the force of the kick makes a bone-cracking sound when it lands.
Antonio pursues a follow-up strike right into the blade of my Dual Crater, which grazes by his face.
A few strands of my bangs get sliced off, and burn away into smoke in the rain.
「……I guess it being over when you show an opening also applies to me.」
Beads of sweat drip down Antonio’s forehead as he distances himself and lowers his hips in preparation for another strike.
I watch the scorched strands of hair sadly.
You really abandoned a lot so you can challenge me, huh?
I grin, trying not to show my emotions.
「But it’s not really a contest if one of us is invincible, is it?」
I regrip my Dual Crater, maintaining a strained smile.
I think to myself how much of a genius he actually is.
He isn’t merely relying on a vampire’s brute strength with his attacks.
It’s like he has already mastered the Keravnos despite this supposedly being his first time using it.
It’s the same with utilizing the spear’s characteristic flexibility and copying the tactic of getting your opponent airborne before striking like what I did earlier. He returned the favor by recreating a situation where I can’t dodge.
My blade clashes head-on with his spear.
Both weapons aren’t regular weapons and don’t break.
After a short struggle for supremacy, Antonio and I retreat about an equal distance apart.
「This is the result after my best?」
Maybe the vessel is too good or it’s due to Lucy’s powers but it doesn’t feel like I’m fighting an average vampire.
He’s on the level of Brynhildr.
He lets out a stream of air and launches a consecutive thrust attack, leveraging the difference in reach between a sword and spear.
Rather than aiming at his targets in a straight line, he purposely warps his stance and sends his spear out like a whip, making his thrusts come out in a curved line.
Although I intercept the first and second thrust, by the third thrust I already start to fall behind, then the fourth thrust grazes me, the fifth thrust gouges my side shallowly, and I judge that I can’t take the sixth thrust and have to jump backward, kicking up mud as I do so.
「It doesn’t look like I can win in speed.」
To be frank, I can’t even follow the spear with my eyes.
I guess the trajectory of his attacks based on his overall movements of his body and trust my instincts to take care of the rest, and yet I can’t keep up.
If Antonio figures that out, I’m sure he can devise a method to put an end to that.
I’m about equal in terms of strength and I lose to him in speed.
He has an exceptional combat sense and seems to become stronger as the battle progresses.
I wonder how this will turn out if the fight is prolonged.
「In any case, it doesn’t look like I have time to waste.」
I gaze up at the sky as the rain showers me.
There’s no time. I have to end this quickly.
I check the footing and stand with the cliff behind me.
I invite him to decide the fight in this manner.
Antonio stands in position to corner me without saying anything, readies his spear and widens his red eyes.
I can’t help smiling.
Even though I haven’t practiced with him, his stance is exactly like mine.
「Hey, can I ask you one thing?」
I definitely want to ask this while he’s willing to talk.
「I heard why you wanted to attack me earlier. But what else do you hate enough to want to kill me?」
Antonio doesn’t change his expression or his posture.
「I’ve reread your atrocities and mother’s past countless times. I still do now……in order to hate you.」
I see, that’s good.
「Here I come!」
Antonio steps in fiercely.
His foot that pushed off the ground hard enough to crush the earth――slipped on some moss dampened by the rain.
I clutch my Dual Crater tightly and lunge at Antonio as one of his legs lift up.
「You’re too obvious!」
The leg which should have slipped changes direction at lighting speed and becomes a kick aimed at my face.
Since I’m leaning forward for my thrust, it’s impossible for me to dodge.
Right, it’s too obvious.
Standing in front of a cliff is clearly a disadvantage and with how sharp-sighted he is, he wouldn’t have missed me checking out the footing.
That’s why I have to make him doubt.
I can’t make it easy for him to see through my moves.
In the first place, I kicked up a clod of dirt earlier.
I wouldn’t make such deliberate movements to show him that I’m checking.
「Be careful next time.」
I retract the sword I aimed at Antonio’s heart and focus on blocking his kick.
「I screwed up!?」
If our strengths are equal, then the outcome between my sword held with both hands and his single leg is evident.
Antonio loses balance for real and staggers.
「Damn it! Not yet!」
I launch an attack from a stable stance with all my strength behind it.
Antonio tries to retaliate in an unbalanced state.
Our respective weapons are swung targeting each other’s hearts.
There is the sound of flesh tearing, blood squirting, and the clatter of a weapon falling to the ground――
Antonio stares blankly with his eyes wide open.
Reflected in Antonio’s red eyes is my body with his spear driven through my chest and the tip sticking out of my back, and the Dual Crater which has fallen at my feet is stained with the blood leaking from my wound.
The rain ends and a ray of sunlight peeks out from the clouds.
I reach my now-freed hands toward Antonio’s head, and make sure to pull his hood up.
「I was the slower one. There was no way around it! No, a fight didn’t need to happen! Just a few more minutes and the sun would have came out, then I――」
「That’s why I hurried.」
I put my hand against Antonio’s cheek as he starts talking rapidly.
It is stained with blood, but that shouldn’t matter to a vampire.
「You went easy?」
「Why? Why didn’t you come at me seriously!?」
Isn’t that much obvious?
「You, you’re my child.」
What kind of parent is happy about killing their child?
I didn’t want to die.
I just wanted to beat him up and bring him home.
I thought to myself that I’d rather die than kill this guy, that’s it.
Even though I tried to suppress it, I ended up coughing up a cup of blood.
By how I’m remaining conscious, it doesn’t seem like his strike was a direct hit on my heart, however with how deep his spear pierced me, the wound is fatal and I don’t have much time left.
I hug Antonio.
Now that I think about it, this is the first time I’m hugging him.
「Protect…your family. The country…doesn’t matter…but you better protect…every single person in the family.」
Antonio nods, his eyes moving frantically.
「Be wary…of traitors…here and there…the previous king and I…after all.」
As a vampire, he doesn’t have any emotions.
Rather it doesn’t seem that way, I’m relieved.
「If you’re going to…sleep with them…make sure it’s consensual…otherwise they’ll haunt your dick…and sing every day.」
Antonio nods repeatedly.
I wanted to insert a joke, but it didn’t work unfortunately.
The intense pain in my chest goes cold.
Well, I think that’s all the important stuff……oh wait, I forgot one last thing.
I pick up the baggage which happens to be at my feet for some reason.
For some reason, it’s as heavy as a clump of iron and my eyes are getting blurry, man this is tough work.
I take out a fishing rod from the bag.
「It’s…for you. I can’t do it with you anymore…but you can…find somebody to do it with.」
Antonio accepts it with the most dumbfounded look he’s made today.
And then, as if all power left his body, the Keravnos drops from his hand.
Due to the loss of blood, I can no longer stand, and I simply stumble backwards with the spear still in my chest.
I feel my right leg step over the edge of the cliff, then my vision flips upside down.
The last thing I saw in my dim eyes was a black-eyed Antonio extending his hand toward me.
I mouth the words “Don’t worry about it”, and then my vision goes dark.
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