When I have no body of my own to measure it with, time moves both too slowly and too quickly.
For Tess, it’s only been a few years. For me, it’s been yet another short eternity.
Tess’s newest body is in its young-adulthood, and we’ve given up hope that she’ll grow any further. It’s daylight outside, and she’s asleep along with the rest of the castle. But, given that I don’t require sleep, Tess transformed part of her leg into a single bat so that I could… well, do whatever I pleased.
I’ve gotten bored of reading the selection in the castle, though. A break sounds lovely, as reading is difficult in a bat’s body, and I’ve not explored on my own for some time.
The wind is pleasantly soft. The sunlight still burns, but it is less annoying underneath the cover of the trees. The leaves rustle as I pass, and their shadows dance against the forest floor. The wolves are also sleeping, laying near each other and breathing slowly, eyes closed and unmoving. I pass them on my way to the village, wondering what they’re dreaming about.
The humans’ village doesn’t have many books, or information at all, really, for me to feed off of. Nor do the other villages nearby, and the larger town, “Bistritz,” is too far away to be worth flying to with such a small form. (And besides, a bat reading books? I’d be asking for someone to catch me!) But there is one human I can rely on to have a new offering for me: the local bookworm.
He returns with new books from the town at least once a month. And, while I could read whatever I desired by simply asking Tess to retrieve it from Bistritz, sometimes it’s worth trying something more… random.
… Or perhaps Xihrae is rubbing off on me. I shiver in disgust at the thought.
I fly higher as I near the bookworm’s house. He’s out doing his chores. Good.
I slip under a gap in the roof and crawl my way to his room. His newest book lies on top of his bed. It appears to be a fantasy. I’m less than thrilled by that, but I open it anyway, keeping one ear pointed at the door.
I’ve only gotten a few pages into the (surprisingly engaging) fantasy, when of course Xihrae decides to interrupt.
< So, I take it you’re not interested in helping me win a fight? >
I close the book, return things as closely to how they were when I arrived as I can, crawl into the roof once more-
-and immediately transfer my consciousness to Xihrae’s body, jumping straight into the brawl Xihrae no doubt started. And I’m a bit curious as to why. An adrenaline junky he may be, but he rarely risks dying and losing a big thrill like the one he has planned for this life.
… He got into this fight… Just so I could have it?
His thoughtfulness is almost touching.
If I had a face, I’d smile.
By the time I return, it’s already dusk. The castle is still as silent as a grave, even though I know every. One. Of its ten dozen residents is awake.
I meet Tess outside the entrance, my spirit once again connecting with her’s.
And I notice immediately how hungry she is — and not for blood. The castle really has become too peaceful for a demon-eater.
I fuse the bat back into her flesh as she watches the sunlight disappear behind the mountains inch-by-inch. Until, eventually, there’s nothing left. Once it’s clear that it won’t hurt anyone inside to leave the door open, she enters.
And quietly walks to the three sisters’ room.
She knocks on the door, and they answer — each carrying a suitcase.
All of their eyes are red from crying.
Tess smiles and, without a word, they all hug her.
And just like that, they’re crying again. Still, the silence hangs.
Finally, one of them breaks it, “I wish we could stay and help to grow our family, but…”
“It’s alright,” Tess says while, needing distance, pulling the woman off of her by the shoulders. She wipes the tears off the sister’s cheeks as cover. “Simply continuing to live is more than enough help.”
These words only make her cry more, though. Tess’s sadness at their departure is now far outweighed by her irritation from the hunger.
< Oh well. Not much longer, and I’ll be rid of these drains on my energy. The lot of them just radiate far too much… healthiness. They had to go. >
“Now, the light is gone. You need to get moving if you’re going to make it back indoors before dawn.”
Nodding, they grab their bags and start toward the door. They get stopped frequently, each of their “siblings” seeming to come back out for a final goodbye. Even the maids stop cleaning the remains of last night’s celebration to give the three sisters a hug and kisses on their cheeks.
“Quite an army we’ve gathered, hm?”
Tess spins around.
“… Yes, it is,” Tess replies, hiding her irritation.
The sisters make it out the door to the waiting carriage, and Drac and Tess move to a window to watch them leave.
Soon enough, the energy-drains disappear behind the trees and hills.
“More villagers asked to be turned last night.”
Drac’s eyebrows lower, and his mouth thins. “… Oh? … How many?”
“Too many,” Tess replies, still studying the trees.
< You ordered your pack to guard the sisters until they had left the mountains, right? If you can spot the wolves running next to the path, you could get a meal out of it. Y’know, if someone actually dares to attack. >
Dracula is silent, also gazing out the window. But his eyes aren’t watching the view.
“It’s time, then.”
Tess smirks, “Indeed it is. Shall I make the preparations tonight?”
He turns to her, raising an eyebrow, “You wish to hire that Englishman so soon?”
She shrugs, “No point in waiting, right? The longer this goes on, the less blood is available to feed us.”
“Mm.” He turns back to the outside. He seems to actually be looking this time. “… Do as you wish.”
Tess smiles and starts walking away — then stops.
“Oh, by the way.”
He turns, his cloak slithering across the floor.
She grins. “I’ve done it. I know how you can leave the castle.”
Drac’s jaw drops a little, his facade faltering in his surprise.
< Aw… He actually almost looks cute like that! Don’t worry, buddy. You’ll get released on the world soon enough. >
< Oh. That’s why! Haha, and here I almost thought you weren’t confident in your skills anymore! >