Chapter 26: Negotiation
Everybody did not manage to react and were collectively stunned.
"You—" Although Nikolay was still in shock, he realized that Thales was shouting at him.
'Stray- stray dog?'
The Red Viper's expression changed from bewilderment to shock, then from shame to anger.
"What did you say… you damn little b*st*rd!"
A member of Blood Bottle Gang poked his fellow gang member beside him, making an expression, signaling that "things were not going well".
The handsome Istrone reacted, a large variety of expressions appeared on his face—it was a combination of spasms and tremors, tinged with embarrassment and awkwardness.
'This little brat is too good in acting... Is he a character from a play in Dark Night Temple?'
Nikolay clenched his fists tightly. He could feel the followers beside him exchanging glances. Their boss had just been insulted by a child right in his face. A child! Who had just been acting based on instructions by the vampire!
'How dare… how dare he… Even the Blood Mystic—known for being cruel and violent—had never insulted me to my face like this!'
A surge of anger spread through Nikolay's mind. He stared fiercely at Istrone as if wanting to cut out a piece of his face.
In Nikolay's point of view, he had performed his duty and enquired about the mission's progress on behalf of the Duke. However, what did that pretty boy do?
That damned vampire turned and made a sound, signaling to his little follower. Then, that little bastard in front of the vampire took a step forward, as if he had read his mind.
With that infuriating expression on his face, he called Nikolay a lowly stray dog and told him to get lost.
But upon hearing what the little bastard said, the vampire's expression morphed into a hideous grin—It was clear that he was snickering at him in delight!
That vampire was reveling in the joy of humiliating him!
'Threatened by high-ranked police, rejected by Tricolor Iris Flowers, persecuted by that damned vampire, and then this little bastard—'
Thales watched as the Blood Bottle Gang boss' expression progressively changed, and as he contemplated whether to insult him further, his vision suddenly blurred!
The Red Viper had used his thunder-like speed and skills to grab Thales by the neck with one hand and raised him up.
Thales immediately felt his breathing become obstructed. This was not the first time he was strangled!
With his face scrunched up, just like the previous time, Thales extended his hand to grab onto his strangler's right hand. But this time, he only felt as if he had grabbed onto skin that was as hard as steel.
Nikolay's stubble that made him look ancient was magnified right in front of his eyes. His hideous expression trembled along with his mouth that opened and closed repeatedly.
The Red Viper gave a death stare to the vampire in front of him.
"Pretty boy! Your little pet—"
Before he could finish, a straight, open palm suddenly appeared before his eyes, the side with the little finger rushing downwards.
Nikolay had no choice but to let go. He immediately backed away.
Both of them stood still.
With a dark face, Nikolay grabbed onto Istrone's swift knife-hand strike that was aimed to attack his head from the side.
"Since you know that he is my pet, don't mess with him," the blond Istrone spoke with a disgusted expression, "mortal creature!"
Thales fell onto the floor. Unable to help it, he started coughing dryly. He mentally swore that he would never let anyone strangle his throat again. That feeling was too painful.
The Blood Bottle Gang members around them became anxious. A lot of them put their hands on the weapons at their waists.
"Pretty boy," At this moment, Nikolay was already expressionless. However, Thales could feel that his gloominess was slowly rising. The Red Viper let go of the Blood Clansman's hand and slowly enunciated each word. "Why don't you try calling me that again?"
'Although this mortal creature wasn't fast, his battle instincts and experience aren't bad—he even managed to grab my right hand.
'When dealing with someone like this, even though I'm able to overpower him in terms of speed, I still need to be careful. I didn't expect that he would be an elite near supreme class.' Istrone's heart sank as he contemplated his next move.
"What's with the annoyed expression?" Istrone's gaze became grim. "Am I wrong? You—"
The next moment, the blond noble let out a sudden, angry shout.
Before he even finished shouting, Nikolay's fist and Istrone's palm met in the air.
To Thales, the moment the fist and palm collided, it was as though the world had stopped. But in the next moment, it was as though all sound and wind swept past in a visible ripple.
When it felt like time was moving again, the strong wind brought about by their fight suddenly charged towards Thales and swept past his face, forcing him to close his eyes.
Two more gusts of wind swept past, Thales rolled around with his eyes shut. He only managed to avoid the strong wind surrounding Istrone and Nikolay after moving a few meters back.
"Is this all the speed you can muster?" The blond noble smiled strangely, then moved in a flash once again!
Nikolay, who knew that he was not fast enough, clenched his teeth and threw his next punch. Like a phantom, Istrone's silhouette would appear for one second, then disappear in the next.
In contrast, Nikolay was attacking relentlessly at high speed, like a mechanical gear, and his strikes were becoming increasingly fierce.
Both parties sported maniacal expressions and exchanged punches six times in the blink of an eye.
The strong wind brought about by the meeting of fists and palms left the Blood Bottle Gang members around them with no choice but to shield themselves with their arms. There was no way for them to interrupt the fight.
Thales recalled the duel between Jala and Ralf as they fought at their maximum speed. But for that case, it was a fight between speed and agility. For the pair in front of him, it was more like a battle between explosive power and speed.
Istrone took a step back in a flash while Nikolay dragged his left leg a step backward. They glared fiercely at each other.
'Something is wrong! Why is this mortal from a gang getting faster and faster? He even caught up with my speed in the end!' Istrone frowned.
'Hmph! This vampire is indeed extremely agile. I will make you fall with my next attack!' Nikolay sported a ferocious expression.
Both of them bore somber expressions. They could sense their opponent's toughness and endurance.
Without warning, they exchanged fists again.
"Vampire!" Nikolay shouted furiously as his red coat fell onto the floor. He spun his body around while still maintaining balance, and the blood vessels in his right arm bulged. Then, he threw his right fist on the Blood Clansman's chest. The punch was equally astonishing in terms of spirit and speed.
Istrone spat scornfully and immediately bared his fangs in fury. A bloody mist covered his whole body while his silhouette flickered between being an illusion and having a corporeal form. Claws grew on the fingers of his right hand. He spread out his palm and grazed past the air, grabbing onto Nikolay's throat.
Thales shuddered. He immediately imitated the Blood Bottle Gang members around him and raised both of his arms to protect himself in anticipation of the next, probably most brutal gust of strong wind.
Both parties struck after accumulating strength in their attacks and interlocked in the air.
Thales shut his eyes tight. But the anticipated blast of strong wind and deafening thump did not come.
"As you people have already greeted each other," a raspy voice spoke languidly, "it's time to disperse."
Thales slowly opened his eyes. Istrone's sharp claws and Nikolay's heavy punch were held tightly by both hands of an old noble who suddenly appeared on the scene. His face was as pale and gloomy as a corpse.
It was as if all the strength and vigor in their attacks from before had disappeared without a trace in the old man's palms.
'It can't be? Even if he managed to block the impact between those two, there had to be at least shock mitigation and inertia. How can an exchange of force at that level show no signs at all?' Thales thought in fear.
The old man turned from left to right, looking at both of them. Istrone's expression was indignant while Nikolay's was filled with wariness along with a tinge of surprise.
'Supreme class,' the Red Viper muttered to himself. 'Not only that, he is an elite within the supreme class! Only Blood Clan dukes, or even marquises, possess this strength. Even within the 'Six Great Pillars' in the Blood Clan's Grand Banquet Hill, there aren't many people like this!'
The old man flashed a hideous smile and released his hands in the blink of an eye. Without having to be reminded, the two who were fighting took a step back.
"Sir Nikolay, you do not have to lock horns with a young person. Please leave right now." His dry lips opened and closed like a puppet.
Nikolay looked at the followers around him. Their faces were full of fear and anxiety.
'God damn it, such an unlucky day.'
He began to understand that if the Blood Mystic did not return, nothing would go right for Blood Bottle Gang.
'Looks like I'll have to personally head to Steel City and invite her back no matter what price had to be paid.'
Nikolay angrily snorted. He looked at the old man, and then at Istrone, who was provoking him with his glare. Clenching his teeth, he spoke, "Okay, okay, fine. Hopefully, the duke and all the Knights of Eradication under him are as good-tempered as I am."
The red flush had not disappeared from Nikolay's face, but he did not speak any further. He waved his hand and left with the others.
"Little bastard, when they suck your blood dry—" As Nikolay was leaving the manor, he turned and glared fiercely at Thales. His tone was venomous. "Don't scream too miserably."
He took his coat from his follower. After he put it on, all Blood Bottle Gang members left the manor.
Thales sighed in his heart. He had managed to live through this; had even managed to live through the incident in Mindis Hall.
He was safe for now. However, the strange old man's next sentence made Thales' heart beat with fear once again.
"So, my little friend… I am guessing that you are probably related to their mission in Mindis Hall… am I right?"
Istrone Corleone turned his head around like a puppet, cracked a smile with his wrinkle-filled lips and said, "It seems that both Tricolor Iris Flowers and Blood Bottle Gang... are very interested in you?"
"So, you were saying that, on the second day of his arrival, you, being His Majesty's most trusted attendant, the former Foreign Affairs Minister, the head and signatory of the 'Fortress Treaty'—Count Gilbert Caso; and you, His Majesty's most reliable secret protector, the 'Nameless Person', Yodel Cato, whose background is unknown to me—"
It was a mature female voice. As the sun set, it rang on Mindis Hall's roof.
"—lost His Majesty's only child and heir, just like that?"
The woman was mature and dignified. She was a charming forty-year-old woman donned in the standard green and blue uniform of first-grade female officials. In the face of this alluring black-haired woman, both Gilbert and Yodel bowed their heads slightly.
'Although we are prepared for this woman's arrival,' Gilbert thought, 'I never thought that we would be meeting her under these circumstances.' Every time he thought of the woman's special and awkward status, Gilbert felt his head ache.
Presumably, Yodel, who was beside him, felt the same.
"Yes, Lady Jines," Gilbert said quietly. His tone was full of angst and regret.
Yodel did not say anything, but he was slowly clenching his left fist.
"You people searched the area for an hour but could not find any clues?"
"Yes, Lady Jines," Gilbert spoke with shame.
The gears on Yodel's mask turned a little.
"And then, the only thing we can depend on—" Lady Jines pointed at the lamp in her hand and spoke unhurriedly with a mocking and angry tone, "—is this worn-out lamp and the little kindling Yodel is holding?"
"Yes, Lady Jines," the pitiful Gilbert continued to answer.
Jines did not speak any further. She stared at them for an extremely long time with a displeased expression.
Gilberts' heart sank further and further.
After a long while, Jines made a nasal huff.
She shut her eyes and slowly said, "His Majesty's forty-eighth birthday is approaching. I can guarantee you that the Six Great Clans' plans are in full operation. They want to coerce His Majesty into selecting a crown prince from among the nobles, whether in the form of adoption or having a child from one of the noble families take the royal surname.
"And that child was our only hope in the darkness." Jines took a deep breath and opened her eyes. She spoke slowly and clearly, "And then, you people… lost... him!"
Gilbert and Yodel lowered their heads further.
"Men are indeed unreliable."
Jines put the Bloodline Lamp on the roof and exhaled in disdain. "Alright. Let's dispatch all our people. We will begin searching from where that child disappeared! Even if that child is indeed as intelligent as you say… we cannot just sit around and wait for that lamp. This will only prove that we are incapable and cowardly!"
Under the night sky, the mature, charming woman suddenly turned her head towards them and growled furiously at them in the kind of tone used to reprimand subordinates, "Why are you people still standing here?"
As if suddenly roused from sleep, Gilbert and Yodel came out of their petrified modes and walked forward.
"You useless men. You better put… in… some… effort!"
Thales was pressed onto a chair by Istrone inside the manor's inner hall.
He swallowed hard and moved his buttocks slightly to the side to avoid a patch of sticky, red substance.
'Without the dried dead bodies that can be seen everywhere in the hall, the wet and dry patches of blood stains on the dining table and the floor, and these three obviously abnormal people before me—this place would actually be quite decent.'
The boy looked at the man, woman, and old man in front of him, and flashed an awkward, friendly, and toothy smile.
"Such an excellent source of blood! This fragrance, oh my, Istrone, as your cousin sister, it seems that I have looked down on you in the past. I thought that you were only out taking a walk with that group of humans!"
It was a sexy woman with a red ponytail. She was so excited that her eyes shone. She bent down and carefully scrutinized Thales.
Thales only flashed a silly smile.
His instincts told him that at the moment, apart from showing friendliness and cooperation, other actions would be inappropriate.
He thought about cutting open his hand in secret, but he was sure that the sensitivity towards the smell of blood for these three was definitely higher than Morris' Angry Wolfhound.
Having heard his cousin sister's words, Istrone's heart missed a beat. Luckily, as a member of the Blood Clan, he did not have the capability to blush. However, he still extended his hands with hesitation and pulled Rolana—who was almost salivating over Thales— backward slightly.
In his heart, he had already raised the little brat's level of suspicion and level of danger to the same level as the merfolk in Crystal Wall City and the Priests in Sunrise Temple.
"Rolana, be careful, there's something off about this young brat. It's better not to talk to him too much. In my opinion, we should just connect the phlebotomy device and nutrient canal right away, and then put him in the coffin," the blond Blood Clan member said awkwardly.
"He is a target that Duke Iris Flower is especially looking for, stays in a heavily-guarded royal property and ordered a first grade Blood Clan knight of Corleone Family about. That knight did not even notice it," the old man with the deathly-still countenance spoke quietly. Istrone, who was beside him turned away in embarrassment. "Of course there is something wrong with this young brat! We have to at least dig out all the secrets he has from his mouth—this is my expertise."
On the dining table to Thales' left, Rolana lied on her stomach and licked her lips while watching him. "Make a small opening on his wrist and hang him upside down. As we interrogate him, we can satisfy our appetites. Not a single drop will be wasted. I heard from my mother that the Lauriloria Family always did this."
Istrone hesitated for a bit. As he grew up, Chris, the butler, had traumatized Istrone. Additionally, the old man's merciless reprimand just now severely scarred his self-confidence.
However, Istrone still spoke in a low murmur, "I feel that we should get rid of him right away. With our situation right now, it feels like this brat will bring us trouble—"
"Shut up, fool!" Chris, the old man, crudely cut Istrone off.
'This young man. If it was not for his attitude, he would not be a mere Blood Clan Knight in the Corleone family after three hundred years with his skills. Intelligent ones like Rolana have long since become Blood Clan Baronesses.'
Because of the old man's awe-inspiring presence, the blond noble took a step back in fear.
But it was too late.
Thales' heart jolted. He keenly caught onto this piece of information—
"With our situation right now."
'Does that mean that they're not in a favorable situation?
'Firstly, if they were mercenaries or allies of that big noble 'duke', having completed their task, they would at least be commissioned and rewarded by their employers. Why would their situation be unfavorable?
'Secondly, they did not hand me over to Blood Bottle Gang at the first opportunity. This might be explained by the fact that they are fighting against Blood Bottle Gang for that "duke's" favor.
'However, based on Istrone's words, they don't even plan on handing me over to the 'duke'. Therefore, are they planning to obtain the secret from me and use it for their own benefit? Then there wouldn't be many other possible explanations.
'They're not the "duke's" mercenaries or allies, but another independent force!'
Perhaps this was where his chance of survival lay.
Upon reprimanding Istrone, the old man did not say anything else. Instead, he stared long and hard at Thales, giving him immense psychological pressure.
The boy knew that he could not remain silent anymore.
'In that case, let me give it a go based on the inference just now.'
"I think," Thales chuckled, "that maybe we can sit down and talk, and exchange information among ourselves? Perhaps we will realize that we are actually allies."
Chris' countenance became darker. His eyes flickered like those frame skips in movies, and all of a sudden, he stood before Thales, just an inch away! He did not even ruffle the wind with his movements. Thales' heart pounded hard.
'I'll just pretend that I'm watching a ghost movie... in 4D.'
"This is a good idea, young sir. Let us exchange information, then." Chris flashed a hideous smile again.
The way the old man addressed Thales reminded him of Gilbert, and what he said made Thales loosen up. However, his next sentence changed that.
"And the information we have is that your meager life is in our hands."
Thales heaved a long sigh in his heart.
Such bad luck, encountering people who don't play by the rules.
Chris slowly raised his malicious, deathly-still gaze.
"And may I know about the information you have?"
As Thales frantically contemplated his next step, something unexpected happened.
Suddenly, dull sounds produced by the banging of something heavy rang from the top part of the hall.
The three Blood Clan members collectively changed! Even the old Chris was not exempted from this!
*Boom! Boom! Boom!*
Another dull banging sound was heard. It came from the ceiling.
The three Blood Clan members exchanged glances. They were surprised and excited. It was as if something they had looked forward to for a long time was finally happening.
Thales saw all of this.