Chapter 27: ‘Old Friend’
"The dead bodies of the eight swordsmen who were guarding Sir Thales, when the incident happened, were left here. This is not only out of respect but also because things were urgent. We did not touch them at all, and they are in the same state as they were when the incident happened."
Gilbert spoke to Jines, who was sporting a solemn expression in the corridor on Mindis Hall's second floor, in front of the eight dead bodies.
Whereas, Yodel stood quietly beside them.
"Six of them are highly skilled ordinary class swordsmen, with plenty of battle experience and had the potential to reach supra class. The other two were genuine supra class elites. All of them had their carotid arteries cut open by an irregular, sharp weapon."
Gilbert walked towards one of the dead bodies and squatted down, pressing on the dead bodies' neck. A hideous and horrifying wound was seen. The wound had changed color and the blood had hardened.
"Based on our tentative estimation, the person might be a supreme class elite. To be able to strike these eight people to death in a split second, that person has to possess ingenious skills and immeasurable strength. Even Yodel could not catch up to his speed.
"And the person also has a fearsome capability when it comes to hiding. As the intrusion happened, we guarded all the entrances and exits. However, he still managed to sneak in, and Yodel never noticed anyone there."
Gilbert speculated with a gloomy expression. He took out a mechanical watch from his bosom and looked at the time on it. It was six-thirty in the evening.
Even the moon was rising.
Jines' brows were tightly furrowed and her considerably charming lips were also tightly pursed, accentuating the beauty mole beside her mouth. She held her arms in both hands and was deep in contemplation for a while. She then suddenly raised her hands and made a clicking sound with her fingers.
"Take off their helmets."
Gilbert motioned the guards to do so with one glance, and the few guards beside them went forward at the same time and took off the helmets from the dead bodies.
Jines walked forward with her elegant high-heeled, female official boots and kneeled down on a single knee. She carefully observed each of their faces.
"Their carotid arteries were bleeding heavily. They wouldn't have had much time before they died, only enough for them to struggle for a while on the floor—This would be when they see the murderer.
"The expressions of every single one of them," Jines spoke carefully while bending herself down to observe, "are slightly different. These four are lying on their backs, and their expressions before dying were identical—rage, hatred, indignation, and vexation. It is possible that they did not have the chance to react at all before being dealt a heavy blow which killed them. Only those who did not know the truth up until they died would feel this sort of indignation and resentment.
"In contrast, these two are lying on their sides. Their expressions are shock, disbelief, and bewilderment. They probably knew that the murderer's deadly blow was coming and tried their best to strike back but to no avail. This made them shocked and confused. As they struggled on the floor, this expression was fixated on their faces.
"The last two were probably the ones with the highest capabilities. One is lying on his back and another is sitting against the wall. Their expressions are a lot subtler compared to the previous six people. For the one lying down, it is one of regret and pain. For the one sitting down, it was one of relief and resignation. They tried their best to strike back too but still failed. However, they are probably the last ones to die and were able to see the murderer while struggling on the floor. That was why before they died, they experienced regret and a sudden revelation. In other words, the two of them would have been able to effectively reiterate if they knew the enemies' identity beforehand."
Jines stood up wearing a cold expression and crossed her arms. While she looked at Gilbert who was appearing a little helpless beside her, she spoke with certainty, "The murderer is not a supreme class elite! If the murderer was someone from supreme class who is strong, to the point of being undefeatable, the last two people's expressions would be that of despair and terror. The murderer probably used a special skill, psionic ability, or device. He strategically attacked the strongest ones first before moving on to the six weaker ones. Hence, after the strongest two dropped down, they had the chance to see the murderer and his killing method.
"Even though the murderer had not yet reached supreme class, he is very fast. He is probably almost as fast as, or even faster than half the supreme class elites. But, as he is not yet in supreme class, when it comes to killing people, he still has to do it in sequence."
Yodel walked forwards and squatted in front of the dead bodies as though to verify Jines' words.
On the other hand, Gilbert looked at the woman in front of him in a daze. It was as though he was looking at the young, enthusiastic girl in the courtroom from twenty years ago… And the inexperienced, cheerful, young man who always stood behind her.
He sighed from the bottom of his heart and went in front of her.
"Lady Jines, I know that you used to be the most distinguished police officer in the capital city, had participated in the investigation of the royal family massacre during the 'Bloody Year', and also tracked the Air Mystic. Even the Kingdom's Secret Intelligence Department often commissioned your assistance. Your inference is extremely brilliant and as sharp as it used to be years ago. However, our urgent task at hand is to get that child back," said Gilbert calmly while placing his hands behind his back.
Jines contemplated and shot him a glance.
'The most distinguished police officer? She unknowingly clenched her fists. Police officer? Rubbish.'
However, the charming lady did not show any emotion. Instead, out of habit, she stroked the beauty mole on the right side of her lips with her left hand which was propped up on her right hand. She chuckled lightly. "Men are indeed the epitome of carelessness and recklessness."
Gilbert narrowed his eyes and tipped his hat slightly to show his puzzlement.
"Have I not made it clear enough?" Jines lowered her hands and took huge, bold strides forward. She pointed at the dead body before her and spoke with confidence, "These two supra class guards were the strongest. They stood together and were the first ones attacked, these two were next, and the other four were the last ones in the assault. However, the order of their deaths was the opposite. The strongest two struggled until the end and saw the murderer. I only need to know the positions they were at before they were assaulted. Then, I can trace the pathway and identify the murderer's point of entry.
"The heavy amount of bleeding has mixed together all the bloodstains, making it hard to find the trail where the guards struggled on before they died. But based on the time the arteries started bleeding, and the time it took for them to fall and struggle on the floor, two circles can be drawn with the two strongest guards as the center. The two circles would be the range of movement of all the guards from before they were ambushed, up until their deaths.
"Do not forget that the two strongest guards were assaulted by the same type of weaponry at almost the same time. Which meant that they were standing together before they were attacked.
"Hence, the intersection point between these two circles would be the position where they were ambushed. But there are two circles, and thus, two intersection points. Only one of the intersection points is the answer—the true position where these two were assaulted, and the position from where the murderer intruded." With a focused look, Jines traced the shapes with her footsteps as she walked. What she had said made Gilbert and Yodel watch her solemnly.
"Based on the gaze of the two strongest guards before they died, after killing everyone, the murderer went to this position. I believe that this was also where the child stood.
"Based on the murderer's final spot where he revealed himself…" Jines walked towards the position and began taking steps back before continuing, "…and based on the order to which they were ambushed, we can find the path the murderer took." Jines slowly moved past those corpses before she returned to the two corpses who were formerly the most powerful of their group. "The end of the path connects the region between these two circles. The closest one among them is this intersection point!"
Jines moved past these corpses that were scattered all over the place and eventually stood on one spot of the murder scene with a fierce look in her eyes. "This is where the two strongest were initially attacked. In other words, it was the spot where the murderer infiltrated, and also the spot where he first attacked from!"
Gilbert took a few quick steps forward before he looked around.
"Are you saying that the murderer appeared here suddenly?" He spoke slowly, "The mercenaries have indeed attacked up to this point, but that is impossible—this place is still very far from the stairs. The murderer had no place to hide when we were cleaning up the mess."
Jines let out another light chuckle that was filled with scorn. Only Yodel walked forwards quietly and pointed to a small decorative vase to the side.
This type of vase was commonly used in the corridors, but only this vase was closest to Jines.
Under Gilbert's puzzled gaze, Jines moved briskly forward and seized the vase before she smashed it without hesitation!
She crouched down quietly and picked up a shattered piece of the vase. Once she had scrutinized it, she swept her finger across the inner side of the shattered piece lightly, then showed it to the two "useless men".
To his shock, Gilbert discovered that there was red blood on Jines' finger! Yodel crouched down as well and picked up a few of the shattered pieces—there were also tiny bloodstains on the inner side of the other vase pieces.
"He had nowhere to hide?" Jines let out a mocking laugh, causing Gilbert some embarrassment.
"So…" Gilbert received the shattered piece of the vase, and his expression changed. "This is…"
Jines stood up and with the voice of experience, said, "Number of victims: eight. Cause of death: bleeding of the carotid artery. Culprit: a supra class Blood Clan member, also known as a vampire. Murder weapon: the claws of a Blood Clan member…"
Just as Jines' was speaking excitedly, she was suddenly startled as she became aware of her current situation. So she gritted her teeth and swallowed the rest of her words.
'After all, I am no longer a police officer.'
Jines shook her head and cleared away all the emotions irrelevant to the situation. "So he infiltrated the manor and hid himself with his inborn ability to morph into blood, then with his gift of reaching maximum speed in an instant, he killed these people and kidnapped- Of course he didn't do it with his own abilities." Jines lifted her head and rolled her eyes at Gilbert. "This is the supreme class elite you spoke of?"
Gilbert was feeling incredibly embarrassed, but he knew that this was not the time for him to try and defend himself, which was why he decided to ask politely and amiably, "What an eye-opener. So, where is the child?"
'This is an eye-opener?' Jines thought scornfully.
'I knew it, you're one of those high-ranking nobles with a really narrow outlook on life. If you've seen Constellation's "Secret Intelligence Department", saw Eckstedt's "Dark Room", saw the Raven Robe Guards in Mane et Nox Dynasty, as well as Hanbol's "Kuntana", and when you've seen the methods they use, you will know just how many terrifying people there are lurking in the dark corners under the stage you stand on. Just a slight twitch of their fingers and they will know all your secrets.'
Then, with a sharp gaze, she said with certainty, "The crime- When the incident occurred, the sun had yet to set! He could only use Blood Guise to hide among the mercenaries!
"He is a Blood Clansman that hasn't reached supreme class yet. That is why he can only transform into liquid while using his Blood Guise, and he can last no more than half an hour in this state. This can only mean that the mercenaries had rushed here within a half-hour!
"A group of mercenaries is pressing onward at full speed. Only the Eastern City District where the nobles' manors are, the Town Hall, Merchants' Gathering, and the Central Region where the Renaissance Palace lies is half an hour away from Twilight District!"
Jines exhaled a sigh. This mature woman ended her deduction and moved an exploratory hand behind her waist out of pure habit, but found nothing there.
She was momentarily stunned before she started laughing bitterly in her heart. 'That's right, I'm no longer a police officer. I've even stopped smoking a long time ago.'
The trainee who always followed behind her to provide her a lighter had also long since changed into another person, had he not?
She heaved a sigh.
The sagacious lady stopped reminiscing and looked at Gilbert.
"Make your decision, Count."
Gilbert inhaled deeply and said, "The ones who will send someone to investigate will definitely be the nobles. The area in Eastern City District is not small, and the manors are the most suitable places to hide members of the Blood Clan! Even though there are quite a number of manors there…"
With one move, Yodel disappeared.
Gilbert choked back his words upon seeing his colleague's rude action. He could only heave a sigh. "Oh well, at least the search area is reduced."
Gilbert looked towards Jines and softly nodded to her. Jines only sneered at him.
Gilbert did not take that to heart, and instead, began ordering his people again. "Open the backup armory and reorganize the troops. Equip them with Silver Exorcism Swords! Pick thirty of the best fighters to follow me. Our destination is the Eastern City District!
"Bring the lamp along!"
*Boom boom! Boom boom! Boom! Boom! Boom!*
The muffled sounds on the ceiling continued, and it was getting more and more vigorous.
Chris whipped his head around, wearing a slightly anxious expression for the first time. He looked at Thales with a hostile gaze and said to Istrone, "Send him to the dungeon and lock him up well!"
Then, without waiting for Istrone and Thales' reaction, the old man and Rolana disappeared together!
Istrone also wore a surprised expression. He lifted Thales up and, ignoring the other's struggles and screams, ("Hey, hey, what's going on! Aren't we about to exchange information, oh honorable Istrone?"–Thales) flung him towards the stone stairs.
In the following second, while he still felt dizzy, Thales fell head-first onto the wet stone floor.
He grimaced in pain.
"Little brat! Stay here and be good! We will be able to hear whatever you are doing!" After an audible click from the key and Istrone's anxious words, the surroundings became silent.
Thales got up, feeling troubled but relieved. Istrone had disappeared.
So he quietly extended his hand to his lap and, while pretending to scratch an itch, cut his hand on JC's dagger which was tied there.
A surge of pain followed. His blood dripped onto the floor.
Thales inhaled deeply, welcoming the burning sensation throughout his body.
'This way, I guess Gilbert and Yodel would be able to identify my position?'
He exhaled lightly and completely relaxed his body, but a sense of fatigue suddenly hit him.
The boy trembled as he crawled to a wall and propped his body against it.
'Today's experience will definitely not lose out to yesterday's trip to Red Street Market!'
It was only now that Thales had the time to observe the conditions around him. The lightning was dull, and it came from two minuscule torches. The floor was made of stone and was wet, cold, and hard. The mottled walls were full of scratches and marks, with a narrow, metal railing with huge locks as thick as an arm.
His feet kicked on some rusty shackles nearby and they made a ringing sound. Thales heaved a sigh and lied on the ice-cold floor.
'No doubt, this is a prison cell. It is wet, muddy, and filled with a bloody stench.
'A bloody stench?'
Thales could smell the foul and salty stench in the air.
It was similar to what he smelled in Red Street Market yesterday, but this was even stronger.
His heart tightened as frightening screams and moans echoed from outside his prison cell.
Thales was so frightened that he stood up!
From what he remembered, he never had much tolerance for horror movies. It was always some person (whose name he could not remember) with terminal adolescent delusion syndrome who forcefully dragged him along to watch them together.
In what that person called 'training his bravery'.
From the horrifying stimulation, Thales' mind began operating at an insane speed again.
'Prison cell.' Bloody smell. Blood Clan. Screams and moans.
Thales suddenly knew what place this was: It was the 'food cabinet' of the Blood Clan.
A wave of nausea hit him. Thales heaved another sigh. The number of sighs he had made these past few days were probably more than the water he drank.
As he was about to sit down, faint and ragged panting sounds suddenly came from beside him.
"Huh! Huh! Ah!"
He was so scared that he crawled a few steps in the opposite direction.
Please stop scaring me.
On tenterhooks, Thales patted his chest, then he realized that his prison cell was not a luxurious single room.
Thales slowly inched towards the source of the panting sound. Under the dim light, he could see a human form, lying on the floor wearing heavy shackles, panting painfully.
In the dark, it was as though the prisoner could not speak. He only panted continuously, his voice full of pain and suffering.
His wrists were tightly secured by the shackles, and there seemed to be a tube that ran from inside the wrist to outside the cell.
Thales knew what that was.
Istrone had once said this, "In my opinion, we should just connect the phlebotomy device and nutrient canal right away, and then put him in the coffin."
Seeing this, there was no doubt it was phlebotomy device.
"Ha..." Thales lowered his head and helplessly heaved a sigh yet again.
It's probably some poor soul who was kidnapped here by the Blood Clan and became their food source.
"Ugh… Ugh..." As though sensing that someone had arrived, the prisoner struggled and moaned.
Thales felt another wave of nausea. Due to nausea, he decided that he had to do something.
"I'm sorry, this might hurt a little, please bear with it for a while." He softly said to the poor prisoner.
The boy extended his hand and held the prisoner's waist. Grabbing onto the thick phlebotomy device, he pulled off a needle with all his might, forcing out the needle that had been buried a few inches deep inside the prisoner's blood vessel.
"Ah! Ugh..." The prisoner's struggling and moaning intensified. He kept making indecipherable noises, like a mute.
Thales pressed onto the wound on the prisoner's wrist. Fortunately, there was not much bleeding.
'Of course, it's possible that he didn't have much blood left to begin with,' Thales thought dejectedly.
When dealing with the three Blood Clansmen just now, although Thales felt anxious and terrified, he had never felt weighed down by sadness.
But instead, seeing this chained up "source of blood" had, for some reason, made him start to have a heavy heart.
'Perhaps it's out of pity,' he thought self-deprecatingly.
Thales touched the shackles, and only then did he notice that it was a mechanical shackle made of dull black stone. It was covered with carvings of complicated patterns and words, heavy but intricate. It secured the prisoner's arms over his chest in such a manner that he was forced to cross his arms. Two clamp locks extended upwards and tightly clamped the prisoner's two cheeks, making him unable to turn his head. Pushing it with all his might, Thales realized that this heavy mechanical shackle was either secured to the floor or was so heavy that it was as if it has been secured to the floor.
It seemed like a heavy shackle specially prepared for elites.
Thales felt for the hasp and found it. It was made of some kind of special metal.
At that moment, the metal suddenly increased in temperature. A burst of searing heat went through the lock.
"Ah!" Thales involuntarily cried out in pain and let go of the hasp.
The boy frowned and tried touching the hasp again… Upon contact, the hasp would flare up with high temperature. It looked as if he had no way of unlocking the shackles. The prisoner's struggling slowly decreased.
Looking at his painful struggling and suffering, Thales felt extremely uncomfortable. However, he could only quietly retreat to the side and sit against the wall.
As Thales moved, the light from the torch outside the prison cell was no longer shielded and shone directly on the prisoner's face. Thales saw the pitiable person clearly. His body was covered in wounds. The grey clothing on his body was torn and filthy.
He was also handicapped. His legs were gone from the knees down. His neck was even scarier, the flesh and blood there had all meshed up and was a terrifying purplish-black color. It was as though his throat suffered a grave injury. That was probably the reason he could not talk.
Thales touched his own neck. Recalling his two experiences of being strangled and the pain that came with it, he could not help but shiver.
Looking at the prisoner, he thought quietly. 'What a pitiful person. To be able to live up until now with all those injuries, it is quite a miracle.'
The prisoner's expression was exaggerated. As he panted, his facial features twisted, as if enduring a great pain, but he could only make rough moans.
His short green hair covered half his face.
A weird tattoo covered the other half of his face.
"Unh..." He continued moaning in pain.
Thales was suddenly stunned. He recognized the tattoo on the person's face.
Thales was suddenly aware that this person sharing the prison cell with him, panting and unable to talk, was an 'old friend' of his.
It was an 'old friend' whom he and Jala had just bumped into at Red Street Market the day before...
One of the best in Blood Bottle Gang's Strongest Twelve. The Psionic who was an expert in manipulating the wind.
Supra class elite…
"Phantom Wind Follower"—Ralf.