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Blade Merris

"Can I have at least one day where I'm not badgered for company?"

0 · 174 views · located in Leu Chrysallia

a character in “A Phantasmagorical Metamorphose”, as played by Porecomesis

Description

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DUKE BLADE MERRIS

Theme song: "Victorian Vigilante" – Abney Park

General information
Role: The Noble
Gender: Male
Nickname(s): None. He is a noble and is expected to be treated that way.
Age: 49
Race: Human

Appearance:
Height: 192 cm
Weight: 60 kg
Build: Fit and muscular, despite his age.
Hair Colour: Grey
Eye Colour: Blue

Description: … What really is there to say that I haven’t already provided? Well, generally, he has a much more solemn expression but that’s about it.

Preferred clothing: As a noble, Blade has a taste for well-made and expensive clothes. In social situations, he is often seen wearing black with a blue gold-lined cape and a black tricorne, also rimmed with gold. When he’s trying to be incognito, he covers his body from head to toe in his brown coat, brown hat, brown gloves and brown boots. This is ironic as he hates the colour brown.

Personality

Mentality

Oddities:

  • Blade doesn't really look people in the eye when talking to them.
  • Blade isn't very attentive to things he doesn't care about.
  • Blade is prone to going off on his own for whatever reason.

Likes:
  • Sweets
  • Being left alone
  • Practising new spells
  • Assassinating corrupt people
  • Weapons
  • Justice
  • Romance novels

Dislikes:
  • Sour fruit
  • Corrupt people
  • Karma Houdini’s
  • Overly social people
  • Being touched
  • Dead baby comedy

Hobbies:
  • Practising magic
  • Sparring with his Chevalier
  • Playing checkers
  • Keeping his moustache nice and neat
  • Practising with his saxophone
  • Collecting vintage swords

Phobias:
  • Genophobia (fear of sexual intercourse)

Personality: At first glance, Blade is your average noble but more honestly so. He doesn't think much of the lower class, he would rather spend his money on himself rather than others and he’s more hedonistic than anything. Despite this, however, Blade does have traces of a "hero" in him. Even though he doesn't really want to, he has strong urges to help the helpless.

However, what also drives him to be a "hero" is his strong distaste of his fellow nobles. Behind their lies, he can see their corruption and their selfishness. They are just like him but, even though they too can understand empathy, it is irrelevant to them. Thus, trying to hide it as he does, Blade cannot escape the internal satisfaction given to him when he slays the corrupt.

Equipment

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Weapon: When he’s on the job, Blade wears a bracer on each forearm. Designed by a dwarven acquaintance of Blade's, on the underside of each bracer is a mechanism that holds a wand. With seemingly a flick of his wrist, the wand will be extended or retracted. It’s also possible to remove the wands. With his wands, Blade can use a variety of spells. When he's off the job, he'll just carry the wand.

Also, he normally always has his cane. However, this is no ordinary oak cane; it actually conceals a sword which he uses with great ability. Even when sheathed, it is dangerous; he can use the handle as a hook. It is also capable of channelling magic although he cannot use it to fire ranged spells.

In addition, he also carries two flintlock pistols on missions. These, as well as his sword cane, are very useful when he finds himself unable to use magic.

Fighting style: Whether he’s dual-wielding his hidden wands or using his sword, Blade always combines his magic with his weapons. Publicly, he is honourable and merciful. However, when he's away from the public eye, he will resort to every trick he knows to subdue his opponent.

Abilities:

  • As a noble, Blade has had the privilege of being taught the arcane arts. Not only can he cast spells, he is also capable of subconsciously feeling mana given off by powerful mages or artefacts. If he concentrates, he can even discern the source(s) of said mana.
  • Blade is also very skilled with the sword. He has even surpassed his Chevalier.
  • A high level of fitness and skill allows Blade to manoeuvre around many environments with just his hands and feet.

History

Background

Relationship status: Single and not interested.

Personal history:

When he was born, Blade immediately had a fascination with a sword that belonged to the Chevalier of his father. Thus, Rosalind, his very affectionate mother, named him "Blade".

Blade grew up into the noble life, although he was more introverted than normal. While most nobles and their children would spend their time frolicking amongst each other, Blade would prefer to stay at home and read books. This way, he developed an interest in magic and, at his request, Denuel, his father, hired a wizard to teach him. Blade proved to be an attentive student and learned rather quickly. While other nobles didn't care much for his wizardry and felt that he should be more social, they never spoke against him or his parents for his decision. Well, one of them did. To this day, he still can't figure out how to open his door.

As a late teenager, at his father's request, Blade did go to more social gatherings with other nobles. This only reminded him why he never affiliated himself with them in the first place; they appear charming and benevolent but this is only an act for them to seize as much profit as they can when their prey was unaware. Blade rarely socialised with these vain vipers. They in turn mostly ignored him. Rosalind and Denuel didn't mind; even though it was a shame that Blade seem to have no desire to interact with other nobles and perhaps never be able to produce suitable heir to the Merris name, Blade's younger brother, Lorris, would do with his more outgoing personality.

Throughout the years, his father and mother had done a decent job teaching him how to make money through their connections with milk and honey manufacturers. However, one day, his world would be changed. At the age of 32, he attended another social gathering when his cousin asked him to join him on the balcony. Now, Blade never held his cousin in a great deal of contempt. Sure, he was rather manipulative and disregarding of the plight of others but he was family and... well, Blade more saw him as an acquaintance that he could tolerate. Not so here. On the balcony, after a rather civil discussion, his cousin began talking about how he was cheating on his wife with his servant. No matter how unwilling the servant was.

Blade does not like other people and one could get the impression that being the last living person in the world would leave him happier than anything else. Still, the sheer callousness demonstrated by his cousin shocked Blade. Even when he was questioned about the morality of his actions, his cousin shrugged it off, saying that he needed his "cravings satisfied" and his wife simply wasn't up to the task. As he leaned on the balcony railing, he looked into the sunset and began talking about irrelevant matters like how he considered Blade family in a way, even though they never met much. To Blade, this was irrelevant. All of a sudden, inspiration hit him. With a mighty push, Blade sent his cousin over the balcony screaming to his death.

Shocked by his actions, he ran back inside and everyone discovered the falling of his cousin. No one was paying attention before but he brought it to their attention. His mother and father, rightfully concerned, asked him what happened.

All he could say was "He... he fell over..."

And just like that, he was believed. The other nobles accepted this news as well. To them, there was no way Blade, the noble without ambition, would kill another noble, right? What would be gain from it? Whatever power or wealth his cousin had would never be gained by him. Without gain, there would be no purpose. Without purpose, Blade would not have a reason to kill his cousin.

Blade had murdered a noble. Blade had gotten away from it. Later that night, recovering from the shock of what he did, he realised something:

He could do this again.

The snakes of nobility were vile and poisonous. His cousin even more so. With his death, the definite suffering of two people had come to an end and any who he held tight in his grip were finally freed. How many other nobles committed such atrocities? How many nobles were even worse? How much suffering could he end? He didn't know the answers. But he knew that he ended the suffering of two people.

That was enough for him. To cure the world, he will cut off the heads of the serpent.

Over the years, he had practised his spellcraft with even more intensity than before. He finally decided to put his swords to good use and spar with his ever loyal Chevalier, Lionna. He trained his body and mind as far as he could. Over the years, nobles had been murdered. Assassinated. No one suspected it was the antisocial Blade Merris, Duke of Mort-Vandrine.

One night, he found himself invited to a party held by the Duke of Cellé. With nothing better to do at the time, he decided to go.

So begins...

Blade Merris's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Blade Merris

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Duke Blade Merris of Mort-Vandrine


The stars were shining bright in the night sky and made it look rather nice.

That was pretty much the only positive thing Blade Merris, the Duke of Mort-Vandrine, was willing to say this evening.

Blade was an honest person so, if asked, he would say that he hated these sort of parties. Nothing more than vast quantities of money and food on self-aggrandisement. And for what? Someone's getting married? How inconsequential. If it was truly a celebration of the union of two people, it should merely be kept between the families of the two. But, as this marriage would supposedly allow a boy to become a Duke rather than, say, being more than capable of ruling as a Duke, it was somehow that much bigger a deal. If he had the kind of money necessary to provide all these delicacies and lanterns and even just give away food and drink in these dire times, he'd use it to replace that blasted waterwheel that the local farmers need to grow their crops which, by the dead Goddess, seemed to break down entirely on its own every single time it wasn't being looked at. He'd also give some of it to the Green Water Treatment Centre. The dead Goddess knows that they could most certainly use it for their steam machines.

Still, he had nothing better to do. His new spell book had yet to arrive at his estate, he read most of his books and didn't particularly care for the ones he didn't and his bladework wasn't going anywhere. So here he was, sitting in a rather elegant carriage being pulled along a highway by his two horses, the black Coalesce and the beige Primrose.

"My lord? Is everything alright?"

Blade used every bit of his nerve to resist groaning at the sound of his Chevalier. Not that he was by any means a bad man. Goodness gracious, no. Blade didn't really like anyone, good or bad, and even his loyal Chevalier irritated him with such inane questions. If there was one thing Blade was willing to say nice about his guard, though, it was that he was always dressed for the job. As of current, he was wearing his torso armour as well as his arm armour and even a pair of leather grieves. He didn't wear a helmet and his legs were only protected by trousers but this was a party, not a warzone, so Blade let it slide. At the very least, his Chevalier would not need to worry about not having a date as his face and long red hair should incite whatever shallow whores would tread the floors of Duke Auttenberg's manor this night.

"No Joan, it is not. Here I am again, attending another party which might as well be a massive bonfire that precious money and food are thrown into by savage ingrates that are somehow smart enough to run businesses but not smart enough to know how to spend their finances."

"Oh. I see, sir."

Another silence came across the carriage. Just as Blade liked it.

"You could've stayed home, sir."

So much for that.

"A swell idea. It is just a shame that there is currently nothing to do back at the manor."

"What about actual work, sir?"

Blade couldn't help but smirk. At last, he remembered why he hired Joan as his Chevalier in the first place. Blade did not like being talked back to. At all. He was a noble who managed to achieve Duke status by sheer ability alone without marriage and his fighting ability was beyond even that of a Chevalier, a fact which was proven in a two-on-one spar in which his clothes weren't even scratched (although one of the Chevaliers happened to be slightly inebriated at the time but details such as that don't matter. At least, that's what Blade's going with). He was a man of great power both politically and physically. He was not to be talked down to. Yet, he found himself appreciating Joan's ability to turn his own words against him and his general wit. While he was still a bit sore about all the checker games lost against him, Blade was willing to put aside such petty matters. For now, anyway.

"It may surprise you, Joan, that I seek activities that will reduce my boredom."

Joan smiled back. "If you say so, sir. If it is of any consolation, they may have biscuits coated with coconut caramel."

Blade looked out the window. "Do not get my hopes up, boy." Indeed, if anything could cheer Blade up, it was biscuits coated with coconut caramel. A shame it was, then, that the speciality of the chef that attended to his nutritional needs when he was a child was too hard to make for regular consumption. Most people simply didn't bother. He would exercise control and get his own chef to cook them but the stupid cleaver-wielding flummox must somehow think of an attractive woman every time he cooks and the things are destroyed. Furthermore, coconut caramel was an... acquired taste, even for those with sweet teeth like his. The chances of Auttenberg actually preparing them were slim... but goodness, there was a chance!

Goddess, he almost licked his lips. He better keep a watch on that.

"Sir, it appears that we are here," Joan alerted him.

Blade looked out the other window. There it was; the city of Cellé. Out of curiosity, Blade once referred to history books to learn about Cellé and Mort-Vandrine, the founders of the cities that were named after them. While he didn't hold in high regard a desperate man that seized a weakened territory in a desperate yet fruitful move to invade a neighbouring country, he still vastly preferred Cellé to the brute that was Mort-Vandrine. He probably should've done that before deciding to be the Duke of the latter city. He imagined Cellé would be having the time of his life here, what with all the varied lights that illuminated the city even from five minutes away by horse-drawn carriage. He guessed minutes ago that they were from lanterns made from different colours of the thin yet fireproof paper made from the sharp weed found under the ocean and he was still confident that such was still the case.

"Hm. It seems we are."

Seven minutes passed before Blade and his Chevalier finally arrived at the Auttenberg manor. Even more so than usual, it looked fantastic. Appearance-wise, it exceeded Blade's own estate, although this was only because of the many ornaments that were used to decorate it. Again, a waste of money.

"Sir, do you believe you should have your ward?" Joan inquired.

Blade reached into his collar. "Joan, I am always prepared," he responded as he pulled out a necklace with a small stone charm inscribed with a variety of runes. As an Enchantment specialist, Blade had crafted himself several charms that would protect from the effects of mind-based magic. Unfortunately, it had the side effect of interfering with any mind spells he tried to cast but he didn't care about that right now. "The question is, are you?"

In turn, Joan pulled out his own charm from under his chest armour. "Indeed I am, sir. You cannot be too careful. Some people love taking advantage of the tranquillity offered by events such as these to raise mayhem."

Blade looked directly at Joan.

Joan looked directly back.

"... Indeed they do," Blade answered as he returned his charm to its rightful place, an action repeated by his guard.

Soon, a servant of Duke Auttenberg's arrived at their carriage to open its door, allowing Blade and his Chevalier to exit it. Blade only placed his other foot on the ground when he turned his head to the front of the carriage. "Serian, I would much prefer it if you parked the carriage under shelter so that, if it rains, it would be well-protected. Join us inside when you are done."

The female elven driver responded. "Dunno what makes you think that'll happen but an order's an order. Hyah!" Under her guidance, Coalesce and Primrose then proceeded to where she believed the stables would be with the carriage in tow.

With their driver and transport taken care of, Duke Blade Marris and his Chevalier Joan proceeded down the path leading to the front gates of the manor. As usual, it had two guards out the front. Blade, despite his cynicism, was still willing to count his blessings. In this case, it was that the guards put a level of effort into their jobs that was inversely proportional to the effort put in by nobles. They were attentive and seemed ready to strike even at a kitten if it proved to be a hostile threat. Next to them was a man who didn't seem so enthusiastic about his job. With his list, he seemed to be managing the party guests.

The guard on the left raised her hand in a stop motion towards the approaching duo. "Halt! Identify yourselves!" she demanded.

"Duke Blade Merris of Mort-Vandrine and his Chevalier Joan Gesthalgion," Blade aptly answered, no-nonsense as always. "In addition, I have a female elven driver by the name of Serian Vix who will be here shortly. She has brown hair down to her shoulders and should have a golden bracelet on her left hand. It was crafted by her cousin."

The one with the list read it closely. "Merris..." After a moment, he raised his head to the guards. "He's on the list."

"Took your damn sweet time..." The male guard grumbled as the gates were opened. "What, it's been maybe an hour since the party started?"

Blade didn't pay him heed as he and his companion travelled through the gates and through the large wooden doors leading into the manor.

It was not at all uncommon for Blade to be ignored whenever he arrived at a social gathering, as antisocial as he is. Still, one could not deny that he had a dynamic presence of much power. Even as he stood next to his Chevalier who, as always, looked ready to fight bears if they attacked his lord, he still had the greater aura of the two of them. Avert their eyes as they will, the other partygoers still knew he was there.

"Joan," Blade began, "I will find Duke Auttenberg and explain my lack of punctuality. You go ahead and enjoy yourself."

His guard smiled. "Thank you, my lord." He parted from Blade and then took in his surroundings, fascinated. Blade held no contempt for such awe. After all, if the purpose of an object was to be observed and admired, then it shall be observed and admired. Sure, it was a waste of money but it wasn't a waste of his money so he didn't mind. Besides, a treat for the eyes was as important as a treat for the mouth.

Speaking of which, he'd have to find that snack table after he told the Duke about his lateness. He'd go to the snack table first and bother the explanations entirely but he had to keep up appearances. Even though he didn't really care less whether others saw him as a saint or a sinner, financial support from the masses was still a necessity and he had to go out of his way for it.

Fortunately, the Duke was not hard to spot at all. He was actually surrounded by two other people. He didn't recognise one of them but the other... By the dead Goddess, was that Louis? He certainly had grown. Not for the better, it seemed, if he was judging by his disposition. Already, he could smell the dishonesty on all three of them.

"Well, it was a pleasure to see you again," the unrecognised male said to the Auttenbergs. "Have a swell evening, you two. And Louis, enjoy that woman! Beauties like her don't just fall from the sky, you hear?"

Louis gave a pleasant smile forged from years of deceit and treachery. "Believe me Malcus, I will. Have a good evening."

The man designated Malcus gave a hearty laugh and walked off from the two. This allowed them to face each other and talk about other things.

"Alan?"

Blade's voice stopped that from even starting. At once, he caught the attention of the Duke and his son. The Duke seemed very pleasantly surprised.

"My, my, is that Blade Merris? Goodness, this is a rare occasion!" The Duke, apparently named Alan, approached Blade with his son trailing behind him. "Your distaste of these events has been made quite clear and remembered quite well throughout the years. I suppose coming late was an attempt to spite me?"

"No, actually. I was, in fact, preoccupied with arranging some of my furniture with the help of my servants and I simply lost track of time."

The Duke raised an amused eyebrow. "Is that so?"

"I would say I was busy with a woman but that would be a lie. I do not know if I can say the same for other latecomers to this party."

This was enough to make the Duke laugh. "Ah, you make good company, introverted as you are." A sudden flash occurred in the eyes of Alan, as if realising something. "Oh, yes." He placed a hand on the shoulder of Louis and gestured him to move forward. "Blade, this is my son Louis. Louis, this is Blade Merris, Duke of Mort-Vandrine."

A winning smile was soon worn by the future Duke. "A pleasure, sir."

As one would expect, Blade responded with a simple "Hello." He then spoke to Alan. "So, what is this party about again? It has sort of slipped my mind."

The Duke responded with sheer genuine surprise. "You don't know? Why, tomorrow is the wedding of my son and his fiancée!"

"You don't say," responded Blade with sheer disinterest, already looking around the room.

"Indeed!" Alan looked back at Louis for a moment. "Louis, I would like to have this discussion private. Feel free to enjoy yourself."

Louis nodded. "Thank you, father." He then turned around and walked off, the dead Goddess knows where to.

"Anyway," the Duke began again to Blade, "this marriage will provide Cellé with a new Duke to rule it. As much as I have enjoyed being a Duke, I feel it is time for the city to have a fresh new leader who can last the ages."

"But, of course, you will still be at your son's side, providing 'assistance' where you find it needed?" Blade asked.

The Duke smiled. Blade was reminded of the time he discovered Serian and Joan looking over his spell books. While Joan was rather flustered, Serian just smiled and humbly accepted defeat. "You caught me," Alan answered. "Of course, my son may have some issues on the seat. Who better than a former Duke to lead and guide him?"

To Blade, this was translated as: Muwhahahaha! I am a very evil man! When my son takes over my position as Duke, I will still control him from the sidelines, and I will still RULE CELEÉ! Muwhahahahahaha! Okay, that was a bit of an exaggeration but Blade was already immensely bored and he needed a way to entertain himself.

"I won't argue with that logic." If only because Blade really couldn't care less. "So, who is this fiancée?"

"Ah, her..." Alan began stroking his chin. "Her name is Elegy Lovell. Do you remember that family?"

"Hm..." Try as he might, he couldn't. "I'm afraid I don't."

"Well, regardless, I will admit she is an odd one. It was by mere chance that I came across her one day, discovered she was the last heir of the Lovell family and decided that, yes, she would be the perfect bride for my son. Her mysterious past that not even my best agents have been able to discover only adds to her allure."

That was it. For the first time that evening, Blade looked at who he was speaking to with... well, figure it out for yourself. "... You have betrothed your only son to a woman of nobility with no verifiable background or identity?"

All he got for his question was a shrug from the Duke. "She is a woman whose nobility will empower my son. That is all that is needed to know."

Blade had encountered people he considered... intellectually subnormal before, especially nobles. Normally, he would regard them very lowly yet speak of them with mockery and satire. However, there are times, including this one, where he just had to be frank. "Alan, by the dead Goddess, I thought you were smarter than this..." he groaned as he held the bridge of his nose.

The Duke was reminded why no one particularly liked Blade. Regardless, he still smiled. "Says the man who still has yet to find a woman who will give him a heir."

"That is for lack of trying as I have no interest in producing a heir or having a beloved." Blade moved his hand away from his nose. "I believe I need to eat. Do you know where the snack table is?"

Alan seemed to cheer up a bit. "Ah. Now, the manor's a bit big so bear with me..."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Jeremiah Justus Character Portrait: Elegy Lovell Character Portrait: Damian Cline Character Portrait: Blade Merris

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[Elegy Lovell]


Her breath came to her poorly, in short desperate gasps as pain would ripple through her middle with every inhale and exhale. She had done nothing wrong, nothing that should’ve upset Louis yet he’d . . . hurt her so. The girl’s clothed fingers very gently ran overtop her tender ribs, her eyes upon the area as a clearly uncertain expression had taken toot upon her features. Elegy just didn’t understand this, Louis had told her to behave herself, but, she had been before he had gone and squeezed her middle like a constricting serpent. What was it the man defined as ‘behaving?’ What had she done to upset him? Why did he want to hurt her?

Tears were rimming her eyes, threatening to fall at any moment, giving her cerulean eyes the look of polished glass. As it was the noble born girl released a fairly shaky exhale, little jolts of pain shooting through her, her attention was caught up by the soft, subtle voice of the girl who was associated, and evidently employed by Damian Cline. “Excuse me, Miss Elegy…?”

Very slowly, Elegy turned her head upward, a distant sort of look on her face. Her hand remained placed over her aching ribs, lightly placed there by instinct in order to protect it from further injury. The girl was a fragile looking one, she was small, and her hair and eyes were of unusual coloring. “I'm apologize if it is an interruption, but I would very much enjoy if you would allow me to examine you, since you don't seem to be feeling well." The young miss gave a shallow bow, “Ah... Also, I believe that the area around your ribcage has been bruised, since earlier. It is also possible, though unlikely, that your lungs have sustained an injury as well. It would be a great help to me if you could now remove your dress and any other garments that could inhibit the process, as I may need to apply a medication to your skin. I would also ask that you refrain from engaging in acts of affection that end in your potential harm until the evening is over.”

Elegy kept herself quiet, as she merely stared at the girl while she gave a warm and assuring smile. She was unaware of what it was Louis had been doing, innocent to the fact that what he’d been hurting her. That was how Louis wanted to make it appear, he didn’t want anyone to openly realize that he’d possessed a death grip on her middle, and grasped onto her so tightly as to injure her. The Duke-to-be was off; speaking with his father and their cousins, chattering away about Goddess knew what. And she, she’d been left with a warning to behave herself, whatever it was that meant, Elegy did not know what it was that Louis considered that to be. If she managed to do something that again upset him, he would only hurt her again, wouldn’t he? Would admitting injury to the Alchemist’s Assist anger him?

Not wanting things to take a turn she would not know how to cope with yet again, Elegy hesitantly shook her head back and forth, slowly. “M-my apologies, Miss, b-but I cannot comply. My fiancé, Louis, h-he will be seeking me out after it is that he has been dismissed by Duke Auttenberg.” Elegy spoke to her, her voice soft, and breathy from the tender ache that plagued her diaphragm with every small move she made. “I am grateful for your concern though, it is appreciated. . . .” she bowed her head to the girl, unable to do much else to express herself as far as gestures went.

Her mother wanted what was best for her, and what was best for her involved her marrying Louis, even if she did not at all understand the man, and the reasons he had for being upset with her. That meant having to refuse medical attention or aid, to keep her fiancé from being upset. I-I have to mind myself carefully.

Sensing the presence of another before her, Elegy brought herself to slowly glance upward, her face was ashen at this point, herself looking weary. But, before her stood yet another individual, a boy of whom was about her age. He was a handsome one, even Elegy herself knew enough to admit as much true, and he was attractive in a way different than Louis was though. . . . She did not say a word to this stranger, only she stared at him until it was that a bright grin overtook the lad’s face, and he reach out and plucked one of her hands from her middle, to place a kiss on it, before letting go.

The act was enough to cause a slight tinge of pink to surface upon Elegy’s face. But, he stood up straightly, “Helloooo madam...what was it again? I'm afraid I missed your name with all that beauty.” The flush on her face deepened at this, this sort of treatment was not something with which she was accustomed.

Though embarrassed by the compliment, Elegy herself was reluctant toward it; why was this boy was paying her with sweet words and such greetings . . . ? Her middle was aching, Louis could’ve returned to her at any time now, and Elegy didn’t know how it was he would react if he found this strange boy here with her.

His next words were directed toward the Alchemist’s Assist, “Are you the doctor? Is there anything I can do to help this beautiful maiden~? Besides being here, of course. Don't you think she needs some rest? I could take her up to her room and make sure she remains safe until then.” Elegy tipped her head downward again, her cheeks still tinted a shade of red, her hands draped over her stomach once more. “I promise, you can trust me. I would never do anything to harm a lady.”

Why was he being so very insistent, and why would he regard her with such treatment . . . ? It was strange, so very strange. Elegy was far from used to this sort of treatment, but. . . . She felt that she didn’t mind it? However, there remained the grim fact that she did not know how Louis was going to react toward this man being near her, she didn’t want him upset again. “Oh, m’lady, you seem to have a piece of grass stuck in your hair. Let me help you with that.” the boy leaned down, forward, brushing some of her hair back. Elegy knew that she didn’t have anything in her hair, much less grass. . . . She could only look at him in confusion, before it was he spoke to her in a low, quiet voice, “Poor lady, you’re looking sad. I could help you with this...situation.”

Hearing this from him, the noble born daughter felt her heart skip a beat in her chest, and her eyes drew away from him to gaze forward, a mildly pained expression formed over her make-upped face, Help . . . me? she questioned as he stood up and away from her. Her mother had thought it was best for her to marry Louis, for her fate to become the wife of a future Duke, Violetta wanted Elegy to lead the best life she could, so she’d set things up as they were now. That was how it was supposed to go, wasn’t it? If this is how my life is suppose to go, then why is it that someone would say I was looking sad, and that they wanted to help me?

What did that mean, exactly? A strange sensation shuddered through Elegy’s body, something she didn’t quite understand—a sentiment which made her almost squirm. She was supposed to get married, wasn’t she? That was how it was supposed to be . . . ?

The boy smiled at her again, “I got it! So, what do you two say? May I?” he asked.

Elegy looked up to him again, confusion dancing over her features. No one before had ever said that she ‘looked sad,’ nor did they offer to ‘help’ her. She did not understand this; was it kindness he expressed toward her? Did she not have to marry Louis as her mother had told her? If this was true, then why was it that Louis had been upset with her before, if he did not want anything to do with her then couldn’t he have just backed out of their engagement? The blonde’s hands were still upon her middle, her ribs bruising, it had become hard for her to breathe due to the pain. Louis had . . . hurt her, why? Why had he?

Was that what Violetta wanted for her, to lead a life with someone who hurt her like that? Was that really meant to be her fate? Elegy’s eyes flickered over in the direction of Louis and his father as the two seemed to be speaking with another man, another Duke she believed she recognized though had never spoken with. . . . Feigning pleasantries again, acting as if he were proud and happy that he would be marrying her tomorrow. . . . Yet, he had hurt her, become upset with her for reasons she did not at all know.

Still looking uncertain, Elegy’s eyes travelled back to the Alchemist’s Assist, before returning to the boy, “I-I . . . do not have to marry Louis . . . ?” she asked them both, quietly, voice so soft that it was hard to hear her over the chatter of the crowd. The eyes of many nobles were glancing in her direction, peering between Elegy and the strange, unknown boy who was near her. Several of the noblewomen were beginning to gossip among themselves regarding that.

A look of what seemed to be desperation overcame the girl’s features, as she felt her heart beginning to flutter within her chest as she moved forward in her chair, pain going through her from her middle. “If I do not want to enter into marriage with him, I do not have to? I am allowed to decide whether or not I do?” her voice was laced with an edge of agony, yet the tone within it was a stronger one, one that revealed how very anxious she was. Tears were beginning to form within her eyes again.

Yet, what Elegy had failed to notice in the moment of her asking this of the two strangers, was that Louis had indeed returned to her side, having been sent away from his father. “Elegy dear, what are you speaking of now?”

Hearing the voice of her fiancé, the girl froze up, and her eyes went wide. Slowly, she turned her head up to see that the Duke-to-be was standing over her, she gave him no answer.

Louis was attempting to maintain a composed air, to act as if he was not bothered by what he had heard her ask, but the facade he maintained was beginning to crumble. “I returned to see if you were yet recovered from your sudden bout of illness, and I come to hear you say you do not desire marriage with me . . . ? What does this mean?”

She opened her mouth, body beginning to quiver as she remembered what Louis had said before taking to his father, that she needed to behave, and she’d agreed. By asking what she had, she had broken the word she’d given to him. “L-Louis. . . .” Elegy started; voice hesitant.

A hand went up, and the hurt expression carried by Louis faded—he tilted forward, setting a hand upon Elegy’s shoulder, his mouth near to her ear. “I thought I told you to straighten yourself up, didn’t you agree to do so before? Did you lie to me Elegy?” he hissed, voice seeping from his lips like venom.

Elegy remained seated, still, eyes wide. She had given her word to him as he said.

“Here, I’m trying to be a good fiancé to you, even though you’re nothing more than a worthless little whore who my father picked up from nowhere. . . . And I slip off for not even ten minutes, and I return to find you talking about running away from your commitment to me with some bastard of a peasant boy?” The grip Louis had on Elegy’s shoulder tightened up.

A whimper slipped from Elegy’s lips this time, as she did her best to keep it contained—she couldn’t lose it, she had to maintain herself, she’d already acted in a way improper. No matter what had been offered to her by the boy, she shouldn’t have acted as she had. But still, the thought of it, the question of a choice lingered. . . .

“You’ve got some gull, don’t you? You act demure, innocent and submissive, but you couldn’t be more of a bitch; no matter what you want, what you have planned or think, you are engaged to me, and will become my wife in the morning. And, I’ll teach you to act like a proper woman!” Elegy cried out suddenly, as Louis grasped onto her other shoulder as well, squeezing both with near enough force to break her fragile bones.

N-No . . . this, this. . . . NO! she’d been given a glimpse of choice, shown for a moment that this was not what she had to commit to for the rest of her life, no matter what it was that Violetta had decided for her. Surely, Violetta, her mother, did not want for her daughter to be caught up in something with left her unhappy? And, against what Louis expected, what most would’ve, Elegy’s hands moved from her middle, frantically, one ending up against Louis’ face, the other upon the man’s chest. Despite the severe jolt of pain that travelled through her middle and shoulders, Elegy suddenly rose up to her feet, shoving Louis away from her.

“N-No!” she shouted at him, her arms wrapping back around herself. “Why do you keep hurting me? If are so insistent on us being married, Louis, then why is it that you harm me . . . ?” she asked him, “If you do not want me, if you do not desire me as a wife, then why do you not just call off the wedding? I do not understand why. . . . Is there not a choice in this?”

Elegy looked back over to the boy who’d offered his help. Louis was clutching onto his face, acting as if Elegy had harmed him in pushing him away. “Tch, I don’t need to put up with this shit, not from a worthless harlot like you.” The man seethed, anger on his face as it was he suddenly turned on his heel and angrily stepped away, heading down the steps and out of sight.

When it was that Louis was out of sight, Elegy’s expression became an overwhelmed one, and her face paled before she tipped backward and fell back into the seat behind her, holding onto her middle.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Elegy Lovell Character Portrait: Blade Merris

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Duke Blade Merris of Mort-Vandrine


"Now, as you can plainly see, the manor is incredibly large. Even I get lost from time to time. Do not fear, though, for it is easier to navigate than you blah. Blah blah blah, blah blah blah blah blah..."

Blade turned his attention away from Alan once more. He really should've seen this coming when he asked for directions; nobles, with very few exceptions, are always very eager to show off their possessions, especially their accommodations. He really needed some chocolates at the very least right now...

Come to think of it, Coalesce had been acting odd as of late. Not to mention she'd been hanging around Primrose a great deal... Was she pregnant? He hoped not. Horses were expensive to maintain and-

"... blah blah blah?" asked Alan.

"Blah blah. Blah blah blah blah," responded Blade.

"... I beg your pardon?" inquired Alan, looking like he just saw a cat give him a rather rude hand gesture discouraged by the dead goddess but highly encouraged by the Lion Spirit that Joan occasionally worshipped, much like the rest of the Gesthalgions.

At once, Blade picked up on his mistake. "O-Oh, terribly sorry. What I meant to say was 'I see. Thank you very much'."

The Duke- the other one, that is- didn't look like he bought that for an instant.

Blade cleared his throat. "Thank you for your directions. I believe I can make my way from here." So he-

"N-No!"

- turned towards the source of the scream, an action repeated by Alan. Well, Blade was certainly not expecting this; the cry actually came from some woman that was looking at Louis. Louis had one hand on his face, presumably to cradle his injuries. What on Leu Chrysallia transpired between the two of them? This question was held in the minds of the many partygoers that were currently observing the spectacle, never to be voiced.

"Why do you keep hurting me?" asked the woman with a wavering voice. "If are so insistent on us being married, Louis, then why is it that you harm me...?"

That was the most shocking part for Blade. A squabble between an engaged couple on the night before their wedding, and during the party that celebrated it to boot? But... Louis injured his bride?

The bride, whose name was Elegy if he remembered correctly, was not done. "If you do not want me, if you do not desire me as a wife, then why do you not just call off the wedding? I do not understand why... Is there not a choice in this?"

But Louis was not in a talking mood, it seemed. "Tch, I don’t need to put up with this shit, not from a worthless harlot like you," he responded in anger. Also in anger did he turn around and storm down the stairs nearby.

Everyone was confused by these events. Overwhelmed, even.

Alan just seemed weary. "Goodness gracious... Whatever did we do to deserve such drama on a night like this?"

Many snarky answers could have been given to him but they weren't. Blade, however, opted for a different kind of answer. "Talk with him."

That was an order. Not a demand, not a suggestion, but an order. Nobles typically did not like orders. Alan was no exception. "... What? Now now, there is no need for that." Nobles typically are also capable of restraining their emotions. "It is a simple spat. They will come to terms."

"But it is a 'simple spat' on the night before their wedding. Could this be an ill omen?"

If the Duke of Cellé was indeed disturbed by such a suggestion, he didn't show it. "... I believe they will overcome it. Especially my son. I did not arrange for his ascendency to Duke status on a whim, you know."

Blade sighed. "Very well, then. I will help myself to some refreshments." Taking a step left, Blade tread through the room to a corridor that lead to where he believed the snack table rested. "Farewell for now, Alan."

"And farewell to you, Blade."

Any other day, Blade would be thinking how he was relieved to be away from that obnoxious prat. Any other day, he most likely wouldn't have witnessed such a thing. Well... actually, that would be more days than such a sentence would infer as he had indeed witnessed such a thing before. Many times. Many times before had he borne witness to a noble couple lash out at each other with hostile intent. Many times before had he seen the rage that plagued the face of a noble that believed themselves up in the skies with the gods. This was very troublesome indeed. Worse yet, he'd heard stories from his mother how the relationship between many nobles only degenerated after marriage and many others seemed to believe them. If Elegy was right and Louis was indeed hurting her to such a degree now that she'd act against him...

... Now that he thought about it, Louis was in dire need of some "discipline"...

...

Blade shook his head. "I need some sugar..." he muttered as he still walked.

Fortunately, he didn't have to walk for very long. Finally, he managed to find the buffet. In celebration of his successful endeavour, he allowed himself to smile. He walked over to the assortment of foods and, oh yes, an assortment it most definitely was. Ulissis, Goddess damn his soul, couldn't cook half of these if his life depended on it. Plenty of sweets, too.

But he picked up a smell.

Was it...

It came from a plate. A plate right in front of him that was empty save for quite a few crumbs but he knew what it had on it. He identified the crisis right away.

Someone else ate all of the biscuits coated in coconut caramel.

"God damn it..." Blade lamented his lateness as his head crashed against the table.

Whatever did he do to deserve such drama on a night like this?

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Blade Merris

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Duke Blade Merris of Mort-Vandrine


Blade loved sweets. If there was one perk he enjoyed more than any other as a noble, it was that he could help himself to the sweetest delicacies to be cooked and enjoy them with the greatest milk in the kingdom. Sweets were the greatest way to calm him down. Too many visitors? Hardened honey. The water wheel broke? A cup of chocolate. Ulissis fumbled his dinner again? Blade would like nothing more than the chef's butterfingers to be burned in a dragon's fire but he'd settle with some fruit custard. No matter what the occasion, a simple sweet would calm Blade's thoughts and remove the stress of his problems.

But the problems themselves would remain.

After picking himself up from the loss of his favourite treat, he proceeded to satisfy himself with the other foodstuffs provided in front of him. Yet, no matter what he ate, his mind kept drifting back to Louis. That malice... Blade knew exactly what it meant. If left to his devices, Louis would be the worst kind of husband to... Elegy, that was it. He would not treat her kindly, as have many of the nobles that Blade... Well, let's say he cleaned up their acts. If push came to shove, he'd clean up Louis' as well.

... Actually, why wait for then? To push your own bride one night before your marriage was an ill omen, nothing more nothing less. He could see that the shoving would happen eventually so why should he wait when he had a perfectly good opportunity to never let her get shoved to begin with? Never would she abused or ordered or pulled around like a marionette capable of thoughts that aren't her own and never would be face suffering for it.

And so, Blade decided, never would Louis breathe again after this night.

With this in mind, Blade walked over to the currently unoccupied wine table, picked up two wine glasses and filled them both with Red Victin Joy, a famous red wine created from the victin fruit that no one in their right mind would ever eat as it is unless they were making a deal with the dead goddess. Making sure that no one was looking, he pulled out his favourite wand crafted from crywood and enchanted both of the glasses. The dark red wine within turned darker still. Most people of Blade's profession would smile with satisfaction. Not Blade, though: he had a job to do and he had no time to pat himself on the back.

With a glass in each hand, Blade manoeuvred through the crowd, saying "move" rather than "excuse me" if he chose to tell someone to get out of his way, and made his way down the stairs that Louis that wandered down earlier. It was rather odd that a noble would choose to have subterranean quarters but who was he to judge? At the very least, they'd never have to worry about windows. In fact, to ward away people of... an unsavoury nature, this was probably the smartest thing a noble could do. It was rather lavish, too. Red wooden doors, golden walls and elaborate lamps to illuminate the halls made them easy on the eyes. Now, just to find out which one Louis went in...

Fortunately, one of the doors was left slightly open. Ever polite... well, at least for now, Blade knocked on it.

A small confused pause. "Who is it?"

"It's Duke Merris. I wish to talk to you."

"Ah. Come on in," invited Alan's son.

Blade pushed the door open with his shoulder and found himself mildly surprised by the room. Much like the hall outside, it had golden walls but, strangely enough, there were no paintings or medals or other tidbits that nobles were ever so fond of framing and putting up on their walls to show off to whoever entered. There were, however, some glass display cabinets holding whatever, a brass tallboy, a deep blue rug and other furnishings. None of them, however, compared to the bed that Louis sat on. It was very large, definitely able to fit three full-sized adults, and everything about it screamed perfect craftsmanship. The three sets of pillows, the blue duvet and the blankets were all made for the ultimate in bedding comfort. The bed also had blood red curtains that could be released from their bindings at the user's whim from either one of two cords at either side of the bed.

"Oh, is one for me?" Louis asked, noticing the wine.

"As a matter of fact, yes," Blade answered as he handed one of the glasses over to the duke-to-be.

"I thank you," Louis responded as he received one of the glasses. "I take it you are enjoying yourself?" Louis did not drink his wine yet. Smart child; if he became Duke, he could turn this dying city into a tortured one.

Blade began walking around the room. "That's the thing, really. A party is about socialising with others and making use of the services provided by the host but the first part is most important. You can provide as much food and wine as you please but, if there is no one a party member feels comfortable talking to, it's their downfall, isn't it? As of now, I still have yet to find someone even remotely entertaining to talk to." Blade looked back at Louis. "No offence, mind you." Even though he didn't give a curse if Louis was offended or not.

Regardless, Louis didn't seem annoyed. "It is fine."

"So what is this room?" inquired Blade as he inspected the various objects around the room. "I'd hardly expect this to be your quarters."

"It isn't. My room is on the second floor. This is more of... a guest room." And then Louis smirked. "Truth of the matter is, I had planned to spend the night in here with Elegy after we got married. It's atmospheric, colourful..." Another smirk but of a more malicious nature, "... and I doubt that anyone would bother whoever comes down here."

Blade's eyes narrowed. "You'd be entirely correct."

But then Blade's eyes brushed across a display cabinet. "... What is this?" he asked as he saw the object inside.

Louis seemed surprised yet pleased at Blade's sudden fascination with a certain object. "Oh, that? It is a gift I planned to give to Elegy tomorrow night. To... ease her into her new life." By this point, Louis had reached Blade's side and was also looking at the object. "Look. Is it simply not elegant beyond compare?"

Blade was not one for jewellery. Like most things, he found jewels to be a waste of money for decoration and would rather use his money on practical things. However, he would not deny that this was an absolutely fantastic necklace. Being adorned with many sapphires in an extravagant fashion was just the least of it. No, what really sold the necklace was its pendant; a beautifully cut gem of boundless allure.

Blade would've called it a massive waste of money, but...

"May I hold it?" he requested instead.

This confused Louis but he had no suspicions of ill will. "Absolutely." Using his free hand, he opened the glass cabinet and took the necklace off its hook. "Handle it gently, now," he cautioned as he handed it over to Blade. "We don't want it breaking now, do we?"

"No, we do not," Blade answered as he held the necklace in his free hand.

M... ...rld... d... ...day... No...

"Are you okay?" Louis asked after seeing Blade's eyes shift ever so slightly, as if in pain.

"I am perfectly fine," Blade answered. And that was all he would say on the matter. What... was that? He heard a voice from that pendant! It was a magical artefact... but what was its purpose? It spoke to him, definitely... Well, he very much doubted that Louis would mind him borrowing it.

That is, once he found a way to get him to drink the poisoned wine.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Victor Abstract Character Portrait: Blade Merris

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#, as written by Wake
(Sorry if it seems like I'm god modding Louis at the moment, I'm in a bit of a rush to retype this post after finally getting my internet working again. Might edit this later.)

It was time, Victor decided.

As much as he would love to waste the hours away mingling with the other patrons of the celebration, he was here on business, not pleasure. The sole reason he had been invited to the party was due to the duke commissioning him for a portrait of the newlyweds, and it was fast approaching time for him to get to work on that. And so, discarding his wine glass, Victor proceeded to track down where the young groom was. He would need both him and his father for this.

Having been pointed to the guest room and making his way there, Victor stopped to knock on the door briefly before letting himself in. "Sir Louis? Are you in here?" he asked as he opened the door. The young husband to be was indeed in the room, but Victor held a momentary look of surprise when he noticed someone else in the room with him. "Oh I'm sorry, am I interrupting something?"

"Victor is it?" Louis asked, not looking too put off at the painters arrival. "No, we were just chatting. Was there something you needed?"

"Yes I believe I do. You see I want to discuss the matter of that portrait your father commissioned, and I was hoping you would me for that discussion." Victors face seemed calm and polite at the time, but as he spoke a strange smirk played on his lips. With his eyes locked onto Louis's, Victors continued to speak. "I do hope you don't consider it impolite but I must ask that you come with me immediately for this." It was brief, very brief, but Victor's eyes flashed red when he spoke.

Louis, looked confused for a moment, appearing somewhat dazed. "Yes..." He said slowly, blinking a strange sensation away. "I guess I will then. You'll have to hold on to that drink for the moment, sir Merris. I'll have to tend to this matter for the time being." Louis Got up out of his chair, gave a brief bow to the Duke, then followed Victor out the door when he motioned for him to come.

With his back turned to the both of the rooms occupants, a dark smile crossed Victor's features as he padded something under his vest. Yes... he had much business to tend to tonight.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Victor Abstract Character Portrait: Blade Merris

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Duke Blade Merris of Mort-Vandrine


Blade believed that he had it planned out perfectly. Isolated and with no witnesses, he would poison dear Louis with an enchanted wine that could only be dispelled by another mage, and that was if they arrived and performed the purification ritual before three hours had passed. Given the party and how any and all mages must've been ages away, they might as well spend those three hours digging the noble's grave. After Louis was struck ill, Blade would then run out to the party and cry in fear that the future Duke had been poisoned with vine. Being a noble that was in distress at another noble's condition, he would be let off the hook right away. There might have been one or two suspicions but no one would act on them. After all, he was a Duke. No one would dare stand against him. Even those who had strong animosity for the nobles would forsake him, as Louis was a noble and no different from him.

Now, Blade was not stupid by any sense of the word. He knew something could go wrong with his plan. Louis could've figured out something was wrong by seeing that Blade would not drink his wine. A mage might've actually been around to cure Louis. Someone could've seen Blade's enchantment on the wine and he didn't notice them.

However, he in no way imagined that the "isolated and with no witnesses" part would've been foiled by this new arrival.

"Sir Louis? Are you in here?" was asked by the silver-haired man as he entered the room. Upon looking at Blade, his eyes widened just slightly in surprise. "Oh I'm sorry, am I interrupting something?" Clearly, Blade was not expected.

Louis seemed familiar with this man and, as such, was not bothered by his entrance. "Victor, is it? No, we were just chatting. Was there something you needed?"

The face of this Victor turned somewhat pleased at this question. Blade could tell quite easily that Victor was up to something. After all, he had worn that same face many times ago before he realised it could have been his downfall and attempted to stop it. ""Yes I believe I do. You see I want to discuss the matter of that portrait your father commissioned, and I was hoping you would join me for that discussion. I do hope you don't consider it impolite but I must ask that you come with me immediately for this."

Blade saw it. Even though it happened for only a moment and was as easily missed as the flirtatious wink of a skilled seductress that didn't have her sights set on you, Blade saw Victor's eyes flash red.

These eyes were looking at Louis' as they flashed. They had a peculiar effect on Louis, who suddenly seemed the slightest bit mentally shaken. "Yes..." he answered slowly, almost as if he was in a trance that he was currently trying to blink away. "I guess I will then. You'll have to hold on to that drink for the moment, sir Merris. I'll have to tend to this matter for the time being."

Out of usual respect, Louis gave Blade a slight bow before placing his wine glass on the wooden desk that was close by. He then followed Victor out the door before the two left him alone. All at once, his plan was ruined, and by a vampire, no less.

Oh yes, he had heard all of the stories of those dreaded creatures. While accounts varied, one thing that could be agreed on was that they were blood-hungry monsters that possessed abilities far beyond that of the regular human. That eye-based hypnotism could belong to no other race, especially if the colour red was involved. Furthermore, their strength, speed and durability were great enough to demolish even mighty orcs despite being commonly of lean builds. Their intelligence was not to be underestimated, either; they stayed away from the eyes of society to plan their blood hunts. Picking off victims unseen, they took their blood suddenly and unseen, taking enough to make them unconscious and allow them to slip back into the shadows without anyone seeing them, two holes in the victim's neck being the only clue that they were there.

But the stories didn't end there. Those were only the most recurring aspects between them. Less commonly, these beasts were nigh undefeatable in one-on-one combat thanks to having the strength to lift boulders with one hand, punch through even the strongest steel like it was naught but silk tissue and knock open doors with only their smallest fingers. Their durability made them immune to virtually every weapon known to man; they could be hit with cannonballs and not even stop walking as the metal sphere of terrifying power just harmlessly bounced off them. Their worst aspect, however, was their dreadful speed. In motion, vampires could not be followed as they seemingly disappeared and reappeared around their targets in rapid succession. This allowed them to kill off their targets before fleeing and no one would be any wiser.

But the stories still didn't end there. As if their physical prowess was not enough, they had special powers as well. Compared to these, hypnotism might as well have been the power to blow noses. Telekinesis. Illusions. Summoning bats. Transforming into a swarm of bats. Transforming into a giant bat. Transforming into blood and then transforming back later. Seeing further than the Mort-Vandrine's Observatory's most powerful telescope. Hearing the tapping of whatever shoe they wanted in an entire castle. Determining the number of people in their presence just by telling apart the many scents around. Being able to regenerate from a single cell. Reading minds. Manipulating fire. Manipulating ice. Manipulating water. Manipulating lightning. Touching the ground to create spires of earth. He even once heard of a vampire that could make copies of itself and even stop time.

For the most part, these stories seemed ridiculous. However, Blade was a cautious man. In regards to Victor, he would believe every single one of them. He was going to leave this guest room, follow the two and see what Victor was up to.

But first... he still had the necklace in his hand. A strange necklace, it was. And what was that voice he heard from it? Louis wasn't at all affected... could only magic users that touched it hear it? He needed to study it... and it's not like anyone needed to know he took it. After all, there were a lot of people in this mansion, including commoners. Why, a random drunk could very easily stumble in here, see the necklace and take it for themselves. There was no reason to suspect that Blade had stuffed the necklace inside his coat and just walked out of the room, was there? Of course not. He dropped his wine glass first.

"Oh dear. Clumsy me," Blade 'lamented' as he saw the liquid poor onto the carpet. "I really should be more careful."

Heading towards the door, he 'accidentally' knocked Louis' glass onto the floor and repeat the patterns of his glass. "By the dead goddess, I must be tired. I must get some sleep once I return to the manor."

With the necklace tucked safely into his clothing, away from all that would look at him, he returned back to the party. Hearing all the dreadfully loud chatter upon arriving at the top of the stairs, he sighed as he remembered why he hated these gatherings.

"Hello, sir."

Blade turned to his left and saw Joan Gesthalgion, his chevalier, approach him. Joan didn't look any different although he did have a glass of milk in his hand. As expected; Joan was not a drinker of alcohol.

"Joan," Blade acknowledged. "Enjoying yourself, are you?"

"A bit. I've met some fellow chevaliers and made some new friends. We all engaged in a rather pleasant discussion regarding the use of steam technology."

"I take it they're against it?" That was not an unreasonable question. Some people were still vastly opposed to the use of steam technology. The most common argument was that life was hard enough as it was and water was becoming harder and harder to come by, no thanks to those who took it and sent it away regularly. While Blade did believe that some of their arguments had merit, he was more than thankful for his phone that allowed him to contact other nobles and arrange meetings on the spot without days of sending messages back and forth, often requesting replies again due to the rain smudging all the ink because his messengers were too thick to hide the messages in their clothing or bags.

"Some of them wish for it to advance but others would prefer we just have fresh drinking water," Joan answered.

"I see. By the way, have you seen Serian anywhere?" Looking away from the person he was talking to like normal, he glanced around the crowd to look for his brown-haired elven carriage driver but couldn't see her pointy ears anywhere.

Joan shook his head. "I was about to ask you the same thing, sir. I just finished my talk with my new friends and was going to look for her."

"Perhaps she's tending to Coalesce and Primrose. You know she has that bizarre love for those horses." Blade then looked right at Joan. "Now, please leave me be until I summon you. I have business to attend to."

Joan stayed silent for a moment. Blade knew exactly why; Joan was aware of his... profession. He had no concrete proof but he was very sure that Blade was the noble slayer. "... Understood, sir. Please enjoy yourself." Taking a drink of his milk, Joan went off to do his own thing. Or maybe find Serian.

Looking into the crowd again, Blade walked amongst those he despised in order to find Victor, wherever he'd be. He said something about a portrait for Alan... perhaps he was upstairs in his bedroom? It could not hurt to check.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Victor Abstract Character Portrait: Blade Merris

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Duke Blade Merris of Mort-Vandrine


So Alan was not in his bedroom. Great. Where else could he be? Even though he had no reason to suspect such, Blade moved as if time was of the essence. He'd say "direst essence" but he didn't really know what the phrase meant piece by piece and he'd rather not make a fool of himself. Nobles did have standards to keep, after all.

... Actually, Blade did remember a meeting hall where he was taken once upon a time to discuss trades between Cellé and Mort-Vandrine (it went down surprisingly well. He only turned one guard into a rage-filled spluttering fool and Joan wasn't even hit when he tried to stop the guard's hostilities towards Blade). Perhaps Alan was there? He walked through the mansion to his destination as normal. No need to start a fuss for something that should be discreet. Unfortunately, he might need to make a bit more noise than necessary. A bit on an inevitability; he could never be bothered to remember which room was where in a noble's mansion. Why, in his mansion, he had signs and guards to indicate what was where when the need arose and other dukes should very well learn from his example. Still, he couldn't help but feel that he should work on his habits some more... No, actually, he didn't. It was their fault, not his, for having such unintuitive homes.

He went down another hall but it looked just like the others. Frustrated, he went to turn around and exited. He was just about ready to just ask a guard but, from a hall entrance not too far away, a silver-haired man made his exit. The same silver-haired man that dragged Louis away. Victor.

As Blade ventured in his direction, Victor looked at him out of the corners of his eyes and his smile only grew more when he saw him. It was as if he was pleasantly surprised to see Blade once more but chances are that he knew that Blade would end up here at this exact time through some sort of future seeing. Or maybe he was always reading his mind with power that far surpassed what his mind charm was capable of stopping. Blasted vampires. He'd confront Victor now but he had to find Alan first. Using his intuition, he went down the corridor that Victor had came from. He could feel Victor's eyes on his back for a moment but he didn't care.

He would have investigated each of the doors one by one but... it was the door at the end of the room that felt wrong. Not unnerving, as Blade was hardened against this sort of thing, but it was off. Unnatural. Blade's first instinct was to inspect that room first.

He was damn near horrified at what he saw when he opened the door. Three slain bodies. Three slain nobles. One of them was Alan. One not slain body but covered in blood nonetheless. One living, blood-covered noble. Louis Auttenberg stood in the middle of the room with a knife in his hand and an absolutely unnoble posture. When he looked at Blade, the Duke could see the frenzy and fear in his eyes.

"Louis...?" Blade said softly, barely recognising the boy before him.

"I... I..." the young noble gasped out. "I-I-I... I..."

"Louis, what is going on?" Blade asked firmly.

Even then, Louis was still horrifically shaken. "I... I didn't do it..."

"What...?"

Blade's apprehension seemed to trigger something in Louis. Along with his panic and fright, anger and desperation made its way through Louis' disposition. "I didn't do it... You believe me, right? I didn't do it! I didn't kill my father!"

"Louis, I don't understand."

"It wasn't me!" screamed Louis as he dashed towards Duke Merris with his knife still in his hand. Not that it would do him any good, seeing as Blade actually had combat experience. Effortlessly, Blade sidestepped the clumsy slash, kneed the boy in his stomach and then tripped him over. Once immobilised, Blade took the dagger from his hand and pocketed it.

"Louis, I feel that I would be a lot more willing to believe you if you didn't try to run me through," Blade chided.

Maybe he shouldn't have. The anger and frenzy had left the collapsed boy and despair filled him completely as he sobbed to his heart's content and more. "I swear... I didn't do it... It wasn't my fault... I didn't kill Dad..."

Blade, for the first time in quite a while, was torn and confused. He'd never been in a position to comfort someone before. Well, his younger brother Lorris did seek his counsel from time to time but those were minor occasions. He had most certainly never needed to ease the heart of someone who claimed to have not killed their own beloved father when all the evidence pointed to the contrary. "Then... who did?" Blade asked.

Trying to get his sobs under control, Louis tried to stand up and began to speak. "O... Okay... I... It wasn't my fault... Some... thing made me..." Louis grew more anxious as he thought. "Why...? Something made me... Something forced me... Why...? Why can't I remember? It wasn't my-!"

"For the goddess' sake, boy, pull yourself together!" roared Blade, shocking Louis out of his confusion. "I believe you! You did not kill your father. But, if I am to do anything about it, I need to know what happened!"

"I know!" Louis shouted back. "But I don't remember! I'm trying, okay?! I was... Damn it all!" Out of frustration, Louis punched the wall. "Damn it! Damn it! Damn it!" he repeated as he continued slamming his fists on to the wall. Blade let him relieve himself until he eventually sunk to the floor. "Damn it... Damn it..." he whimpered.

Sighing, both out of exasperation and torn emotions, Blade knelt down next to the troubled boy. "Listen, Louis... some say that the night sky is good for easing the mind. Maybe you should go to the window."

Louis looked at him, sniffed and wiped his dry, red eyes. "O-Okay..." Standing up, Louis walked over to the glass on one end of the meeting hall. Blade walked to his side and watched the night sky with him. Out in the distance was a number of fields or farms. Not many houses at all. The ones that were there had no lights on, most likely because the residents in each one were fast asleep.

"I just..." Louis began talking again, causing Blade to turn to him. It saddened him to see what was once a strong figure be turned into a walking pile of misery and loss. "I... I want to go back... Just... make this over... I want this to be over..."

Blade put a hand on his shoulder. "When you take in the night sky, close your eyes. It will preserve the image in your mind." Blade saw that Louis followed the instruction. "Louis... I promise you, as Duke Blade Merris of Mort-Vandrine... this will be over. Your pain will be gone."

It almost warmed his heart to see the faintest trace of a genuine smile appear on Louis' face. "I'd... I'd like that..." he said, still facing the night sky.

Blade didn't smile, though. There was nothing for him to smile at when he pulled out his gun and pointed it at the side of Louis' head.

BANG!

The smile temporarily faltered and Louis' eyes shot open. Even so, he didn't see or know what happened. The hole in the side of his head was sure proof that the life of Louis Auttenberg was no more. Blade, despite all the horror in this room, had no regrets. He allowed Louis to die with happiness and hope. It was... a strangely warm feeling. Even though Blade had his sights set on Louis ages ago, he still felt this way.

Blade left his pistol at Louis' side and walked out the room. First things first, he had to find a guard and tell them what happened. Well, that last bit wasn't particularly in his plan. At least, not entirely.

Blade traversed back into the party rooms to see the rest of the vain nobles partying to their hearts' content. At that instant, he was reminded of why he needed to kill Louis; to prevent his corruption from harming others... so why did he feel so awful regardless? Blade shook the thoughts from his mind. He needed to find a guard. Thankfully, there was one essentially right next to him. Also thankfully, Blade recognised him and he recognised Blade.

Despite the mutual knowledge of the other party, guards were generally trained to not engage in conversation so Blade took the initiative. "Jeremiah, may I have a word with you?"

The guard smiled. "Absolutely, my duke. What is the matter?"

Blade's face was grim. "I'm afraid it's a rather dark matter. I will need to speak with you in private."

Jeremiah was confused but he followed Blade anyway to the empty area near the meeting room.

Once they arrived at their desolate destination, Blade turned around. "Jeremiah, what I am about to tell you is a tragedy. Above all else, remain calm."

Jeremiah inhaled and exhaled to calm himself. A basic exercise in regulating one's emotions but it worked. "I understand, my duke. What is wrong?"

Blade let out a small breath of air. Even he was having a bit of trouble still comprehending it. "In this mansion's meeting room, Duke Alan Auttenberg has been murdered, in addition to two other nobles I have not been able to identify."

Jeremiah's eyes opened in shock but, like a good guard, he did not let it get out of his control. "I see... What else?"

Blade was silent for a moment. "The killer was Louis Auttenberg. He used a knife to slay-"

"Louis?!" Jeremiah shouted, unable to contain himself. "What devilry is this?!"

"Contain yourself," Blade ordered while raising the palm of his hand to the guard. "I am not done. Now... after the killing, Louis killed himself with a pistol in order to escape despair. You see, he did not commit this atrocity of his own free will."

"I... don't quite understand, my duke."

"Nor did I expect you to." Blade looked into Jeremiah's eyes with ferocity. "Jeremiah, listen carefully: a vampire is in this building. It has hypnotised Louis to kill his own father and two other nobles for reasons I cannot explain or fathom and I haven't the slightest inkling of what he intends to do next. What I want you to do is organise the other guards and make sure no one can leave the mansion without passing one of you. If you find this vampire, apprehend him by any means necessary. He is roughly six feet in height, has very pale skin, light blond hair that could be seen as white and his eyes are light grey in colour. He is polite but do not let that fool you. Will you do this task?"

Jeremiah the guard took a moment to absorb all this information. Blade couldn't blame him; he just heard the duke he was sworn to protect was killed by his own son but his son was hypnotised by a vampire that was potentially still in the building. Very preposterous. Regardless, Jeremiah proved to be an emotionally diligent guard by nodding. "Yes, my duke. Well will carry out your instructions."

"Excellent. Now, I shall return to the party."

"Of course, my duke. Leave the work to us. Please enjoy yourself for the duration of the evening," Jeremiah responded as the two headed back to the more lively areas.

"... I will attempt to," Blade responded before they parted ways. Now, what else was Blade to do...? Perhaps there was some wine he could drink. He made his way to the wine table to refresh himself.