Chapter 204: Love, Past and Present "..." Aldrich took a moment to process Valera's appearance in his doorframe.
Well, it was not entirely out of possibility. His quarters were on a refurbished rst oor of the Necropolis, and the Death Lord had given Valera a room right next to his. "If this is not a good time, I can take my leave, master," began Valera. "No, come in. I was just a little surprised, that's all." Aldrich moved out the way of the door, and Valera shyly came in. "What brings you here?" asked Aldrich as he closed the door of ebony wood shut. It ashed briey with green as it locked closed with some form of magical safety mechanism that also dampened noise.
Valera looked around the room with her hands clasped together. She blushed as she avoided eye contact with Aldrich. "Well, ahem, I do not have a place to stay for the night." "You don't? Your room is right by, isn't it?" said Aldrich. "W-well...about that-," began Valera. "I no longer have a bed." "What?" Aldrich had taken a brief look at Valera's room and known for sure she had a bed. Her room was a little smaller than his, but it still had very basic furnishings like his hid. " "I was resting on the bed, you see, keeping awake vigil in the case that there were intruders to my master's room, when in one sudden moment, it simply... disappeared," said Valera. "It faded away as if it had never been there before and all that was left was the Death Lord's voice echoing through my room." "Did she announce anything particularly important?" said Aldrich as he perked up, wondering if the Death Lord was done preparing her own trials and training methods. "N-no," said Valera. Her blush deepened a few more shades of red as she looked shyly away, focusing on the painting above Aldrich's bed to not look too awkward. "Then what did she say?" "It-it was a recorded message," stammered Valera. "She t-told me that if I was hearing it, that meant I had wasted my time not making a move upon you! That the whole purpose of separate rooms was so I could have the luxury of surprising you by walking into yours, that men liked that sort of thing and other nonsense. That by taking away my bed, now I must barge into your quarters!
She-that snake truly does not understand privacy, nor a Guardian Knight's vows."
Valera shook her head rapidly, cooling down. "Master, I know - I will stand outside and watch your room in guard. Who knows what that intrusive snake may do - she may even slither her way in here, and I cannot bear the thought of her enchanting you with that seductive gaze of hers."
She clenched her st resolutely, making sure to absolutely stop the Death Lord from breaking into Aldrich's room in whatever imaginary scenario she conjured up. "No, you don't have to go. I want you to stay, actually" said Aldrich. "I've been meaning to do this for some time now."
He looked around to see if he had a table or chairs to sit her down with, but he realized he just had the bed. Probably that too was by the Death Lord's design.
He put a tired face to his forehead as he sat down on the bed. He patted the spot beside him, gesturing for Valera to come.
Valera's face turned beet red. "M-master, wh-what are you suggesting? Well, you are a young man, as that snake said, and you were a human, so you must have some of your youthful urges left over so-," "It's not what you think," said Aldrich. His tone became serious. "I just wanted to talk. About answering your feelings for me. I know I've been putting it o for some time, especially with how many things that have happened recently that have taken up our attention."
Valera cooled down when she heard Aldrich's serious tone and saw his serious expression. She, too, understood the gravity of this situation, and she nodded as she sat down beside Aldrich. Her hand shook a little. "Are you ne? Is anything wrong with your status?" said Aldrich as he nodded towards her hand. "Ah, this? N-no," said Valera as she clasped her hands together tight, hiding the trembling. "I...I am just nervous about your answer. B-but, whatever it is, I am willing to accept it."
Aldrich understood. She was not sure whether to face acceptance or rejection, and that made her nervous. More nervous than he had ever seen her before.
Right now, the way she looked, her gaze cast away, her hands shaking, her posture hunched forward - she looked so incredibly vulnerable. She had never shown even an ounce of this against any ght of threat they had encountered so far.
Always, she had stood tall, ready to punch down anything, no matter how big or strong or tough it was.
Aldrich did not like to see her like this, and it made it harder for him to talk. He did not want to risk hurting her, and so he took a long pause, not exactly sure how to word himself perfectly. He was not rejecting her, but he wanted to warn her about himself.
About how he was not sure whether he could love her the way she loved him.
Words never were his weak point.
He could be articulate and he could also be to the point, and even if he had to play a character to try and trick others, he could do it. He could even try to be a suave irt if he wanted, but he could only do that because he knew it was all fake.
All a ruse to get what he wanted.
Right now, in front of Valera's raw, honest vulnerability, he was forced to show who he really was as well, and behind all the veneer and veils, he was wordless, utterly inexperienced in navigating his way around situations like this.
Valera sensed Aldrich's diculty and took in a deep breath. She stopped trembling at her hands and looked at Aldrich with a smile. "Master, no, your name in this world, Aldrich, is it not?"
Aldrich nodded. "I know how you are thinking. You must be thinking of the perfect things to say to me, no?" said Valera.
Aldrich nodded. "You do not have to," said Valera. "Whatever is on your mind, tell it to me. And whatever decision you make, I will respect. I will still follow you, Aldrich, whether it is as your shield or something more." "It's something I've been thinking about, this situation," said Aldrich. He looked at Valera's gentle smile and felt more at ease to go on. "My feelings.
Yours. I wanted to start by asking you: why do you have these feelings for me?"
Valera looked momentarily surprised but then nodded. "Of course. You know the tale of my pitiable life, but I will tell it again, if only to make me remember strongly how I felt. And how strongly that past of mine makes me feel about you."
She sighed and closed her eyes, reminiscing to times long, long ago. "I was of noble birth.
Child to the vampire count Vandel and Dullahan warrior Lera. It was an union that felt like it was torn from the pages of a romantic tale. My father met my mother on the battleeld as enemies, but in clashing with each other, grew to admire each other, then, when the battle was fought and done, love each other.
In the pages of a book or in the song of a bard, that union might have been beautiful, full of love, but in reality, it was unholy.
Vampires hold the purity of blood to high standard. The Dullahan clans never take kindly to outsiders.
I was an abomination to both sides, and my father and mother suered from it.
My mother was captured from my father's fort and executed by her own peoples for bearing an outsider's blood.
My father took up renewed arms against the Dullahan clans once more, rejecting the peace treaties that the other vampire counts proposed. For that, he was assassinated.
In my early years, when I was still with my father, I remember being happy. All around me, I felt cold eyes from my vampire brethren for my mixed blood.
But my father, I dearly cherished. From him, I learned everything a royal lady should. Etiquette, the arts, the sciences, magic, and ghting, yes, ghting, though so very unlady-like, I fell into so deeply.
I remember when I trained to ght, it was not because I wanted to harm. It was because I wanted to protect. I knew my father warred often, and I wanted to protect him. Whenever my little self told him that, he would laugh so very heartily and tell me he needed no others to guard him. 2
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On the battleeld, he may have been right. But when my father was assassinated and his kin risen to take his place, I no longer held any allies.
There was no longer any warmth in my father's own fort, only those eyes that stared at me as if I was nothing but a monster.
In respect for my half noble blood, I was not executed but sent to the Midnight
Order to take the oath of a Guardian Knight.
To take that oath is to vow not only lifelong service to a chosen, to become another's shield, but also to take a vow of celibacy. A convenient and bloodless way to end my unclean bloodline.
Chapter 205: [Bonus chapter] Love, Past and Present 2
Aldrich watched Valera take a moment to collect herself. Her lips twisted into a faint frown, baring a sliver of her sharp fangs. She clutched at her arm, her black ngernails pressing in dangerously hard, just shy of breaking the skin.
Valera did not like remembering her past.
This, Aldrich knew.
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