Chapter 13:

Goodnight Vagabond

The Land Called Myself


The three of them blinked, and were returned to their world, alongside Count Hemagriel. She shivered.

“Been many moons… since I felt the wind.”

Dr. Redmond approached her.

“Excuse me…” He inquired. “But if you don’t mind, would you… discuss with me sometime the biology of vampiric beings, when we return? It’s a huge blind spot in my knowledge.”

“In all honesty, I hesitate to even call myself one… a vampire, that is. That biped… Genesis, you called them… even though that one’s confidence has led me to doubt my own… somewhat defeatist views, I cannot help but despise this form. Study it as the anomaly it is, I suppose, but don’t make me think about it more than I have to.”

“𝕊𝕠… 𝕪𝕠𝕦 𝕣𝕖𝕒𝕝𝕝𝕪 𝕕𝕠 𝕤𝕥𝕚𝕝𝕝 𝕗𝕖𝕖𝕝 𝕥𝕙𝕒𝕥 𝕨𝕒𝕪 𝕒𝕓𝕠𝕦𝕥 𝕪𝕠𝕦𝕣 𝕗𝕝𝕖𝕤𝕙. 𝕀𝕥’𝕤 𝕗𝕚𝕟𝕒𝕝𝕝𝕪 𝕙𝕚𝕥𝕥𝕚𝕟𝕘 𝕞𝕖… 𝕨𝕚𝕥𝕙 𝕥𝕙𝕚𝕤 𝕤𝕠𝕦𝕝 𝕚𝕟𝕤𝕚𝕕𝕖 𝕞𝕪 𝕓𝕠𝕕𝕪, 𝕚𝕥 𝕟𝕠 𝕝𝕠𝕟𝕘𝕖𝕣 𝕗𝕖𝕖𝕝𝕤 𝕤𝕠 𝕥𝕚𝕘𝕙𝕥. 𝔹𝕦𝕥 𝕪𝕠𝕦… 𝕪𝕠𝕦 𝕕𝕠 𝕟𝕠𝕥 𝕙𝕒𝕥𝕖 𝕪𝕠𝕦𝕣 𝕤𝕙𝕒𝕡𝕖 𝕕𝕦𝕖 𝕥𝕠 𝕒 𝕝𝕒𝕔𝕜 𝕠𝕗 𝕓𝕖𝕚𝕟𝕘. 𝕐𝕠𝕦’𝕣𝕖 𝕔𝕠𝕞𝕡𝕝𝕖𝕥𝕖. 𝕐𝕠𝕦 𝕛𝕦𝕤𝕥 𝕤𝕥𝕣𝕦𝕘𝕘𝕝𝕖 𝕨𝕚𝕥𝕙 𝕒 𝕙𝕒𝕥𝕣𝕖𝕕 𝕠𝕗 𝕪𝕠𝕦𝕣 𝕒𝕡𝕡𝕖𝕒𝕣𝕒𝕟𝕔𝕖 𝕚𝕤 𝕒𝕝𝕝. 𝔸𝕞 𝕀 𝕚𝕟𝕔𝕠𝕣𝕣𝕖𝕔𝕥?”

“How could I not… it is not worth it, living as such a fiendish thing as this…”

“𝕊𝕠𝕞𝕖 𝕞𝕚𝕘𝕙𝕥 𝕤𝕒𝕪 𝕒𝕝𝕝 𝕧𝕒𝕞𝕡𝕚𝕣𝕖𝕤 𝕗𝕖𝕖𝕝 𝕥𝕙𝕒𝕥 𝕨𝕒𝕪. 𝔹𝕦𝕥… 𝕀’𝕞 𝕟𝕠𝕥 𝕤𝕠 𝕤𝕦𝕣𝕖 𝕥𝕙𝕒𝕥’𝕤 𝕥𝕣𝕦𝕖, 𝕚𝕤 𝕚𝕥? 𝔸𝕗𝕥𝕖𝕣 𝕒𝕝𝕝… 𝕪𝕠𝕦 𝕤𝕖𝕖𝕞 𝕥𝕠 𝕖𝕟𝕧𝕪 𝕥𝕙𝕖𝕞.”

“It’s true. I’m an ugly thing is all. I have no shame for my race. It’s just that… how I am isn’t quite right at all. Like I kept saying… this… isn’t me. It just isn’t.”

“𝕀𝕗 𝕥𝕙𝕒𝕥’𝕤 𝕥𝕣𝕦𝕖… 𝕨𝕖 𝕝𝕚𝕧𝕖 𝕚𝕟 𝕒 𝕨𝕠𝕣𝕝𝕕 𝕠𝕗 𝕤𝕔𝕚𝕖𝕟𝕔𝕖 𝕒𝕟𝕕 𝕞𝕒𝕘𝕚𝕔. 𝕀’𝕞 𝕤𝕦𝕣𝕖 𝕪𝕠𝕦 𝕔𝕠𝕦𝕝𝕕 𝕗𝕚𝕟𝕕 𝕒 𝕗𝕦𝕥𝕦𝕣𝕖 𝕚𝕟 𝕨𝕙𝕚𝕔𝕙 𝕪𝕠𝕦’𝕕 𝕓𝕖 𝕙𝕒𝕡𝕡𝕪 𝕨𝕚𝕥𝕙 𝕙𝕠𝕨 𝕪𝕠𝕦 𝕝𝕠𝕠𝕜𝕖𝕕. 𝕎𝕠𝕦𝕝𝕕𝕟’𝕥 𝕪𝕠𝕦 𝕤𝕒𝕪 𝕤𝕠, 𝕄𝕒𝕜𝕒𝕣𝕒?”

Makara was standing on the only nearby hill that let her see over the rest- the tallest one by just a few feet. She could tell the sun would fall soon. If anything, she wondered what was taking it so long.

“𝕄𝕒𝕜𝕒𝕣𝕒?”

“…Yeah.” She didn’t feel the need to face her pupil. “Yeah, I’d be inclined to agree. We wouldn’t have been put here and made to live if there wasn’t a way for us to do it happily. I think that even if you were scarred beyond recognition, so long as you looked for it, you’d find a way to smile. If we can’t believe that’s true, why should anything matter?”

Hemagriel leaned her neck back to gaze upward.

“I was thinking… those very same words… before I started to hate this life.”

“Now do you understand their meaning?”

“It’s a tad foolish, but I think I do… even if they’re a lie… it’s one we have to believe. Is that what’s made you into such a mad troll?”

“Yeah. That’s right. That’s my conviction.”

The doctor patched Hemagriel’s wounds, and the four of them journeyed homeward.

Collette Town was all bored that morning. They pretended to weep for their fallen comrades who had left to pursue the metal bandit, and had still not returned. Really, they just wanted something to care about. Anything.

“𝔼𝕧𝕖𝕣𝕪𝕠𝕟𝕖 𝕤𝕥𝕒𝕪 𝕢𝕦𝕚𝕖𝕥. 𝕀’𝕞 𝕘𝕠𝕚𝕟𝕘 𝕥𝕠 𝕥𝕣𝕪 𝕥𝕙𝕖 𝕕𝕠𝕠𝕣.”

“You really think this child will still be here?” The doctor leaned over their shoulder.

“ℍ𝕖’𝕤 𝕒𝕝𝕚𝕧𝕖, 𝕒𝕥 𝕝𝕖𝕒𝕤𝕥. 𝕀 𝕓𝕖𝕝𝕚𝕖𝕧𝕖 𝕚𝕟 𝕙𝕚𝕞 𝕥𝕙𝕒𝕥 𝕞𝕦𝕔𝕙.”

The knob clicked out of place, completely unlocked.

“Figured you’d have to knock, at least.” Makara jested.

“ℂ𝕠𝕞𝕖 𝕠𝕟, 𝕝𝕖𝕥’𝕤 𝕘𝕠. 𝔹𝕖𝕗𝕠𝕣𝕖 𝕤𝕠𝕞𝕖𝕠𝕟𝕖 𝕤𝕖𝕖𝕤 𝕦𝕤.”

The machine, the doctor, the troll, and the vampire entered the building. It held not the slightest bit of light inside, excluding the sun shining in from behind the four of them. It was almost as dirty as it had been when Genesis and Makara first invaded it, even faint stains of blood from the captain’s absent body still barely visible on the dusty ground laden with woodchips.

“𝕋𝕣𝕠𝕪?”

The air was filthy and silent.

Genesis lead the party as their clacking footsteps searched the building. Troy’s bedroom was scarce. Nothing to be found anywhere. The rest of the house was abandoned. The skeleton of Alviss’ former domain, it was little more than a pile of wood.

Genesis walked back outside the front door.

“𝕀 𝕛𝕦𝕤𝕥 𝕨𝕒𝕟𝕥 𝕥𝕠 𝕤𝕖𝕖 𝕙𝕚𝕞.”

They couldn’t find Troy that day. The young allu, if he was alive, wasn’t residing in Collette Town anymore. At least, he had fled to the nearby woods. They all said they’d search for him, but in the end, nobody could really say for sure if he’d actually have chosen to live after all.

“Stay still.” The doctor ordered.

“Ridiculous… this is quite backwards, don’t you think?”

As Redmond drew Hemagriel’s blood, he saw its thickness instantly populate and weigh down the vial in his shaking old hand.

“Ah, yes. Perfect. Thank you very much, Count.”

“I’ve basically deserted the family. You don’t need to call me that.”

“You’ll come to see them again one day, won’t you?”

“I suppose so. But still… just call me Maldolga. I… I like it, you know.”

“Very excellent then, Maldolga. Very excellent.”

She thought nobody was paying attention, but everybody inside turned to Makara as she twisted the doorknob at the edge of the room.

“𝕎𝕙𝕒𝕥 𝕒𝕣𝕖 𝕪𝕠𝕦 𝕕𝕠𝕚𝕟𝕘?”

“Relax, Genesis.” She said. “You know what I’m doing.”

Maldolga breathed a simple and content sigh.

“ℕ𝕠. 𝕐𝕠𝕦’𝕣𝕖 𝕗𝕠𝕠𝕝𝕚𝕟𝕘 𝕞𝕖. 𝕐𝕠𝕦… 𝕟𝕠. ℕ𝕠𝕥 𝕪𝕖𝕥 𝕪𝕠𝕦 𝕒𝕣𝕖𝕟’𝕥. 𝕀 𝕨𝕠𝕟’𝕥 𝕛𝕦𝕤𝕥 𝕝𝕖𝕥 𝕪𝕠𝕦 𝕝𝕖𝕒𝕧𝕖.”

“It’s what I want, you metallic biped, sir, or madam. Are you really in any place to order a princess around?”

“𝕐𝕠𝕦 𝕒𝕣𝕖𝕟’𝕥 𝕥𝕣𝕦𝕝𝕪 𝕘𝕠𝕚𝕟𝕘 𝕥𝕠 𝕖𝕟𝕥𝕖𝕣 𝕞𝕪 𝕝𝕚𝕗𝕖- 𝕒𝕝𝕝 𝕠𝕦𝕣 𝕝𝕚𝕧𝕖𝕤, 𝕔𝕠𝕞𝕡𝕝𝕖𝕥𝕖 𝕥𝕙𝕖𝕞, 𝕒𝕟𝕕 𝕝𝕖𝕒𝕧𝕖 𝕟𝕖𝕧𝕖𝕣 𝕥𝕠 𝕓𝕖 𝕤𝕖𝕖𝕟 𝕒𝕘𝕒𝕚𝕟.”

“It’s what I do. I’ve already broken that promise to myself once this week. I’ll be damned if I ever do it again.”

“𝕐𝕠𝕦 𝕣𝕖𝕒𝕝𝕝𝕪 𝕒𝕣𝕖 𝕞𝕒𝕕.”

The troll snickered.

“And you think you’re sad… I do this because I’m so emotional, you know… if I did stay with all of you… that’d be a kind of pain I don’t think I could stand.”

“𝕀𝕥 𝕨𝕠𝕦𝕝𝕕 𝕓𝕖 𝕒 𝕙𝕒𝕡𝕡𝕪 𝕜𝕚𝕟𝕕 𝕠𝕗 𝕡𝕒𝕚𝕟.”

“Indeed it would. But that’s the only sort that bothers me. Now, I’ll take my leave, if you will.”

Just as the girl stepped outside of the cabin, their hand fell on her wrist.

“What-“

“𝕊𝕥𝕒𝕪. ℙ𝕝𝕖𝕒𝕤𝕖, 𝕡𝕝𝕖𝕒𝕤𝕖 𝕤𝕥𝕒𝕪. 𝕐𝕠𝕦’𝕣𝕖 𝕥𝕙𝕖 𝕤𝕖𝕔𝕠𝕟𝕕 𝕡𝕖𝕣𝕤𝕠𝕟 𝕀 𝕖𝕧𝕖𝕣 𝕜𝕟𝕖𝕨.”

“I’m a troll, fool.”

“𝕀 𝕝𝕠𝕧𝕖 𝕪𝕠𝕦 𝕛𝕦𝕤𝕥 𝕒𝕤 𝕀 𝕝𝕠𝕧𝕖 𝕞𝕪 𝕗𝕒𝕥𝕙𝕖𝕣.”

“So save that love for someone else, fool. It’s no good on me.”

“𝕐𝕠𝕦 𝕣𝕖𝕒𝕝𝕝𝕪 𝕒𝕣𝕖 𝕥𝕙𝕖 𝕨𝕠𝕣𝕤𝕥, 𝕒𝕣𝕖𝕟’𝕥 𝕪𝕠𝕦…”

“Mhmhmhm… I suppose I am… hahaha…”

Their sigh came naturally.

“Aha! Ahahaha! 𝓞𝓱𝓸𝓱𝓸𝓱𝓸𝓱𝓸~!”

That night, as she ran across the hills outside their home, slipping away behind them just as Genesis thought of something they wanted to tell her, was the last they would ever see Makara.

Genesis wept.