After savoring the monsters blood for quite a while, Eugene stopped himself after realizing that his bodys transformation was over.

The rain, which seemed to pour endlessly, had stopped as well.

Under the dusk of the moonlight, Eugene stared down at the body of the monster. It was terribly crumpled. Although he used this very forest as his hunting ground for ten long years, he did not know about the existence of the monster in the past. It was not difficult to find game as soon as he passed the mountain, and the water of the wetland was dirty, which made it unsuitable to drink. As such he never had any reason to approach the wetlands.

But when he was forcibly dragged away by the mercenaries, he discovered the presence of the monster. Of course, the mercenaries had not known about the monster. All those who discovered the monster in the past had been eaten, so no stories had ever spread.

Originally, the wetland was smaller than this as well.

The surface area of the water had increased due to the monsoon and the heavy rain, which caused a corresponding increase in the monsters radius of activity as well. That was the reason why the mercenaries had encountered the monster.

The unknown monster with six legs had torn apart seven mercenaries and escaped deep into the wetlands after losing an eye. At that time, Eugene spotted a severed toe of the monster and satisfied himself with a mouthful of blood amidst the mercenaries confusion.

A powerful burst of energy had circulated through Eugenes body back then. The blood of the monster provided strength incomparable to the power given to him by the blood of ordinary beasts. That was when he first came to his senses as a true vampire.

Naturally, he couldn realize his full strength because the amount of consumed blood was too little. Moreover, it had been before sunset. However, it had provided him with enough power to rip through the rope that tied his hands and feet. Afterward, he knocked down a few of the mercenaries and escaped.

That was the beginning of his half-a-year of running.

If he had not taken a sip of the monsters blood at the time, escape back then would have been impossible. But on the contrary, it also meant that he could gain much more power if he managed to completely consume the blood of the monster.

”Just like this. ”

Eugene observed his body. He wasn completely certain, but it felt as if he had grown about a palm taller. Toned muscles could be found all over his elongated limbs, and his skin, which had always been dirty, was clear and spotless. Accentuated blood vessels could be seen on his limbs, and he could clearly feel boundless energy wriggling all over his body. It was a powerful force that he never felt before.

With his current strength, surely he could even deal with Jung Dircht, the templar responsible for cutting off his head.

”No, I cannot become arrogant. ”

Dircht was strong. Furthermore, he used silver-plated weapons containing divine power. Although ordinary weapons were somewhat ineffective against vampires, silver weapons containing divine power were different. Eugene clearly remembered the fiery pain he felt when he was cut by Dirchts weapon.

”I cannot get involved in a fight that I cannot win. Lets just focus on becoming stronger until I am certain of victory. ”

He could live a repeat of his past life if he got caught up in emotions. Moreover, Jung Dircht was not the only templar in the world.

”One at a time. Plan it out. ”

Eugene calmed himself down.

”The tattoos are still here. ”

He had more than 10 tattoos engraved on his body ever since he was a child. He had no idea who engraved it and when it had been engraved. Perhaps he had it since birth.

”Maybe I will find out about the tattoos one day as well. ”

He removed his gaze from the strange characters and shapes that littered his body, then wiped his dagger clean before looking at the reflection.

Vampires could not be seen in reflections. However, that was only limited to the vampires original body, which meant that costumes and accessories could still be seen. Moreover, a vampires reflection could be seen by themselves.

”I look like a human. ”

Eugene had no standards for beauty. He spent most of his life alone, and he never had any reason to distinguish between different individuals based on their appearance. As such, he was satisfied that his face was properly decorated with eyes, nose, and a mouth just like any other human.

”Still, I will have to continue wearing a mask during the day. ”

Eugene muttered softly, then moved to throw the monsters body back into the wetlands. No matter how deserted this place was, someone could approach the wetlands to acquire water, just as the mercenaries had done in the past. He could never leave behind evidence after hunting as a vampire – it was one of the things he learned during his previous life on the run.

”Hmm? ”

A glimmer appeared in Eugenes eyes as he grabbed the slimy tail of the monster. The monsters body was black and blue. However, there was a strange red light coming from a spot in the monsters back.

”It doesn seem to be the original color of the leather. ”

Eugene carefully examined the source of the red light.

”Is it inside? ”

It seemed that the light was being emitted by something located inside the monster, rather than the hide having a red hue. Eugene stabbed his dagger into the monsters corpse.

Originally, it would be difficult to pierce the monsters hide with a simple dagger. However, Eugene was able to rip it apart quite easily after having awakened as a member of the Nights Tribe. Moreover, the monster had been sucked dry of its life.

”This is… ”

Eugene slightly raised his eyebrows upon identifying the source of the mysterious red light.

He would never have known the identity of the object in his hand if he had only ever stayed in his cabin. However, Eugene learned many things about the world while on the run. He had a good guess as to the identity of the bright-red ore in his hand.

”A mana stone? I knew this one was special among the roamers. ”

Roamer.

Roamer was a term given to monsters that wandered or resided in forests, mountains, streams, and other areas rather than mazes, dungeons, or ancient ruins. But unlike the monsters that resided in the evil lands, only special roamers possessed mana stones in their bodies.

Mana stones were considered more precious than other precious metals or jewelry in the human world. However, mana stones were quite useless to ordinary humans. They were only useful for decorative purposes, and in some ways, they could adversely affect humans.

However, after mana stones were purified by a priest or a wizard, they could restore peoples strength, slow the process of aging, and even extend the human lifespan. As such, humans, especially nobles, always searched for mana stones with fire in their eyes.

”I thought all mana stones were supposed to be green. And its this big? ”

All the mana stones Eugene encountered in his past life had been green and smaller than pinky nails. However, what Eugene was holding now was red and thumb-sized.

”It seems rather special, but its a pie in the sky for me right now anyway. ”

There was no way for Eugene to purify the mana stone right now. It would be best for him to keep it and sell it to a human nobleman when he got the chance.

…was what Eugene thought until the mysterious mana stone started talking to him.

– Eat it.

– It is for you.

”…..! ”

Eugene became wide-eyed as an intense emotion penetrated his mind. The mana stone had not actually talked to him. The moment he gazed at the mana stone, a voice had resonated in his head.

Eugene slowly lifted the mana stone as if he were possessed by something. The redness of the mana stone resembled the color of blood and his eyes.

– It is yours. Consume it.

Eugene opened his mouth wide and swallowed the mana stone whole. He felt an even hotter and stronger energy flowing down with the stone, something even more intense than when he feasted on the monsters blood. It was quickly moving towards his right chest.

”Keugh! ”

Eugene instinctively grasped his right chest as a sharp pain struck him. He knelt on one knee. But when he touched his chest, a strange feeling was conveyed. It felt as if he was touching cold, hard metal, rather than his skin.

Eugene took off his hand and looked down at his right chest. A black, hard shell the size of his palm lay over his skin.

”W-what is this? ” Huh?!? ”

Suddenly, the shell extended its reach beyond his chest, covering his back, arms, and legs. The black skin was exactly the same as that of the wetland monster he just defeated. It quickly expanded and covered Eugenes entire body.

”What the hell… ”

Eugene murmured with a ridiculous expression while stroking the thin, hard shell that perfectly covered his body. Even his hair felt like the skin of the monster, though it appeared normal. If anyone saw him, he would have been mistaken for wearing a one-piece scale, mail armor.

”Disappear! Begone! ”

Eugene shouted in desperation. To his surprise, the shell covering his body instantly melted into his skin.

”….. ”

Eugene examined his body in disbelief. Then he spoke hesitantly, imagining that his body would become firm.

”Become hard. Appear. ”

The missing shell reappeared and quickly covered his body once more. After testing it out a few more times, Eugene realized that the newfound ability could be expressed by imagining it with strong concentration.

He soon clenched his fist in uncontrollable excitement.

”This will be a great weapon. ”

The monsters shell had been unscathed against the weapons of the mercenaries. It would surely be of great help in defending against attacks, though Eugene wasn certain how it would fare against the silver-plated weapons of templars.

In addition, there was another important thing.

”Its black, so maybe it could block sunlight. ”

He would have to wait until morning to test the theory. For the first time in his life, Eugene waited for sunrise with an eager heart as he dragged the monsters body towards the wetland.

At that time, he saw a blue luminescence floating near the water in a place overrun by bushes.

”Is it a firefly? ”

He disregarded the light and twisted his body to hurl the monsters body to the far side of the marsh.

”Thats perfect! Dirty alligator bastard! The fish will feast tonight! Kukekekeke! ”

A voice shouted in a frivolous voice. Eugene turned his gaze towards the voice like lightning, but there was nothing. All he could see was a blue firefly hovering over the bushes.

”You should have known your place, you insect! ”

The voice appeared to be coming from the firefly. Moreover, the talking firefly continued to chatter while hovering above the bushes, completely disregarding Eugenes approach.

”A bastard who used to roll around in dung water got a big head, huh? A fitting end for trash that didn know its place! Hey, you! My areas gotten so dirty because of you. Its so bad that itll take me eons to return it to… ”

The firefly continued talking excitedly. Then, its voice died down. The firefly, or rather, a small humanoid creature with two pairs of blue wings, met Eugenes eyes. Both of its hands were wrapped around its waist.

”Hmm? Is he looking at me? No, thats impossible. How could a vampire bastard see a spirit? Of course not. Wait, didn this bastard just swallow the crocodiles mana stone a little while ago…? ”

The self-proclaimed spirit continued talking to itself with furrowed brows, then looked up at Eugene. The spirit changed its attitude in an instant and put its hands together calmly before speaking.

”Am I visible to you by chance, oh exalted member of the Tribe of the Night? ”

”Yes. ”

”…Then did you happen to hear what my humble self was saying? ”

”All of it. Even how you called me a vampire bastard. ”

”….. ”

The spirit flinched before bowing with a bright smile.

”Ah, I see. Your exalted self seems to be quite busy, so Ill leave you be. My humble self is a little busy, so I will take my leave. ”

The spirit flapped its two pairs of wings and darted away like lightning. However, a vampires reflexes could not be underestimated when the moonlight was coating the world. As soon as the spirit opened its small wings, Eugene stretched out his hand. The spirit was instantly caught in his violent grasp.

”Kieeek! My humble self is small, so its not worth sucking my blood! I lived in dung water so I probably taste like dung! Please let me live! Do you know the saying? That its better to be alive than dead even if you have to roll around in dung? Please! Kieeeekk! ”

***

”So you are telling me that you
e the original owner of this wetland? But after that monster settled down 15 years ago, you became a slave. ”

”I prefer the term strategic partner. I wasn exactly a slave. No prey would wander here if the water was completely dirtied, so the water near the ground was recognized as my property. ”

The spirit spoke submissively while rubbing its hands together, and Eugene responded in a cold voice.

”Having to do what you
e told, thats called slavery. ”

”Yes, yes. If your exalted self says so, then that is what it is. Anyways, please accept my gratitude. Since that crocodile bastard is dead, the water should be purified. It is all thanks to you, sir. ”

The spirit even kowtowed.

Some might have taken it as an act of gratitude, but Eugene knew it was acting out of fear. The spirit continued stealing glances even with its head touching Eugenes palm in a kowtow. Eugene could see that the spirit wanted him to leave this place as soon as possible.

I guess it doesn matter since I won be coming back to this forest again.

”I will let you go, so live your life. ”

”Ah! Your grace is as wide as I would have expected from someone as gorgeous as you. Your exalted self is truly a member of the Nights Tribe! Bless you! ”

The spirit sprang up to its feet and groveled. Eugene dusted his hand and sent the spirit away as if he were chasing away a bug, then spoke after turning around.

”It must have been pretty painful for you to have been stuck with only that monster for over a decade. Anyways, take care. ”

”Yes! ”

The spirit quickly flapped away in excitement even before Eugene finished speaking. Then, it paused before quickly returning to Eugene.

”Excuse me, sir. ”

”What do you want? ”

”Do you perhaps need a portable spring or anything of the sort? ”

”What? ”

Eugene responded with a creased forehead. The spirit wanted to run away just a short while ago, so what was it playing at?

”Although it may not seem like it, Im still a water spirit. Do you need clean water? I can make it for you right away. Like this. ”

The spirit flew away and returned with a broad leaf before Eugene had a chance to answer. Then it leaned back before…

”Kaaaaak! Hawwkkkk! Ptui! Ptooey! Ptui! Ptui! Ptui! ”

Large drops of water poured down from the spirits mouth, and soon enough, a mouthful of water gathered in the center of the broad leaf after a moment.

”What do you think? I could make enough water to last you an entire day in just a short while. Its very clean and delicious. ”

The spirit spoke proudly after spitting out a bunch of phlegm and spit. Eugene gazed at the spirit for a moment, then turned around.

”I don need it. ”

”Ah! S-sir! Please wait! I can purify things as well! I can make any water drinkable in an instant! Ah, are you not satisfied with my speed? I can make water a lot faster if I excrete it rather than spitting… ”

”Scram. ”

”Sir! Oh, exalted member of the Nights Tribe! ”

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