My partner was Nandi, the silver-haired advanced-school girl. Ged sent us to search for signs of the vampire along the east side of campus. It was the highest priority area, where the women’s dorms were located.
Nandi seemed unhappy to be paired with me. I knew it was at least in part because she was normally teamed with ‘Gabe’, who had gone to fetch Lady Chiara. I gathered that Gabus Branimor was an ex-house knight whom the Royal Army drafted to attend Advanced School. I suspected from her dejected attitude that he was also Nandi’s love interest, if not her boyfriend. She seemed to be unhappy that he was going to be teamed up with a certain shapely royal knight.
She needed more self-confidence. If the man had an eye for delicate, attractive girls, she had the edge.
If it was about the chest though… no, let’s not mention it. Although nature hadn’t actually been unkind to her in that respect, either. Robert’s connoisseur eye appraised her at a C cup. But Lady Chiara…
Anyhow, Ged felt the two noobs shouldn’t be paired together, so he split up their team to pair each of us with a veteran member.
Almost immediately after leaving the guardhouse on our way to our patrol area, Nandi commented, “They were calling you a succubus at the ball last night, but His Highness told us you are a vampire.”
“That’s correct,” I answered, wondering why she was bringing it up.
“I see,” was all she replied. It sounded to me as if she would rather I was a succubus. Well, we were looking for vampires, and here I was, so…
As we headed toward our patrol area, I wondered, “If the attack was in the school building, why are we looking around the dorms?”
“The assault was not inside the school building, My Lady. The girl’s classroom was closer to the conveniences in the Old Hall, so she went across to use them. She was attacked on the way back to the Main Hall.”
I waited for a bit, than asked, “And so?”
“We are going to where the other attacks happened.”
I blinked. “Other attacks?”
Nandi looked for a moment like she regretted mentioning it, then got control of her expression and simple said, “I can’t talk about it.”
Now I was annoyed. She couldn’t talk about it, but it had to do with the assailant we were chasing?
“When and where, Miss Nandi?
She pressed her lips together, then said, “I really am supposed to keep quiet about it, My Lady.”
I thought about it for a bit, then guessed, “Ged… His Highness doesn’t want me to know about it?”
“Did you just call Prince Gerard ‘Ged’?”
“Ignore that,” I answered, refusing to be drawn off. “So for now, I’m left to assume there have been multiple other vampire attacks on campus, and we’re going to the area where they happened.”
“I am not allowed to discuss it.”
I asked, “Can you at least tell me for how long this has been happening?”
A typical vampire, lacking my fairy half that slows down my need for blood, feeds roughly every other week. If they are an active mage, or they use their innate skills like flight frequently, they will need to feed more often. But at most, it would be only every few days. So that meant the attacks had been going on at least a week, and up to a month…
Grudgingly, she answered, “Since yesterday.”
“What?” I yelped, coming to a halt. It wasn’t loud, but it came out of my mouth so high pitched and fast I can’t come up with a better verb.
She stopped with me, looking puzzled. “My Lady?”
“Could we be talking about more than one vampire?” I asked. “Even if it was only three attacks in twenty four hours, it’s very strange.”
“It’s unusual, but if a vampire is going to break the law anyway, why wouldn’t they?”
I shook my head. “Just because you could get away with it, would you eat weeks of food in one sitting, Miss Nandi?”
She frowned slightly as she thought about it. “Would it be like that?”
I thought about how long it took for me to be able to feed on Ceria after having just fed on a courtesan in Bray. It took more than an hour of cuddling just to regrow my fangs. “Personally, it’s difficult to force myself to feed twice in one day, and I don’t know if I could feed three times. And you said attacks, plural. There were at least two, before the latest one, right?”
She hesitated, then admitted, “My Lady, there have been five in total.”
“F… five?” I yelped again.
Nandi scowled at my reaction, then shook her head and started walking again. “We need to do our patrol.”
After I walked for a bit, I asked, “Just out of curiosity, what will you be looking for?”
I wanted to make sure she didn’t have the mistaken impression she could track down a vampire by looking for demonic mana. We aren’t demons.
She glanced at me with a scowl, then stated, “Miasma.”
“Vampires don’t leave miasma traces though. So that is only going to work if you run into the actual vampire.”
“I’m aware of that,” she answered tightly. “I’m a poor fit for this task.”
“Exactly how are you planning to detect miasma?” It isn’t a common skill. Many people can feel it once it touches them directly, but only a few non-human races can see it directly. Humans are blind to it until it begins to hurt them, when they can feel what it’s doing. They can’t sense it.
My fairy sight allows me to see its effect, but only inside living flesh or spirit. I can only detect it on its own with difficulty, when I’m close enough for fairy sense to feel it. I can see demonic mana clearly though.
At least for me, vampire sight gives me nothing, although my experience with Aunt Elianora and the fan had me wondering if my vampire sight was underdeveloped because my fairy sight replaced it.
I don’t know how the innate skills of some species work, though.
My best guess was that Nandi was part elve. Elves and many half-elves can read mana directly but not miasma.
Magic tools are obvious to my fairy senses as they function. I saw no such tools on her. However, I could see strange mana flows near her eyes and nose.
“I have a charm helping me,” she explained.
I frowned in confusion.
“A charm?” One usually doesn’t speak of a physical object that way. The anti-slavery bracelets that I gave Ceria and Melione have charms cast on them, but generically you call the physical object that carries the charm a ‘Magic Tool’ or you use some more specific name instead. ‘Amulet’. ‘Magic Sword’. ‘Circlet of Light’. ‘Anti-slavery bracelet’. That sort of thing.
She pressed her lips together, then explained, “Its exact nature is a family secret, My Lady.”
I nodded and dropped the subject.
We had begun walking down a path between the school buildings and line of buildings that looked like mansions.
“Which house are you in?” she asked, gesturing toward them.
“None of them,” I answered.
She blinked, then comprehension dawned. “That’s right. You would be staying at the royal residence.”
My first thought was, does she know about the engagement? Then I realized what she was thinking.
“I’m a student in my own right, not a knight attendant. I don’t live with the royal family.”
Her eyes opened a little wider. “What? Why would you go to school when you’re already a knight?”
That’s my line, though…
“I became a squire at twelve years old, so I never attended school. The king told me to come here.”
She looked first shocked when I said ‘twelve years old’ but then grew sympathetic. “That’s going to be awful, going into advanced school without any preparation.”
“Um… it probably would be, but I’m only fifteen, so I’m beginning upper school.”
I shook my head. I knew I looked older than fifteen, but do I really look old enough to be in college? In my eyes, at the very oldest I could pass for a high school senior.
“Wow,” she said. We continued walking for a little bit, then she scowled again. “Then if you don’t live with the Royals, where do you live?”
“Mother bought a residence for me.”
She blinked, then looked over at me with a blank expression. “You have your own house? I didn’t know that was allowed.”
“They only allow it for Ducal and Marquisate children,” I answered. “I’m First Daughter of the Ducal House of Pendor.”
I said it that way to let her know that I was from THE Pendor, as in the Duchy, not one of several lesser houses that also had rights to that very ancient surname.
“What?!” She grew shocked yet again. “Your mother is Lady Sasara?!”
As in, the woman who had just become the talk of the entire kingdom because the king suddenly took her as a concubine after all these years of widower-hood.
I nodded. “That’s right.”
“Lady Sasara is a vampire?!”
Somehow managing to not roll my eyes, I said, “Mother is not a vampire. I’m her fosterling. I’m the daughter of the late Duke, but Mother took me in for my birth mother’s sake so that I would remain a daughter of Pendor.”
It was beginning to appear that few people in my own generation know this story. Yes, it’s fiction, but it was well-publicized back when Tiana was a baby, and it is part and parcel of the explanation for how Mother became duchess.
Nandi continued talking lightly as we walked, but I began to notice a distinct sense of investigation in her questioning. Especially, she seemed interested in my whereabouts over the last day or so, and perhaps who I had been with.
I was a suspect, in her eyes. Well, just like with the school, I could understand why. It appeared that the first attack had actually been during the Welcome Ball, after I had demonstrably arrived on campus.