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122 The Grateful Dead

 "D*mn it! That little b*stard... how dare he!"

Cecil was returning to his room in utter indignation, but he could not help shivering the instant he stepped inside his own room.

It was not the cold air, however, despite the hearth being not ignited.

What made him shudder was the ice-cold evil energy that was filling the room. The noble fur-coat he was wearing was not just for looks-he wouldn't feel the chill even if he were outside and it was pouring snow, much less within the castle.

That was when he noticed further a man dressed in a black cloak with a hood up that hid his face inside the room, sitting contentedly in his lounger.

"Who are you?!" Cecil growled the question and calmly grasped the hilt of his sword.

In the next instant, green flames ignited on the hearth, dancing and reaching out of the hearth itself while licking the bricked wall around it.

The terrible light promptly filled the room with faint sulfuric odor.

Then, the door closed itself without any wind blowing on it, which made Cecil even more nervous.

"Long time no see, eldest young master of the Faust family." Only then did the other person slowly rose, giving a bow that was totally subpar that gave the impression of nonchalance. "You seemed to have run into... certain troubles lately."

Cecil could not help grimacing at the familiarly hoarse voice-it was the same person from the Secret Eye Society who had persistently reached out to him.

"That's not important." The other person replied and slowly approached Cecil. "Could you not want to... remove that 'little thing' who's giving you a hard time?"

"Little thing..."

Cecil appeared slightly moved.

Seizing the moment, the other person promptly drew out a small bottle from his cloak. It was filled with something as thick as bee honey inside, but even the bottle did not give a good impression. "This is it."

Cecil also noticed that the other person was wearing heavy leather gloves then, and between the person's cloak, hood, gloves and vaguely visible pants, he had basically covered every bit of their skin tightly.

"What's this?" He asked carefully.

"The good stuff." The other person slyly switched the conversation without really answering Cecil. "It would give you power you could never hope to gain for the rest of your life. Just put it in your mouth and gulp it down, and not even the bishops of most churches could best you."

The person's hoarse voice seemed to be enchanted, causing Cecil to unwittingly accept the bottle.

"Yes, just like that. With it, you would rule over everything!"

There was satisfaction in that hoarse voice now.

Be that as it may, Cecil's rather shaky will put on one last resistance.

"At what cost? What does it cost me?!"

"There is only one cost." The other person locked gazes with Cecil. "Become one of us."

Cecil felt as if he had fallen within an icy abyss.

He had long suspected that the other person wasn't human, but was completely certain of it now: those eyes had neither emotion nor warmth-they were amber-colored, with two black reptilian slits in the middle for pupils.

Demon.

For some reason, Cecil remembered characters that only existed in the bedtime stories his father had read him.

Characters of absolute evil that possessed great power.

Even the protagonists of those stories could never kill those demons, and were only ever able to exile them or follow rituals inherited over years to seal them once again.

"No. I refuse!"

It was after half a beat that he attempted to return the hot potion as if jolted.

"Fear not. You should know that we won't force you into this choice, what with our enduring partnership." The other person didn't receive it, and instead continued slowly with an alluring tone. "You keep the potion and think about it."

With those words, his body was dark dust that faded into the air of the room, leaving a silver mirror on the lounger.

The flames in the hearth turned orange-red once again as well.

Cecil stared at the bottle in his hand. There was a troubled look on his face as he walked up to the hearth, as if considering whether he should throw the potion into the fire and let it burn.

That was when someone knocked on his door.

"Who is it?!" Cecil asked loudly as he pocketed the potion in reflex.

"It's me, young master. The captain of your personal guard." The person outside answered.

Cecil had opened the door, but he only felt an unreasonable irritation despite the captain's apologetic smile. "What is it?"

"We've found two intruders into the castle, sir."

"Found?" Cecil frowned, sensing the catch. "Not caught?"

"Yes, we have them cornered in the small concert hall, and the other guards are attempting arrest. We shall have them soon." The captain answered earnestly.

"The small concert hall, huh."

Cecil strode ahead, with the captain following him.

But even before he entered, they heard a voice yelling loudly. "I shall not give up on my infiltration even if I'm caught! Witness me, Silva, for this is how I infiltrate! The Grateful Dead!"

When they finally entered the concert hall, they found a pudgy man laughing manically while bleeding profusely from every part of his body. Despite that, he chased down and cut down Cecil's personal guards, even as they scattered towards every direction, trying to escape.

And at the fat man's side was another skinny man, who was tearing up emotionally for some reason and screaming 'Brother Terrosche!' even as he helped stabbed the guards whom the fat man managed to cut.

They naturally weren't aware that 'Grateful Dead' was one of the early core skills in the Berserker route for Swordmasters. To put it simply, it was to keep bleeding proactively-and the lower the user HP, the stronger effect the personal buff. That being said, the bleeding increases the longer the skill was in action until even the healers couldn't help save the user, which made it a suicidal skill if not played with control.

The sheer slight left Cecil's mouth twitching as he asked the captain a soul-searching question, "Didn't you tell me they are intruders? They are killing almost every single one of my personal guard! And here you are, just looking-are you turning against me too!? Stop them right now, or that fat one is going to take on ten men alone!"

After being scolded an earful, the captain quickly went to help-he had fine skill, and would have been chief knight in other smaller noble families. That was how he did not fall to Terrosche despite the Player's berserk mode, and wore him down despite being drenched in the fat man's blood.

Naturally, Silva could hardly keep fighting alone, and was naturally cut down by the wild slashes of the guards who encircled and attacked him-but not after he killed two of them while yelling 'Welp, broke even'.

Cecil's face went white from rage at the miserable sight before him.

And yet, he never knew that a mage had snuck into his room to steal some letters and documents, while most of the guards in his keep had moved here to fight the two intruders...