The staircase was dark.
I tell two of my best hunters to follow me down, fully-equipped with weapons from the Guild arsenal.
The Guild always has hunters willing to fight for a Brother’s cause, and they immediately joined me when I told them about my situation. Then I see the vampire that I met earlier.
The vampire in front of the pool of holy water just smiled at me, as if he was expecting my arrival. He says something to his minion in a foreign language before talking to me again.
“Glad to see you were able to make it, hunterling.” the vampire says as his human minion starts stripping his clothes off. “I was expecting my vampire allies, but it seems that they have been hindered along the way. We were just getting started with out first obstacle for tonight.” the vampire gestures towards the pool as his minion jumps into it.
“Afraid of a little pool of water, vampire?” I smirk, knowing that vampires can’t stand holy water. “And I suppose that the dead ghoul upstairs was your doing?”
“How wonderful of you to notice!” the vampire laughs heartily. “She was in our way, but I took care of it.”
“Ghouls are still people; victims of beings like you who manipulate the world from the shadows.” I say with anger. Our Church believes that ghouls can be reformed just like criminals.
“Ghouls are like rabid dogs, hunterling. Creatures that failed to become full vampires. A mutation, if you put it in another term.” the vampire retorts. “Only a good death can save them, if that is what you want to ask. And you will not be able to satiate a ghoul’s hunger for flesh.”
I wanted to argue with the vampire about my beliefs, but we had something to do. The sooner we find Antonio and the other missing people, the sooner I can end this uneasy alliance with the vampire. I look at the two elite hunters I brought with me, Brother Jacobs and Brother Escobar. Thinking of a possible attack from behind, I assign both of them as a rearguard to cover our backs while we advance. Both hunters nod, and they go up the stairs.
“Interesting friends you’ve brought here.” the vampire says as my two hunters go up the stairs. “Capable as you, I suppose?” he adds as I detect a hint of sarcasm.
“Our party is more than enough, vampire.” I reply, irritated. “And your minion doesn’t seem to be getting anywhere.” I notice as the vampire’s human minion goes up to the surface for air again.
The vampire says something in a foreign language again, talking to his minion. It becomes a tone of anger as the minion nods and submerges into the water once more.
“Koguryeon.” the vampire says. “You were wondering what language I was speaking, yes?” Stupid mind reader.
“At least I don’t have to ask you. This will probably take all night.” I say as I look down into the pool. The Koguryeon minion keeps trying to push this panel at the bottom of the deep pool but can’t seem to reach it. If there was a way to get down there without submerging…
“You are correct, hunterling.” the vampire says as if an idea hit him. “So you should help my minion then.”
My jaw drops at his suggestion.
“My presence here is enough help. Your minion can do it!” I reply, putting the thought of I-don’t-want-to-get-into-the-water at the back of my head. Who knows what might suddenly pop out of there?
“We do not have much time, hunterling.” the vampire speaks with seriousness this time. “Do you want to help rescue your boyfriend or not?”
“He is not my boyfriend! He is my best friend!”
“Well, Antonio is a boy, and he is your friend. So I honestly don’t see the difference.” the vampire laughs.
I just stare at the vampire in anger for a minute and agree to get into the pool.
I reluctantly took off my clothes and gear to help the vampire’s minion. Thankfully, the vampire was kind enough to listen to my request to not look while I stripped my clothes. Once I was down to my underwear, I sat by the pool to see if the water was cold.
“You have quite the physique.” the vampire tells me while smiling and licking its lips. “The Guild trains its spawn well, doesn’t it?”
“Shut it, vampire. Or I’ll splash some of this water on you.” I threaten the vampire as it realizes that I can actually hurt him. He backs off by a few inches.
“Very well then, hunterling.” the vampire resigns. “Just do what you have to do.”
After taking a deep breath, I submerge myself into the pool as I see the vampire’s minion get out of the water. All those swimming classes really paid off as I kept going deeper and deeper. I then reach the bottom and used my hands to look for the panel. I only have a few more seconds to do this before I need to get back to the surface for air again. I try to conserve as many bubbles as I can in my mouth.
Then my foot feels something. I quickly turn around and touch it as I hear a sound. The water is starting to drain. I manage to say YES to myself but realize that I lost all of my air. I wanted to hit myself for my stupidity, but I quickly move my legs toward the surface where the vampire and its half-dressed minion are waiting.
Gasping for air, I hear the vampire applaud as his minion helps me out of the water.
“Good show! Good show, hunterling!” the vampire claps his hands as I look back and see the water slowly drain. The bottom part seems to be moving up again to bridge the gap. The minion who helped me out of the water says something in Koguryeon, but I do not understand a word he says. I just look at the vampire in confusion.
“Park here said that you are a really good diver.” the vampire translates as he tells the Koguryeon something in his language. “Simlish, Park. Practice your Simlish!”
“Nice to meet you, sir.” the minion finally speaks in Simlish. “My name, Shin Park. But I call Park!” he introduces himself and slightly bows. I decide to return the gesture.
“I’m Byron Llamanzares. Elite Guild Hunter.”
“Eyaman–” the minion tries to pronounce my long surname.
“Llamanzares.” I say slowly, stressing each syllable.
“Llama! A fitting nickname for you, hunterling!” the vampire interrupts me and says something to Park in Koguryeon. Park’s eyes light up as he smiles.
“Ah, sorry! Please to meet you, Mr. Llama!” Park bows again as I just let out a deep sigh.
I did not want to argue at that point. While waiting for the platform to rise up to its normal level, I dry myself with a towel from my pack and wear all of my equipment again. As soon as the ground became even, we start walking towards the door.
“This way, gentlemen!” the vampire calls as he goes through the door. Park the minion follows the vampire obediently as I call my two men from upstairs. I wait for the vampire and Park to go through the door.
“Anything to report?” I ask Brother Escobar as he lowers his crossbow.
“Nothing out of the ordinary, Brother.” he replies after giving the Guild salute, which I return. “We’ve buried the ghoul’s body, though.”
“Excellent. If it was left there to rot, it could have poisoned the air.” I commend my two men for doing a good job.
“Should we really trust that vampire, Brother?” Brother Jacobs asks, still skeptical about the whole thing. “We’re supposed to be hunting his kind!”
“He’s probably our only hope of finding my best friend, and we might even find that heretic Pastor with his help.” I reply, thinking about what might have happened to Antonio. “Moreover, both of you owe me a solid.” The two hunters just nod and walk with me towards the door.
Our party goes through a series of winding corridors, dimly lit by a few wall candles. The vampire and his minion walk ahead and just keep talking to each other in Koguryeon, leaving no room for us to make conversation. Every now and then, we stop and raise our weapons when we hear snarls and growls, but after it subsides, we keep moving. After a while, we finally reach a door, and the corridor is brighter this time.
“Llama.” the vampire addresses me as I notice that he doesn’t use “hunterling” anymore. I frown at the new nickname given to me. “What do you suppose is behind that door?”
I think for a moment and look around the corridor with iron bars. “Probably where they’re keeping Antonio?”
And suddenly, we hear loud snarling, growling, and even some moaning. It keeps getting louder as if something was coming closer.
“Ugly vampires?” I guess, attempting to insult the vampire’s kind.
Park screams in surprise from the loud sound. Then, secret doorways open left and right, releasing the snarling and growling figures that have finally come into view. They are slow, but they look as if they hadn’t had anything to eat at all.
“Feral vampires.” the vampire says as the creatures slowly shamble from the new doorways. “But they were hastily turned, so they act more like mindless zombies that seek blood. Pity.” the vampire twirls his hair as if he is preparing to attack. “Do not let your guard down, Llama.”
Four of the buggers. But more might pop out if we’re not careful. The weeping one creeps me out a lot, snarling and sniffling in between. Then I notice that the ferals look familiar. These are the missing people I’ve been looking for! I didn’t expect to find them turned into horrid creatures. Bless their souls. These missing people are– used to be mostly Guild initiates, but one of them caught my attention.
“Brother!” Escobar calls to me and points at the familiar figure.
“I know. And there is nothing that we can do but pray for his soul now.” I look at the back and see the shambling figure wearing the High Garments. I raise my crossbow while trying to hold back the tears in my eyes.
Head Pastor Ramirez has been found, and his soul needs to be cleansed.