Vis throat suddenly feel so dry. Keens somehow arrogant but still gentle behavior outside battle is contrary to the complete menace that he is when facing an enemy alone. A monster even greater than others within Esprit itself.

As he approaches her with a cynical smile, she starts to wonder if a drop of Zekes potion can somehow turn him back to the man who likes to tease her and always blurts about finishing the journey in Esprit much earlier than six months.

Right now, he looks like a monster himself seeking destruction ang bloodbath. With high vigilance, she readies the potion which is still almost full. She only had to put a little drop of it to heal her sprained ankle.

”I took them out completely instead of giving you the last shot. ” Keen raises a hand apologetically while the other holds two monster cores.

Vi sighs in relief that he is back to his usual self.

”Are you tired? ” He is already leaning before her before she realizes how close their faces are. She almost retreats in surprise, but holds herself back when upon noticing his eyes are also back to normal. He has even removed the hood over his head.

”Not really. I just thought you look too ugly while fighting alone. ” She steers away from his pulling gaze. ”I was even ready to splash this potion like holy water to bring you back to your senses. ”

Keen suddenly laughs. A normal, genuine laugh. Even to his surprise, his hand candidly reaches out to pat her hair. ”Were you worried? ”

”You are the worst monster here, to begin with. I don want to make an enemy of you. ” She pouts her lips.

”Sometimes you behave like an adult; sometimes you act like a kid. ” He pats her hair even more. He is not willing to let go after he noticed that her hands are shaking. She must have felt really afraid to see him go all out on an enemy. He is also aware that he seems to be another completely different entity when too focused on fighting the enemy. Like a true vampire.

”You have a problem with that, kid? ” She searches for the bone-colored spike with one hand.

”Kid? ” Keen is suddenly curious. ”How old are you, anyway? ”

She aims the spike to his throat. ”Don you know that asking a woman her age is a crime? ”

”Sounds like something an old lady would say. ”

Before she can even reply, a new set of enemies show up. Now there are three crawling humanoids with disfigured faces and six limbs going their way.

”These monsters surely love to interrupt our peaceful chat. ” Keen assists her in standing up. He seizes sight of the monster levels and sees two level fifteens with brown skin while the remaining one is level 20 and has a skin color of white.

”Geez, ” he sighs in a shift to boredom. ”Lend me a hand, Vi. ”

She gives a quiet nod, readying bone lances on both hands. Her lips, however, are shyly curled upward in a renewed confidence. Finally, she feels that her strength is genuinely needed.

A few moments later, the duo are heading further north.

”Whats with the lake in the middle of Northern Forest? ” Vi inquires.

”Nothing much. ” Keen walks passively, not showing any distinct bodily response to the thought. A sigh, however, escapes his mouth after a few moments of holding back. ”There may be a dungeon under the water there with a boss-level monster. ”

Vis eyes widen in hysteria. A boss battle? In their current level? With just the two of them?

If the highest level monster theyve encountered so far is twenty, it is possible to have a boss-level monster around level thirty. A boss-type monster in RPG-type games not only have a wide variation of attack patterns; it almost always has multiple life bars and lots of underlings supporting it. That is the main reason boss monsters are taken by a whole party or guild.

”There should at least be a vanguard tank, support, mage, and a main attack force when engaging a boss monster, ” Vi blocks his path.

”There is another way. ” Keen answers calmly.

She understands his intention right away. ”Can you overpower a boss like that? It may even have a horde of monsters as support. We need to at least have a healer- ”

”That would implicate that one of us has to protect the healer. It reduces the attack strength we need to deal with the boss. ”

”Then, we can — ” her impending suggestion is quickly interrupted by Keen.

”Having other party members would reduce the experience points we can get from defeating the boss. ”

”You have an answer to everything. Were you a solo grind player in the real world? ” Vis eyes suddenly show empathy towards him.

”We need to get stronger. Fast. We need to get out of Esprit as fast as we can, ” he answers monotonously. Clearly, she cannot have his decision reversed. ”It will be too hard to work on this journey if we take too much time. Im losing almost three units of my memory per day. ”

”You
e right, ” Vi sounds convinced. She steps aside and lets him resume his walk. ”But can we do it with just the two of us? ”

He reaches for her hair once again, revealing a beautiful but sad smile. His eyes are red but she can see tenderness in their gaze. A kind of sorrow, in fact. Loneliness. Like he was robbed of his most precious memory and nothing but monochromatic ones remained. He seeks not the preservation of his remaining memories, but the recollection of what he lost.

”Did you know? ” She breaks the silence while looking up at the moonlight. ”About the reason why many people go to Esprit? ”

Keen never thought about that. Or maybe he didn care. Why would anyone bother going to a place that would rob them of their memories? Thats absurd. Especially since the place is governed by the black market.

Without even waiting for his response, she continues.

”Most people want to forget. Some want answers. Others are here purely for the thrill the game offers. There is also a not-so-rare case where people are forced to participate in Esprit like lab rats. ” She takes a deep breath while glancing at his reaction.

”Whats your reason, then? ” his curiosity is suddenly too obvious to deny.

”Why do you want to know? ” she smiles to tease the vampire.

He clears his throat, feigning ignorance. He tries to be as composed as possible. ”Well, it would be hard to have you around not knowing your reasons. If our goals do not align, there is hardly any reason for being in the same Party anymore. ”

She is annoyed by his continued lack of genuine interest. She gasps, realizing she wants him to be interested in her story.

”You seem to know a lot about this place despite it being your first time in Esprit. ” He continues, stopping at a small meadow with the next trees still ten meters ahead. The moon seems to put him in a spotlight, being covered by thick clouds except for a gap that streaks faint light to where he stands. With a hand before his face blocking most moonlight, his countenance only becomes even more dreamy. Beautiful. Sad and gentle. ”I guess I got curious. ”

Vi is not sure if her heart skipped a beat, overwhelmed by his appearance and statement. ”Cu — curious? ”

When the breeze whistles from the north and into their direction, both Keen and Vi realize something. The lake. Its nearby. With just the signal of a quick nod, the two of them run forward with Vi keeping her guard up using the two bone lance. When she steals a glimpse of Keen, he is wearing a smile that stretches far to his cheeks. His fangs are protruding.

Welcoming their sight ahead is a serene lake that reflects the night sky as a rippling mirror. It looks a lot larger at ground level compared to when Keen saw it earlier when he jumped high into the air.

With the two of them being less than ten meters away from the lake, the water starts to gleam in crystalline blue like a large light source exists below.

Immediately, a large monstrosity emerges from the lakes center.

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