The Shinigami: Act 8 "Afterlife Shortlived"


Only the Volkihar can pull off a mind blowing trick like that. A grown man pulled downward through a frozen lake without so much of a crack on the ice above was astonishing. However, Lady Risa had no time to admire the fiend for Eljar had little chance to survive an underwater attack. He could drown any minute. Risa was swift to react.

Running at full speed, Risa used the momentum to slide on the ice to where Eljar was. Using her katana, she impaled the small crack where he had been pulled down, also abruptly stopping the slide. She spun around the blade to a stand. And without hesitation, she used her shield to hammer on the hilt of her sword before the storm froze the crack on the ice sealing the opening tight.

"You stupid fool", she exclaimed while continuing to pound on the sword. "You stupid, stupid fool", she added. She wasn't even sure who she was calling stupid if it was Eljar or herself because of her panic. She was usually calm and collected in situations like these. However, she let all her emotions this time to lash out on her katana to continuously break into the ice.

Letting insanity get the better of a person sometimes pays off. Risa was able to pierce through the ice a hole that could fit two men. But she has to bring Eljar back before the storm freezes the hole shut again.

She removed her heavy armor and shield, leaving only her tunic and trousers on. Armor would have brought her straight down to the bottom of the lake. Drowning was not an option. And without hesitation, with katana in hand, she plunged into the freezing water.

However dark and noisy it was on the surface with the storm unleashing its fury, it was a stark contrast in the water under the ice. The blackness of the stagnant lake below created an illusion as if the frozen water above was as white as the morning sky. Risa could see everything. But nothing else was around, save for a few rocks and aquatic plant life at the bottom. It gave her an eerie feeling that someone might grab her from behind, or something.

There was no sign of Eljar. She surveyed the bottom before she took a deep breath from the surface. Then she dove down to a crevice in between the rocks. It wasn't that deep at all, only shellfish lived there. She swam next to a patch of grass as tall as a man. She shoved it to the side. None. No sign of life except for a few Spadetails swimming frantically away.

She surfaced again just to check the hole wasn't sealed tight by ice, and to take another breath. The hole narrowed a little so she chipped it more with her sword before going back down. She kept repeating this process over and over until fatigue started to catch up with her. She was a Nord of Akaviri descent and should have been used to the cold, but the chill was also slowly creeping up to her bones to kill her. And there was still no sign of Eljar and the Volkihar vampire.

She was beginning to lose hope. But she never stopped. She went back in the water again and again covering even larger distances. At times, she opted from chipping the ice to save more time that was running out fast. With every second, she could feel that she was losing her strength.

Frustration was building up. With so much time passed already, she was beginning to realize that it was already a lost cause. No one would've survived that long under freezing circumstances especially while struggling against the clutches of a powerful vampire. And not to mention the fact that it was impossible to hold one's breath that long.

She eventually surfaced, and stood up slowly, clearly drained of her strength. She stared down at the ice she was standing on for a few moments afterwards. "El-Chan…", she whispered. A tear would have probably rolled down her face if only it did not get frozen by the blizzard.

Despair grew inside her as if its weight slowly became unbearable for her to suddenly fall on her hands and knees. And this time, the storm was not enough to prevent her tears from flowing like a stream out of her sorrowful eyes. She finally broke down. Denial transformed into regret. Her only thought in that moment was if only she could have told Eljar how she really felt for him. She then realized it was too late, and all was lost.

She looked up with tears constantly flowing out of her eyes, and screamed so loudly Eljar's name that the stormy weather did not muffle it at all. She kept wailing in sadness. She kept pounding on the ice with her fists. She had not broken down like this ever since she lost her husband and son.

The grief that she felt at that moment was so great that it made her decide to throw her life away. "One more time", she thought, deciding to give her last breath for Eljar as she jumped through the hole one last time.

In the end, she never gave up on him. She would have never surfaced this time, and drowned herself if she did not find him. However, drowning was not going to be the means to threaten her life because as soon as she reentered the water, something suddenly snatched her from behind.

A hand even colder than the frigid water grabbed Risa's right arm. The grip was so tight that it might have caused her blood to stop flowing through her hand. She could not break free from it so she forced herself to a turn to face the culprit to better assess the situation.

It was a Volkihar vampire. Its eyes had a red glow that pierced through the darkness of the lake and straight into Risa's soul. The gaze told a story of a thousand years of thirst that never quenched. It may be another monster, or the same one that took Eljar down. Whoever this was, its hunger was not satisfied.

Risa needed to act fast. If it was on land, it would be quick work. However, in the water, she was out of her element. Her katana was useless for her right arm was trapped in the clutches of the vampire. Using her left hand, she tried to get her soul siphoning wakizashi, but was immediately caught by the fiend causing the short sword to drop to the bottom.

It was of no use at all. Her godlike speed was powerless in the water. She tried to kick herself free with both legs, but the strength of the creature was too much, not too mention she was already in a weakened state to begin with. She knew it now. She was going to die.

The vampire was very much intent on biting her neck already. She could not move as it hugged her with her arms locked tight behind by its vice like grip. Its head was gearing towards her as it stared at her neck. She closed her eyes, and offered a silent prayer in her thoughts. It was a shame though that she met her end like this, death by the hands of her prey. Then that was it.

However, the searing pain of fangs piercing through her jugular vein did not come, not even the feeling of her blood and life force slowly draining away. "Ryuujin is kind", she thought assuming that the dragon god sent the real Shinigami to give her a painless death. But the tiredness and the pains of battle beforehand was still there. The afterlife must have something to do with lingering sensations coming from before the actual death. But it wasn't so. It was an indication that she was still alive.

When Risa opened her eyes, she realized that she was free from the clutches of the vampire. Vampire dust dissolved in water along with swirling purplish arcane energy clouded the water around her. The monster was defeated and soul trapped by someone, she realized as she looked around for the hole leading to the surface. This time, she was slowly losing air and drowning.

As her consciousness started to drift away from her, the cloud of ash started to clear revealing a shadow swimming close to her. "Great, I'm already dying. Can't these blood suckers leave me be..", she thought with some frustration, only wanting to die peacefully.

The shadow grabbed her by the waist, probably making sure to get the bite right this time around. "Funny that vampires are like feral beasts fighting each other for food", she thought as she continued to lose her grip on life. But the body next to her was warm. It was not one of the Volkihar, and it swam upwards towards the hole leading to the surface.

The moment they reached the surface, Risa gasped for air and pulled herself up, crawling on the ice away from the hole. She stopped on all fours and continued coughing out water. Her life started to flow back to her as if the true Shinigami gave her soul back. And it was interesting how the vampire's soul was caught as an exchange. "Wait", she thought as she looked back as if she realized something.

"I believe this belongs to you, milady", Eljar said while handing over the wakizashi that Risa dropped moments that seemed ages ago.

"Eljar? How…", Risa whispered, wide eyed and in awe. He was there kneeling beside her, handing over her soul trapping short sword, as if everything that happened was just trivial. He wasn't even trying to catch his breath which was odd since they were both underwater for so long. The whole setup felt surreal for Risa that it gave her an impression that they were now both in Sovngarde.

Eljar looked back at Risa as if adoring her look of disbelief. It was as if he read her mind perfectly when he jested and smiled, "no, Ri-Chan. This isn't the afterlife. We're very much alive".

Making sure this was not a vampiric illusion, or something else playing with her mind, Risa swiftly grabbed her wakizashi. She sheathed it without even releasing her gaze towards Eljar to make sure it was all real. Her curious look simply gave away her intent for Eljar to answer her question, how did he do it?

"You must be wondering how I did it", Eljar said breaking the brief silence. She simply nodded, still with a very cautious and curious look, and still catching her breath. "Fermented blood from Black Marsh. I got this to go from Haemar's Shame", he added jokingly. However, Risa shifted her look from curious to confused as her eyes squinted, implying that she did not get the relevance of it all. "I have a habit of drinking looted alcohol from quests, you know", Eljar added again, however, on a more serious note.

Risa shifted her head to the right, and squinted even more. She got even more confused. She had no clue what Eljar was talking about. It felt very nonsensical for her. "I'm probably dreaming", she thought. But the cold winds of the Jerall mountains smashed against her soaked garments. She shivered into reality. This was not a dream.

Eljar looked at Risa with some confusion as well. He could not understand why she couldn't comprehend what he's saying. "Sensei, don't you get it? It's blood wine from Black Marsh", Eljar said impatiently. But it seemed like it did not sink in to the both of them that they were misunderstanding each other until Eljar added, "Argonian Bloodwine, milady".

Suddenly, it seemed like Risa got her soul back. Her expression changed to a mix of relief and disbelief. Still teary eyed from the storm of emotions for the past few minutes, she smiled and approached closer to Eljar as if she was about to hug him. As Eljar readied himself to give the Lady Daimyo a tight hug back, out of nowhere, she punched him in the face, right in the middle, just above the nose.

"Ouch", Eljar exclaimed in pain from the bleeding nose. "Uh.. you're welcome..? That hurt", he added.

"You fucking son of a bitch", Risa replied softly, but furiously. She stood up, and stared down on Eljar, that same glaring look she gave him, as always.

"What? I saved your life. I didn't know breaking one's nose was your way of showing gratitude", Eljar said sarcastically while holding his nose. Risa was tired, but she still had the strength to break a grown man's nose. It bled profusely. And did not help seeing the Lady in a damp, white, now see through tunic. He could clearly see her black upper undergarment under her top, while she stood in front of him. His imagination seemed to ignite something that would make his head combust while he grabbed her cuirass as he stood up. "Risa-Sensei, your armor", he added as he gave Risa her armor chest piece, and simultaneously looking away, but stealthily glancing at her almost bare chest.

Risa swiftly grabbed her armor and donned it. She glared at him once, implying that she really was furious. However, she immediately looked away, flustered because of immediately recalling the events that unfolded prior to this. Her moment of weakness, when she cried for him, he was alive and conscious the whole time. It was really embarrassing for her thinking that she may have given Eljar a glimpse of how she really felt for him. "You were there the whole time, Eljar. You should've shown yourself to me", she said, while adjusting her armor.

"I was waiting for the right moment to strike, Sensei", he answered nervously.

"So you used me as bait", she replied coldly, but with obvious fury.

"No, of course not. But yeah, sort of."

"Care to explain?"

Eljar stared at her for a while. She was still giving him that glaring look. The wind blew and gave him an unusual chill. He was used to the freezing climate, but something was different. It was extraordinarily cold, but her stern look did not waiver at all. He then sighed and told her what happened.

"It pulled me downward into the water, but I quickly kicked myself out of its grip. Using the momentum of its pull, and my kick, combined with the weight of my armor, I sunk to the bottom faster than it could swim. Then I hid myself waiting for the right opportunity. But it stalked me relentlessly. That thing was really hungry, I guess."

"Enough with the details, Eljar. You sound like a girl in puberty", Risa cut him impatiently.

Then it was Eljar's turn to give her a glaring look, but also slightly twisting and nodding his head sarcastically to the right. He took a moment to think of how he was going to cut his story short. But the bone chilling winds did not help. It was becoming painfully cold. "Suddenly, you went in the water", he blurted out.

"So that's where I become bait then", Risa said without changing her expression, keeping her eyes on Eljar.

"No. Not exactly", Eljar replied immediately, finally clearing his head and gaining confidence with his explanation. "It was too soon for me to show myself. I would rather stay hidden than risk getting both of us killed", he added.

"Why would you assume that we'll both get killed? There's two of us."

"We were not exactly in our element in the water, Ri-Chan. This monster had been hunting in the water for years, and probably centuries already. Not to mention the fact that I would just get in the way, right, Sensei?"

The sternest gaze of the Lady of the Pale Pass finally broke. Risa could not say anything to that and just looked away. She recalled that about an hour ago, Eljar was so enthusiastic in helping the Shinigami, but she quickly shut him down and said that he'll just get in the way. However, it all ended up with him saving her life. The ingredients to the mixture of emotions continued to increase in variety, and this time, guilt was added.

"You got its attention", Eljar continued, momentarily breaking Risa's silence. "The vampire's focus shifted towards you, and probably forgot about me completely", he added.

"So I was the easier prey then. Not bait", Risa replied blankly, almost whispering.

"No, milady. But more of the only available prey because I disappeared completely in the cold water", Eljar answered back, giving off a more forgiving tone. "Vampire's tend to track its prey through heat signatures, called thermoception, like the blood sucking bats they were derived from by the Daedric Lord Molag Bal. They love warm blood, apparently", he added.

"Here he goes again with his details", Risa thought as a smile lit up her face, breaking her sternness. She thought of the prospect of her former student becoming a more prolific vampire hunter than she is. And that gave her a sense of fulfillment, especially that it was Eljar whom she saw something with potential in him. But she sighed after a few moments thinking that she greatly underestimated him. She was still feeling guilty with what she said earlier.

"I have to give it to you Eljar", Risa said ending her brief thought processing. Then she added, "you know your prey very well. But these things still have heightened senses and abilities. How did you know when to strike it?"

"Heightened senses have consequences, Ri-Chan. Heightened focus. It simply forgot about everything else, and focused on you", Eljar answered, somehow with his voice waivering. "As I've said, it must've been really hungry. I just simply removed my armor and swam up as fast as I could to strike it", Eljar continued with a little bit more confidence, but he was obviously sounding fatigued. "It's actually a good thing you dropped your wakizashi. Was able to kill it quickly", he added.

"Eljar, are you alright?"

"I'm fine, milady. Just cold", he said, almost a whisper. "Let's just walk back home. I'm truly sorry for somewhat using you as bait", he added as he turned around to walk a few steps, only to collapse on the ice.



*Author's Note:

The Vampires in es canon are not necessarily reliant on thermoception when hunting. It is only a nod to the real world vampire bats of the Americas where they regularly feed on the blood of mammals and birds. But feel free to imagine the possibility of an entity like Molag Bal being responsible for the creation of these magnificent animals.

If you're interested in more Shinigami action, here is the link of the table of contents:

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