The Shinigami: Act 6 "Bloodstalker"


“Two nights in a row”, Risa thought with black gems in her bag. She was raiding again that night. It was the first time she did consecutive raids since she was still doing her Musha Shugyo. However, this time she was in a vampires' lair. She wanted to find out if her stalker was a member of the vampire coven residing in the said cave.

Dealing with vampires took more critical thinking compared to Draugr. They're undead, but their sentience is whole. They're faster, stronger, and smarter. In fact, they're several times stronger and faster than an average man. Fortunately, the Shinigami was no average man.

“Well, I'm a woman”, she joked in her thoughts. “A very strong and crazy woman”, she said while spinning by getting leverage from the wall then decapitating a vampire fledgling in an ambush. “That's one”.

Another fledgling witnessed this and charged at Risa with insane speed. As it swung its war axe at her, she just took a step back, side stepped towards the monster's swinging arm, then plunged her wakizashi into its head as the war axe hit the ground. “Two”.

Three vampires appeared out of nowhere behind her. They seemed stronger than the first two though. But she knew none of them were her stalker. They were too ordinary.

“What's the matter? You prefer dealing with a little girl from behind the back? I thought you blood suckers were as strong as bears. Or should I say, milkdrinkers”, she taunted.

“You have a lot of nerve coming in here, meat”, one of the beasts angrily said. “Drain every last drop of blood within her”. They charged at her, but it was futile.

She danced with her Daisho form with so much grace that every strike dealt by the vampires were dodged accompanied what would've been killing blows if these were mortals. She actually accidentally beheaded one.

“Whoops. I wasn't actually planning to kill you just yet. I just wanted to play some more. Three”, once again, she taunted them.

After a good half hour of massacre, Risa was holding the last empty gem that she had. “Twelve”. Then she felt it. That same presence. That shadow from the previous night. But she could not see it. It was hiding. It was no use tracking it down. Better if she just proceeded to the main room of the lair. She might even be lucky that the master vampire was the stalker.

She snuck in. There were two vampires. By the looks of it, one was the master, the other was the right hand man. Unfortunately for the Shinigami, none of them was the stalker.

Suddenly she felt that feeling of being watched again. No matter how impressively smooth she snuck, she was being seen. Then she revealed herself to the master of the cave. “I have one gem left. Who might be that lucky one to go to heaven? Let's dance, shall we?”

“We do not intend to fight you. We know what you did. We do not want to waste our energy dealing with sheep like you. Go away”, the master vampire said.

“Wrong answer. I'll take your soul then”, Risa replied then she walked towards them. Threatened, the master's companion charged at her.

“No! Stop Lucith. She'll kill you”, the master stopped his underling, but it was too late. The Shinigami was already holding the underling's severed head by the hair before the master even finished the sentence.

“Alright, if you put it that way, so be it”, the master said then charged with his dagger. Risa then sheathed her wakizashi. It was one opponent anyway. There was no need to use Daisho.

The first strike was blocked by Risa's katana. It was heavy, expected from a master vampire. More strikes came in. Blow by blow, it looked like a flurry of daggers with impossible speed. But the Shinigami blocked every blow with her katana.

“Are you done yet? You're boring”, she taunted as she bashed the monster with the hilt of her katana right before it landed another strike. As the vampire took a step back out of control from the bash, she spun and dealt a backhanded death blow cutting the beast in half.

She disarmed it with her foot while she sheathed her katana. Then she unsheathed her wakizashi and pointed it towards the vampire's chest.

“Please, have mercy on my soul. We're only living peacefully here. Hunting elk for blood”, the vampire pleaded.

“That doesn't look like it's part of a four legged animal”, she said pointing towards a human skull.

“Sometimes the urge gets the better of me. Please, that was a troublemaking bandit, I swear.”

“Who's following me? Or better yet, what's following me?”

“I don't know what you're talking about”. Risa pressed the wakizashi harder towards the monster's heart. “Again, who's watching me?”

“I swear to all the divines, and the ones that would own my soul after you cut me down, I do not know”. He was telling the truth. No one knew who her stalker was. She stood up straight, and in one swift motion, unsheathed her katana and decapitated the vampire.

She just killed it, and decided to spare its soul. The other vampire had a name. That was interesting. These monsters actually tried to live normally, she thought. “Have I done the right thing?”

Then she saw the shadow by the walkway again. This time, she bolted right away to chase it down. Once again, it disappeared once outside. She was beginning to think that maybe this wasn't a vampire, but something else. It could still possibly be a vampire, or just human, but with a great amount of skill.

Risa just walked home. No more running, she thought. “Come at me if you want. My blade would love to meet you”, she whispered to the air hoping her stalker would get a wind of it.

She then arrived at the settlement, making sure she was unseen. Dropped the bag of loot, this time, away from the long house. However, she went to the back of the tavern, and wore a dark fur cloak over her armor then proceeded inside.

“Hello. I need a drink”. Surprised with the Daimyo's presence, the tavern mistress hurriedly got the finest drink that they had.

“A really pleasant surprise, milady. What would you be doing here in the dead of night? It's dangerous out there”, the mistress said.

“Having problems with sleep lately, Wylla. I just thought a few shots of ‘Sake’ would do the trick”. And it did. After drinking, she went home and straight to bed, without even removing her armor.

Just outside her window, a shadowy figure of a man was watching her while she fell asleep.

The next morning, Eljar was already checking the contents of the loot. There were twelve black gems. “And a shit load of vampire dust. She's gone mad”, he thought.

It was still dark. The winds have ceased blowing since the previous night. Clouds have covered the sun over the Pale Pass. The end of summer must have been approaching. Out of the mist, a presence suddenly revealed itself. “What have we got today? The Shinigami's been pretty busy lately”, the man spoke.

“No ancient Nords today, Taichou. Unfortunately, just vampires”, Eljar replied somehow surprised with Halfdan's sudden interference.

The captain had been suspiciously nosing around about everything lately, he thought. Ever since Ingrid's ‘funeral pyre’, Halfdan had been on everyone's affairs. He was probably just keeping security up since he was the Lady's housecarl. Or does he know something else? Eljar asked himself.

“No, there is nothing to know”, he thought. “Save for Risa-Sensei being the Shinigami's alter ego”, he added in his thoughts.

“That's a shit load of gems. It seems like an entire coven had been destroyed last night”, Halfdan answered.

“This is a lot for one coven”, Eljar answered back realizing terrible implications. “They might be gathering in one place, planning something”, he added.

The two men fell silent for a while. Eljar continued to inspect the loot. Halfdan then spoke after a few moments. “I worry that the Shinigami might have brought ill will upon us”.

The captain was right. Eljar thought that with Lady Risa slaying numerous vampires for the past few months might've caused different groups to gather around the Pale Pass to assist their brethren. If more than one coven was inside a single cave the previous night, it wasn't a good sign.

They were planning something. Ingrid being turned into a blood sucking fiend was a failed attempt to infiltrate the village. “But there will be more, unfortunately”, Eljar thought. The captain might have thought about the same for a while. “Probably the reason why he's been acting weird lately”, he thought.

Halfdan then ordered Eljar to bring the loot to the headquarters and proceed in reporting to the Daimyo. He then left to go somewhere in the wilderness for he was going to investigate more on the matter.

“That was odd”, Eljar thought what could possibly be in the forest at that time. It only confirmed that the captain knew something he didn't. Although he was not in the position to question, Eljar still managed to ask. “Taichou-Senpai, what are you going to do now?”

“None of your concern. Daimyo's orders”, Halfdan replied as such, as expected. Eljar thought it was even a waste of energy to ask.

He then proceeded to make the report, and hopefully, find the Daimyo alone to ask her why the captain was acting suspiciously. But it even got more suspicious as it was.

When he arrived at the main hall of the long house, the captain was already there beside the Daimyo. Risa, sitting on her chair at the far end of the room, gave Eljar an odd squinting look. She was probably wondering why Eljar looked surprised to see Halfdan there. Eljar, of course was not stupid. He then realized that the Lady did not give out such orders to investigate the wilderness.

“Nice to see you back so quickly, Taichou”, Eljar blurted out with implicit sarcasm.

“I work fast. Time is of the essence”, Halfdan replied, never breaking his stern expression.

Eljar proceeded with the report, even giving emphasis to “twelve filled black gems” with a glaring look. Risa glared back implying that he might subtly reveal something to the people around them including Halfdan. Eljar pressed on by saying that the number of vampires surrounding the Pale Pass was alarming already. He added that they may even be organizing an attack very soon, that it was also unwise to just let the Shinigami do all the work.

“And then what? Ally ourselves with that ‘Ronin’? I don't think so, Eljar”, Lady Risa snapped, also secretly implying that it might blow her cover.

Eljar nodded his head a little to the right, bowing a little with a glaring, sarcastic smiling look, implying subtly that the situation was getting too delicate for Risa to shoulder alone. Then he replied. “I am not saying we work with the Shinigami as allies. I'm merely suggesting that we, as Samurai, take action about this ourselves”. Halfdan even agreed with this with a nod from him, obviously wanting to take the battle to the enemy's camp.

“Are you implying that we put my people's lives in danger?”

“With all due respect, Daimyo-Sama, we're already in danger”. They fell silent for a while. Eljar was right. Although Risa did feel that the risk involved in putting her retainers into action might be too great. She could handle groups of vampires by herself, but up to what extent? At the same time, sending her soldiers out might leave her settlement open for attacks. She had to make a difficult decision.

“I'll have to think about this thoroughly”, she answered after a few moments.

“How long? We might not have time, milady”, Eljar replied, concerned about the situation might get out of hand soon.

“I said I'll think about it”, Lady Risa replied sternly.

With slight disappointment, Eljar excused himself and left. But Lady Risa stopped him. “Wait. There is one thing that you could do for us”, she said.

“Anything for you, milady. What is it?”

“Not here. I will give your mission in writing. Too many ears in this place”, she said with obvious suspicion on many of her subordinates in the hall. Did she notice anything strange about Halfdan, as well? Eljar thought. Or maybe some other person, or people might be doing something behind her back. “The mission is too complicated. I can only trust a single person at a time for missions like this”, she added.

“Very well, Daimyo-Sama. I shall wait for your orders”, Eljar replied then walked towards the door and out.

Finally, serious Samurai work, Eljar thought. Although he had been on the Lady's personal side for quite a while already, he was still doing ordinary menial tasks on the job. This was the breakthrough he had been waiting for. “What could it be? Tracking a master vampire? This is good”, he thought with great excitement.

As he turned the corner, to his surprise, Risa was there, waiting at the back of the tavern. “Can you stop doing Shinigami moves on me? You almost killed me of a heart attack”, Eljar exclaimed.

“Then can you stop trying to blow my cover? It's getting really annoying”, she snapped, with that same glaring look.

“You have a knack for hiding behind a tavern, don't you? I was just doing my job”, Eljar quickly answered back. He looked at her furiously slowly turning red face for a while. He softened his expression as he calmed down then spoke. “I was trying my best not to reveal your secret at the same time implying that you were getting yourself in way too much danger. Really? Twelve blood sucking fuckers?”

Risa's expression also softened a bit. There was concern in Eljar's voice. She somehow felt captivated in a way a teenage girl would feel after receiving a gift from a teenage boy. It was something she hadn't felt in a long time. However, she had to stay stern. She was still talking to her subordinate, and this was a matter of work. “I appreciate your concern, Eljar, but I pretty much breezed through that cave. Too easy, in fact”.

Eljar fell silent then. She was right. He was in no position to judge the capabilities of the Daimyo. For some reason, he could not keep to himself his overwhelming concern for Risa. Despite being exceptional with the katana, it was still very dangerous work. “Then can you at least let us, your retainers, help in hunting down these monsters?”

“I already said I'll think about it. Despite being a capable swordsman, I still have my doubts about you standing against a vampire”, Risa replied, teasing Eljar. Caught off guard with the remark, Eljar's expression changed to fury, but he was silenced.

She was right. He was still clinging on to his empty black gem. He hasn't even attempted to face a vampire head on. Even he doubted himself.

“I was kidding, Eljar. Relax”, she said while she giggled. That also caught him off guard. He had forgotten how beautiful Risa was when she laughed because of the seriousness of the situation. It forced him to give off a smirk as well.

After a few light hearted moments, he spoke. “The mission, Daimyo-Sama.”

“Oh. That. I haven't written it yet”, she said suddenly turning cold. It must be really important to her, Eljar thought for her to suddenly change her mood. “You will get it soon. As I've said. Too dangerous to say it out loud”, she added then excused herself as she walked forward.

Whatever that mission was, it made Eljar feel nervous. Too dangerous to even talk about for someone might hear. Too delicate to make a strong woman walk away like that. After that, Eljar just carried on the same work as usual, but the thought never left the back of his head. He then suddenly felt unsure if he was still excited about it, or scared.

But he could not wait around any longer. During his free time, instead of hitting the books, he would apply what he learned from paper. He had the brains. And fortunately, tracking vampires involved using brains more than the blade. In the coming days, the Shinigami was inactive. He had more time to do tracking. What he found out did not look very good.

Vampires were very difficult to track. They stalk their prey with efficient stealth, leaving no trace. It really was impossible, come to think of it, Eljar thought. However, spending two decades constantly reading research material could be of great importance. For Eljar, finding something that cannot be found was simple, think and act like them. What would the vampires do to catch their prey? He always thought that way.

Supplemented by his knowledge about these blood loving demons, he always stumbled upon clues. He stalked isolated human settlements in the forests like the vampires did from the shadows, eventually finding a woman being fed upon. There was one method he didn't like the most though. The Volkihar vampires of eastern Skyrim stalked their prey from under frozen lakes. He had to endure the bone chilling water to finally find one grabbing a drunk hunter from under without even breaking the ice.

But the fact of the matter remained. There were many around the Pale Pass, and they were seemingly coming closer and increasing in number by the day. Eljar thought that Lady Risa had to make a decision quickly.

What was also disturbing was the captain was seemingly always in the vicinity of his home. He was still acting suspicious. Eljar knew he was being observed. He might even get the captain to think that he was the Shinigami, after all.

But there was no use being paranoid. He had to find a way to inform the Daimyo, indirectly for he might get a suspension for disobeying orders. “What were you doing in the forest? The sun hasn't risen yet”, out of nowhere, Halfdan asked. He was right outside Eljar's door step.

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