A Traveler from a far away East
"—the great plague; the town was off-limit since. But that's not true."
The old man shivered.
"I saw it myself. It wasn't a disease, it was a demon."
He swallowed hard, his voice came out hoarse and dry, deeply coated in fear.
"The Scarlet Devil."
240 years ago, somewhere in France—
"Now this is something."
I whistled as I observed the tall structure in front of me, hands on my hip as I studied the thick stone wall. I did hear the town was quarantined, but I didn't expect them to fully isolated it with fortified walls. Rather than a quarantine, it was more like a cage, as if a horrible beast was being shut inside. I shivered slightly. Should I just turn back I wonder? I shook my head, looking for some footing on the wall. I was quite proud with my physical ability downed by my countless years of studying martial arts; soon enough I reached the top of the wall, gazing down on a ruin of what used to be a glorious port town. I stared at the scenery in awe.
"Looks like I just get myself into something big."
I gulped and leaped carefully down the stone wall, continuing my way deeper to the heart of the town. I —Huh? Who am I?
My name was Hong Meiling; just a lone traveler from a far away east. What was I doing there? To be honest, there wasn't any special reason or anything. I was simply a traveler; I traveled here and there, never to stay. And when there was something interesting happened, I stayed for a while before continuing my journey once again. Why did I leave my land in the first place? Now, now, this is getting personal. Let's just focus on the matter on hand.
I walked cautiously, almost tip-toeing, along the dirt path which I assumed to be once the main road of the town. The town was dead silence, safe for the sound of the blowing wind and the cry of a group of crows; I halted to take a brief look at them. Their number seemed to have increased as time ticked by and they observed me with what seemed like hungry eyes; I cringed and tried to push the matter aside, continuing my way.
There was something strange; I noticed it as I walked around the empty town. In theory, if the citizens were wiped out by a plague or a certain disease, there should be cemeteries scattered around, or at least, corpses on the ground. But I found none. There was no trace at all, as if the whole citizens simply vanished and evaporated into the thin air.
As if the whole town had been eaten dry by the devil.
It was on one of that night when I couldn't sleep that I decided to take a short walk around the town; a habit I started to develop over my years of traveling. While most people who just arrived on a foreign land, while having no single ideas about their language or cultures, tend to be reserved to themselves, I tend to do the opposite, watching locals and alike doing their activities. I could even proudly declared that I had already understood their language. Well, mostly. Okay, maybe some.
Fine, at least I could understand what they were talking about, one way or another. Anyways, when I reached a certain corner I found a group of people, seemed to be homeless, gathered around a campfire.
"—not plague—devil!—after—she'll get us next!"
Devil? I edged closer as my ear caught the simple statement, trying to get a better hearing.
"—port town—south from here—don't ever enter—die—"
Hmm… There was a devil in a port town further south from this town? Don't ever enter that town or you won't come back alive? My guess seemed to be correct as I studied the fear in his eyes as he continued his story. I was drowned by his expression, feeling the tension despite the only little bit of words I understood. And the last warning he said lit a strange spark in me.
"—The Scarlet Devil."
I sat on the remnants of a fountain, taking a breather from my little exploration. Just as I thought I couldn't find any trace of a body or anything, which meant my guess was correct; it wasn't a plague, it was something else.
Maybe it really was the devil. Maybe she was still here somewhere, stalking me, waiting for me to let my guard down. I tensed at the possibility, darting my eyes around me to find any sign of danger; there was nothing but the crows. I sighed in relief.
But really, what mystery had I gotten myself into? I stood, absentmindedly walking around the town with no specific destination. If it really was the Scarlet Devil, then…
"Whoa! Wait, wait! Cut it out!"
I jumped at the sudden cry, shielding myself with my arms as a crow started attacking me. Had I walked too close to one of their nest? I rushed a safe distance away and glanced back toward its direction. But what I found wasn't a bird nest, but an abandoned mansion stood on the edge of the town. I saw how the crows gathered on the trees along the path heading to the mansion, gazing at me. Were they guarding something in there? My previous theory was rejected in an instant I saw that, actually, none of them had made their way past the mansion's gate, let alone making their nest there.
The crows must have scared of whatever it was in the broken-down mansion. And they tried to warn me and keep me out as well. And right then, somehow I knew.
I had found the devil's lair.
A little girl rose from her bed and yawned, rubbing her eyes a bit. She gave an annoyed look before glancing out the window from her dark bedroom. Hm? Something was unusual. She blinked as she noticed someone else beside the crows, stifling a laugh as she saw that someone scampered off when the crows attacked them. A glint of mischief was lit on her eyes, driving away her previous sleepiness.
"It seems like I have a guest."
"Ouchie… Geez, that was harsh…"
I pouted at the crows, holding my arm that was full of scratches.
"If you want to warn me, can't you guys at least do it in a more gentle way?"
They simply answered me with their croaking cry. I sighed. At least they couldn't harm me anymore since I already passed the mansion gate, but still, even more horror would probably awaited me inside. I took a deep breath, fixing the grip on my bag, before proceeding further. The mansion's front door fell as I pushed on it, and I quickly held up my hands in defense.
"I'm sorry! I pushed it very gently, I swear!"
The only answer I got was my own voice echoed throughout the wide empty hall. After I recovered from my previous outburst, I brought myself inside, walking ever so slowly and carefully as my eyes observed my surrounding. I let my legs guided me, keeping my guard higher in every passing minutes. After I didn't remember how long I finally reached a dead end; a spacious room with a single throne in its end. I stared at the empty seat, as if trying to make sure that it really was empty. I sighed, letting my fists to drop to my side.
But suddenly, as I let my guard down just a bit, I heard a voice; a laughing voice of a little girl, echoed from somewhere in the room. I tensed.
My voice bounced back to me. I gulped as I started to fell a chill down my spine.
"…i-is someone there? I'm sorry for trespassing, so—"
I quickly twirled my body toward the source of the voice, entering my previous battle stance and bringing up my fists. The only thing that greeted me was a closed door, but that itself was strange.
I swear I had knocked down that door before.
Another voice was heard and once again I turned toward it, my fists still up and ready. And soon, I paled, as if the blood had drown out of my face.
"—to the Scarlet Devil Mansion."
Sitting on the once empty throne was a little girl that seemed to be nothing more than ten, gazing down on me with her mesmerizing scarlet eyes. But what truly rendered me frozen wasn't her sudden appearance, but the huge pair of jet black wings sprouting from her back, and her red tainted dress that seemed to have given witness of her might.
"…the Scarlet Devil…"
I felt so feeble right there and then before her sharp yet calm gaze, caught between the moment, unable to move forward or turn my tail and run. I simply stood there, frozen, trying to keep myself from shivering in fear. She seemed to notice my uneasiness as I saw her smile stretched.
"Who might you be? And what bring you here, I wonder?"
"I-I… I just, um…"
I returned to my full height from my previous stance, clasping my both hands and brought them in front of my chest, giving her a proper greeting.
"…my name is Hong Meiling, a traveler from a far away east."
I saw her blinked, as if trying to register my speech. Why of course! She couldn't have understand what I was saying. I closed my eyes as my mind tried to find a way out of this little, but might turn bigger, mess.
I felt a presence approaching in front of me and I reopened my eyes; my heart almost leaped out of my throat as I saw the devil standing, or to be exact, floating in front of me, staring right into my eyes.
"A Chinese traveler, aren't you?"
"…how do you.."
"I have hundreds of years to spent learning languages; I've learned most of them, even some that you couldn't even name."
She turned away from my face and started to circle me now, observing me. I gulped and stood rigid in place, eyes following her fluid movements.
"So, miss traveler from a far away east, what do you need from me, hm?"
"…no-nothing in particular. I just stumbled into your place—"
"A broken-down mansion on an off-limit town?"
"…well, that's… I overheard some locals talking so I was curious—"
"Really? Tell me, have you ever heard about 'curiosity kills the cat'?"
I took a quick breath as she ended the last sentence in a sing-song voice, and as she whispered it on my ears. Run, Meiling! Run! My instinct shouted loudly in my head, and without delay, my body complied; I brought up my elbow and hit her torso with all my might, running for the only door that was on the far end of the room. Soon enough I reached it and fumbled with the doorknob, pushing it, then pulling it, but the door didn't budge. I gritted my teeth and retreated my hands to each side of my hip, taking a deep breath.
I gathered my chi, the huge amount of energy flowing within me, focusing them on my right fist, then punched the door with everything I got; I quickly rushed toward it afterwards. But still, it didn't budge; I ran face first to the somehow very hard structure of wood. What was wrong with this door? Holding my stinging red face, I tried to get a better look at it. Only then that a realize the strange red circle glowing on its surface, and I gasped as I realized the pattern.
In a moment of impulse, my fist shot out to hit her once again, but she didn't accept my blow gratuitously as she did before; she caught my fist, with no difficulties at all. I yelped as she squeezed it, forcing me to retreat to my knees; I looked up to her smaller figure in a pathetic look of defeat.
"Ah, I understand now."
She released her grip, sending my stumbling on my butt.
"That power… This smell…"
"You're not a human, are you?"
I froze, eyes wide as I stared at her forefinger pointing accusingly at me.
"Am I wrong?"
"W-what are you talking about? I'm... I'm just a simple and weak human... see?"
I stuttered, shakily showing my broken hand that she squeezed before, trying to show how pathetic I was. But the look on her eyes didn't falter.
"Did you commit a crime? Were you driven out of your land?"
"So, you were accused for something you never did?"
I clamped my mouth shut, lowering my face shamefully to the ground. I heard her chuckling once again, walking away from me as I listened to her footsteps echoed throughout the wide hall.
"It is understandable; the society tend to be scared of the unknown and the wicked. Even though they didn't do anything, everyone would call them monster and find a way to get rid of them. Then again—"
She twirled, ceremoniously plopping herself back to the throne.
"That is your reason for looking for me, right?"
My reason? I felt like a being splashed by a bucket of cold water on the face, waking me up from my thought, and I brought my face back up to look at her, sitting there with her chin resting on the back of her hand. Why did I come here again? Why am I so curious about the incident? It was because… I was looking for her? But why? As if reading my mind, the Scarlet Devil smiled.
"You thought that I am the same, just like you. That is why you come here in the first place."
…that's right. That's why. I only wanted to find a peace of mind. I didn't care about the plague or the mystery about the vanishing citizens; right from the start, I was looking for her.
I was looking for someone of my kind.
I was looking for the Scarlet Devil.
As if a load was lifted off my shoulder, I let my body fell to the dusty floor, staring blankly at the ceiling. Slowly, I smiled. And I laughed; a wholehearted laugh that I hadn't felt like forever.
"Ha ha… Ha ha ha—ouch!"
"Hey, stop lying down on the floor. It is unsightly."
I rubbed the bump on my head where she kicked, proceeding to sit, and by then, somehow, as I looked at her annoyed face with her arms crossed over her chest, my previous fear was drained out of me, as if it didn't even exist in the first place.
Because that little girl and I were the same now. She was no longer the devil and I was no longer her prey; we were fellow 'monsters' now.
"Don't get too cocky."
I stared dumbfoundedly as she walked away, retrieving my almost forgotten bag before tossing it to me; I caught it absentmindedly, eyes still staring at her.
"My name is Remilia Scarlet, the descendant of the proud and noble vampires of Scarlet. Remember my name well, because from now on, you will be my servant."
Wha-what? When did it come to this? The shock overwhelmed me and I dropped my bag, my mouth kept opening and closing like a fish, unable to form any coherent words. She raised a brow at my silly behavior.
"Is there something wrong, miss used-to-be-traveler from a far away east?"
"W-wait a second! Your servant? But I—"
"You don't have any destination or any place to return to anymore, correct?"
"…that's true, but—"
"Then it's perfect! I will provide you with housing. There are a lot of works waiting for you, but for now, follow me."
She exclaimed proudly, walking toward the sealed door and putting her hand on the wooden surface; the red pattern on it vanished, and soon the door fell to the floor in a huge slam. I flinched a bit at the loud sound before grabbing my bag and tailing after her, whining.
"Um, you know, Remilia… being a servant is a bit…"
Suddenly she stopped; I almost ran into her, but thanks to my refined reflexes, my body stopped before making any impact. She turned her head toward me, and I gulped, taking a few steps back.
"Do you have any objection?"
"Perhaps you think you can defeat me and take over the mansion?"
I dropped my head in defeat, bowing low at her.
"Good. And call me 'mistress' or 'milady' instead, understood?"
I relaxed a bit as I saw her slowly walking away, sighing as I followed her once again. As we walked silently along the mansion long corridor, I took some time to observe the dark and broken hall way. This place must have been abandoned for years. But my little observation was disturbed as I realized that we had been going deeper and deeper underground, until the scenery around me turned pitch black. I squinted my eyes, trying to search for my new employer.
"Hey China, can you see in the dark?"
"Right, as I thought."
I heard a shuffling from somewhere and then the sound of fire flickering; soon enough I found the Scarlet Devil in front of me, holding a lantern on hand. She tossed the lantern to me.
"Here you go."
I heard her snickered for a while before we continued our way. After a long walk in the darkness, we finally reached a huge metal door blocking our way. I brought the lantern closer to the door, cringing a bit as I noticed scratches and blood stains on it. Suddenly, my long forgotten fear returned. I swallowed, turning my head to the vampire beside me.
"Um, milady? Where are we going?"
"Glad you ask. You better start memorizing your way through the basement since you have to come here quite often."
I have to? I took a step back, and she laughed at my cowering figure.
"I will introduce you to my sister; my sweet little sister, Flandre Scarlet."