Under the scorching heat, a youth with a grey towel wrapped around his black hair struggled to move a clay block. The youth’s arm was wrapped with a bloodied gauze. Compared to the block, his thin and weak figure seemed even frailer. Sweat profusely dripped down his forehead as he tried to slide the block but it hadn’t moved far from its original location. Even so, he persisted.
Around this time, a burly man from the side could no longer bear to watch. He walked up, picked the youth by the collar, dragged him back, threw him to the side, and cursed loudly. He easily picked up the block, placed it on his shoulder, and walked towards the location.
Stunned for a moment when he fell on the ground, the youth quickly followed the man and raised his hand to take back the block. Annoyed by him, the man threw him to the ground again. This time, sounds of laughter erupted across the plantation. The youth coolly looked at everyone. Discontent, he chased after the man again and like this, the whole process was repeated five to six times until the man finally placed the block in its rightful place. At long last, the youth finally gave up and sat to the side.
“Dopho, don’t bully Zero!!!” A twelve year old boy stumbled as he ran over. He raised his leg, ready to kick the man, but the man quickly jumped out of the way, as if he already knew what the boy was going to do. The man widened his eyes and muttered, “Listen here, kid. He was in the way. I wasn’t bullying him!”
Like a chimp, he circled the man until the man finally got dizzy and lowered his defense. He then raised his leg and successfully kicked him, causing the man to scream out loud.
“Bully him again and I’ll break your leg for real!” The little boy made a naughty face at him.
The adults around them laughed again and sneered at the little boy, calling him an unreasonable rascal. Little Nick paid no heed to them and turned to Zero. From his arms, he placed half a piece of flatbread in Zero’s hand.
Although Nick was young, old man Branson arranged a position for him to be the chef’s assistant. Despite the chef constantly calling Nick a rude ungrateful little monster, she always reserved some delicious snacks for him. During these past few days, Nick discreetly gave them to Zero.
According to the amount of herbal medicine prescribed to Zero, he would need a month to fully recover but within a short period of ten days, he had already recovered to half strength. Naturally, the moment his wounds had started healing, he had already been sent by the pudgy Mrs. Fayra to work on the plantation.
Duke Retter owned a vast territory. Where Zero worked was only one of his many small farms. Relatively speaking, this ‘small’ farm had a hundred slaves in groups of fifteen working on it. Nick’s so-called old man Branson was the leader of the group which Zero belonged in.
As for that Mrs. Fayra, her husband was the manager of the plantation. The slaves’ description of him was ― a large fluffy dog who loved to wag its tail.
In front of everyone, Zero played the part of a subservient, introverted, feeble, obedient, and stubborn slave. They didn’t see him as annoying but rather as childish, making everyone adore this willful youth. When it came to work, there would usually be someone who would come up and help him just like earlier.
At night, the slaves would gather and play, laugh, and talk. However, most of the ones in this group were very quiet. What Zero liked about this group was that none of them asked about each other’s past. Not to mention, the older uncouth men had these principles that they abide by but wouldn’t heavily enforce. If they couldn’t reason with someone, they’ll rough up him up a bit but no one would actually be so offended as to seek revenge.
This type of attitude where they weren’t too familiar yet not too distant with each other made Zero feel comfortable. Half a month had passed. Zero slowly let down his guard. Occasionally, he would reveal a sincere smile.
Every once in a while, someone from above would send someone down to check on the plantation.
On this day, Mrs. Fayra and her equally pudgy husband, out of the blue, visited and surveyed the area where Zero was working. This was all because today was the day of inspection.
Mr. Fayra called everyone and had them gathered under the hot sun, preaching to them about how great the duke his lord was and to place great emphasis on today’s inspector. They were to do so-and-so and could not do so-and-so. This lasted three hours until the sun began to set and the temperature dropped, bringing about a cool night breeze. From afar, the sounds of horse hooves could be heard.
The horse carriage pulled to a stop. A man wearing a simple white dress shirt and riding breeches stepped out from the carriage. Visibly shown underneath his shirt were his taut muscles. His brown hair was pulled back with a tie. In his hands was a riding crop and his tall boots were immaculate.
Mr. Fayra the large fluffy dog eagerly welcomed him.
The man held the crop with his right hand and tapped it with his left. He casually and arrogantly walked around the area like a lieutenant overlooking his soldiers. Then, he stopped in front of Zero.
“He’s the Oriental slave who has just arrived?” The man lifted Zero’s head up with his crop and even lightly slapped him on the face a few times with it.
“Yes, that is him, Lord Andrew.” Mr. Fayra guffawed as he spoke. His meaty cheeks bounced up and down. Zero looked at him with disgust and turned his gaze on the man named Andrew. The man emitted some sort of special magnetic aura. Zero’s senses were very sharp. His instinct told him that this man was very dangerous. The reason was that he had also sensed this same magnetic aura from his encounter with his first target, Mr. Saad — A VAMPIRE!
“I heard that Orientals are very beautiful,” said the man, “But, you’re too filthy, little thing!”
As he spoke, he suddenly struck his body with the crop. A sharp pain seared across and he reflexively turned his body away. This was the man’s aim. He hit Zero a few more times, making him turn in a full circle.
“Body’s quite thin but he has a good frame. How old?”
Zero looked like he was still dazed. Mr. Fayra hollered at him and he quickly responded, “Nineteen.”
“Perfect age for seduction.” The man chuckled and sensually licked his lips, exposing his two fangs.
“Fetch some water and bring it in!” The man turned around and walked towards a tiny but pristine house.
Before Zero could decide the next course of action, Nick jumped out of nowhere. Mr. Fayra got so angry that he clenched and ground his teeth. The other slaves were equally as frightened. They tried to stop him and drag him away, eventually knocking him unconscious.
The vampire called Andrew seemed to be ‘familiar’ with Nick. He coldly smirked, “Isn’t this the little troublemaker? What? He didn’t learn from his last whipping?”
“My lord, I am very sorry.” Mr. Fayra shivered with fear as he apologized but the man today looked like he was in a good mood. He benevolently let Nick go.
The one who was most shocked at Nick’s reaction was none other than Zero. Even though he was mischievous, the little guy was very clever. He wasn’t one who couldn’t read the situation and act out of impulse. Normally, he was very protective of Zero and this didn’t pose any problems but this time…. Zero later found out that within this group of fifteen slaves, Zero’s position previously belonged to Nick’s father. That was why the little guy was so protective of him.
Zero followed the vampire’s order and brought a bowl of water into the house. It wasn’t very spacious but it was well-designed. There was a red, sheep’s wool rug. Above it was a large table surrounded by softly cushioned red chairs. On top of the table were fresh flowers and a wine bottle. Inside it was some sort of red liquid. Zero didn’t believe that it was wine.
“My lord, I’ve brought the water.” Zero lowered his head. He was expressionless and his shoulders trembled, making him seem delicate.
Contrary to his appearance, Zero was busily thinking whether he should quickly snap this man’s…. No, vampire’s neck. Except, he didn’t know if he could kill him. The vampires here were different than those of legend ― not afraid of light, not afraid of garlic, and could eat normal foods?! Perhaps, a peach wooden stake through his heart could not kill him either.
What about setting him on fire? The flint was just above the fireplace’s firebox. However, if he really had to kill him, then it was best to drain his blood completely dry. The issue was this would make Zero very uncomfortable. He hated the presence of fresh blood.
Just when Zero was contemplating the best killing method, a voice resonated.
“What are you thinking about?” The man softly laughed. His tone was salacious.
“Lift your head up,” the man commanded.
What welcomed Zero when he raised his head was the man’s enlarged face. Caught off guard, Zero quickly took a step back and inwardly cursed himself for being too careless.
In the next second, both of Zero’s arms were twisted behind his back and his body was pressed against the table. The flower vase rolled off and was smashed [pah!] into pieces.
T/N: A wooden stake from a peach tree is a traditional tool used by Taoists to kill Chinese zombies.