Book 2 Chapter 143

Leguna vs Balor (1)

Leguna got dusksoul grass and softbone flower from Oljharok the following morning. He powdered the ingredients in a practiced manner and concocted several toxic solutions which he dabbed onto his choice weapons for the duel -- Lighteater and Ebony. He put the surplus into a bottle to take along.

He left for Nightsong at noon. The goodbyes had already been said the night before, so the send-off was not very emotional. Kurdak and Vera would depart a day later and wait for him by a particular great tree in the forest, a known landmark in the northern area of the forest. This tree stood 70 meters tall[1]. Leguna had nearly lost his jaw when he saw it up close for the first time.

Kurdak originally wanted to accompany Leguna all the way to the dueling grounds, but Leguna refused. He didn't know what traps might be waiting for him -- he could escape on his own, but not with someone else accompanying him -- and Balor had also been specific that he had to come alone. Kurdak, however, didn't want to let the kid take such a huge risk alone. They argued for quite a while and finally agreed that they would meet in the north of Nightsong.

Leguna made his way to the forest alone. None detected him once he left the city. His companions would not travel alone as he did, Oljharok insisted on sending an escort along. It took Leguna three days by mount to arrive at the dueling grounds: Shimmer Lake. He arrived at noon on the third day.

He didn't go to the lake immediately, once he was close he stopped and carefully surveyed the area for any traps or ambushes. He only proceeded once he was certain there were none. He arrived at the lake itself shortly after sunset. It was a rather suitable time for the fight. Perfect, in fact, for Host of Darkness.

Balor was unexpectedly relaxed. He rested in a tent on the lake's shore. The days of waiting had nearly killed him of boredom on Leguna's behalf. He was actually fishing when Leguna first spotted him.

"You're finally here. I thought you wouldn't show," Balor commented as he slowly turned around. His casual appearance gave him an air of wisdom.

Leguna glanced at his bucket and smirked at his pitiful catch.

You've been fishing for the whole day and only got two fish? I could have gotten more if I jumped into the lake and caught some with my hands!

"Where's Eirinn?" Leguna didn't bother with mocking his opponent. He went straight to the question he that concerned him most.

"Do you mean the ugly burnt face? Don't worry, she's fine," Balor smiled, "More accurately, I haven't gotten around to thinking about how to torture her."

"I'm asking where she is!"

"In Chino, of course. Took me quite a while to find her. I've been thinking of ways to use properly something that finding took so much effort."

"What does she have to do with this? Come at me directly if you want to cause trouble. Don't hurt the people I care about!"

Balor shook his head.

"I am coming directly at you, aren't I? What better way than getting you than destroying the things you love?"

"Answer me honestly, would you kill yourself if I asked you to?"

"Would you let Eirinn go if I did?"

"Naturally. I only care about killing you, everything I do to the people around you is to make sure you die. If you die, then I have no reason to bother with any of these ants," Balor shrugged.

"...Is there any other way to make you stop?"

Balor half-chortled, half-sighed.

"I knew you wouldn't die so easily. Not that it's anything special, people in general don't want to die for others--" A look of cold grief flashed across his face, "--Just look at my former sister. When time called for it, she refused to put her life on the line for me. She would rather run away and sacrifice me to save herself."

"Sis was only blinded for a moment. Don't tell me you've never refused to do something out of fear!" Leguna retorted.


"You're lying!"

Leguna refused to believe it. Even the blood-colored war-god and the galestorm swordsaint had moments when they couldn't or refused to do something out of fear. How could Balor not?

"You think I'm lying?" Balor put his fishing pole down and stood up. He hissed at the brat in front of him, "--How do you know? Have you seen how I've lived since my sister abandoned me? DO you know how I've suffered at times? How I've clawed my way out of hell time and again? Who are you to say I am lying? What tells you I have ever chickened out?"

"I don't know." Leguna glared.

His opponent's massive build and oppressive aura pressured him, but he responded in kind as best he could.

"I know for a fact no man can go through life without ever being afraid!"

"I never said I've never been afraid or felt fear, but that's never stopped me from doing what needed to be done!--" Balor nudged Leguna back forcefully. "--You're completely clueless! Your certainty is only ignorance! You know nothing about me or what I've been through! You don't know how much my teacher pressures me to perform; how much my enemies claw at my life every day; how lonely I am! I watched my family be destroyed, and then watched the only blood I have left abandon me because she was too scared to care! What was I supposed to do, huh?! I had to survive, and to survive I had to be brave! I've had to face everything alone from the moment that wench abandoned me! I've had to be braver and stronger than you've ever dreamt of being just to survive! Every danger, from the smallest risk to the greatest threats, on my own! I've never flinched, I've never ran away, I've never hid in a corner and covered my eyes! I wouldn't be standing here if I had. I would have died had I even entertained the thought for a moment! What do you know? Nothing! You know nothing!"

Leguna calmed and collected himself.

"I didn't come here to chit-chat. I'm here for a lead on Eirinn. What I do have to do to get you to tell me."

Balor glared at the brat.

"Is that wench that important?"

"She might be nothing but an ugly monster to you, but, just like I don't understand you, you don't know what I've been through or had to face. She was the first light in my life. She is irreplaceable. Yes, she is that important to me. If you wanted to corner me using her, congratulations."

Balor didn't think the brat would be this frank, even letting someone drag him around by the nose. He was quite taken aback. His slight surprise lasted only a moment, it was immediately replaced with fury.

"Well, aren't you two all lovey-dovey..."

"How you see it doesn't matter. What will satisfy you? What will make you leave her alone? Should I give up on competing for the guild master position and vanish?" Leguna offered sincerely, "I you promise she'll be left alone, I'll vanish right now and you'll never see me again."

"Give up on our competition?--" Balor suddenly burst out laughing. "--Give up? Hahahahaha! Why would I need you to give up? You can't compete with me even in your dreams. Why would I need to use someone else to make you vanish? You're too arrogant. Having people behind you doesn't do you any good. I have many behind me as well. And don't delude yourself into thinking Teacher already considers you his successor. You're just an insect the tides took somewhere half-decent. There is no comparison to be made between us. You would have done much better to not have tried to compete in the first place. You don't even count as an enemy of mine. You're just a nuisance I'll eventually sweep aside."

"Then tell me! What do you want from me?!" Leguna shouted, "I don't care for Moonshadow or Teacher's legacy! I only care about my friends, my family! What do you want me to do?"

"Duel me!" Balor implored, "Fight me! I want a fair duel to the death. I will kill you and rid myself of your nuisance, or I will die and that will be the end of it! I will prove to Teacher that he was wrong to abandon me as well! I will prove to that woman that I am better than her, that I am not a coward like she is, that I will never run away! I will prove to everyone what an insect you are! Or I will leave this world forever! FIGHT ME!"

Leguna was suddenly struck. The realization nearly pushed him off his feat. Balor never cared about Moonshadow either. He didn't care for reputation, or power, or position. He hated Leguna for having everything he never could, for having the adoration of his teacher that the man had denied him, for having the friends that he never could, and for getting from his sister what she never gave him, what she took away from him in the moment it was most needed.

Balor first lost his family, then watched as his sister, his last loved one, threw him in the dirt and ran away to save herself. He loathed other people, yet craved their attention. For a time his master gave it to him, but, too abandoned him when Leguna came along. Then, to top it all off, this little brat was given all the love his sister took from him. Leguna had people around him that were willing to sacrifice their lives for him, but Balor had no one. His sister, the one who had abandoned him to save herself, was even willing to die for Leguna. How could he not hate this creature, this devil that had come into his life and gotten everything he had fought all his life for and never gotten, for free?

His hatred was etched on his soul and could never to undone. He wanted to kill him, no, he wanted to torture him, to ruin his life like his had been ruined. He wanted to show him that the trust and love he had was nothing but a delusion. He could only resolve the pain in his heart if he did so.

Leave your brother to me, Sis. I will bring him back, Leguna thought. He drew Lighteater and pointed its tip at Balor.

"I take that as a yes." Serenity returned to Balor's face. He drew his two longswords and announced, "Let's begin!"

[1] Editor's Note: For interest's sake, this is about 50 meter short of the maximum height a tree can possibly grow in earth's gravity (which is between 122 and 130 meter). Check here for an explanation of why this is.

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