Balor couldn't move, so he just glanced at the figure with his eyes.
Arikos checked Balor's wounds, nodding.
"Now what? Are you going to give me the antidote and let me go, or kill me?"
Balor stared straight at Arikos. He had no fear of death. He lost his will to live when he lost to the little brat. He wouldn't have cared if the brat had killed him. Now, however, he had the smallest fancy to live on. Someone else still cared about his life even if he hated that person to the bone. And, even if this was only an excuse, he could not die as long as they still cared. He was not so petty that he'd die just to spite them.
Arikos stared at the little kid, perplexion on his face. He had saved the youth as a child from a necromancer. The little brat had been abandoned by his sister, and his eyes were pure hatred back then. He brought the kid to Wayerliss. He still didn't know what the elf had told the child, but when he walked out, he was as cold as stone. He had no mercy, no conscience, and no love. He was a killing machine.
He had watched the kid grow over the years since. The child turned into a teenager, and then into a youth. He was now a young man. When he first met the child, he was a poisonous barb, but weak. Now, however, he could match Arikos casually. The child improved ferociously and without any end in sight and was a shadow dancer. He knew the youth had forged himself in ice and fire so he could make his sister pay for what she had done to him. Now, however, is raison d’être was gone. He had lost to his replacement, both in the guild and in his sister's life, and was forced to vow that he would not do anything to his sister. He should be crushed and begging for death.
"Feeling down?" asked he.
"Of course. I put myself through years of suffering so I could make that bitch pay for what she did to me, I bled every day for the strength I have now, but I can't match up to that brat, even though he only casually swung his knives for a few years. Teacher was right -- that rat is stronger than me."
"I have to admit, I've never seen someone so well-attuned to the shadows as him. Don't feel too bad. You're far better than anyone else would have been at your age."
"You're right," Balor agreed nonchalantly.
"Time to choose. You destroyed your potential by drinking that concoction and can never advance another inch in your cultivation. That said, 18 strata is nothing to frown at. You can still be a valuable asset to the guild. If you work hard, you still stand a good chance of taking over the assassination department. The president might even give you my job when I retire."
"Leguna will become the president eventually and I'll be his subordinate, right?"
"Yes, so what?"
How could this be inappropriate? Wayerliss was an elf, but he was nothing like other elves, their nature certainly wasn't to be cruel and merciless like he was. He was also likely the only saint ranked assassin on Lance. It was only natural for Arikos to serve him, he felt no shame. Nothing stopping his tread, Leguna was certain to become just as strong, so of course Balor would serve him. Balor did not see it that way, however. He was that woman's younger brother, even if only by blood, and naturally the brat's senior. As Wayerliss's disciple he was also the brat's senior. His pride would never let him accept being that brat's junior, even if he could put his hatred of the rat aside.
"Nothing could be worse. He may be stronger than me, but I am his senior in every way. I have at least enough pride in me to stand upright in front of him no matter what. I will die before I let that brat order me around. I will have nothing to do with the guild from now on."
Arikos's eyes flashed.
"Are you certain?"
"You should know me better than to think I'd joke about something like this, especially given my current state."
"You know the guild won't let who knows as much as you do to just leave."
"I know. Kill me if you want. I don't care. I will not go back to the guild. There is no fate between us or me and that brat any more and I will have nothing to do with any of you, good or bad, ever again."
"Very well," Arikos stared at the youth, feeling sorry about what he had to do. "I apologise to you, then, but I have to follow the rules."
"You're doing what Teacher wants, don't feel sorry. I don't blame you," Balor muttered, a bloody half-smile on his face.
Arikos had always been decent towards him. He saved him back then and had helped him a lot in the years since. Shock suddenly colored his face. Indeed, he hadn't been completely alone! This short, middle-aged man had been by his side, for what it was worth. So the little brat wasn't a complete moron, only just barely, though. Not that it mattered.
Arikos drew his longsword. His gaze fell coldly on the youth. Balor knew this gaze too well, though he never thought it would be directed at him, this gaze reserved for corpses. Steel glinted in the moonlight and Balor's eyes closed slowly.
"I wonder how Ley's doing," Vera muttered restlessly. Leguna had ordered them several times not to go into Nightsong, but they still left the next day.
They were travelling with Innilis, so they were much slower than their target. But as they were bringing Innilis along, they traveled much slower than Leguna did. Even so, it was already the third day they had arrived at Nightsong Forest. Leguna should've finished fighting Balor by now. The later he showed up, the more worry the others felt.
"Something else might be holding him up," Kurdak offered.
"Even so," Vera insisted.
"Hey, Kurdak," she half-shouted, suddenly remembering something.
"You still remember when Ley saved us, right?"
"It's been only a few days, of course I do!" Kurdak said, rolling his eyes.
"He fainted soon after. Could it be that he..."
"That wasn't the first time, either."
Kurdak glanced at Innilis the napping Innilis secretly, and whispered, "Leguna fainted after saving Innie as well. I think that ability of his puts too much strain on his body."
"So there's a good chance he passed out," Vera said, "Should we look for him?"
"I'll go alone. You take care of Innie."
"No buts," Kurdak said, waving her off, "You want to leave her out here, alone? What will you do if wolves get her?"
"I'll go, you stay back then!"
"Yeah right! Like I'd let you go walking around in the forest, alone?!" Kurdak didn't know whether to laugh or cry.
"It's the most reasonable thing to do! What if you run into Balor? You two might just fight each other right away!"
"And you? Balor would kill you moment he saw you!"
"He wouldn't! If he really hates me as much as it looks, he won't kill me so easily. He could have done that any day for years now, but he hasn't!"
"It's okay," Vera stroked her man's thick, bearded face, "I'll be fine, and Ley will be too. Balor... Ley definitely won. We have to trust him!"
"When did you become so convincing?" Vera was a simple person, but she could be wily at the worst of times. She was the pinnacle of boobs for brains.
"I've experienced so much, so of course I grew," Vera laughed, "I don't want to be foolish and be only able to count on you for my whole life! That's not who I am!"
A smile cracked on Kurdak's face. Though Vera rendered him speechless, he was glad her wit had sharpened. His future was uncertain, so he couldn't be sure he would stay by her side for good. Her growth ensured she could lead a decent life even without him around. This was very important to him.
He retrieved Vera's bow and slung it over her back.
"I'll let you have your way this once," Kurdak smiled, "You're right. My ol' gal ain't some idiot who only relies on others!"
"So we'll go to Chino when we find Ley?"
"Sure. We'll go together. We'll go on an adventure in a new place and help Ley find Annie."
"Yes, we have to find Annie too."
Annelotte wasn't talkative, but the party felt incomplete without her.
"That settles it! Be careful!" Kurdak gave her a final hug before playfully shoving her towards the forest. "Come back safely!"
"I will, with Ley!" Vera smiled.
Previous Chapter Next Chapter