"It's you?!" Leguna's gaze turned sharp.
Balor was by no means his friend, but he still hoped he would live for Vera's sake. Yet, Arikos just admitted he had cut the man's head off.
"Calm down!" Arikos said quickly, "I cut off his head, but he was already dead when I found him!"
"How did he die?" Leguna asked, his face dark.
He'd left the bastard in a good enough state to still be arguing with him. How could he have died?
"I don't know," the man shrugged, "The chairman ordered me to go to Nightsong Forest to see how the duel had turned out, but by the time I arrived he was just a corpse."
"Impossible! I only paralyzed him! His injuries should've been lighter than mine! How could he die?"
"Paralyze?" Arikos started, "What poison did you use?"
"A mixture of azureback bloodsnake venom, softbone flower, and dusksoul grass. Balor was bitten by an azureback bloodsnake when he was a kid, so I used his weakness to make a toxin."
Arikos was taken aback.
"When azureback bloodsnake venom is mixed with those two ingredients, it indeed makes a strong paralyzing agent, but it's really unstable and can even be fatal!"
"No way! Teacher's notebook didn't say anything about that!"
Leguna was terrified that he might be responsible for Balor's dead. If Balor really was dead, was that really him at Pato?
"It's very rare, but it does happen. The guild's alchemists say there is an extremely small chance that mixture can be fatal. The chairman must not have put it in his notes because it's so very rare."
"How?!" Leguna moaned.
Was he really the one that'd killed Vera's only relative? What would she do to him if she found out?
[Impossible!] a husky, female voice rang in his head.
"Teacher!" Leguna cried.
"Mister Chairman?" Arikos turned around.
"No…" Leguna coughed ashamedly, "I mean, no matter how small the chance, if it's there, it should have been in the notebook, so why wasn't it?"
"Well... you know..." Arikos began a long-winded explanation.
Leguna used the opportunity to catch up with his teacher.
[When did you wake up?]
[A bit earlier today, I think,] she said, [I've been hazy until just a few minutes ago though.]
[So you heard everything? What do you think?]
[I'm not a famous alchemist or herbalist, but nobody under the heavens knows more about poisons than me. I've never heard of azureback bloodsnake venom killing.]
[So you think he's lying?]
[I'm eight tenths sure. His explanation is't convincing either.]
[Why would he though?]
[Just think, fool! If Arikos killed Balor, would he really admit it to you? Tch, you humans are far more devious than we orcs!]
[You're saying he killed Balor?]
Balor was a high-ranking member of Moonshadow. Why would Arikos kill him? Was it on Wayerliss's orders?
[I'm only guessing,] she said lazily, [And don't forget that shadow at Pato. It felt a lot like Balor.]
[Should I ask him?] Leguna, [No, I shouldn't. If the guild wanted Balor dead, telling them about the shadow would only expose him.]
[Huh! I didn't think you had it in you to think soberly!] Gahrona mocked.
[I've always been smart! How could I become your disciple if I'm not?]
[Whatever. There's no rush with Balor. Just investigate slowly. Also, I have a feeling he isn't dead,] Gahrona yawned, [I'm still drowsy. I have something to give you, but that'll wait until I wake up tomorrow.]
[Rest in peace, Teacher.]
[In peace your ass!]
Not that she minded. She was already dead, and being able to rest in peace was a luxury.
"You're not to blame, don't feel too bad," Arikos consoled.
"Then why did you cut his head off?"
"I didn't want to."
"It's for..." He hesitated for a moment, "his shadow essence..."
He knew it! Arikos might really have found Balor dead, but that didn't change that he had gone there purely to take his shadow essence.
Since orcs had a secret shaman technique that could allow the passing on of that kind of power, why couldn't humans use magic to do it, too? It was probably a common line of thought among alchemists. The essence the gifted possessed was the key to their research on how to pass those powers on.
It seemed Moonshadow was quite interested in the gifted indeed!
Leguna, a gifted himself, became even more cautious about the guild. He didn't think of them as enemies. They did raise his woman and take him in when he had nowhere else to go.
"What happened to his essence?" Leguna asked after he had regulated his emotions.
"I handed it to the guild, of course. You think I'd dare to keep it for myself?"
"Fine. If that's the case, why report I was the one who cut off his head?"
"A good reputation as a cruel and ruthless kid makes a world of difference," Arikos said philosophically.
"You..." Leguna could only glare at him helplessly.
The conversation shifted to the bureau and his other companions. Leguna only left the office at midnight.
"Somebody's waiting for me," Leguna said as he got up.
"Alright. Come see me in two days when you're ready."
Arikos watched as he walked away and couldn't help but call out.
"I watched Balor grow up," the suddenly old man sighed, "Whether you believe me or not, I'm very sad for his death."
"That so?" Leguna smiled patronizingly before leaving.
"I can't force you to believe the truth," Arikos shrugged.
Balor was indeed killed by him. He was the one who stuck his sword down his heart. It was both because he wanted to leave the guild and he wanted to take Balor's shadow essence.
Even though he wasn't sure what Wayerliss intended, before he left, Wayerliss did emphasize a point. If Balor was willing to continue serving the guild, all would be well. But if he wasn't, the shadow essence belonging to him had to be reclaimed no matter what.
No matter how deeply he felt for Balor, Arikos had to kill him in the end and bring back his head for the guild to extract the essence. According to research, the aspect essence of all gifted was gathered in the head.
Yet even now, Arikos couldn't forget the expression Balor had as he died, his smile. Was he mocking Arikos?
Previous Chapter Next Chapter