Life seeped out rapidly from his body, but as if he felt that he wasn't dying quickly enough, he willed his double to push the sword in deeper into the soft ground underneath, driving it through his body entirely.
The shadow's hands were stained crimson by his blood. It twisted the blade and made meat paste of the pierced heart, before sticking its hand in and squashing the heart completely.
Blood splattered to Arikos's expressionless face. The shadow had lost control from its owner's death and began to melt like a viscous liquid, before mixing together with Balor's blood.
The blade stayed in Balor's corpse. Arikos breathed a sigh of relief and removed it, before closing his eyes and cutting Balor's head off. He held the head by the hair and looked at it, surprised to find that its expression was tranquil, void of hate and worry. There was only a serene silence, and perhaps a little tinge of hope.
Arikos was speechless. He felt as if he understood something from Balor's death, but that had happened one second too late. Balor was dead by the time he comprehended it.
He kept the head away and left.
Not long after, the melted shadow substance seemed to move. Initially, it bubbled before it gathered together to form Balor's silhouette.
The black creature stared in the direction Arikos left in and made a self-mocking smile. "A shadow creature, huh… Hehe…"
"You turned into a shadow creature?" Kurdak exclaimed, shocked.
He had never thought Balor would die despite Leguna letting him go.
"Yes. My Shadow Double ability is a little similar to magi's clone spell. It can carry the soul, but in this form, I can no longer call myself a person. And I have to be in contact with my double at the moment of death for the soul to be transferred, unlike magi who can just beam their soul away."
"How did it come to this?" Kurdak began to sympathize with Balor. He was technically his brother-in-law, after all. Even though he had been rather savage and cruel, at least he didn't seem hostile towards him now.
"This is better in a sense. I haven't felt more alive like I have these past two years. I'm no longer the manic puppet fueled by revenge Wayerliss controlled," he plainly said.
The reason he didn't want to return to the guild was he wasn't willing to be Leguna's subordinate and he didn't want to be bossed around by Wayerliss any longer.
Ever since his death, Balor had become an ethereal existence. Even Moonshadow didn't manage to find anything out about him. This meeting with Kurdak was the first time he had shown himself properly to another person since he became a shadow creature. Usually, he could only travel around during the day by covering his whole body entirely.
"How in the world did you spend the last few years?" Kurdak said in a pained voice. He believed he at least had to understand Balor's situation as his brother-in-law.
"Well, as a shadow creature, I don't need to eat or drink. I can even make my own clothing," he said with a shrug, "Aside from the inconveniences of travelling during the day, I'd say it's been pretty fine."
"It isn't that simple, right?" Kurdak had quite the extensive experience, so he knew shadow creatures couldn't survive in daylight. Balor would definitely have quite a hard time getting about life.
"Alright, that's not important," Balor said with a wave of his hand. He sat on Kurdak's guest couch in the tent. The oil lamp was a little piercing to his eyes.
Kurdak guessed his discomfort and darkened the lamp some. "Tell me. What have you come to me for?"
"Ever since the fight with Leguna, I came to understand some things. So, I changed my mind and want to protect my sister now. Can you accept that I'm telling the truth? There wouldn't be any other point in continuing if you don't."
"It's not hard to accept at all. You are her younger brother, so it's to be expected." Kurdak leaned against the back of his chair in a relaxed manner.
"Thank you." As a shadow creature, his expressions were quite limited. He nodded his charcoal-black head.
"That's why, I've looked into Moonshadow over the past two years."
"Did you find anything out?"
"Not much," Balor replied in a deep voice. "Moonshadow is the newest organization on Lance, but its growth is far too quick, almost unimaginable, even."
"So you want to say that Wayerliss is a terrifying person?"
"No. Even though he is scary, I don't think he could've planned all this alone and led the guild to grow that rapidly in the past two decades."
"Then what are you trying to say?"
"There's probably someone else standing behind Wayerliss. Even though that person doesn't have much power, he can predict almost anything and perhaps even have Wayerliss dancing in the palm of his hand."
"Do you know who that is?"
"Then how are you certain someone like that exists?"
"Because Wayerliss is an elf."
"Shocking, right?" Balor said, "When I found out Wayerliss was an elf, I was surprised too. But I was too young and didn't overthink it. But in the past few years, I began to notice something off."
"He's actually an elf…" Kurdak muttered.
"That's right, an elf. If we contextualize his behavior as an elf, everything would look suspicious. First, no matter how big he makes the guild, he wouldn't be able to come out brightly. Humans hate letting other races be their leader. So, why did he form the guild in the first place? Additionally, most elves are so kind to the point they're naive or outright stupid. Wayerliss might be an exception to that, but I doubt even then he can plan so deeply. Lastly, we have to be careful of anyone not of our race. Even if he's an elf, I doubt he has anything good planned for our human society."
"Do you have any guesses to his goals?" Kurdak asked in a hoarse voice.
"No. My information collection abilities are limited alone. But I have one thing I'm certain of. His goal definitely has something to do with the gifted, or maybe even Leguna!" he replied with iron confidence.
"It has something to do with Ley?" Kurdak stood up anxiously and walked to Balor. "What is it?!"
"You'll have to figure it out yourself. That's all I know," Balor said, unmoved. He shrugged helplessly.
"Darn it, don't tell me you…"
"Hey! If that got you so riled up already, what I'm going to say next might break you down." Balor waved for Kurdak to calm down.
Kurdak knew that his mood was rather poor due to what had been happening in the past few days and tried to regulate his emotions. He sat back down. "So, what's next?"
"Sis… has been kidnapped…" he said with a slightly repressed voice.
"What?!" Kurdak's butt bumped his chair back forcefully again as he yelled.
"Commander, is anything wrong?" a guard from outside asked.
"I'm fine, go about your duties," Kurdak hurriedly said. He walked to Balor and whispered, "Who is it? How did it happen?"
"It's the Rolin family," Balor said with grit teeth, "Alfreid's men."
"Alfreid?" A hateful look flashed across his face. "Why would he kidnap Vera out of nowhere?"
"I'm not sure about that--" Balor shrugged. "--I've been worried about Sis for the past half year so I've been watching her secretly from the background, including when you tasked her to go on an excursion herself. She went to the southwestern part of the empire and traveled for Melindor when she couldn't find Leguna there. However, she was attacked halfway through her journey and couldn't take them all alone. I tried to help, but it was daytime and there wasn't much I could do to stop them."
"You're certain it's Alfreid?" Kurdak asked with a dark look.
"I'm sure. I've killed a few of the assailants and checked their corpses. They bear the black fox emblem of the Rolin family. Those are really hard to fake, so I'm quite positive about what I saw," Balor said confidently."
"Looks like the old fox ended up finding out about it…" Kurdak sighed and smiled bitterly.Previous Chapter Next Chapter