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Valgrathan snorted. Or perhaps it only seemed so. “I still have a bit of time to kill, so fine, I’ll play with you.”

As he said those last words, I moved my head slightly towards Aldrynte. “I’ll give you a chance to run past Qildor. Do it, escape, and get people to evacuate the capital. Only you can do it,” I whispered. I could see her not being happy. It was only to be expected. “Please.”

She sighed. “Fine.”

“Now,” I said just loud enough so only my party could hear it. Loid was first to react, as he touched his medallion under the shirt, raised his feet and slammed the floor. Immediately the walls and the floor began to shake, and some rocks above Valgrathan began to break free, falling towards him. Of course, all he had to do was raise the hand to block them, seemingly only being a slight bother.

But as he was busy, I got my sword unsheathed, spreading my sword’s light everywhere, blinding the new Demon Lord and Qildor. While Valgrathan used his other hand to hide his eyes, being more disturbed by the light, Qildor didn’t wait for even a second, but ran towards me, raising his sword to slash. I barely managed to raise my sword in response, blocking Qildor’s sword.

“Go!” I shouted. Aldrynte immediately dashed past Qildor.

“No you won-” Qildor told, starting to turn around to step in front of Aldrynte, ready to unsheathe his other sword. But he couldn’t move, as his foot was locked down with ice. Qildor threw a shark gaze at Alice, who was leaning down, hand touching the now-frozen sewer water. But it was too late. Aldrynte was already past him, dashing further and further. It wasn't a hard thing to get his feet free, but we did achieve our goal.

Qildor snorted. “Helping one to escape while sacrificing the others, huh?” Qildor said, taking a few steps back, and raising his sword. He finally unsheathed his other sword, which was worrying. Qildor was well-known dual-fielder. “Well. I don’t mind that trade-off. She can't do much, and the hero dies,” he said, eyes squinted towards my light.

"However," Valgrathan continued, "that light is truly annoying. I was prepared for it, but it still came as a surprise. You truly are... the hero."

Perhaps that light was the only thing that kept us alive, not allowing any brutal attacks. It was obvious that they were careful of that new unseen power. Even though I knew that right now it was merely a light, not holding much of a power, they didn't know. In the end, I still held my title and had just defeated Alwine, the water dragon.

"I have sad news for you. I don't plan to die," I said, grinning. I wasn't really that confident, but the bluff was all I had.

“Really?” Valgrathan said with his deep voice. "Let's test it out, shall we?" A wide smile appeared on shadow demon's face as his hand began to move towards the hole we were in, wanting to crush us. But Alice immediately lowered her wand against the ice below her. Like a snake, it moved towards Valgrathan, and then it began building a not-too-thick ice wall between us and the Demon Lord.

“Like something small like that could stop me!” a shout came from the other side. Alice pushed her teeth against each other, trying to thicken the wall. Loid ran past Alice, hands touching the ice wall. Abruptly, new ice walls began to appear next to each other, making the original wall a lot thicker.

“This… isn’t ice magic?” Alice murmured.

“It’s not,” Loid shouted. I smirked. Perfect use of his copy magic.

A large hit was heard at the other side, as cracks spread everywhere and the walls were being pushed forward, towards Qildor.

Qildor's smile disappeared the moment he saw Valgrathan's hand being stopped, and the wall barely moving forward. "I guess you really want to survive," he said, readying his swords.

Loid walked to me, looking at my other sword. “May I?”

“Of course!” I mumbled.

He unsheathed my other sword. And as he swang it in place, second identical one appeared in his other hand.

"You're a dual-wielder too?" I asked.

"Yeah. But not even as close as skilled as him," Loid said, staring at Qildor.

A true gem for the future adventurers. In some sense, I couldn't help but feel excited for him to grow up and become someone great. I couldn't feel anything else than proudness.

At the same time, Alice was looking at the other direction, trying to strengthen the thick ice wall, mostly at the sides, trying to lock the wall in place. A muted laughter barely reached us from the other side.

“Let’s go!” I said. Both me and Loid were sweaty. We were against Qildor, supposedly one of the greatest elves. Meanwhile, Loid and I both were weak sword fighters. Or at least I assume that much. Unless Loid managed to surprise me even more. At least it seemed that Loid wasn't a stranger to the dual-wielding. Perhaps my biggest hope was that Qildor was truly dead, and the one controlling Qildor was nowhere close to the first elf’s level. But it seemed that while they were one, they were also different.

We both stepped forward at the same time, our swords being swung towards Qildor. He, however, easily parried away both mine and Loid’s attacks. We continued attacking, pushing Qildor slightly back. But Qildor didn’t allow even a single cut. For now, that was fine, since we needed some room from the moving ice wall.

But one thing was certain - he might’ve been controlled by the Demon Lord, but there was still a lot of Qildor in there.

“This is fun,” Qildor said, grinning. “Quite a good warm-up,” he added. This made us even more nervous. Loid more than I, or at least visibly.

There was a moment of all of us taking a step back, including Qildor. I was actually impressed that I was as okay as I was. Practicing had paid off - somewhat.

“Two of you escape,” Loid whispered, keeping an eye on Qildor.

“What are you talking about?” I murmured.

“I have a plan. But I need you two to trust me,” he said. I glanced at him. “It’s alright. I’m not going to die.”

“For fuck's sake... I can't-"

"Listen. I don't have time to explain. We need to act now!"

I frowned. "Fine. You better not lie, nor die!”

Suddenly, the wall stopped, and Qildor visibly scowled.

“What’s going on?” I asked him.

“Nothing that will affect you. You’re going to die either way. It just seems that the playtime is over.”

I grinned. Whatever Aldrynte accomplished must’ve worked. As I opened mouth, Loid shouted “Now!” He rushed towards Qildor, while I grabbed Alice’s hand and pulled her aside. Loid swung his both weapons from wide angels, forcing Qildor to block both of them with weapons of his own.

“I won’t let you!” Qildor shouted, parrying one of the Loid sword's aside, ready to slash towards Alice’s back. But as his sword was moving towards her, a copy of Loid rushed out from Loid himself, taking the hit instead.

“What?” Qildor roared, snarling. Alice and I continued running away. I looked over my shoulder, expecting Loid to somehow follow. But instead, I saw Qildor parrying a few more swings off, and then thrusting his sword through Loid’s stomach.

“Loid!” I shouted, stopping. But it was Alice who now grabbed my hand, pulling me a second later forward.

"Hiro! We have to go," she said, tears running down as well.

Loid looked at me, a smile on his face. “Run!” he said.

Memories of Bill went through my mind. The moment he sacrificed his own life. A new young adventurer, full of promise. Yet I was escaping again, letting them. Trust? I was such a fool. And as we reached the end of the tunnel, Alice pulled me to a side tunnel. All I could see was Qildor looking towards us, while he raised his sword to swing towards Loid’s head.

“No. Not again!” I murmured, half-frozen, just being pulled away by Alice.

 

The exit from our location wasn’t that far. Just by following Alice’s orders, I climbed up, leaving the sewer’s smell behind us. But I wasn’t thinking. There was nothing new in my mind, but the same dark thoughts of the past. I was a failure, once more. I still saw Loid looking at me.

There was a heavy slap against my cheeks, snapping me out of my thoughts.

“Hiro!” I heard a familiar distant voice, as Alice was crouching in front of me. Coming out of the dreamland, I could focus on her face. She was also crying, but she was trying to keep up her appearance. “Snap out of this! Others need you. So many others. You can grief later. But those who are still alive, they need you!”

“I…” I looked at my hands, and then at the sword that had been sheathed by Alice at some point.

“Look!” Alice raised her finger into the sky. I looked. A large fire dragon was flying in the sky, breathing out occasionally fire, hitting the first stone walls with force, breaking pieces of stone into pieces. It wasn't that effective, but it did its job, which was to gain people attention during the night. People on the main streets were panicking, running away from the capital. After all, The Capital was under attack.

Alice looked back at me. “I think you know, but that dragon is Aldrynte, and she's destroying the walls, so people would panic and run. She is doing everything she can to save as many people she can. And she's being right now attacked by our own people, who think she's an enemy."

Things were more clear. There were bell ringing to raise alarm. Now that I could take a closer look, I saw tiny things being thrown or shot at the dragon. But Aldrynte didn't give up. She moved to a different angle, lowered herself, kept breathing fire at the wall, flying back up high in the sky, resting for a moment, and repeating the process.

“It’s only a matter of time before the Demon Lord acts. What do we do, Hiro?”

I stood up, looking at my slightly shaking hands. “He said that at least the majority of guards and adventurers are being controlled by him. But bells are ringing, which means not all of them. But we can't take any risks. The only ones I don’t think would be controlled by him is the place where I spent my whole last month. It would be too suspicious if Qildor was seen around this place. And I’m pretty sure that the charming is Qildor’s ability.”

Alice nodded, slowly. “So, academy? Yes. That would make sense.”

“We need to gather the students and ask for their help,” I murmured, sighing. "As silly as it sounds."

We looked at each other, nodding. Alice turned her back to me and began to run towards the school. But before she could, I grabbed her hand, making her stop.

“What?” she said, looking back.

I pulled her towards me, hugging her. “Thank you. Thank you for everything.” Alice blushed, slightly.

And then I kissed her. It was our first kiss. But not knowing the future, I didn’t want to have any regrets. Alice immediately hugged me back, kissing passionately. It was as she had waited for it, forever. It was as she had been ready for it, just waiting for my approval. And perhaps it was so - I wasn’t ready.

And as we separated our lips, I gave her a smile. “Let’s go!”

We ran for a short while, until Alice said more silently, "But maybe next time don't kiss straight after we got out of the sewers."

"I agree," I said. We grinned.

Sometimes you had to find humor in the most desperate circumstances and to forget the things that are hiding behind my neck.

 

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Elven

  • Matthew E. Damson

Bio: I'm someone whose pen-name is Matthew E. Damson. Some others know me as Elven. I'm also known as elf, elfie, elves, pointy ears, and some more. To be honest, I have no idea why they call me other names, but they create nicknames, not me.

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