If this was the end of my story, I was alright with it. At least I went into the history books as someone who tried to save The Capital. I had the chance to live my life and even find some love. There was only one thing I was truly regretting. And that's telling everyone that my real name is-
“Hiro!” Alice shouted, getting my attention.
The demon’s hand was descending towards my location. I raised my sword, making it give off more light than usual. The demon blocked his eyes with his other hand but kept lowering his main hand blindly. Of course, all I had to do was stop and take a few steps back, avoiding the massive dark hand. We could only see the shadow demon thanks to my light in the first place.
“That light is super useful!” Squeek shouted, climbing on top of my shoulder and standing there, while I kept running past the dark hand. We needed to get further away from the armies.
“First of all, you're quite heavy. Get off. Secondly, I have some bad news; this light is only temporary. If I keep using it like this, it’ll be out in no time. I managed to not use all the light in the last battle against the water demon. But I’ve barely inserted any new energy within my sword,” I explained, sighing.
“Wait. You have the power of light? It’s not a magic sword?” Squeek said, louder than he should. “That’s amazing. I’ve never-”
“Not now, Squeek!” I half-shouted. “We need to start doing some damage to him. Right now we’re just buying time. But just because it seems impossible, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.”
“Right,” Squeek responded.
“You might be like flies, trying to dodge my attacks, but eventually I will squash you!” Valgrathan shouted, using the same hand, again and again, while we masterfully dodge his attacks. But with every attack, the light got slightly weaker. The energy pool inside the sword depleted ever so slightly, which the demon definitely had noticed.
“Damn it!” Valgrathan shouted, raising both of his hands, ready to move his hand across the ground with a wide swipe.
“Shit. Prepare to jump high!” I shouted.
A burst of fire touched Valgrathan’s face as a dragon flew flow over the demon's head. The demon screeched, raising his hands to hide his face. “You irritating ants,” he shouted. As Aldrynte turned around and began to come down the second time, the demon threw a sharp look at Aldrynte, hand moving surprisingly fast at Aldrynte. It was a direct hit, blasting her body towards us, but over the head. A burst of dust flew into the air, as the dragon hit the ground not far from us.
“Aldrynte!” I shouted, running towards her.
“Emotions. Your greatest weakness!” Valgrathan said, laughing. He got this hands together into a larger fist and commenced to lower it towards Aldrynte dragon’s body. It came as a slight surprise since it meant that the demon could increase the length of his hand by quite a long margin. It was Alice who stopped in front of us while Aldrynte began to change back into human form, gasping for air. She was full of cuts and bruises; some looked fresh while others were from older times.
I gazed at Alice, ready to use my light slash to defend against the falling shadow hand. But Alice had a different plan. In his hand was her hairpin. Both of her hands were moved forward.
"I got this," Alice shouted to me.
“Die!” Valgrathan yelled. A burst of shadow energy was released from Alice’s hand, hitting against the demon’s hand and pushing his hand back. “What? You bastard. You’re using shadow magic against me? The shadow Demon? How dare you!”
The burst managed to keep Valgrathan back. The demon had to lean slightly back. “Ỳou fool. I can make your shadow energy as my own!”
“Then why didn’t you?” Alice asked.
“I was surprised. That’s all!”
“Well,” Alice said, putting the pin back into her hair. The pin began to slowly release a lot of shadow energy, surrounding Alice’s arms and hands. “You’ll be surprised.”
“I like you, bug. I will take over your dead body and use you well. You will become my shadow generator, making me even stronger. Now, die!” He raised his hand once again, smashing the massive hand towards Alice.
Alice, however, lowered her hand in response. The shadow energy gathered around her fist, almost as her hand was void itself. And as Valgrathan’s fist was approaching, she raised her own fist as a response.
“Alice!” I murmured, terrified by the thought that she would lose. What if the demon was right, and she was really powerless? What if it was just a pointless gamble. But I had to trust her. She knew what she was doing. I just stared at her, sheathing my sword and letting my light essence rest.
“She’s alright!” Aldrynte murmured, putting her hand on my shaking hand. “Alice is a lot stronger than we think!”
Both of their fists met, spreading shadow everywhere — almost as there was a thick mist, except it was pure black.
But the mist disappeared quickly. We could see Valgrathan being shocked, while Alice stood there, arms still covered with the dark energy. “How?” he shouted, confused. “I couldn’t take it!”
“You probably could’ve, if it was simple shadow magic,” Alice said, closing her eyes for a moment. As she said those last words, we could see how her yellow hair began to slowly turn black from top to bottom. And it wasn’t as the shadow was taking over it, but more like her hair had been black in the first place.
Aldrynte and I just looked at Alice, eyes widened, speechless. Aldrynte more than I, because she had realized something. Alice turned to look over her shoulder, at me. Her eyes were still slightly closed as she had sorrow in her eyes. It was as she had now turned into a monster.
“You’re beautiful!” I said out loud, making her blink fast a few times.
“Idiot,” she said, looking back at the monster.
The realization hit Valgrathan. “That’s… impossible,” he said. But he only began to grin even more. “This is fantastic. To think I’d find anything like this around here. You, humans, are truly amusing!” He raised his head to laugh straight into the sky. His laugh was chaotic and wild. As he finished his laughter, he turned sharply to look at Alice, head slightly cocked and leaned towards her. “A girl who has shadowbeast blood within; I will kill you. And I will own you, and add you into my collection,” he spat the words, more excited than ever.
Shadowbeasts. Perhaps the closest beings to compare them with are the werewolves. The major exception being that the shadowbeings are always in control of their forms. Like dragons, descendants all own shadow magic and can control themselves well. They mostly live at night, making traveling in certain parts of the world more dangerous during that time. There are saying that if you travel during the night at the most north-western part of the country, it’s your funeral.
Many have tried to find them, and very few have found and lived to tell the tale. It’s not that they are necessarily aggressive. It’s more that they’re aggressive if you want to get yourself killed because they are hunted and are placed on the kill-on-sight blacklist. Many novels contain at least one shadowbeast and how the adventurers barely kill one.
They are dangerous beings and mostly considered evil. Some say they are the demons that are living on the wrong side of the wall.
And that confirmed one more thing for me — for some reason I’m a magnet of the rarest beings. Not that it matters; for me Alice is still Alice.
Valgrathan took in a deep breath, as it prepared to launch a flurry of blows at Alice. As he launched his first attack, Alice pushed her both hands together, creating a large shield made of entirely shadow. Immediately, black mist spread everywhere once again. With every hit, it only got thicker.
I turned to look at Aldrynte, searching for a health potion from my backpack. “You were fantastic. You saved so many lives,” I said, helping Aldrynte’s head on my knees.
Aldrynte coughed. “I’ve never been as empty of the essence as now. I’d kiss you, but I’m too tired,” Aldrynte said quietly. I removed the cork from the bottle and poured the potion into her mouth. Then, I took hold of her hand, raising it, touching my cheek.
“You should rest,” I whispered. I looked away, there was no other sound besides the attack towards Alice and her defense against the attacks. To be honest, I was worried about Alice. But I had to deal with one problem at a time. “Squeek!” I shouted.
There was a moment of silence before the pure white mouse ran to me. “There you are, Hiro,” Squeek said.
“Get Aldrynte far away from here. She’s in no condition to fight!”
“I’m fine!” Aldrynte said immediately, trying to move. But that alone seemed painful.
“You’re not fooling me. First, you fought the water dragon, then humans, pretending to be an attacker and now this. You’ve done way more than anyone else! It's quite a lot for your first adventure, don't you think?”
“Please. I don’t want to see you guys dying while I can’t do anything,” she murmured.
“Silly. You’d only get in our way. I won’t die. I promise,” I whispered, reaching down and kissing Aldrynte. It was a quick kiss — there wasn’t time for a long one. As I looked at Squeek, nodding, he turned into a large wolf. I helped Aldrynte on his back. Aldrynte pushed her face against the soft fur, hands around his neck. “That’s a promise,” she said to me, closing her eyes to hide her tears.
Squeek ran away from the sounds of the hits, disappearing within seconds into the mist. “Dammit,” I whispered. I knew that I might’ve lied there. And it might’ve been the last time I saw her. But if she lived, I had hope for the future.
I turned around and began to run towards the sounds of hits. I also touched the sword’s handle to unsheathe it once more. As I saw Alice standing still, blocking the punches with her massive shadow shield, panting heavily, I removed my sword and slashed it towards arriving hand, cutting the hand into two. The cut off hand fell against the ground, turning immediately into a black mist. But there was a massive roar far away, where the shadow demon supposedly was. I immediately sheathed my sword once again.
“Aldrynte?” Alice asked, panting.
“I sent her away. She’s in no condition to fight. It’s just you and me now,” I said, looking at her. Alice lowered her shield, slightly, falling down on one of her knees. “Praise the heavens. I was worried.”
“You’re really kind,” I said, smiling. “And beautiful. I like your new hair.”
Alice blushed, slightly. “Liar. It’s not time to flirt.”
“You know me so well," I said sarcastically. "But it seems that you still manage to surprise me. And this might be the last time I get a chance to flirt with you.”
Alice took a step towards me, pushing her lips on mine. “I guess this might be the last kiss as well,” she said, smiling and slightly blushing.
The fog was finally clearing. The shadow demon was holding onto his hand, which was regrowing at a steady pace. We could visibly see his ever-growing anger. But his panting began to slow down until he released a long gasp of air. I looked at Rowley's army. It wasn't very visible, but I could hear fighting. A quick smirk appeared on my face — they were winning. It was obvious.
But that might’ve been my mistake since Valgrathan noticed that, looking over his shoulder at his slowly disappearing army. He began to chuckle. Shadow began to spread from the bottom of his body, towards the battlefield.
“That fucker!” I readied my sword, ready to act. But I was too late. As I barely took a step, Alice took hold of my hand. I gazed back at her, just to see her shook her head.
The moment the shadow reached the dead people of his army, they began to stand up, once more, forcing Rowley and his army to retreat slightly. “Sorry, I forgot to mention,” Valgrathan said, still chuckling. “My army is immortal.”
But I was the one who chuckled next. “No, they’re not,” I said out loud. The shadow demon cocked his head, slightly confused. “There’s no such thing as an infinite amount of energy. The energy comes from you. And every time you use it, there’s less energy, helping us one step closer to victory. And once you're dead, they are dead.”
Valgrathan snorted. “I’ve been enjoying myself too little much. It’s time to get serious!”
Just as he said that somebody climbed up from my leg. I almost freaked out. “Good news. The city is almost entirely evacuated!” Squeek said.
“Hey, Valguran!” I shouted.
“It’s Valgrathan,” the demon responded.
“Usually it’s us, adventurers, who knock on your castle's doors. Funny how it’s in reverse, right?” I said loudly.
“It’s funny that one of your own got me past the wall, straight to this capital. Now that you mentioned it, I think you’ve even met him,” Valgrathan said, grinning. “Or at least Qildor learned that. I even left you messages.”
My eyes closed for a moment. It was something I had slightly expected. “So, Thomas got you here? What did he get out of it?” I asked.
“You know very well. I told him exactly where it was, yet he managed to fuck it up and lose it. He must be cowering in Land of Goblins right now,” the demon said, snorting.
“If you knew where it was, why didn’t you go for it?” I asked, looking at him, trying to get as much information as I could. There was at least something cliche about this — demon bosses like to underestimate adventurers and tell the information for free.
“Because being close to the tree is painful. We can sense it, and we know where it is. We want to go away from it, stay away. It’s… celestial, after all.” Of course. It made sense. So the demon traded tree’s location for delivering him safely to The Capital's sewers. It annoyed me even more. He didn’t even blink twice while betraying humanity and knowing that it would cost thousands of lives.
“You’re going to pay for every life you've killed,” I shouted, teeth pushed together. Alice stared at me, surprised. But her face turned as serious as mine, looking at the demon as well.
“Yes. I love that look. How many humans have I killed after they find out some truth? Delicious. I can see the pain. I will destroy you and everything you love. And I will consume you and make you mine. Yes!”
Valgrathan took in a long breath, ready to continue the battle.
“Hiro, get behind me!” Alice shouted. I immediately did so. As the demon released a long breath, it wasn’t a fire that came out from his nose, but dark black energy, trying to swallow us. But Alice did a sharp few circles on her spot, making her own energy circle around us, blocking the energy from every angle. It reminded me of the fire wall Aldrynte had done.
The moment the barrier disappeared, I unsheathed my sword and took a few sharp steps towards the shadow demon, raising my sword up above and making it bright, forcing the darkness to hide.
Valgrathan shrieked and pulled his massive body slightly back, hiding his face with one hand. But with the other hand, he did a wide swing. But instead of his hand, he had razor-sharp looking blades. I swung my sword, letting a tiny bit of light energy leave the sword as a very thin line, cutting the razor hand off and making it into a mist.
But the demon didn't stop there as five more hands appeared out of the shadow that had been hand just a moment ago. “Fool. Did you really think I have only two hands?” he screamed. Alice grabbed my hand and pulled me just in time out of the way, getting hit by one of the sharp blades, barely. But that was in the process of using her own shadows to destroy two of the demon's hands and pushing the other two out of their course.
“Finally! Blood!” Valgrathan shrieked. But instead giving us a moment to rest, even more hands appeared above him, moving in the air like snakes. “I need to be careful not to cut you too hard if I want to use you later!”
“All the demons be damned, that’s too much,” Alice murmured. But before the demon could lower their hands, we could see a huge amount of water crashing against the demon. A blue dragon flew over our head, beginning to circle.
“Alwine!” I shouted, happily. Alice didn’t wait even a moment, but immediately took out her wand and touched the ground. An ice path went straight towards the demon, freezing all the water that was surrounding the demon. Alwine didn’t stop, but made more circles, breathing even more water towards Valgrathan, which froze immediately thanks to Alice.
“Even more ants!” Valgrathan screamed, trying to break the ice, but had a slightly hard time with it.
Alwine now flew towards us, preparing to land. But before she did so, she had already turned back into a human, landing next to us on her two feet, like a badass. “Hello, kids. I see you’re having trouble!”
“Alwine!” Valgrathan kept screaming. “You’re supposed to be mine!”
“What gave that away?” I asked, taking a step towards her, and giving a quick hug.
“I hate hugs!” Alwine immediately said but received my hug anyway. “I’ll remind you once again — Alwine you knew doesn’t exist. Not anymore.”
“How are you doing?” I asked.
“Not that well. I’ve barely recovered some energy after the battle with Aldrynte. And I already used it all up. Speaking of Aldrynte, where is she?”
“She’s… out. But in a safe place. She’s out of everything.”
Alwine sighed, facepalming. “As I thought. Honestly, I wish I could help you more, but I think I’m more useful there,” she pointed at the other fighting line where Rowley was fighting, intensely. "I managed to take get a good view of the battlefield, and they need some help."
“I’m surprised that Rowley is still alive,” I said, honestly.
“Please. Rowley is almost as good as Qildor. He might be an old fool that parties, but he’s still someone who earned his reputation. And I’m his advisor, so I have a duty to help him.” She turned and began to run towards Rowley.
“Thank you, I guess?” I said. To be honest, we also needed help, but at least she admitted her uselessness straight away.
“When he tries to attack me, you better use the chance!” Alwine said, rushing towards Rowley.
“Alwine!” Valgrathan shouted once more, ice slowly breaking into pieces. It was at that point when I noticed an eagle going after the demon’s head while he was stuck, targeting the demon's eyes.
“Oh, Squeek,” I murmured.
“Here he goes,” Alice said, sighing. “He's not that great against a big demon like that,” she said.
“How are you?” I asked.
Alice looked at me. “I’m fine,” she said, smiling.
“Don’t lie to me. Not now!”
Alice sighed. “Fine. Not good,” she said honestly. “I’m starting to run out. Protecting against those hits earlier was… hard.”
I nodded. “Prepare to run away.”
“Please,” I said, looking at her. “This is an order!”
Alice frowned, visibly.
The ice broke away, one large piece hitting the bird in the sky as well, but not hard. But as the bird began to fly away, Valgrathan managed to catch Squeek, forcing the bird to shriek.
“I’m going to crush you, bug!” Valgrathan shouted, laughing. I could see the demon actually trying to squeeze Squeek to death. Squeek, however, tried desperately to keep up his shape to stay alive as long as possible.
“That’s my final shot,” I murmured, unsheathing the sword once last time and doing a wide slash. A bolt of light flew towards Valgrathan’s hand, cutting it up and turning the whole hand into mist. Squeek immediately used the chance to fly next to me, turning into a mouse on my shoulder. He was panting heavily.
“I’m not good at fighting against demons,” he admitted, sighing. “I’m no elemental user, dammit.”
I smiled. “You should leave now.”
Multiple bolts of fire, ice and air began to hit the demon out of nowhere. I turned to look at the location they were coming from, noticing all the students shooting everything they had at the demon.
“That’s enough!” Valgrathan screamed, raising all his hands. Black colored thorns began to take shape above the demon. Alice stepped in front of me, raising her shield once more. All the students generated shields of their own. All the shadow thorns were shot towards all of us. But the moment there was silence, many fell soon after, out of essence, making someone else protect them.
“Good job! Now leave! Run!” I shouted after a moment of silence. Both me and Alice were running towards them to block any other incoming attacks. It was impressive that so far there were no casualties at my side.
They all did so, running as fast as they could. But as I took a look back at Alice, I saw a large hand hitting Alice directly, propelling her away inside the rubble.
“Alice!” I screamed, running towards Alice immediately. It was getting tiring — the same view over and over again.
Valgrathan began to laugh. “I wonder if she survived!”
I stopped in front of her, looking at her. She was unconscious and bleeding severely, but she was alive. I immediately removed my only remaining healing potion and emptying it inside Alice’s mouth.
“Squeek!” I screamed.
"You're lucky that I didn't go far!" a voice came as a mouse ran to me, turning immediately into a large wolf. This time, a rather injured wolf.
“This time, don’t come back. Make everyone fall back," I said, helping Alice on the wolf's back. Squeek barked once.
Valgrathan laughed. “This is getting ridiculous. You think I let her escape?” he screamed, hands moving fast towards us. I turned my slightly dead eyes towards him, pointing my finger at him. It seemed that my deception worked since his movement changed immediately into a more cautious one. My fingertip began to radiate light. It was a very sharp bright light, blinding Valgrathan completely, missing us completely. It lasted a mere second, but that was enough. It was my last quick trick to buy a tiny bit of time to help Squeek escape.
Valgrathan frowned, looking at me. But since there was no light source left, it was hard to see him. And since I had used all my remaining sorcerer magical essence on that small trick, I was all out of usable magic.
“So, it’s just you and me now, Valgerithian. And you’re at least half as size as before,” I said, smiling.
“It's Valgrathan. You’ve surprised me. I admit that much. But in the end, I’ve won. You never stood a chance!” He peeked at another battle, and so did I. Rowley was pushed back while the never-dying monsters were advancing forward. Perhaps it was only thanks to Alwine over there who kept them still in the game, and alive. It was a different battle of its own.
“I’ll give you one last chance, Hero. Join me. Promise me your allegiance, and I’ll let you live. I won’t even take over your body!” Valgrathan said, smiling.
His grin disappeared as he noticed someone behind me, walking towards me. There was true fear in Valgrathan eyes. I had never seen him in such a state. It made me slightly hopeful. Maybe someone really strong from adventurer’s guild had arrived? Wouldn’t that be a day saver?
“Hiro,” a familiar whisper reached me, which was disappointing.
“Aurora,” I said, looking over my shoulder. “You’re using your magic right now, aren’t you?”
“Yes. Buying us a little bit of time,” Aurora said, stopping next to me. “We should escape while we can!"
I looked at her. "Thank you, but no."
Aurora stared at me for a moment. "Fine. Then it's time. If we wait any longer…”
“...there won’t be any chance left, huh?” I said.
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- Matthew E. Damson
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.
You can read my stuff and shorts at reddit.com/r/Elven
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