Chapter 45 – Giving in to the shadows

 

“Ah what a pain…”

 

I was heading back to my castle, right after leaving the Adventurer guild. The guildmaster had proved to distrust me but at least he did not contest my new authority. “Politics don’t matter too much to me, as long as the guild remains as it was before” is what he claimed.

 

Ever since the fall of Naxus, a lot of change had been happening. The hardest choices came with dealing with the organisations and people that used to live in the town before my invasion. There are those who contested the change of power. I dealt swiftly with these troublemakers myself and made sure to shut them down – forever.

 

This sounds like a tyrannical rule and it may well be. But the fact is that assassination attempts were made on me and I had to make sure that the people who had the idea of going up against me were ready to face the consequences.

 

Obviously, dealing with the assassins and revolts in such a way instilled fear in the heart of many. While this managed to calm down the chaos that had followed the war, it also led to many people not trusting their new ruler.

 

The guildmaster was such a person. I knew he wished to stay professional during the meeting I had just had with him by claiming that he’d just abide by the new Government but the truth is that he personally did not want to follow me. Well whatever, as long as they kept doing their job, it’s not like my reputation really mattered.

 

Besides, while I claim my reputation is rather bad, that is mainly amongst humans. The Half-race and Dwarves who moved in seem to support me more than anything else. I was, after all, considered as a war hero by the Dwarves. Furthermore, my policy that punished racial discrimination seemed to have me gain the favour of the Half-race.

 

Despite this though, the word started to spread that I was some kind of “Evil Lord”. Proofs for that were that my main army was one of magical creatures – golems, rather than a human one. I had, in fact, disbanded the previous army myself. I found golems to be more powerful, reliable and I feared a potential uprising is someone was to take over the human army. I did not fear for my life, but I did not wish to crush so many people – this would only lead to my reputation decreasing again.

 

I may be partly to blame as well for the negative view of me spreading around the continent. Calling myself the “Dark Joker” and my territory the “Kingdom of Shadows” both sounded like things like to evil. But then again, all of this did not matter to me as long as I could improve the quality of life and standard of living of the inhabitants. My goal was not to be a loved ruler, after all.

 

Alae was waiting for me in front of the castle’s entrance.

“How did it go ?”

 

She had an anxious face. She was clearly worried about me, how cute.

 

“Well, it could’ve gone worse. For now it seems they’re under control.

“I see… well now that your schedule is clear, how about spending some time with me…”

“I’m sorry but I still have important matters to discuss with Spades. Do you know where he is ?”

“Aw… ahem. I mean – yes, he said he needed some exercise so he was going to go flying around the continent for a while.”

“Around the continent ?”

 

Spades was a giant kind of dragon. He could travel by flight much faster than most others of his kind and saying he would “fly around the continent” was surely not an overstatement.

After the war, I had allowed him to fly free until I had time to fulfill my promise with him.

 

That’s what I wanted to talk to him about : the matter concerning our potential assault against the dragons. We had had an argument a few days ago when I talked to him about this matter. The fact was that before doing anything rash like a genocide against the dragons, I wanted to learn more about them before.

 

It seemed to have angered him and he claimed that the dragons are only worth being annihilated. I, for one, thought differently. The fact that dragons were considered A-rank monsters was strange in its own right. Spades was a dragon himself yet he was capable of speech. This contradicted our basic knowledge of monsters. I had suspicions that some kind of historic event may be linked to this situation.

 

“I guess I’ll have to wait for him to come back then…”

 

I had planned to discuss our plans once again when he would come back. However, rather than me waiting for him, circumstances led me to have to go to him instead.

 

***

 

I had warped myself to Spades immediately after sensing his power suddenly spiking. Back when I first met him, I had stuck a shadow gem inside his body. This acted like a beacon and allowed me to teleport to him. However, seeing how it was in direct contact with his Mana, it allowed me to feel when his Mana flow suddenly changed, like it did just now.

 

As I was teleporting myself, I noticed a huge kind of tornado surrounding me. Spades seemed to be caught in it. I immediately used『Shadow Warp』to absorb all of it and send it to Void. I then tried to assess the situation. Spades was bleeding – which was a feat of its own considering the hardness of his scales – and on the ground were three people. Two men and a girl.

 

“Ha, ha, ha. Now that won’t do. I let my Ace of Spades out of Aldenaf for a moment and you guys try to kill him ? I can’t let you do that.”

 

I did not recognise any of these people although the younger man looked somewhat familiar. I could have sworn I had seen that face before although shadows seemed to cloud my memories.

 

After further inspection, I noticed the bodies of several dragons lying on the ground. Could it be… I finally understood. Seeing how I had refused to immediately go wipe out the dragons, Spades had decided to go wreak havoc by himself.

 

I did not really intend to destroy these people without first hearing who they were. However, the first one to strike was Spades.

 

He suddenly used his『Shadow Breath』to try to eliminate all of his opponents at the same time, although the two men riposted with some kind of wind techniques that created a maelstrom similar to the one I had just absorbed.

 

“Sigh… how long is this going to last… ?”

 

Just like before, I absorbed the maelstrom and waited. For some reason, something inside my mind was telling me that I’d regret killing the young man whose face I still could not recognise.

But at the same time, a whisper in my ear told me otherwise…

 

“They are trying to kill your Ace of Spades… your strongest weapon. In other words, they are opposing you, the Dark Joker… Are you really going to let them do as they please ?”

 

The voice came from Wahnsinn. As I was in combat form, I had cast『Shadow Skin』on myself automatically upon teleporting, making my manipulation of shadows much more convenient.

 

That’s right. These people were in my way… so why should I let them live ? Was my policy not to get rid of anyone who was not my ally ?

 

I casted a gigantic version of『Phantom Fireball』upon them. This allowed me to assess that these individuals were quite skilled at fighting as they managed to dodge such a fast and wide-scale spell.

 

The older man riposted by drawing out his blade, which caused a huge shockwave to be sent our way.

 

I jumped off Spades who was lacked the momentum to dodge it and instead tried to block it. Despite sustaining next to no damage, he still got sent flying further away.

 

I increased the force of my fall with gravity magic and landed right next to the three enemies in front of me, causing a mini-earthquake of my own upon landing.

Surprisingly, the girl drew out white dragon wings and dodged the attack by flying in the air. The younger boy was holding onto her. The older one was not so lucky and despite blocking some of the power of the impact, he also got sent flying and landed a few meters away.

 

“Master !”

 

The young boy shouted in surprise as he saw his “master” painfully crash on the ground. However, the old man recovered almost instantly and charged at me with his sword sheathed.

 

His speed was unlike anything I had ever experienced before and he reached me in the blink of an eye. Drawing his sword, another shockwave hit me and it was my turnt to be sent flying.

 

“Hell, do it !”

 

The old man shouted to his student, who followed with a simultaneous attack from above me. Having no time to wonder why Hell sounded like something I had heard before, I managed to activate『Dragonfly』in time to twist my body and block the blade that was aiming at my neck with a『Shadow Shield』. The young man’s blade got absorbed into nothingness but he himself managed to avoid getting caught into Void by using some weird wind technique to push himself out of danger.

 

I then used『Whirlwind』to safely land on the ground. During this time, Spades was fighting on the dragon girl one-on-one. Her two companions seemed to want to go help her but she shouted at them.

 

“Don’t worry about me, Yaquinn, Hell ! Be careful with the masked man, his Aura looked terrifyingly dangerous !”

“Do you have the time to care about others when you’re in such a situation, little girl !? How foolish ! You will meet your demise at the hands of the one you all shunned, centuries ago !”

 

Spades was unlike anything I had seen him before. I was used to him being angry but his wrath was currently on another level. This anger somehow seemed to fuel his power as shadow was leaking from all sides of his body and he had truly turned entirely black. Only his red eyes could be differentiated from the rest of his body now.

 

Meanwhile, I felt something was off. Why did the name Hell sound so familiar to me ? Could have I known someone like him before ? But my oldest memories were still shrouded with darkness…

 

“For you to have survived that long is an impressive feat, ha, ha, ha ! You truly must be strong warriors. But now it’s time for me to end it !”

 

Did I say that ? No… Wahnsinn spoke these words for me. I personally felt too troubled to feel like fighting. However, Wahnsinn took over and as『Shadow Skin』spread all over my back, shadow tentacles emerged from it.

 

They extended and Wahnsinn tried to impale the two swordsmen with them. However, they were swift enough to dodge and attack me. Although the one called “Hell” no longer had a sword, he still came at me with his sheath.

 

As I realised the situation, the two men had already closed the distance. They looked like they had learnt from that one attack earlier that my shadows could absorb them so they struck me on my chest, where I was unprotected. It was the first time since Arcadeus that I was facing an enemy who was aware of my weakness.

 

The older man slashed my chest with his sword while the younger one unleashed a miniature version of the shock wave from earlier right on my wound, making it even more painful.

 

This was not a lethal wound although it hurt so badly that it left me crawling on the ground. With all the Magic I knew… with my mastery of Xii… with my power of the shadows… how could I be defeated in such a manner… ? Were these two swordsmen really that strong ? The older one in particular, he looked like he had trained to face off especially against someone using high level Magic…

 

It seems like the two swordsmen went to help the dragon girl (the fact she was a dragon Hybrid had become clear to me once I saw her wings) and together, they managed to pin down Spades, striking a deadly blow on his abdomen with another one of their wind techniques. Spades crashed on the ground, bleeding heavily from the wound.

 

Sigh… is this really how it all ends ?

 

“Maybe… now that my revenge is complete, maybe it is time for me to die… I should have died long ago after all… I was lucky enough to survive all this time just so I could get rid of the Porcephone Empire…”

 

I was about to close my eyes and wait for my demise. But for the first time ever since I met him, Wahnsinn disagreed. He laughed in a wicked manner… much like I would. And told me something I was about to forget.

 

“Ha, ha, ha. Is this really the end of the Dark Joker ? Is your revenge really finished ? Arcadeus still lives, you know ? Alae is pregnant with your child too, have you forgotten ? Do you know why you are losing ? True, these two men are strong. Very strong. In fact, they are on the same level as Arcadeus in terms of fighting prowess. But you have the shadows… you have me ! The reason you are losing is because you are being so indecisive… just unleash your full power on them… unleash all the shadows. USE ME !”

 

That’s right ! Why do I have to go down now !? This is only the beginning ! They should have made sure to finish me off before leaving me to go help their friend, ha, ha, ha !

 

“DON’T UNDERESTIMATE ME !”

 

I abandoned myself fully to the true source of my power : the shadows. For a moment, it seemed like the sunlight was blocked out and the whole world became monochrome. Or maybe that was just how I saw it. Who knows ?

 

Darkness emerged from my body in a spectacular fashion. I remembered these feelings. Back when I was already fully indulging in the shadows, back when I broke out from prison.

 

My whole body became covered with『Shadow Skin』. The number of tentacles on my back doubled, while the ground I was stepping on became pitch black.『Shadow Skin』extended to the floor I was stepping on as I healed myself with the little healing Magic I had and stood back up. I started walking towards the trio who, after having heard my sick laugh, turned their sights towards me.

 

I was walking… then slowly starting jogging, then running at full speed towards them. That speed was increased by『Dragonfly』and『Whirlwind』but it was still unlike anything I had experienced before. It seems I was laughing the entire time but this I barely noticed.

 

I reached the three in a matter of seconds. I started by tearing off the right wing from the girl, who crashed on the ground. As the other two dashed to me, I expanded『Shadow Skin』in such a way they could literally not approach me.

 

I then turned my right arm into a shadow blade and managed to pierce a while into the old man’s abdomen. He painfully landed on his back and did not stand back up. I then turned towards the boy called Hell and was preparing myself to drill a hole in his chest.

 

The hesitation I had before disappeared. I no longer felt like something was stopping me from killing this kid. I lifted my right arm and lunged it towards him…

 

“Oh no you won’t !”

 

My arm was stopped in motion. It felt like some invisible force was restraining me from cutting Hell down. Despite being enveloped with『Shadow Skin』I still needed air to breath. But this was cut off from me and I started struggling for oxygen. I recognised that spell… it was something that was used on me a long time ago. And I knew how to defeat it.

 

I countered the spell, which allowed me to breath again. And as I turned around to see who had casted it, a powerful『Whirlwind』sent me flying away. I managed to cushion my fall with Wind Magic and from a distance, I recognised the man who had just interrupted me.

 

He was wearing glasses and had messy hair, just like the first time I met him.

 

It was Arism Stalford.

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