With a bang, Aleran closed the door that connected to the tunnels. To lose track of their pursuers, they were forced to change course several times. And now, they had come out near a shopping district filled with people, instead of the intended place.
Luckily, they were not that far from the west gate and the door they came out was yet to be discovered by the patrols. So, even though they made quite a rucks coming out, they just earned some curious glances from the people passing by.
But they could not relax yet, as they knew Ibrak was hot on their heels. He knew the tunnels better than them, and it was just a matter of time for him to find their trace.
Aleran turned his head to the side, looking at Kindrav, who took the key to the formation and gave it a long look at it, wavering for a moment. He was hesitating whether to do it or not. According to Aldra they only had to put the paper talisman on the edge of the formation, in this case, near the door of the tunnels, and everyone inside will surely be in peril.
Kindrav couldn't get off his head the image of his adoptive family being hurt because of a dumb mistake he did. And that, made his blood boil and his face turn dark with rage and hate. He wanted these people to burn in hell for even thinking about hurting his loved ones.
But he could also imagine the face the village chief would put if he knew about this. He could almost hear his voice telling him what he should do, or more like what he shouldn't do in this situation. Would Sarya look at him with the same eyes if she ever knew how much blood was in his hands? Surely not. She wouldn't hate him, she would just look at him with pity instead of love.
‘But, they don't have to know. I can carry this burden by myself. That bastard, how dare he threaten them?’ Said Kindrav to himself while he remembered the smug face of Ibrak. Despite all that hate, his hand moved staggeringly slow. It was only a split second before he finished, that he felt a hand on his shoulder.
Turning around he saw Aleran’s face, with a look that Kindrav had already seen many times. It was a look unlike a 15 years old boy, it was a deep gaze filled with the weight and knowledge. In this case, the knowledge of the consequences it entailed to Kindrav's mind doing such an act.
In the middle of their fight, Aleran had already anticipated this when Ibrak threatened with going to Vast Sky village. He also believed that if Kindrav did activate the formation it could benefit them to escape the city.
In the spur of the moment, Aleran had actually made a plan to escape the city after destroying the tunnels. While everyone was distracted on what was probably going to be an eye-catching incident, they could use that window of time to flee the city.
But now, seeing Kidrav hesitating, he couldn't stand it anymore. “Let it be Kin, they will get what they deserve but it doesn't have to be you. You don't have to carry those deaths on your shoulders. And we don't have to prove anything to anyone, certainly not to Aldra. Don't let a fleeting moment of rage become an eternal burden in your heart. ”
He was sure that Aldra had given him the key to the formation as some sort of test. And for a while, he was okay letting Kindrav do the deed. But right now he felt incredibly selfish and self-centered. He hadn't realized how much doing this would impact Kindrav.
The tunnels were almost as big as the city, and, even if most of the members had left, there were many more still inside. It was not only about the numbers. Sure, the sheer weight of ending almost five hundred lives could crush a person's heart. But also there was the question of how many people were truly bad and how many were just rouge cultivators trying to survive.
Chances were all those that lived underground were bad guys, but the doubt would still be present. Had I killed someone that, just like me, was only trying to get something from the Crimson Claw? That doubt would slowly burn him from the inside.
Kindrav was probably struggling with those questions right now-
But besides all that, Aleran had other reasons. While he could sympathize with Kindrav's feelings, it was his logical brain that was telling him how unnecessary it was to dirty their own hands with this.
Aleran never believed in the idea of 'good people' or 'bad people'. It was mainly a matter of perspective, that was why no one could judge people thinking his sole opinion was right. Because someone could also be judged by another person as 'bad'.
But in order to think from a purely logical stance, it was necessary to remove the hatred they had for the Crimson Claw. Something that Kindrav was clearly failing to see. These people were going to die by Aldra's hands anyway. Logically speaking, there was no reason to dirty their own hands.
The only thing that held Aleran back at first, was the reaction Aldra would have if they didn't activate the formation. He was afraid of her taking that as a sign of regret or weakness and that she decided to kill them for that.
But he would rather take his chances than killing automatically just for convenience. If the Crimson Claw could be a threat after this, he would certainly support the idea of sending them all to hell. The guilt could make him lose hours of sleep at night, but the fear of retaliation would surely make him go crazy of paranoia.
He barely flinched when he killed those fifteen men. But that didn't mean he wanted to become someone who would kill anyone just to make it more convenient. Right now, his moral compass was not exactly working great, but at least, he knew what he didn't want to become.
And letting Kindrav activate the formation would be even worse than doing it himself. He would actually prefer to kill those men than cowardly hide behind Kindrav and let him do the dirty work.
"It is no longer our issue, we got what we wanted. And, more importantly, we know someone else is going to shoulder the burden of killing them all." They had already been used to put the formation in place, but that was without knowing how many lives it would endanger.
Aleran had thought it was a way for Heaven's Vault to have a better understanding of what was happening inside the tunnels. And then, they would have to enter with their forces to deal with the Crimson Claw. It was a completely different thing to know that those living inside could die without even putting a fight.
In the end, feeling guilty for what they did was inevitable. What he said and what he repeated to himself was mostly an excuse, he knew it. But now that it was impossible to reverse the situation, they might as well let others do the real dirty work. 'This way, it is easier to fool ourselves into thinking we got nothing to do with this.' Aleran thought with a heavy heart. Hoping that, at least, Kindrav would get out of this with a clearer consciousness than him.
"Remember, this is only a branch f the Crimson Claw, right now the only ones who know about us are in this branch. Let others take care of this problem. We are in the middle of a fight that is above us. We are just pawns to the bigger players, Kin, let them settle this. Let´s go, we still aren't in the clear...Huh?" As Aleran was trying to convince him, the paper talisman in the hands of Kindrav started to shine and his hand started to shake. And, with the increase in the radiance of the paper talisman Kindrav's hand shook even more.
Veins protruding on his neck and head, Kindrav called to Aleran, " Al, is trying to fly off my hand!"
Aleran reached for the white piece of paper, trying to help. But the paper seemed to have come alive as it started to struggle with an even fiercer determination to get off their grip. The drawing of the toad seemed to come alive as it opened its mouth.
Inside of a small yet elegant tea shop, an equally elegant young lady sat looking through the window. She had a black dress on her body and a veil on her face, this was common practice for single noble ladies of the capital, not so much on Hilua. But the curious thing about the lady was that having just arrived she didn't ask for tea and instead she just sat there waiting.
“Mmm... they should come out from this door, there is no other tunnel. Something must have happened that made them change directions too many times. Hehehe.” Mumbled the lady to herself as she brushed to the side a strand of white hair that was covering her eye.
She was none other than Aldra who, with her paper talisman in hand, was following the movements of the two boys. She chose this place with a good view of the door she guessed was the only one left they could come out from. After all, she had the complete map of the underground tunnels.
And her memory of the tunnels was soon proved to be right. They came out with an unsteady breath, quickly closing the door behind them. But they didn't run as anyone would guess, instead, the older boy, took out the key of the formation.
Aldra could almost feel the hesitation that was running through the boy’s mind. And when Aleran put his hand on his shoulder, stopping Kindrav movement altogether, she finally knew their decision.
“Oh, my master was right about them. I guess that means the next lunch we take is on me.” She took her key and infused some inner qi in it. Instantly, the rough drawing of a toad in her paper opened its big mouth.
The two kids tried to stop it with all their strength, even though mere instants ago they were pondering whether to do it themselves.
After waiting for a little while, she added more power to the key. Next, she only sat back and relaxed, watching the two boys suddenly struggle to stop what they knew was inevitable.
She could hear the agitated cursed of the younger boy as their hands started to feel the heat the paper talisman radiated. It came to the point of being as hot as putting their hands on fire.
In the end, the power was such, that a small shock wave was expelled from inside the hands of the two boys. This shock wave was enough to remove their hands form the paper talisman. And like that, they watched as the key plastered itself right next to the door they had just come out from.
Having been destabilized by the tiny but powerful shock wave, the two sat on the floor watching with wide eyes as the formation ignored their intervention and completed itself. After a while, that previous power was nowhere to be seen. The paper talisman that seconds ago was like a fierce dragon struggling to break free, looked now like the funny drawing of a frog. As if some child had whimsically pasted his artwork on the wall.
The blonde one was the first to recover and stand up, dragging his still stunned partner away from the door. Soon, both of them got lost into the crowd of people. Only the closest bystanders noticed what had happened. But after some curious glances at the boys and at the previously glowing paper, they went back to their own business.
But that wasn't all, soon after the two boys were out of sight a ragged and worn out Ibrak came out of from the tunnels. He watched with apprehension at his surroundings but did not dare to venture too far from the door. Unlike Aleran and Kindrav, he was actively searched by the guards all around the city. There was practically no one who didn't know his visage, and worst of all, there were even wanted posters all around the city.
Yet, despite all that, he still hesitated. He had suffered a big setback at the hands of Aleran and Kindrav. And now they had become two big loose ends. But besides that, his personal grudge was burning with unprecedented intensity and part of him refused to let it go just like that.
However, logic won over his agitated heart and he took a step back. It had taken him a while to track their footsteps inside the dark tunnels, while at the same time, fearing a surprise attack from the two. They could already be anywhere, and venturing outside right now was tantamount at throwing himself into the tiger's den.
Aldra watched how, in a matter of seconds, Ibrak made the worst decision and probably the last one of his life. He turned around and went back, together with his three men. ‘ Well, in his defense he doesn't know how dangerous the tunnels will turn out to be in the next Mu.’ She thought while shaking her head. He had made the right decision taking into consideration what he knew at the moment.
That was no longer Aldra concern, she only had to wait now.
“Amm, miss are you not going to order anything?” The shop clerk asked politely, seeing her veil and elegant dress.
“ I already have what I wanted, thanks.” Aldra just passed by the counter and left a single gold coin, making the clerk almost jump in joy at the free coin. The lady had only used one table for less than a Mu, it was literally free money.
With graceful steps, she left the shop and immediately, like the boys, she blended into the crowd of people.
For a while, Kindrav just followed Aleran without saying a word. Until finally he came to terms to what had happened. " That woman, she must have done something to the key behind our backs."
"There was no point in us trying to stop the paper talisman, we knew they were going to die. But it happened so quickly that we acted out of instinct. If my guess is right, she or someone under her must have been watching us from somewhere close. Perhaps she put someone in every door just to see what we will do." Aleran was sure now that the whole thing with the key was just a test of some sort. Although he didn't know why someone would go to such lengths to test them.
"And we went and showed her how we really feel about killing all the Crimson Claw members inside the tunnels indiscriminately." Kindrav completed the idea.
Aleran nodded, "Indeed, she now knows she can't trust us completely I guess. Maybe, she wanted to see if we would warn them. Though, I don't really know why would anyone use this method as a test. " To Aleran it was pretty clear that warning them about the danger was not an option. They would just put themselves in ore danger that way.
"I have no clue what's in her mind. But I do know it is pointless to keep talking about it. What's done it's done." Aleran quickly put an end to the discussion. They had more pressing issues at hand. " Our first plan was to look for Oldre, but I think that now it is safer to wait and see what happens with the tunnels. If the commotion is too big we may be able to use that as a distraction and then look for Oldre."
Besides looking for Oldre, the other option before the incident with the paper talisman was waiting for Aldra to make her move. But she said she was going to wait until night. And the more time they spent on the streets, the more likely they would get caught. It was tantamount to bet with their lives if they decided to wait for Aldra to act.
With that in mind, Aleran and Kindrav quickly ran until they reached the vicinity of the gate. And next, they decided to wait.
But to Aleran's surprise, the underground explosion and the huge earthquake he was waiting for never happened. Instead, a purple gas started to surge, seemingly from nowhere, all around the city. At first, it was inconspicuous, but in a matter of a few minutes, the gas engulfed the whole city. Inside the city, one could only see purple.
Panic took hold of most commoners and cultivators alike. Those few cultivators who had any means of flight used them unconcerned of the restrictions. It was better to be punished later than to get exposed to this unknown substance. Most people on the ground started to yell and run to take refuge.
But Aleran noticed that those who breathed the purple gas were just fine. They didn't seem to be in any danger, only in fear and confusion.
Aleran was sure this was the formation's doing, and by the same certainty he was almost sure Aldra and Heavens Vault would not destroy a whole city just to kill the Crimson Claw. If he had learned something from Aldra was that they operated with discretion and decimating cities was clearly not their M.O. Not to mention that their own store was still in the city, it would be utter idiocy for such known commerce to destroy their place.
Nonetheless, he covered his mouth and stopped breathing until he saw that some of the cage birds that were on sale nearby were fine.
But the lack of lethality of the smoke did rose the question as to what happened on the tunnels. This smoke was coming from the many small ventilation ducts of the tunnels spread throughout the city. So, it was obvious this was a product of the formation.
What Aleran didn't know was that inside the tunnels that purple gas was actually black. Al those paper talismans they had planted started to show on their surface the same drawing of a frog. And the gas was coming out of its open mouth like a torrent, quickly flooding the tunnels.
And the mere touch of this gas was enough to put a normal human into a path to a gruesome death. Every member of the Crimson Claw, Ibrak Included, was currently convulsing on the floor. Fuming out of their mouths and asphyxiating. Their eyes became red and bloated as if they were about to pop out. Their bodies were starting to corrode by the mere touch of the gas, black patches of skin appeared. But that was soon corroded, as the muscles and even bones soon started to emerge. All in all, It was a cruel death.
But once the smoke left the perimeter of the formation it instantly morphed into a less dense and purple colored gas. And besides a mild burning sensation in the eyes and itching in the throat, it was harmless.
Finally, after some more time passed, the smoke became an impediment to seeing anything beyond a few feet away.
Ignoring what was happened underground, but somewhat guessing its nature, Aleran said to Kindrav. "This is better than I expected. It's not an explosion but it is a perfect cover for us."
Both of them went without hesitation towards the small gate next to the bigger one made of metal that was tightly shut. All the surroundings of the gate were in chaos, the open field that was between the closest building and the gate was filled with the disoriented shadows of the guards.
Kindrav took the lead whispering, " I don't know if uncle Oldre is on guard this early in the morning, they change that often. But if he is, he should be right next to the gate.
They went past almost half of the guards and were closing very fast.
"Hey! Come Here!" The yell of a guard could be heard, but when they turned around, they find out he wasn't talking to them. It seemed some of the pedestrians that were running started to run towards the gates. And the border of the gates was, right now, a restricted place.
But as more and more people started to run towards the gate the situation turned more chaotic. It got to the point where going while crouching and hiding was useless. So, Aleran and Kindrav decided to start running towards the small side door. Unlike the rest of the commoners, they remembered perfectly where the small gate was even with the purple gas blocking their sight. Even though they didn't have a clear sight of it, they knew its exact location. After all, that was their original objective.
Finally, after jumping over a fence they almost stumbled upon, they reached the side door. But looking around, three silhouettes were already there.
"Halt! If you are looking for refuge, go back, this place is off-limits!" Despite the smoke, the three guards could tell these two hooded shadows were not guards.
Aleran and Kindrav didn't stop, they kept running towards the black silhouettes of the guards. It wasn't much of a surprise attack, but they needed any advantage they could get. If they truly wanted to kill them, it would be truly easy. But these were no thugs, they were just a bunch of guards doing their job. Despite all they had been through, Aleran and Kindrav would not kill them heartlessly.
Aleran was the first to attack, he sent a punch with some electric charge in it. The guard who blocked the attack easily felt a numb sensation but it wasn't enough to shake him. The guard, stiffly, sent back a right hook.
"Tsk" Aleran clicked his tongue in annoyance, it was much harder to stun someone than kill him. Cultivators had a higher tolerance to the electric shock and calculating the power to make it none lethal was pretty hard
Meanwhile, Kindrav had engaged in a fight with the other two guards. And, though he didn't have an image to rely on, he had a better time fighting them. In a matter of three exchanges, one guard was already with a broken nose and the other was having immense trouble to keep up. In direct combat, Aleran was not even half as good as Kindrav was.
But as Aleran was dodging the experienced fighter at the same time that he was preparing another electric shock, he heard Kindrav's surprised voice.
" Uncle Oldre?"
"Little Kin? When did you get so good at kicking my ass?" A similarly socked voice came from one of the men he was fighting.
The other two guards stopped at the familiarity his comrade showed with these people. They had not been fighting to kill, for all these guards knew, Kindrav and Aleran were just two cultivators scared of staying in the city. And they could tell Kindrav and Aleran, similarly, were not harboring killing intent. So, when Kindrav called for Oldre they all stopped at once.
"Oldre, do you know them?" Asked the shadow of the man Aleran was fighting. Up close, Aleran was able to see that the man he was fighting was past his middle age and had some grey hair.
"Yes yes, don't hit them." Oldre´s relived voice could be heard. "They are my nephew and his friend. They had come from my village to know the city. But as you can see, they had come at the wrong time. It is a shame the first impression of a real City they get is one with constant incidents, chaos, and martial law. We lost contact a few days ago and they must be sacred."
The old man snorted. " They didn't look too scared, though." He still remembered the numbing sensation he felt with that punch. Maybe, someone less experienced would have been put into great trouble thanks to that. He didn't know how the hooded figure did it, but they were not the sheeps Oldre wanted him to see. Still, they didn't come with blades or with killing intent, so he let that slide.
The three guards gathered together while Aleran and Kindrav also got next to the other. They saw how the three silhouettes started to murmur something for a while. Especially how Oldre talked to the older man, who seemed to be the leader of the three. After a short discussion, Oldre approached them.
"You are in luck that team leader owes me one. I know why you are here, and I must say it is a sensible choice you made. The Crimson Claw has caused too much trouble. I won't enter into much detail, but everyone involved with them, even me and my whole team are implicated. We let them pass too much contraband after all. And now that everything has gotten out of hand, we will pay four our greed." Oldre made a slight pause as if inwardly reprimanding himself.
It was a very real possibility for the formation breaker Grujil used that night had been smuggled through one of the gates of the city. This ended up putting the life of the city lord in danger. Oldre couldn't think of a worse crime than that.
Oldre struck Aleran as more mature than the last time they had met. It seemed that the pressure of a possible punishment made him understand some things and made him grow more mature. 'I guess, it's never late to mature and learn something. Maybe this is a good thing for him.'
Then, Oldre continued, "I'm sorry Kin. I got you involved with these people and now everything has gotten out of hand. My brother was right, I sometimes do things without stopping and thinking about the consequences."
KIndrav shook his head and hugged Oldre. "Its okay uncle, I came here knowing full well it was going to be hard. Though I won't say I didn't curse you and your suggestions a few times, hehe. But I can't say everything was bad either, as you can see I have learned many things." Said Kindrav as he released Oldre from his hug and pointed at a mark he left on his uncles face while fighting. " And I know you wanted to give me an opportunity to leave the village and find my own path. In the end, you just wanted me to follow my dreams and aspirations."
Oldre's eyes redden a little and it wasn't the smoke that did it. So, he tried to change the curse of the conversation, he wasn't good with emotional talks. "Coming here to find me and leave the city was the right thing to do. You are a pair of great thieves for the Crimson Claw, but in the end, you are outer members. This makes it possible for you two to come out of this on your feet." Although he was far from their usual place of action, Oldre had been keeping tabs on them out of concern.
"It is hard to leave without having achieved what you wanted. And I don't know of other ways to get those IDs. But anything is better than staying here. Believe me, when the big wiggs come to put some order, which they will do at any moment, you won't want to be here." Oldre turned around and gestured them to follow him.
Kindrav and Aleran followed him with, more relieved now. They didn't bother to correct Oldre about the IDs. Although the man had been gathering news about them, he didn't know they took a major role in the other night's incident. " Uncle, won't this cause troubles to you? You know, letting us escape."
Oldre just looked with a fake sneer at Kindrav. " Hmmph, you may be famous within the Crimson Claw, but you are a nobody. It's not like I'm aiding the Big Boss of the Crimson Claw. And it's not like you even took part in any major incidents. You two just happened to be at the wrong time in the wrong place." Despite what he said Kindrav knew Oldre was taking a huge risk by letting them pass through. But Oldre was willing to take it just to put them to safety.
"Oh, by the way, thank the team leader for turning a blind eye to this. " Oldre pointed at the old man by the side.
The smoke was still concentrated and they could barely see him. But still, Aleran and Kindrav both approached the man and took off their hoods. They cupped their hands while bowing slightly at the man. " Thank you, Sir. We will never forget this kindness." Said Kindrav.
"I'm sorry for the punch, sir. Thanks for letting me out of the hook." Aleran apologized.
The factions of the man soften greatly after that. More than anything, it was the simple gesture of taking the hoods that eased the man's heart. He was surprised because they were younger than he had thought, and that made Oldre's story more believable. " Just go, and don't let this ugly experience be the only memory you got from this city. You should visit the Dragon's Heart, that place will surely blow your mind."
After exchanging a few more polite words they went through the small metal door following the short but bulky figure of Oldre.
"Now, go back to the village Kin. I know it's painful to go back after failing, but you will be safe. Don't give up on cultivation, the academy is the best way, but we will think of something with my brother." Oldre said as they walked through the pathway that went through the thick walls.
"Amm, actually, we already have the ids, uncle. We made them tons of money so it was the less they could do. So, we will probably go to the Dragon's Heart now." Kindrav finally disclosed the truth or, at least, a partial truth.
Oldre stopped for a moment, he was truly shocked. Part of the reason why he felt so guilty is that, after having introduced them into the Crimson Claw, he had discovered how hard was to really get them to forge an ID.
"Hahaha, you two have become truly capable. I feel old now." He just laughed but didn't ask how they did it. He was aware that there had to be something more to the story, but he didn't care. As long as they had gotten the IDs everything they had done was not for nothing.
As they reached the other end Oldre had a short talk with Kindrav, and after another long hug, Oldre addressed both of them. " When the officials outside see that purple smoke they will surely come with reinforcements. You have to move in hiding until they enter the city and then you will be free to run away. You are truly in luck today... wait you didn't have anything to do with this right?" Oldre ended up asking at the suspiciously good timing the boys had come looking for him.
"Ahem, no, well... ahem, no," Kindrav answered shyly. The close contact with Oldre had given him a needed relief of the tension and guilt he actually felt.
Oldre just gazed at his nephew with a strange look but he only shook his head, " Sigh... and they say I am the black sheep of the family." The boy may not be related by blood to him, but really reminded Oldre of himself. And after all these years, he was part of his family. "Just go quickly, and take care of yourself"
Oldre almost kicked the two boys through the threshold of the gate. He would start to get too emotional if he spent more time talking with Kindrav.
With his kick as the final push, both kids started to move. From time to time Kindrav would turn and waved like a child, knowing full well that the gesture only made Olde more annoyed than anything else.
Oldre stayed for a while watching over as they got further and lost themselves into a group of threes.
"it's settled then. If it is discovered that the formation breaker was smuggled through this door, you will take the blame for us." The old team leader quietly appeared behind Oldre.
"Rest assured, I will keep my word," Oldre answered with a serious face. He was willing to take the risk of letting Kindrva and Aleran pass, but his teammates were not. They didn't even know them, so no matter how much good faith was between Oldre and his mates it was not enough to sway them.
He had to give them something in return, some assurance. And he was more than willing to sacrifice himself if it ever came to that. The truth was that they didn't know if the artifact had been smuggled through this door. Most of the time they didn't ask questions and only took the money. So, the four gates and the four teams of guards in charge of them were all in the same situation. Those who were on guard duty at the gates in the last couple of cycles will be suspects.
"Good, now let's go back, it is chaos out there."The old man turned around and Oldre followed him. Despite his precarious situation, Oldre's eyes were clearer than ever. What Aleran saw was true, he had changed. But more than his situation, it was how he had endangered Kindrav that made him change. Now that he had redeemed a little of what he did, he felt a weight in his heart lift.
And more than that, seeing how KIndrav had gotten through this ordeal inspired him. The kid had grown and now he was helping him to grow. For the first time in his life, Oldre felt that maybe, he could stop wasting his time making deals with thugs and fooling around. For the first time, he wanted to change.
Grujil felt as if a worm, or some sort of parasite, was coursing through his veins. Biting at everything it found, the parasite tried to rip him from inside out.
This was the final gift the City Lord had given to him. Although at the last moment before the explosion the man had used the blood to defend his body, some blood arrows still had kept with the onslaught.
That blood not only cut through his flesh, it also took residence inside him. Now, it was always moving and twisting inside him. Slowly torturing him from the inside and blocking his recovery. Grujil knew that if he didn't fight back against this blood, it would kill him in a single day.
The arrows had hit him in his arm and leg. And that was really fortunate. Had it been his chest the blood would have immediately burrowed his way to his heart, instantly killing him.
Besides the constant threat of death and the pain, Grujil was sure that this unwanted passenger the City Lord had left on his body allowed the man to track him. But despite knowing his exact location, the City Lord hadn't come knocking. 'That only means, he was way weaker than I had previously thought.' Grujil thought gritting his teeth.
He breathed in and out to cool his head. There was no point in thinking about it. He had to devote his full concentration to expelling this blood, otherwise, he would not be able to run far.
He had to close his eyes and focus on the inside. But as time kept gong he started to feel a burning sensation on his head. 'Mm, hot, on my head?' His shut eyes, immediately jumped open with alert. And what he saw made him feel a chill down his spine.
Darkness, a pitch-black smoke surrounded his body. The crystals illuminating the room were broken by the smoke together with a wooden table that had melted under the strange fog.
He had been so focused on the inside that he hadn't realized what was happening outside his body.
With a start, Grujil stood up and touched his head. The only source of light in the room was where his hand was touching. It was the white feather that always hung on his head. It was only thanks to this totem that he was still alive despite being surrounded by the fog. A thin but extremely sturdy barrier was blocking anything that could harm him.
The burning sensation was the heat emitted by the feather as it consumed its energy. Once activated it would protect him for a short period of time. It was a one-time use item that activated either when the user wanted or by sensing something harmful.
Grujil looked at his hands and clothes that had patches of black.
It seemed that when the fog started to surround him before it could harm him enough for him to get out of his trance, the smoke touched the feather and forced it to activate.
It was a close call, but he could not wait and think anymore. The totem's power won't last long. There was no time to question why or how.
With the time ticking, Grujil sprinted towards the outside and picked a tunnel. He kept running towards the nearest exit, without caring if someone was waiting outside. That was something he would have to think after that strange smoke was out of the equation. He saw what it did to the table and his clothes as well as his skin, in the mere seconds they came in contact with it. That was more than enough to know how dangerous the dark smoke was.