Chapter 21
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The Scholar’s spell began to flicker, then exploded into gold dust and disappeared altogether. Hadjar suddenly heard a whole cacophony of new sounds, since South Wind had apparently been keeping a sound barrier up around them.

“Teacher!” Hadjar cried out, ignoring the sound of clashing blades, the crackling of flames, and all the shouting coming from outside.

“My Prince!” Pink foam bubbled at the corners of South Wind’s mouth as he spoke. “Take this.”

He took out a small notebook from his pocket, his hand trembling all the while. Two flasks full of pills and a map etched in wood, which depicted a road and a horse, were taped to it.

“That’s... the spell. And the seal... for ... the wagon.”

“Teacher,” Hadjar couldn’t hold back his tears.

Yet again, a loved one was dying in his arms.

“Good luck... my... Prince,” South Wind sighed, and his last words were: “Now I can be at peace.”

A great sccolar died in the arms of a freak that day. A man who’d devoted his life to serving the royal family. And even while dying, he could only think about one thing—how to help the true Prince of Lidus.

Hadjar took the notebook, and then awkwardly jumped to the side.

Breaking the wooden bars and tearing through the paper as he went, a fat, naked official burst into the room. He gasped and pointed at South Wind’s back, where the sword was still lodged. Hadjar rose to his ‘feet’ without hesitation and, after a bit of a struggle, pulled the blade out of his deceased Mentor’s body.

“Help…” The official croaked out.

He worked in the local court and had managed to send almost forty thousand people to the mine in less than four years.

"The gods will help you," Hadjar muttered and staggered out, dragging the sword behind him. Naked, screaming girls ran all around the place. Many of them tried to smother the flames that were engulfing everything in sight. Burning debris kept falling from the ceiling and it was difficult to breathe. Black smoke choked anyone that tried to inhale, the smell of burnt flesh and wood permeating everything.

Officials could sometimes be seen—racing for the exit while trampling the prostitutes and anyone else that came close to them. They even cursed the people that got in the way of their mad dash. Hadjar steadily made his way through this nightmare, a stoic patch of calm in a sea of fire and fear.

Unlike the others, he was able to think clearly. He wasn’t moving down, where the fire was apparently raging and only getting worse. Instead, he planned to go up, toward the Dream Floor. He hoped he could use the gutter there. It was made of iron and wide enough for a man to use to get down.

Dodging yet another burning wooden beam, Hadjar swore and removed his black clothes. He continued walking upstairs, now dressed in only a light, blue robe. The people who saw him screamed in terror.

It seemed like a demon had come for them, raining fire and brimstone upon their sin to cleanse it.

Hadjar knew about smoke inhalation so he used his sleeve to try and negate it, even as the fire grew so hot that his lungs burned on every inhale. Despite all of this, feeling weak and a bit disoriented, he managed to get to the Dream Floor.

He opened the door, which was untouched by the flames for some reason, and entered. Upon seeing what lay within, he immediately froze up.

In the baths, where lovely girls had once danced, the water had now turned red from all the spilled blood. The girls themselves had been left strewn about, horribly butchered. Their glassy-eyed expressions would forever reflect their horror and disbelief.

The dismembered bodies of officials and even the members of the magistrate lay on the floor, drenched in scarlet.

“Young Master, you have to leave!” A man wearing gray urged the General’s son.

The old man, surrounded by several dozen soldiers, stood next to his liege. The General’s son was looking into the eyes of a girl pinned to the floor beneath him and moving in a violent, repetitive way. The girl beneath him was still breathing… Eina?

Hadjar didn’t immediately notice that the guy was naked below the waist as he lay on top of the screaming and crying girl.

The red hair covered the floor around them. The torn green pendant lay nearby.

She looked at him, her vibrant eyes pleading with him.

“Hadjar!” Eina shouted, continuing to sob.

The soldiers reacted to her exclamation. They turned and shuddered once they caught sight of him. What they saw was a horrible monster standing in the doorway. He held a scorched sword in his hands, heedless of the raging inferno trying to enter this room as well. The old man, a devoted servant of the Garrett family, was using an amulet and that was the only reason why the flames hadn’t devoured them yet.

He pressed the glowing sphere to his charge’s chest, trying to calm the Genera’'s son, who’d gone mad with rage and lust.

“Eina!” Hadjar cried out.

At that moment, he wasn’t thinking about his cultivation, the map, the flower... He could only see the girl who, for many years, had been his only light in this dark world. And she was suffering.

He saw the kind, sweet Eina being raped.

In that moment, he cared about nothing else. All the rage, all the anger, all the pain and darkness that had been accumulating in Hadjar’s heart all these years was unleashed, all at once, in one swift slash of the sword.

Hadjar screamed, his anguish both mental and physical. He was standing at a distance greater than fifty steps.

In fact, the former Prince stood almost seventy steps from the General’s son, and yet the ghostly sword strike still landed. It cut open the rapist’s cheek.

He screamed and put his hand over the bleeding wound.

He fell off the weeping Eina like a lead weight, then looked toward the doors, where the freak was standing, holding a sword and breathing heavily. Blood flowed from Hadjar’s hands, mixing with the pus of his ruptured ulcers. It was an eerie sight that sickened the General’s son. Any desire he’d felt vanished instantly…

“Kill him!” the man ordered desperately and, after saying something to Eina, took out a dagger…

“No!” Hadjar screamed, but it was too late.

The blade slit the girl’s throat. She tried to stop the blood from seeping out, but her beautiful eyes quickly grew dim and she breathed her last.

An arrow flew toward Hadjar, but it didn’t hit him.

Senta, who’d been pierced through with a sword and nailed to the floor, was screaming like a wounded beast. A black light began to radiate from her.

“Protect the young Master!” The servant shouted and the soldiers, not paying any attention to Hadjar, surrounded their lord with their bodies.

They did so just in time, as Senta detonated her own energy a moment later.

The explosion was so powerful that it easily turned the brothel’s top floor into a pile of rubble and threw Hadjar around like a ragdoll. He flew through the air, unable to control his fall. However, it seemed like he wouldn’t be dying today.

He fell into the gutter and rolled down it, suffering wounds inflicted by the boiling water and scorching hot iron.

Landing on the ground, the scalded Hadjar hurried to crawl away, screaming in pain.

Behind him, clearly visible despite the darkness of the night, the brothel was burning down. He’d considered it his home, even if he’d never felt much love for it.

“Kill him!” the hysterical cry rang out and black arrows thudded into Hadjar's back.

In fact, they’d fired so many that not only were Hadjar’s back and arms filled with them, but some arrows had also sunk into the earth all around him.

He vaguely remembered what happened next. Apparently, he fell into the sewers and the water carried him somewhere. Hadjar spun and was tossed about in the filthy, stinking muck.

Then the stream carried him all the way down to the river. It carefully, but swiftly, not letting Hadjar collide with the rocks, carried him further and further from the city and deeper into the forest.

How much time had he spent in that stream?

Hadjar, completely exhausted, had lost track of time long ago. He inhaled desperately whenever he could, filling his lungs with life-giving oxygen.

Then there was a waterfall and an undercurrent drew him into the cave that changed Hadjar’s fate.

An ancient dragon was waiting for him there.

 

***

“Are you ready, Hadjar Duran?”

“Come on, you bastard. Do whatever you need to…”

And then the cave was flooded with the man’s cries of anguish and the dragon’s roars.

[Urgent message for the user! Unauthorized changes to the owner’s body detected! One of the vital organs has been replaced!]

The old heart of Hadjar, who had endured so much pain and despair, was sinking into a whirlpool. The dragon's heart was now beating in his chest instead. It had been created by Traves, using a drop of his blood and all the willpower that he’d been able to muster.

The dragon died, and the man was reborn.

The age-old chains were crumbling, the ancient prison was collapsing, and the streams of water enveloping the body that was writhing in agony were carrying it towards the sunlight flickering above the surface.

***

Several people were walking along the lakeshore. A little boy, carrying a bundle of wood on his back and leaning on a frayed, thin staff was among them.

“Grandpa, look!” the boy suddenly cried out.

He was pointing at the center of the lake. Nothing had been there yesterday, but now the waves were pounding against the edge of a cave that had risen above the water.

“Gods and demons,” the people in the group gasped.

They were carrying a long pole on their shoulders that had a fat boar tied to it.

A group of hunters looked at the cave and they saw the face of a sleeping man at the entrance of it.

“There’s a man in the cave!”

The half-naked young man was lying on the rocks close to the entrance. Water lapped at his feet and his long hair covered his face. Despite his current state, there was something about him that took many people’s breath away.

The young man, even while unconscious, seemed to be as mighty as the mountain in the East. Suddenly, a bell started ringing in the ruins of the Royal castle.

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