Chapter 1 - The Beginning
“Ugh…” a faint groan squeezed through the boy’s blood-stained lips. His face was still youthful beneath the dripping blood that covered it.
“Agh…” another groan broke out from between his snow white lips. Instinctively, he tried to hold back his whimpering and weakly gasped for air. When he paid careful attention to his surroundings, he could hear voices.
“Run away! Don’t look back!”
“Go! Run away!”
“Brother! Take me with you!”
The boy began to wriggle. He couldn’t continue lying down here like this. He had to move. As he tried, though, blood dripped from his mouth. The pain was debilitating, making his body tremble uncontrollably. However, what made the boy suffer more than anything was the silence. Dead silence. It was proof that he was all alone.
The boy raised his head, but quickly dropped it back down into the pool of mud with a splash. Blood and saliva trickled out of his slightly parted lips, spilling into the filth underneath him. He couldn’t do anything to stop it. He shook like a leaf from the pain, but his body didn’t listen. It had refused his order to get up right away and instead remained still.
At that moment, he could hear someone laughing at him. The laughter sounded from both far and near. It sounded in his ears, his head, his heart…
The boy suddenly came back to his senses again. Rain was pouring from the black sky. With a scream, he managed to turn himself over. He had to get up if he wanted to see his family. He had to get up. He tried to use his arms to raise himself from the pool of mud.
Just a little bit more. Get up! Get up already!
At that moment, the sky rumbled as lightning struck somewhere. The boy pulled back at the noise, surprised at what he had seen or, rather, not seen. There should have been a flash of light if there was lightning.
Thunder rolled again, and the boy blinked. He could hear the sound, but he still couldn’t see the intense lightning. Considering his dark surroundings, it should have lit up the whole world. ‘What on earth is this…?’
The rain pounded down on him, but with superhuman strength, he managed to push himself up. He took a step forward only to be thrown back into the pool of mud. Everything turned black, and wet soil rushed into his open mouth. He gasped for air as he felt his body being sucked into the mud. His consciousness began to be pulled down into the darkness as well.
However, thoughts constantly replayed in his head, ‘I have to get up. I have to find my family. I have to get up. I don’t want to be left alone.’
* * *
The man’s blood-stained hair had lost its original color and his black eyes were filled solely with bloodlust. The sound of people shrieking and yelling as if there was no tomorrow, the smell of blood in the air, and the breaths filled with terror… they all served to whet his bloodthirst. He wielded a longsword dripping with blood, and now he could finally see Duke Blaim.
“P-please l-let the children live at least,” Duke Blaim begged with a servile expression. He had given it at last, but there was no emotion on the face of the man who was watching him. Duke Blaim continued to beg, “Please let the children live. If you let them live, if you let them live…”
‘Ha!’ A cold smile appeared on the watching man’s face. With heavy steps, he walked to the groveling duke. The man leaned down, his gleaming black eyes meeting Duke Blaim’s own, which were clouded in despair.
“That’s what my father said as well,” the man told him.
Duke Blaim lowered his head as nausea overtook him; the man stank of nothing but blood. When he did so, the man reached out a heavily scarred hand and forced Duke Blaim to look up, clutching his chin as if to crush it.
Looking into Duke Blaim’s eyes, the man asked a question, “Do you remember what your answer was back then?”
‘No way…’ A startled look passed Duke Blaim’s face. Pitch-black eyes and now this question. Duke Blaim violently shook his head. No, it couldn’t be. They had all been exterminated back then. He had checked everywhere. No one would have survived. But…
“You laughed at my father back then,” the man said.
“No, no,” Duke Blaim began desperately, “That’s not—”
The man slammed Duke Blaim’s head against the stone floor. The duke let out a deathly gasp as blood splashed everywhere, including on the man’s face and clothes. However, he just grabbed the duke’s hair and forced him to raise his head again as if nothing had happened.
He looked at the duke’s hopeless gray eyes, his own gleaming with bloodthirst. “Don’t you dare close your eyes.”
Duke Blaim began to sob, hearing his children cry as they were dragged over. His instincts told him that they would face a more brutal death if he closed his eyes. At that moment, he heard a quiet, villainous laugh.
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Lantern Against the Wind
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