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IRNDGL - Chapter 30: Run

The entire duration of Johann witnessing this frightening scene up till the point where he lost consciousness merely lasted for a moment.

The image of pure white flowers growing on flesh and blood remained etched in his mind. Such a contrast caused his skin to tingle and his hairs to stand on end. However, Johann couldn't react in time and try to escape. 

In the next second, his vision turned pitch black and a sensation of extreme pain spread throughout his body.

This momentary second that seemed like an eternity made him feel absolute despair.

He could distinctly feel those tendril-like veins climbing up his body and burrowing into his ears, eyes, mouth, and nostrils. The veins infiltrated his skin, internal organs, and finally his brain.

Johann felt like he was a swollen bag of flesh and bones with his insides frantically being meshed up. Finally, when it all settled down, he was no longer himself and neither was he still a person with any sense of concept.

The middle-aged black magician standing at the door suddenly ceased moving and his head drooped down. His hand was still on the doorknob as the squirming bloody veins all over his body vanished rapidly. 

Creak——

Johann took a step back and gently closed the door once more.

As he made his way down the stairs, he continued to mumble to himself, "I...I...I have...to...I have to..." 

It was as if he had just gained the ability to speak and was muttering a whole bunch of nonsensical words.

But as he slowly reached the ground floor, his speech gradually regained normalcy and the words he uttered had become clearer.

 "I have to eliminate... all existences that threaten the lord...

"Oh Lord, from here on out, your servant...pledges his utmost loyalty."


——

Uri was waiting in a dark alley. After finishing a cigarette, he tossed the butt onto the ground and stamped it out before taking out his pocket watch.

Some raindrops splashed onto the face of the pocket watch. Uri frowned and used his thumb to wipe it dry.

Half an hour had already passed.

The alley was less than 2 kilometers away from 23rd Avenue and given Johann's speed when using his Shadow Transformation technique, he should have been able to reach his destination within five minutes.

His investigation objectives couldn't be considered thorough either. This was already very much slower compared to Johann's previous scouting assignments.

"Seems like this bookstore isn't that simple after all..." sighed Uri. His decision to be cautious and not head down personally had been right.

However, up till now, he hadn't sensed any large scale changes in the aether coming from the direction of 23rd Avenue. At the very least, a fight hadn't broken out.

The most plausible reason was that Johann's infiltration was successful but he encountered certain defensive measures and wasn't able to obtain any findings. Such a situation wouldn't be considered too bad, just that the bookstore owner had probably been spooked and Uri would personally have to follow up.

 Now, all he could do was wait for Johann to return before thinking of the next step.

Uri had confidence in Johann's concealment and escaping abilities. After all, crossbreeds between humans and dream beasts were extremely rare existences.

With half shadow moss bryozoan blood in his veins, Johann could easily turn into a shadow, blend into darkness, and mask his own presence as easily as breathing.

Pitter-patter... Pitter-patter...

In the blink of an eye, the heavy rain had washed away the extinguished cigarette butt into the sewers.

Uri kept his pocket watch and was about to light another cigarette when he froze up.

His cigarette had already been extinguished, so why was there a shadow in this pitch-black alley on a rainy night?

"Damn it!" 

Uri scowled and immediately pinched the unlit cigarette in hand and pointed it upwards. "Flame Enchantment - Combustion Light!"

Boom!

An intense blaze shaped like a streak of lightning erupted forth from the unfortunate cigarette that was used as a tool of sorcery and lit up the entire alley instantly.

Naturally, light and fire were the best ways to deal with shadows!

However, Uri knew that the circumstances now weren't favorable for him. The humidity from the rain substantially diminished the effectiveness of all fire-based magic and his sorcery aid was just an ordinary cigarette.

This meant that this Combustion Light technique could only hold for a few seconds and wouldn't really cause much damage.

Thus, Uri immediately started to fall back, while at the same time drawing out a red gemstone the size of a coin from his inner pockets. He was now rather certain that the assailant was Johann who had become a turncoat. 

Although Uri didn't know what had caused this betrayal, one thing was certain now—Johann had to die!

"Flame enchantment - Scorching Earth!" growled Uri with a cold gaze in his eyes.

However, the shadow on the ground was even quicker.

A split second before Uri realized something was wrong, that shadow had already reverted to its original human form and chucking countless sharp metal stakes that pierced through Uri's body.

"Arghhh!" The inertia nailed Uri to the alley wall with a loud bang, and the tremendous pain caused him to cry out.

Just being impaled wouldn't have caused such a reaction. However, countless barbs had been formed on the metal stakes when they pierced through his body, and that was the cause of his miserable groans.

At the same time, a ferocious blaze blasted through the entire alley, turning everything into scorched earth.

Johann's feeble body was torn apart by flames and burned to ashes. Under the piercing glow of blazing flame, his body became a blackened silhouette.

The brief skirmish had come to an end.

Uri utilized transfiguration magic to free the metal stakes from his body and used heat to melt them into molten metal.

Gasping for breath, he tottered forward while pressing on his wounds and smirked. "Did you think I wouldn't be on guard? I'm more well-versed in betrayal than you. How naive!" 

All signs of life within the blaze had ceased and the blackened silhouette that had turned into a charred body was still standing in the middle of the alley. This represented the demise of a foolish black wizard.

Uri raised a hand, preparing to cast a final spell to conclude this battle.

As bits of floating ash fell to the ground, countless bloodied veins had taken root on the alley walls and had covered the entire alley in an instant.

"What the hell?!" 

By the time Uri realized something was amiss, the entire alley had already been sealed by a mass of squirming bloody veins.

He immediately released his spell but this terrifying and rapidly growing mass had already started to gather towards Uri and was about to engulf him.

Uri looked all around him, fear finally showing on his face. "You aren't Johann! Who are you!" 

From the mass of veins, tissue, and sarcoma that was heaving as though it was breathing, came Johann's shrill voice. "Oh Lord... Your servant... has eliminated a hindrance..." 

Lord? Uri clutched at this word. He knew Johann's background very well and knew Johann had never been a believer of any faith.

How can there suddenly be a 'Lord', just half an hour after Johann had gone to investigate? 

There can only be one explanation. The bookstore owner! This is the bookstore owner's warning!

Uri's final thoughts flashed just before he was engulfed.

——

Knock knock.

Heris heard a knocking from the door behind him. "Come in. What is it?" 

The trembling voice of the subordinate rang out. "Mr. Uri... he's dead."

Heris was stunned. "How did that happen?"

"Mr. Uri followed your instructions and dispatched someone to investigate the bookstore on 23rd Avenue. However, the person that had been sent returned with some unknown power, betraying Mr. Uri and killing him.

"Here is a report including photos of the scene and identified traces of magic to reconstruct the scene. There is also a... last message on the ground that Mr. Uri spent his last moments to leave behind."

"What?"

"He said... 'Run'."

BeetleBarker's Notes:

Famous last words

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Special thanks to Tetra & Aco for editing and pr-ing
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Kofi: https://ko-fi.com/beetlebarker
Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/beetlebarker
BeetleBarker's Discord:  https://discord.gg/bEr3QYN
IRNDGL Manhua translation by Zeroscans
Written by Great Calamity Of Fire (万劫火). Translated by BeetleBarker.