Chapter 32

No! Jowy wanted to scream it, but he could not bring himself to speak.

Jillia and Pilika were in pain. They were being hurt.

And he had the power to stop it. He had used all but one of his Runes against Ghaleon. The most powerful of them all - and the most terrible.

Pilika cried out.

“Beast Rune,” Jowy whispered, “I need your power.”

The wolfshead crest on his hand glowed blood red. Its glow expanded until it covered all of his vision, tinting everything a dull crimson.

He had to fight its influence. He needed its power, but he could not allow it to take his mind. That would be a fate far worse than death - for Jowy, and for the world. It could not be allowed to cloud his thoughts.

But it did not cloud anything. It made him see clearer than he ever had before.

Everything was blood. There was no room, no tunnels, no city, no world. Only blood waiting to be spilled. It was all so clear now.

Jowy smiled.

He hadn’t understood anything. So concerned about trivial matters, he had wasted so much time. If only he had used the Beast Rune sooner, he would have known the truth long ago.

Better late than never.

Jillia. Pilika. Destiny.

Nothing.

Ghaleon’s face, his soft, weak, effeminate face, was contorted in fear. He was right to fear. Jowy could smell the fear coming off him in waves.

All of Jowy’s Runes were more powerful now, he could feel that.

But he didn’t want to use Runes. He didn’t want to use his sword, either - he wanted to tear this prey apart with his bare hands. Drink the blood, devour the body. That was the way to become stronger.

But the sword was better. It would crack the shell Ghaleon had erected, that he thought would protect him.

Fool.

Jowy leapt forward, crossing the distance to Ghaleon in a single bound. His sword bounced back.

Jowy snarled something that was not truly speech. He was no longer Jowy. Only the Hunter, the Beast, remained. He slashed again and again, Ghaleon falling back before his blows. Five, six, seven times he struck, battering the other man to the ground.

The Hunter stood over him, and his smile widened.

He plunged the sword into Ghaleon, shattering barrier and armour alike. He pulled it out and stabbed again. Blood covered the blade, fuelling his hunger. He forced his sword deep. He smelled the terror on Ghaleon, now. It was the sweetest smell in the world.

No.

Second sweetest.

Second only to the smell of the man’s blood gushing forth from the wounds the Hunter had already inflicted. He had to have more.

He raised his blade again.

And then Ghaleon disappeared.

“Where?” he snarled, looking about.

There, across the room. Too far.

The two who had helped him against Ghaleon took a step back. Cowards. They were no more fit to live than the one they had fought. He would take their blood as well.

He started toward the closer of the two. But there was another smell, closer, easier.

The Hunter’s head snapped around.

Weak females. Almost too easy for a hunter of his calibre. Almost.

He bounded over to the closer of the two. She looked up at him with her big green eyes and whispered, “Jowy.”

Who was Jowy? A vessel, a human. Weak, frail, deluded. The Hunter was all that remained. And he was hungry.

He raised his sword.

“Please, Jowy,” she said. “Come back to me.”

He snarled. Stupid, weak female. Why would she want that powerless fool to return?

“Please.”

The other one, the smaller one, had run up next to her. They both looked at him, pleading for mercy.

No.

Not for mercy.

Pleading for him.

What need had the Hunter for emotions? Those were the things of humans. He was above such petty considerations. There were only predators and prey. And all were his prey. Fit only to be devoured.

“I missed you, Uncle Jowy,” the little one said.

“Return to us,” said the other.

The sword trembled in his hand.

Why did he not strike? Fit only for prey! The weak were useless, stupid -

The sword tumbled from his grasp.

The red glow filling his vision faded.

Jowy stumbled into Jillia’s arms.