Clara swung a shadow scythe that she had created herself. It was a weapon that she had converted herself and thus used in a fight.

She had only just destroyed the spikes that flew at her when she heard someone shout her name.

She looked toward the voice and for a moment felt her heart drop. "Damien…" she whispered, confused and melancholic at the sight of him.

She didn't know how to feel about him. She had seen him in the competition, coming to save the one kid, and had thought to herself that she wouldn't interact with him ever, so she had nothing to worry about.

However, she hadn't expected to meet him directly, what more in such a situation. She didn't know what to do. What to say?

She had loved this man once, secretly, as he had loved him, but that was a long time ago. The love had ended when her family died at the hands of his. Her love for him had turned to hatred that day and then slowly died down to nothing as her hatred vanished.

She had truly believed, until a year ago, that she would want nothing to do with the southern half of the continent as she wanted nothing to do with her past.

However, her past didn't let go of her at all.

Hearing him call out his name brought out the love she felt for him all those years ago, and at the same time, the hatred she felt for him.

The Emperor saw that she was distracted and shot two crystal spikes at her again.

Clara quickly focused back and swung her arm to fight off the first crystal. However, by the second one, she was too late.

It struck her, right in the right shoulder, gouging out a chunk of it as it went past it. Immediately, she felt pain like never before. Her vision blurred and her ears went numb.

She couldn't hear or see anything as she faltered to the ground. Without hesitation, she called for the shadows underneath her and disappeared into it.

Inside the Shadow, she floated, sunk, drifted, and hung all at the same time. She couldn't breathe down here. Neither could she see anything other than outlines of shadows.

Even if she could, it wouldn't be helpful to her. At least, she was safe.

She gained control of her senses as it all slowly returned to her. She hadn't taken a breath before coming down here, so she needed to do so again.

She focused upward and saw two silhouettes in front of each other, seemingly talking. She couldn't hear the conversation, but she could hear echoes.

One of them was Damien.

"Stop, Father!" Damien spoke to the Emperor.

"What are you doing here, you idiot?" he shouted. "I sent you with the kids."

"I came back to stop you!" Damien shouted at his father, perhaps for the first time in his entire life. He didn't remember shouting before this. "Enough with the killing, Father! How many people must you kill? How many more lives will you take?"

"As much as I need to," the Emperor said.

"You don't need to kill anyone, Father. Please, stop with this obsession. Not everyone is a threat. Not everyone will hurt us," Damien said.

"What if they do?" the Emperor asked. "Do you want to see your brother's corpse before you regret it? Do you want to see the twins murdered right in front of your eyes before you realize what you should have done?"

"I do what I do so you and the damn family can sleep well at night. If you can't see that, then you are more stupid than I ever thought you were," the Emperor said. "Now, if you're done with your childish rage, move aside. I've got a ghost to kill."

The Emperor walked past his son to where Clara had disappeared to. She had left behind Shadow Essence when she went into her escape technique, and he needed to sense it to see how far she had moved.

There would be a trail left behind where she moved temporarily. If he could catch it, he could catch her.

As he was searching, the girl came out, but not where he expected. She appeared, haggard and disheveled, next to his son and pointed 6 dark insect-like sharp limbs at him, all coming out from her back, made completely out of shadows.

"Move… and he dies," she said, gasping for breaths that she missed while in the shadow space.

She stared around her, looking for anyone that might come attack her, and looked back at the Emperor after realizing no one was coming.

"Clara, it's me, Damien," the Crown Prince started speaking. "You—"

"Stop speaking or I'll kill you," she shouted directly into his ears.

The prince flinched, not because of the sound, but because the sharp needle-like arms that were coming out of Clara started digging into him a little.

The Emperor frowned a little and also got a little curious. He was surprised that the girl hadn't immediately killed his son, and was instead taking him as hostage.

Was she too wounded to get out of here on her own… or was something else going on?

"I told you," he spoke. "You let your guard down and they will come for you."

Damien remained quiet, finding it hard to say anything at all as the arms dug into him. He turned his head toward Clara and saw the angry look on her face.

It reminded him of the old days… and remembered the fact that he could not protect her back then. The day he got the news from his father that the Grazers had died had been one of the worst days in his life.

"I'm… sorry," he said. "I'm sorry."

"Stop speaking, or I'll kill you," Clara shouted at him. Even as she did, he couldn't find it in him to stop his words.

"I'm sorry," he said once more. "I… I tried to protect you all, but I couldn't. I'm so sorry."