SETP Vol. 2 Chapter 15
Chapter 15 – Even If Solitude Lies At The End
With a painful, dull crack, the man’s bent arm returned to its original shape. He spun it a little to test it and his smile grew broader, as he probably found it was all good to go.
“Seriously, today must be my lucky day. I bet you’re thinking the same thing, huh?”
The man chuckled to himself.
If a clash of swords, a duel to the death like this is something “lucky” for him, then I was definitely unlucky.
I was not in that situation because I wanted to, after all.
I personally wished to just spend my days in peace and relax, if possible.
There was one reason why I did not refute the man’s words, though. Because I knew how he was feeling. Because I knew people who felt the exact same way.
“Nah, man. I can tell through our swords. You’re the same as me.”
“Do you know what kind of face you’re making, right now? I know very well people with eyes like that. Because they’re the same damn eyes as mine!”
I understood the man’s words completely.
I guessed what he was going to say next.
The man glanced at my “Spada”, then looked back at me.
“What I felt, being on the receiving end, is that it wasn’t raised in an ordinary manner.”
A sword arm that grew and evolved by wielding the sword day after day, kill after kill. A perfected sword without openings. So the man’s expression seemed to say.
“People like that, they all seek the same end. They are all tormented by the same emotion. They live in battle, so they hunger.”
As soon as my opponent pointed his blade at me, I took a step back.
The man recognized my movement, aimed to gauge the perfect distance for my sword to reach, and nodded with a satisfied expression.
“An opponent worth fighting. Someone who can give you a convincing death.”
The man cocked his head, as if asking me the reason behind such a way of thinking.
I knew the answer, I knew it all too well.
I had reached that position in the past, after all.
If I was killed by someone that I couldn’t help but being killed by, then I would have no objections to make. I sought such an opponent for the longest time. Because I also wanted to be freed from solitude.
I whispered faintly.
As soon as I did, the man nodded.
“I knew it, someone like you knows how it feels.”
“Yes, I *only* know.”
I made sure my words were clear.
Because I thought that the man’s “solitude” and mine were not the same.
He was probably just looking for an opponent he could use his full power against. His fighting ability had evolved so much that he had lost worthy opponents.
Hence the solitude. Something fitting a berserker.
For a true martial artist, this would cause oppressing boredom. Everything would taste empty.
I could understand that line of thinking.
I knew people who thought the same way.
It wasn’t something I could feel myself, however.
That was one thing I could say with confidence.
“If you know what I’m saying, you’re more than enough man.”
While carefully calculating the distance from my opponent, making sure not to enter the range of his attacks, I spoke again.
“….what a nuisance.”
Thanks to that, however, the silver lining was that the man showed no more attention to Feli and the others.
That was an unexpected stroke of luck.
“That’s the thing.”
The man started talking again.
“That’s why I said you were different. That’s what’s different about you.”
…ah, so that’s it. I could more or less tell what he meant.
“I killed swordsmen in the dozens, hundreds, maybe even thousands. One look at their face and I can predict what kind of person they are. If we cross swords, I can pretty much tell everything about them.”
Swordsmen were like that.
They lived for the sword, and in turn the sword lived in them. Their sword became an expression of self. Crossing swords with an opponent could tell them what kind of person they were.
“A sword that perfected killing. A sword that disregards death. A sword that gave up completely.”
The man stared at my Spada with bloodshot eyes and spoke, emphasizing the pauses between each sentence block on purpose.
His raspy voice resounded in the surroundings.
“What can the sword of a dead man protect!? ‘Protect’!? Are you sure you don’t mean ‘cut to pieces’!?”
It was just as the man said.
My “solitude” was born from losing my irreplaceable companions, all those dear to me.
So I continued swinging my sword, seeking death.
A world without my mentor and the others was worthless to me.
But I couldn’t throw away the life they protected.
If at least I could die a satisfying death. A death I couldn’t avoid. That was what I continued to seek, carrying my “solitude” within, as I continued swinging my sword.
As a result, I survived.
The sword of a man who stepped over corpses, who bathed in the hate and resentment of countless dead, who waded in the smell of death for the longest time. A dead man’s sword, through and through.
It’s not a matter of what this sword can protect. This is a sword that couldn’t protect. A sword that couldn’t save even one person.
“Say ‘protect’ one more time! Make me roll over laughing!!”
The trees shook.
A breeze blew and a magic circle appeared.
The color was blood red. The magic circle, spanning over 20 meters in diameter, was brimming with a massive amount of magic power.
It extended up to Grerial and the others’ position, as if perfectly calculated to.
I heard the people behind me gasp.
They were the ones being protected. Like I once was.
I could live thanks to my mentor and the others protecting me.
And now I was standing in the position once occupied by them.
The position from where my reliable companions, my family, used to smile at me.
“See if— ”
I recalled my mentor and the others, overwhelming power that no one could ever match.
I wanted to reach them too.
I wanted to stand at their side.
I wanted to become like them.
I wished for it, for the longest time.
“—see if I care.”
They did not seek any higher meaning in battle. They wanted to protect, so they did. They didn’t want to let others die, so they fought for them. They didn’t want to make others worry, so they always laughed like idiots.
They overflowed in such thoughts.
I liked that kind of free thinking. I thought that was the reason why they could laugh as they passed.
“I want to protect, so I do. That’s more than enough reason to protect others…!”
I then whispered quietly in my heart.
“All shadows, fall under my command”
Dull, grey clouds covered the sky.
The cloudy weather made it possible for the surroundings to be covered in shadows.
“I broke this sword of mine once. If it’s so funny, then laugh all the way.”
But, I continued.
“But their lives aren’t so cheap that I can let you take them just like that.”
I was never going to allow people important to me to die before my eyes. Not anymore. I was never going to break my promise. To repeat past regrets was a privilege of the living. Thus I would never allow it to happen.
“Oh really. Then…try and protect them!!! Those precious people of yours!!”
The magic circle turned a deeper color, then started glowing.
Rowle had probably seen the same magic circle before, hence his reaction.
The vampires’ unique summoning technique.
The monster cohorts that forced Rowle and the others to a harsh battle appeared one after the other. Their numbers were no less than 30.
The cohorts’ hostility was directed towards Feli and the others.
The man had commanded them as such.
Why did the man take such an action?
I could tell, so I said that.
“Nothing but rubbish.”
I could tell because I too lived on the battlefield.
That’s why I said it was rubbish.
To take on the sword for others, for honor, for fame, to survive, for yourself.
My sword, however, lacked the majority of such ambition.
To live on no matter what, to preserve a swordsman’s pride…I had nothing of such basic, natural feelings. As a warrior, I was half-assed at best.
That probably got on the man’s nerves.
He attempted to kill the people important to me in order to make me hate. He was probably confident that it would push the battle he so craved to even further heights. That my sword would gain new passion.
That was a valid method, indeed.
The man, however, made a gross misunderstanding.
So I decided to deride him as much as I could.
I grinned and continued.
“If I decide to protect someone, I do it no matter what.”
I had already made my pledge.
I had sworn to my mentor and the others. So I could never back down. It was the one thing I would never give up on.
The man’s expression froze. He was stiff, speechless before the scenery that evolved before him.
Innumerable “Spada” rose from the ground. Pierced by those countless blades, his cohorts had instantly turned into motionless corpses. The man couldn’t utter a single word.
“Who said you could look away?”
I thrust the “Spada” I was holding in my right hand in the man’s direction.
The way the man’s expression was rather exaggerated. So ridiculous that my lips curved not in the usual artificial smile, but a genuine one.
“You better keep your eyes on me, Mr. Battle-Crazy Dumbass.”