SETP Vol. 3 Chapter 8
Chapter 8 – Priestess
We both swung our swords.
Slashes, supported by powerful momentum, produce a shower of sparks, spewing them in all directions. The loud sound of clashing metal reverberated throughout the surroundings.
…how many times did we do this already?
Our swords clashed dozens of times. Some time had to have passed, but there was no outside interference in the battle.
Making all this noise would definitely attract attention though…
Just when I was thinking such thoughts, the knight leaped backward, then spoke. His tone and expression made it seem like he had read my mind.
“You’ve got ‘why?’ written all over your face, Your Highness.”
I silently created more “Spada”.
My target was the shadow growing from the knight’s feet.
The shadow blade was created at an incredible speed, but the knight managed to avoid it at the last second nevertheless.
“Whoa…! Well well, that was a close one.”
The knight made a show of dodging it and even commented on it.
I was slightly irritated by his behavior, but I knew that people tended to become chatty when it was about what they were proficient at.
It looked like he was about to say something, so I decided not to attack him again or reply, and simply waited for him to speak.
“Maybe to Your Highness it sounded like the doors were just slammed shut, but the doors were closed because a barrier was put up, you see. Something I was given to use against the elf over there, so it isn’t breaking anytime soon.”
I couldn’t believe my ears. My train of thought stopped abruptly.
I couldn’t understand the knight’s words at all.
I felt my mind go totally blank.
Your target wasn’t me?
“…why are you talking about Feli?”
“Haha, they didn’t tell you anything then…well, you’ll get it soon enough, I’m sure. If you think about the reason why I am here in Diestburg.”
The reason why this man was in Diestburg.
I thought about it and recalled something he had said before.
— A bit of sword training. I might not look like it, but I’m actually a platoon commander.
The rank of a platoon commander.
It wasn’t something assigned easily just because one had some ability with the sword. Besides, the man was in Diestburg before I picked up the sword again. Since I was enjoying the life of decadence that earned me the title of “Trash Prince”.
The princes inheriting the empire’s blood were two: one was bedridden, the other pursued nothing but sloth. Most people would definitely judge it pointless to continue sending spies to monitor them. If I was in the knight’s position, I would say the same.
Why was he still here, then…?
I returned to that question.
“Eradication of other species. You’ve heard these words before, Your Highness?”
I couldn’t utter a word.
Eradication of other species. Stenn told me about it. But would they prepare such a barrier just for that? Send a spy to blend into the enemy ranks for so many years? Why did the knight try to take me away from Diestburg?
There were various elements intertwined together in complex knots.
I felt even more confused.
“I’ll take your silence as a yes. It’d be easy if that elf was just any other member of another species, but she is most definitely not.”
The knight continued, his gaze fixed on Feli.
“Feli von Yugstine. She is a descendant of the elven clan named the ‘priestess clan’, which used to rule over all other species in a massive kingdom of the past.”
A prosperous country from centuries ago, where only species other than humanity lived.
The person considered the center of that country was the “priestess”.
“The priestess’ influence isn’t something we can underestimate even now. That’s how the current emperor sees it. And among the members of “other species” scattered throughout the world, there are some that can even defeat ‘Heroes’. So we can’t just kill the priestess and be done with it. Which is the reason why I was ordered to infiltrate Diestburg and keep an eye on things, you see.”
Feli’s expression contorted.
Why her? Why did the elf Feli join the service of the kingdom of Diestburg?
I asked myself such a question sometimes, but I decided not to think about it.
I felt like I knew at least part of the reason.
The reason why she was so incredibly loyal to the royal family.
“Your Highness, you know well how powerful other species are, don’t you? In the Saldance kingdom’s remote island…the other species there were really strong, weren’t they?”
“…you sure know a lot.”
That was unexpected.
That the knight knew about Velnar and that he wasn’t human. I couldn’t hide my surprise in my reply.
“The empire’s information network covers that and then some, Your Highness. And soon enough that same empire is moving to crush Diestburg. That’s how dangerous this kingdom is for them. If you switch to our side, we might be able to save your family though. Let me advise you to change your mind before you regret it.”
The knight didn’t give up on making me switch to their side.
However, my answer wouldn’t change.
“…ridiculous. So damn ridiculous.”
I spat out.
I looked at the knight with disdain and continued while shaking my head.
“Regrets? You don’t even know what you’re talking about.”
Regrets, for me, were emotions felt towards people you couldn’t protect. I regretted the way I died in my previous life, but that was just an extension of not being able to protect those important to me.
So I would never feel regret towards my own death.
For me, to fail to protect those dear to me and to survive alone was my biggest single regret.
“Besides, I haven’t ever wielded my sword because I was told to. Not even once. Basically, what you’re telling me is to give you a hand in eradicating other species, since you have a place ready for me in the empire, right? Are you idiots or what?”
I laughed loudly, openly ridiculing my opponent.
“I’ve cut down more people than I can count already. All in order to protect someone or to survive. Different reasons, but for me, they were all necessary killings. That’s why I could continue to kill.”
“You know what that means?” I asked.
I did not add any more words, but my eyes narrowed, waiting for my opponent’s response.
They couldn’t understand in this world either, surely.
The excuses of a man who kept killing while carrying doubts about that very act.
“You said I’m insane, and that’s correct. If I was fond of people, fond of my country, your way of thinking is surely the most correct one. But that kind of peace is built upon sacrifice. Listening to you, I can’t help but think that you’re just telling me I’m an obstacle in creating a situation where Feli can be killed anytime it becomes necessary. You know that?”
Unusually enough for me, the words wouldn’t stop coming out.
The reason was likely because I was angry.
I was angered by the knight, who requested that I deny my way of life.
“I’m a fool, so I can’t choose the right answer. I’d discard in a heartbeat any choice that would involve sacrificing someone important to me. On the other hand, if a choice may involve the death of lots of people, but those dear to me would be safe…I’d pick that without hesitation. What point would there be in living after killing those important to me? Better for everyone to die together. It’s much better than being alone, sinking in sadness.”
If I let someone else die to survive myself…the past me and the future me would surely come to kill me.
I wasn’t going to let anyone important to me die anymore.
Such thinking was at the core of all of my actions.
“Besides, I’m the infamous ‘Trash Prince’. So it suits a ‘Trash Prince’ just fine to pick the most foolish answer, right? Right?”
The blade of the “Spada” in my hand glowed eerily.
Just like the feral eyes of a carnivore before their prey.
“For me, you’re nothing but an obstacle. An obstacle I won’t hesitate to remove. I wield my sword when I want to. I have no intention to kill on someone else’s orders.”
That was the end of the conversation for me.
My gaze shifted from the knight to my “Spada”, showing that I have no intention to talk anymore. I thrust it into the ground.
Then I walked one, two steps backward.
The knight looked confused at what I was doing, focusing on the “Spada” I had let go from my hand.
That gap in his thoughts was his mistake.
It happened in one instant. The knight swallowed his breath.
At the same time from his shadow, from the surrounding shadows, blades formed and emerged, all targeted towards him.
After dodging some of the “Spada” born from the shadows, the knight realized.
The “Spada” I had thrust into the ground was still there where I left it, but I was nowhere to be seen.
It was a trick to sway his sight. Misdirection.
“Where did you— ”
With a sudden, instant acceleration, I had moved behind the knight. A new “Spada” in my hands.
The knight tried turning towards the direction of my voice, but I was already swinging down my sword.
It was too late.
There was no time left. And yet.
A black shadow slipped between me and the knight.
It was one of the copies at his command.
Saved in the nick of time.
Now he had the leeway to react to a surprise attack. He could counter-attack.
“Do you really think something like that can stop my ‘Spada’!?”
I swung my sword, ready to cut anything in its path.
A slash that could call the very air.
A heavy sound that continued to echo after cutting through the copy.
Bloodshot eyes brimming with intent to cut.
Our blades crossed and clashed, rattling against each other.
My mouth formed a grin as if I was enjoying that deadlock.
The knight soon understood the reason why.
“Zero Distance!!! Spada – Slash!!!”
With a rumbling sound, the “Spada” I was holding unleashed a black “something”.
Something that gradually took a crescent shape—
“Tear everything to shreds.”
— and shot forward in a black streak.