SETP Vol. 3 Chapter 9
Chapter 9 – Just an Idiot
“ — haah….haah…hah….”
The sound of heavy breathing reached my ears. Fresh blood dripped on the floor before me.
I saw a silhouette standing tall with a half shattered blade in one hand. The knight armor it was wearing was crushed, cleaved by a diagonal slash, painted in blood.
It was a matter of time until he died.
The wound indeed seemed to be lethal.
“<<One slash, one kill.>>”
I slowly walked towards the knight, whose eyes still burned with a fighting spirit.
“These words are a warning.”
I started imitating my mentor’s words to become closer to him, but I never used them with their original meaning. This time, however, I chose to say them aloud, as if talking to myself.
“If you have chosen to swing a sword against an opponent, carry out your will to the end. If you have chosen to swing your sword, that is your definite answer. Bear your responsibility and kill. If you have raised your sword, you must bring it down — no matter what…hesitation and pity will eventually take your life.”
In other words, if you have decided to swing your sword against an opponent, kill them.
Hence the words “one slash, one kill”.
If hesitation or pity stay your blade, such an action will eventually come back to kill you. Your comrades, your family might be killed because of that. So you have to kill any opponent you have chosen to raise a blade against.
My mentor once explained that he spoke those words for this reason.
It was different in the case of an opponent he thought he could wholeheartedly accept being killed by, however. Because those were words of warning, in order not to have any regrets.
“…are those your words, Your Highness?”
The knight asked me with a chuckle.
This world was surely kind.
There wasn’t the risk of ordinary days being suddenly destroyed by inexplicable events, nor the necessity to wield a sword if one wanted to survive until the next day. The words of a man who lived in such a world of kill or be killed would be regarded as heresy here.
I could understand the knight’s feelings of laughing at them, so I chuckled too as I shook my head.
“The only person I admired said them.”
“Ha, haha…that must be a dangerous guy all right. The place he lives in must be a hell on earth, I bet.”
The knight tried replying casually, doing his hardest to laugh, but he couldn’t fully hide how he was pushing himself.
The knight managed to stand up on his shaking legs and wielded his broken sword with both hands.
The glow in his eyes was still very much alive. His glare was still brimming with intent to do battle.
“I guess I slipped up a little…time for another round…!!”
The knight held his sword high, shouted, and sprinted forward.
Was he a man seeking death, or a wounded tiger looking to retaliate?
I had already reached a conclusion.
“…yes, let’s continue.”
I stopped walking and wielded my “Spada” in a different stance.
“Here’s an extra sword lesson from me!!! You better be grateful, Your Highness!!!”
The blade rushing towards me drew an arc in the air.
The knight howled while spitting blood and swung his sword. His blade was easily blocked by my “Spada”, and I spoke with the intent of not letting him repeat it anymore.
“Spada – Sla— ”
I could not utter the words till the end, though.
Because I did not find the sensation I expected to.
The knight disappeared completely from my sight, together with the sensation of crossing swords, leaving only his shattered weapon behind. Thus my words stopped midway.
“My Prince, that’s— ”
A voice came from behind.
I quickly turned around and spotted a human silhouette.
It was a literal silhouette, though.
What I turned around and faced was a black copy.
Then I heard a voice from my right.
A hard metallic sound.
A tightened fist—
“ —too naive!!!”
—struck my cheek.
A bursting sound, hard to imagine as the result of punching, shook my eardrums. My field of vision flipped and spun.
I was blown backward and bounced on the ground two, three times.
I shouted, to interrupt the voice coming towards me.
I recovered my stance while rolling backward, to reduce the momentum and stand back up.
My “Spada” emerged from two locations: under the copy I was facing and under Feli.
“Remember what Stenn said!!!”
What I actually wanted to shout was for her to stay back, you’re the target, why are you coming forward, what are you thinking. But Feli wouldn’t simply accept words like that. So I used Stenn’s name.
The name of the brother who wanted me to take care of the culprit.
“I don’t need help against a half-dead guy anyway.”
I wiped the trickling blood and spat the words at her.
“Oh, you can come at me two on one, that’s no problem.”
“Hah, it takes guts to talk like that with one foot in the grave.”
The knight, still boasting despite the condition of his body, was not wielding his shattered sword anymore. He was now holding two rugged silver blades, one in each hand. I would have honestly liked to ask where the hell did he hide them until now.
His composed stance showed they weren’t just some last resort.
In response, I exhaled deeply. So deeply it felt like I expelled all the air in my lungs.
My breathing then suddenly came to a halt.
Who did the unspoken exclamation of surprise come from?
The floor behind me gave out, unable to resist the force it had been kicked with. Accompanied by that deafening sound, I covered a dozen metres in one leap.
A platinum sword streak suddenly ran across the air.
The knight quickly crossed his twin blades to parry it, but—
“It’s, it’s heavier than— ”
There was no deadlock this time. I added more weight to my slash and the twin swords’ guard broke, leaving their wielder unguarded.
I felt my lips twist into a grin and swung my sword towards my opponent’s neck—
The knight managed to bend backward and dodge it at the last second. Just like that, he stepped away, putting distance between us, and laughed bitterly.
“Haha…you’re telling me…this is the skill of a fourteen-year-old kid…?”
The knight shook his head as if saying that both my swordplay and footwork were too fast, too advanced.
“You’re damn promising, that’s for sure!!”
The knight shouted, or rather wailed, as he glared at me. While he spoke, I silently stepped forward and swung my sword down on him, but he managed to parry it.
The hollow sound of clashing metal echoed once more.
Our swords clashed without pause, fiercer at every swing.
With a clanging sound, a sword fell on the ground.
The knight’s knees crumbled.
He dragged his body against a nearby wall and leaned on it.
“Haha, you sure are strong…Your Highness.”
His body had certainly exceeded its limits.
What was pushing the knight so far past his limits? I did not know.
I could tell that it was something the knight couldn’t give up on, though.
I focused more strength to the “Spada” in my hand.
The knight’s expression tensed as if he wished I’d stop. He wasn’t going to beg for his life. The atmosphere was different.
“My last words, Prince. Let me talk a bit, yeah?”
I didn’t answer.
In exchange, I silently created several “Spada” in midair.
“Yes, now it’s okay.”
The moment he tried anything funny, he would be killed on the spot.
But I was going to listen to his words.
That was my answer.
“The barrier is set to disappear if I die. So no need to worry about that.”
The knight grasped what I wanted to know the most and smiled a cheeky smile.
Time, however, stopped in my head.
If he died, the barrier would vanish.
I hypothesized that he might have meant to die from the start.
The knight continued talking, regardless of my thoughts.
“The empire is a real nasty place, you know. There, the ones in power and the ‘Heroes’ are basically all shackled.”
I’m one of them too, by the way, bitterly laughed the knight.
“And you invited me to a place like that?”
There was disappointment in my tone.
I had no intention to accept from the start, but I reaffirmed how correct that choice had been.
“….hahaha. But you might have found it pleasant, Your Highness.”
“Because…you’re not interested in anything, are you? The shackles I mentioned are women, children, family, money…so I thought that sending you there by yourself might not have been a bad idea.”
It was true that shackles like those might be ineffective on me. However…
“Why create the barrier, then? It won’t disappear unless you die, right? You didn’t think I could agree?”
“No way I would.”
The knight laughed a dry, merry laugh.
I wouldn’t have expected such an answer from the man who just called me insane.
“Because I observed you in Rinchelle, Your Highness.”
The knight closed his eyes, as if to recall some past event, then continued.
“What happened that morning near the sea. Your exchange with the merchant. The recklessness of going to that remote island by yourself. Eavesdropping on their conversation out of worry. Nothing suggested that you’d ever flee to another country out of self-preservation.”
I never felt the presence of others close to me during those events in Rinchelle. I always checked carefully.
The knight interrupted those thoughts.
“My abilities are pretty nifty, huh?”
The knight opened his eyes and laughed like a little boy who just successfully pulled a prank.
He used those black copies of his, basically.
“The empire is full of shackled people without a future ahead of them. So their resolve towards killing is different than the average person. People might come to you, saying the sweetest words you’ve ever heard. If that happens, please recall what I said. Cut them down without a second thought.”
“Now, now, no pity needed. I’m a spy of the empire, a traitor Your Highness has eliminated. That’s all. I said it before, right? I don’t dislike you, really. These are the words of a hypocrite who couldn’t completely eliminate his personal feelings. Don’t you take them seriously.”
It was painfully clear that he really meant to die from the start.
However, that was the life this man chose. I had no pity or compassion to spare. To die in such a way was probably meaningful in itself.
“That last one is a lie, though. If I said that, what would you do? Your Highness?”
“Kahaha, as I thought, you’re really naive…and kind. Someone gets a little close to you and you lower your guard. That’s a bad habit, Prince.”
The knight spoke as if he had known me for years.
That was probably not an “if”, but the truth, though. He had probably monitored both Feli and me for a long time.
“You’re an idiot, aren’t you.”
Even I could tell that someone from the empire wasn’t supposed to say what the knight told me. So I called him an idiot.
“If the lord is an idiot, then the vassals will be too. Isn’t it nice to be idiots together?”
“…the hell it is. At least the vassals should be smart.”
“Hahaha, Your Highness is quite strict…”
The atmosphere had completely changed and turned almost relaxed. Then the knight suddenly called my name.
He looked at me with a completely peaceful gaze.
I could more or less tell what he was going to say.
“Can you kill me now?”
I couldn’t reply.
I looked away from him, out of reflex.
I heard a deep sigh.
“I’m sure you could kill me even now. But not mechanically, without hesitation. Because you have enough heart to bear that hesitation, I know it.”
The knight’s trembling hand formed a fist and he beat his chest.
It was extremely weak, but it was seared into my memory nonetheless.
“You’re strong, Prince. Way beyond human limits. But your heart is human. That’s the one thing you have to be careful about.”
Words I had heard so many times in the past.
So I’m going to hear them even in a different world…? I felt guilty and somewhat sentimental.
“One…one last thing. I wanted to serve someone like you, Prince…there’s something you have that made me think like that. You’re no ‘Trash’. If you keep bringing yourself down like that, you’ll make the people around you cry, you know?”
As soon as the knight stopped talking…
The air around him started glowing.
I knew that phenomenon very well.
“You owe me one, now.”
One last favor to a prince who couldn’t completely throw away his naivete.
I slowly walked away from the knight and nodded.
“If you go and die in a stupid way, I won’t forgive you, you hear?”
I walked one step at a time.
“You were really an idiot…”
The flash of light was accompanied by the rumble of an explosion.