SETP Vol. 4 Chapter 12

Chapter 12 – Battle Craze

“…well, color me impressed.”

Cohen Socaccio, standing on the sidelines and spectating my battle against Grimnaught “Ice Coffin” Izak, whistled facetiously.

“You make it look like size doesn’t matter at all.”

The difference in size, weight, and reach between us was clear.

In close quarter combat, having an advantage in any one of these could decide the battle even before it started. I didn’t disagree with this line of thinking either.

“Haha…hahahaha….”

The rubble piled on Grimnaught’s body moved.

The sound was accompanied by unsettling laughter. I couldn’t help but frown.

“Hahaha…HAHAHA!! Hee…hee…hahahAHAHA!!!”

The laughter grew louder and louder — then stopped abruptly.

“ — Cohen Socaccio.”

Grimnaught then called the other “Hero”’s name.

“Stay out of this battle. The instant you try anything funny…I will kill you first. Even if I suffer a fatal wound for doing so. You have been warned.”

Grimnaught distilled pure killing intent in the words to Cohen.

His eyes, barely visible beyond the cloud of dust raised by the rubble, were frighteningly chilling.

— the instant you try anything funny.

Despite what little familiarity I had with the concept of trusting others, I could understand the meaning behind those words.

It worked for both sides.

The moment you do anything to help either me or the boy, you are dead.

“Anyway…this is quite thrilling indeed.”

As time passed, the cloud of dust gradually settled. Grimnaught’s vocal chords vibrated with glee, pleasure, joy. His hands gripped his spear — *snapped in half*.

He then let go of his weapon.

“I can’t fathom how you are hiding such power in that small body of yours…however— ”

The atmosphere changed.

Grimnaught put more distance between us, and an alarm suddenly sounded off in my head: stay away from him.

The next instant, a blue and white magic circle flashed before my eyes.

Crackling sounds announced the formation of a white mist. The moment I registered this new information, the magic circle disappeared and something blue and white appeared in Grimnaught’s right hand.

“Fighting you!! Will give me all the answers!!”

So howled Grimnaught, blood flowing from the laceration I had inflicted on him in our last exchange.

He followed with a forceful stomp, shaking the ground.

He threw the blue and white object, without hesitation, flying in my direction as fast as a shooting star.

“Give me a damn break…”

The scenery before me had changed completely in mere seconds.

I had no time to think.

No time to waste worrying about destroying the ruins. To dodge or to counterattack: even those two basic options had been overruled by my instincts.

I trusted my reflexes and jumped backwards.

“HAH! I expected as much!!”

An instant before letting go of the object, however, Grimnaught changed its trajectory ever so slightly.

The object curved in midair and corrected its route to target me again — and flew.

“Tch…!!”

I clicked my tongue once.

My feet had left the ground, severely limiting my dodging ability. I realized this and gripped the hilt of my “Spada” with more strength — to cleave the approaching object in two.

“Ice…”

“Correct!! An ice lance you paid a bit too much attention to!?!”

The sound of feet stomping on ground grazed my ears.

I immediately turned around and swung my “Spada” again.

My “Spada” crossed paths with another ice spear, created by Grimnaught who knows when. The weapons clashed with the sound of clanging metal, sending sparks flying everywhere.

Our blades met two, three times.

Grimnaught was probably surprised by how easily his weapon was repelled: I could see traces of bewilderment in his expression.

The next instant, however, he was grinning again. Then he spoke.

“Crush him to bits, o— ”

“Hah.”

I sneered.

I realized what Grimnaught was going to do and my lips curved into a derisive grin.

A crackling of cold air gushed in the surroundings.

“ — Ice Coffin Deluge!!”

Grimnaught announced his next offensive.

A few seconds before he did, however, I had kicked the ground to propel myself to close distance.

“I’m the last person that should say this, but you should pay attention when people warn you.”

As I spoke, I unleashed a forceful blow.

My direct, straight-line offensive was blocked and repelled with ease. The icicles targeting me, however, missed and flew past for the second time.

…it happened again. Why?

I could see this question on Grimnaught’s face. I used my right leg as a pivot to spin my body in a roundhouse kick-like movement, to gain momentum — and swung my sword in a sweeping motion.

A furious, continuous barrage.

I swung my sword, again and again and again.

A flurry of slashes so quick that only blurred lines were visible. For a while, only the sounds of clashing metal could be heard around us. The air wailed, as if ripped by the wind created from my blade.

In the middle of this relentless clash of swords…

Grimnaught suddenly spoke up.

“I see…yes, now I finally see it!! The reason why my magic won’t hit you is that I don’t have enough “capacity” to do it!!!”

He was completely right.

It was the same for my “Spada” or the ice Grimnaught used: abilities that involved striking the opponent with physical objects required a set amount of “mental capacity” to do so. The user needed to have enough mental capacity to analyze the situation and target the opponent.

Grimnaught needed enough capacity to manipulate the ice darts he created, order them to target and stab me.

“…truly, making new discoveries is always so stimulating.”

Our weapons clashed several more times, then Grimnaught stepped backwards, as if to reset the battle.

“Aah, yes. This is truly a great day.”

He spoke as if he was reveling in the situation.

My “Spada” and his ice spear had clashed more than 10 times already. Every time they did, dull and heavy sounds of clanging metal reverberated in the air. Every time they did, I was reminded that we were engaged in a duel to the death.

“This dark, narrow location…I would have honestly liked it better if we could do this someplace wider, so I could go all out, but…hahaha. I should not be so greedy, considering I have the finest prey I ever found right here…”

Grimnaught’s excitement rose, and his smile broadened.

His voice brimmed with unbridled emotions.

It was clear in anyone’s eyes that he was enjoying himself from the bottom of his heart.

“To tell you the truth, I had lost all hope. In this world, in battle.”

I did not hide my utter lack of interest in his words, but Grimnaught continued, undeterred.

As if he was pleading for me to listen.

“I wield my spear because I wish to face strong opponents. I sided with the empire because of this wish. But what did I find? All the ‘Heroes’ in the imperial camp were spineless cowards. No one would face me head on. Most of the other ‘Heroes’ turned out to be gutless wimps as well. Not a single one ever fought me head on to fulfill my hunger. ‘Heroes’…? Warriors…? Pshaw!! Rubbish, all of them! All of it!!”

The empire’s strongest “Hero”, as Cohen had described him, was lamenting his unfulfilled desires. Not unlike a child having a temper tantrum.

“…or so I thought, until today, until now. So, for the first time…I thank the heavens for their guidance!”

— haha…hahaha. HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

Another thunderous bout of laughter.

“HAHAHAHA!!! This is how battle must be!! A duel to the death that shakes your very soul!! This is its true worth!! This is a true battle!! Yes…yes…!! This is the truth!! O battle, nectar of the gods…indeed, only battle can truly quench my thirst…!”

Grimnaught laughed, like a child hugging a new toy.

“Thus…! You must pour every last ounce of your strength, and make me feel alive!! This is what a battle truly is!! The joy of treading the line between life and death!!”

I saw the flame of insanity burning in his eyes. A dark light, befitting a crazed beast that lived to fight to the death, something that inspired nothing but disgust in me.

For some reason, however, I felt sentimental. A surge of nostalgia swept through my chest.

Echoing screams, swirling malice, intertwined together.

People like him populated the past memories embedded in my soul. Thus a feeling of nostalgia spontaneously came over me.

“My name is Grimnaught!! Grimnaught Izak!! State your name, boy!!”

“…honestly.”

Not only was he a royal pain, his constant shouting also hurt my ears.

That was my reaction to Grimnaught’s one-sided enthusiasm.

Just like the vampire Velnar, people who poured their lifeblood into battle were fixated on introducing themselves and knowing the name of their opponent.

Someone told me why, a long time ago.

It happened such a long time ago that I couldn’t remember who did: my memory was a blur.

.

— If we decide to fight, the battle won’t end till either one dies. There’s no other possible ending. One cuts, the other is cut, bleeds, screams in pain till the heart stops. That’s when it ends. So the start of the battle is the only chance to say your name.

.

So at the start of the battle you say your name and the opponent does too. That’s the custom.

That’s what he told me.

.

— The prowess of a dead warrior can only be told by the one who cut them down, right? It’s a form of respect for those you cut down. So you ask for their name, so you can pass on their ability, their courage, after they die by your blade. No one wants to hear the exploits of some nameless guy! Isn’t that sad? So…if they ever ask your name, just say it. It’s a war custom, all right? Don’t ever forget it — 

.

The memory felt so distant.

What did I reply, that time? I tried recalling for a few moments.

.

— I don’t care, even if people don’t talk about me.

— Don’t be like that. The people *like us* want to carry the name of the person who cut us down in our hearts as we pass on…I know you don’t get it, but we want a proper reason to die.

— Basically, you want to die while thinking about the person who killed you? It’s not like I don’t get it, it’s so creepy I don’t even want to think about it.

— Ha!! Haha!! What did you just say!? You creepy bastard, just give me three seconds and you’re mincemeat!!” Is that what you said? Bullshit!! You fucking said your last words!! Let’s settle this outside, now!! I’m gonna teach you how harsh this world really is!!!

— You know I didn’t say that at all…

.

“Haha…”

Right, right, that’s how our exchange went…I smiled as my memories became clearer.

“Hm?”

“Oh, sorry, it’s nothing…you wanted to know my name, right.”

This time too, I ended up drawing my sword. I was standing here as a swordsman.

What was the best way to introduce myself? I thought, then shook my head.

There was only one answer.

“My name is Fay Hanse Diestburg.”

Grimnaught’s brows shot upwards.

“What are you so surprised about? This is a *custom in battle*, right? I can do that much.”

What surprised my opponent was definitely not the fact that I had stated my name. I knew that well, but I lied all the same.

“…but that much is all I can do for you. I’m leaving this place now.”

“…no need to fret. Unless I defeat you, I’m not going after the girl. Will you leave all the same?”

“I will.”

I answered immediately.

“The biggest reason is this location…but for some reason, leaving one of my few *brethren* alone when she’s all heartbroken like that would hurt what little remains of my conscience. I first accepted to protect her and ensure her escape because that man told me to, that’s true. But then I felt a pang of compassion, as they call it, for Elena.”

Her life had been destroyed, trampled by the “Abominations” —  the only thin thread of hope she could cling to turned out to be a lie.

Seeing her lost in sadness and despair, I couldn’t help but feel a sort of kinship.

“I won’t say that I want to save her, or any nonsense like that. I know, more than anyone else, that I’m not the kind of person capable of something so noble.”

She believed what was more convenient for her, desperately hoped it was true.

Sincerity to the point of foolishness. She resembled the past me so closely.

In my case, my mentor and the others taught me that it was all a dream, an illusion. They did me the favor of knocking me down to the depths of hell.

“So I’ll just tell her what I want. I just want her to know how much weight a life saved by others can have. Because, more than anything else, I loathe the idea of her going off the deep end and turning into an “Abomination”.”

I had no duty to help her.

All I wanted to do was for my own satisfaction.

“Very well, I see where you stand now. Boy, you said your name is Fay Hanse Diestburg?”

“…yeah.”

“How about this, then. I will wait for you until tomorrow morning, in an open area next to the ruins. I too wish to go all out when I fight after all. I did feel that it would be a shame for our battle to be consumed here, where I cannot enjoy such a fine piece of work to the fullest. In exchange, if you do not come before tomorrow morning, I will cover the whole kingdom of Diestburg in ice.”

— If you accept my offer, I will let you go now.

Grimnaught waited for my answer. He realized I was wary of damaging the ruins doing our battle, after all.

“Ice Coffin!! That is not something you can decide on your— ”

“SILENCE!!”

Ulle’s protests were brutally overwhelmed by Grimnaught’s shout.

“Only the strong are allowed to give me orders. I have no ears for the riff raff. Only for those who can entertain me.”

“What nonsense are you— ”

“This is my last warning: one more word and you’re dead. Do not try my patience anymore. I will not let anyone get in the way of this ecstasy.”

— I wish to fight you at full strength. I want to use all of my power, to savor this ecstasy till the last drop. What do you say? Fay Hanse Diestburg?