SETP Vol. 4 Chapter 17
Chapter 17 – Final Destination
『 — pretty much the shittiest thing I’ve ever seen, that sword of yours.』
A man’s voice mixed into my hearing.
It was an illusion — the voice of a man I had killed a long time ago.
『…you’ve got the sword skills of so many people mixed in it. Not in the dozens, not even in the hundreds…too many to even count. How many people did you kill, “Sword Emperor”…? Haha…hahaha…』
The man’s head was wrapped in cloth. He stood before the past me, a feral smile on his lips.
『What? You don’t like the name, you bastard? Nothing you can do about it, that’s what you are. Don’t you dare make excuses or dodge the subject. I’ll say it as many as damn times as needed: you’re the “Sword Emperor”. So says the man who picked a fight with you and got destroyed — that’s the damn truth.』
…before I realized it, people started calling me by that name.
They gave me that name and started using it all on their own.
I had no idea why, of course. Every time I said not to call me that, the man before me refused to comply.
How many times did I hear those words?
『Damn it…here I am, witness to your strength…don’t you give me that. Have the backbone to say something as strong and sharp as your blade in return…you’re the “Sword Emperor”, man!』
『How many times do I have to say it…I never called myself Sword Emperor, nor do I want to become something like that. You people just started calling me like that all on your own.』
『Haha…hahahaha!! That’s a damn shame!! Even if you don’t want to, you’re the “Sword Emperor” already. Better fucking give up. Even if you keep up a face like that, like you don’t want to kill anyone, not a damn thing changes. Rather, that’s the biggest reason that makes you the “Sword Emperor”!』
『 — 』
『What’s there to be surprised about? We crossed our swords. What swordsman wouldn’t be able to tell that much? Huh?』
Everyone said the same thing.
Everyone pointed it out…I was used to it already.
『I can’t complain after *being saved* though…thanks to you, the swordsman in me could find salvation.』
『…what are you getting at?』
『I’m trying to explain it as easily as I can…winners should shut up and listen. I’m telling you the reason why they call you “Sword Emperor” and why your sword is so sickening!』
Despite the heavy blood loss, the man’s expression remained dauntless. With a smirk, he continued:
『Despite being a first-class swordsman, you hesitate to cut down your opponents…I guess that’s why you can’t forget it…forget what, you ask? It’s damn obvious…the instant your sword robs your opponent’s life. That moment burns its way into your memory, doesn’t it? And thanks to that, your sword is mixed with the lives of the poor bastards you cut down…it’s a sickening sight to see, let me tell you! Ha…hahaha…』
The man laughed heartily.
He laughed loudly, his mouth wide open, as if my existence was something utterly hilarious.
『And to top it all off, despite the fact that you don’t want to cut down other people, that thinking is the core that sustains the “Sword Emperor”’s blade…because the more you kill, the more you regret, the more you feel you can’t forget about them. Every time a new one is burned into your memory, you engrave their sword arm into yours! Without even realizing it! I guess that makes you a genius or something? Though — you don’t want any of that, do you!? I don’t get how you think at all, but I envy you for real…』
『…awfully talkative, aren’t we?』
『Damn right. This is my way of praising you, and the greatest reward I could ever receive…if the winner wants to know the answer, the loser has to give it to them. That’s the way things work — but since I went on for too long, apparently, I’m going to finish here though.』
The man, who had been talking *lying on his back*, stood back up.
His body was pierced by several “Spada” blades and he had a large, gaping hole in his stomach. His right leg was twisted in an unnatural direction, the place once occupied by his right arm showed only a sleeve torn to shreds.
The man used his remaining left arm to force his right leg back into place, producing painful sounds.
He did not whine or wince even once: on the contrary, he smiled throughout the process.
『…you still want to fight?』
『What? You really thought this was enough to do me in!? Did you lose your damn mind?』
The swordsmen in this world were all like him. As long as their body could move, even losing a limb was just a flesh wound.
Each and every one of them continued swinging their sword, until their heart stopped beating. As if that was common sense.
『I might lose my eyes, lose my ears, get my hands cut off, get a hole in my stomach, break my legs, whatever — that’s nothing!! Why would I give up on the finest prey I ever found, right before my eyes!? Yeah, you damn well won this time! In my heart, I’ve given up already! But the way I lose hasn’t been decided yet, you hear me!? Haven’t you heard this already from all those bastards you cut down!? A swordsman is truly defeated only when he loses his will to fight — !!』
After shouting wildly, the man rushed towards me.
『Engrave it nice and deep inside you!! This is the kind of swordsman I am!! And let your blade feed on my sword arm, as gratitude for entertaining me this far!! It’s all yours, “Sword Emperor”!!!』
I reminisced on such a distant memory, then—
“Spada – Shadow Corpse Parade”
— uttered those words, without emotion.
If I still wanted to be a swordsman, I should at least act in a way that would not shame all those I had killed.
“An infinite number of swords…!! Hahaha!! Good, yes, great indeed! So this is the reason why you gave me such a warning before! Because your ability is the same type as mine!”
Grimnaught smiled as confidently as ever, then — as he did in the ruins — whispered “Hail Coffin Deluge” to create icicles in the surroundings.
The shadow blades, of all shapes and sizes, and the overwhelming mass of icicle darts covered the sky. It was a scene right out of a fairy tale.
A swordsman’s greatest sign of respect.
…I know, I know that.
In my heart, I nodded again and again.
“…my ability and yours are pretty similar, but your ice and my “Spada” are fundamentally different.”
“How do my shadow blades look in your eyes?”
Grimnaught looked at the various swords floating in midair.
The answer came soon enough. His tone was filled with wonder, as if I had asked something obvious.
“…like swords, what else?”
“That is only half true. For me, these shadow blades are memories, wills, sins…in a way, they are gravestones.”
An endless sea of blades.
All different from each other. All firmly embedded in my memories.
Memories I would never forget, no matter what.
Grimnaught, probably intending to fight fair and square, had not attacked yet.
I slowly lifted a hand, then spoke.
“I’m borrowing yours, Traum.”
A sword appeared in my hand.
A rough, blocky blade without decorations.
The man with the bloodline ability to create illusions had also desperately honed his sword skills, to be prepared in case his illusions were neutralized. The sword he always carried at his side was now in my hand.
The following instant…
Something erupted from the shadows at my feet and the sword in my hand, enveloping me.
Sounds of cracking and grinding echoed in the surroundings, as my body was reconstructed.
— It was the physical ability boost provided by my “Spada”.
My current body was too weak to properly handle Traum’s sword apparently.
Naturally so: the sword’s original holder, Traum, was someone who joked and teased me all the time, but also someone who reached heights of fighting prowess far superior to mine.
“ — !!”
Grimnaught reacted to my transformation with surprise. His body trembled in euphoria.
If he was a true battle fanatic, he would surely be overjoyed at this change.
“I said I would repay your respect, but in the end this is just an imitation. Something horribly inferior to the original user’s ability. However— ”
“Don’t ever let your guard down. *All the sword arts* I’m going to show you now belong to people I could never even lift a finger against.”
“Haha…I can only pray that it is not mere bluster!”
“Don’t you worry about that.”
— it’d be boring for me too if the battle ended right away.
“ — ! Mgh…!”
Grimnaught took the shot of killing intent I released as the signal to start, and created a spear of ice in his hands. I commended his reaction, even though it didn’t mean anything this time.
“Too bad, it’s pretty much impossible to dodge this the first time you see it.”
I had closed in on my opponent in the blink of an eye and — remembering how I was utterly powerless before that same sword arm in the past — whispered those words. It wasn’t arrogance or lies — but my honest opinion.
The biggest reason why I thought I couldn’t win against Traum was how unpredictable he was.
Traum, despite the unfair possibilities of his illusion bloodline technique and his brash attitude, was a man that spared no effort in improving his sword arm, and eventually honed it to the same level as his illusion techniques.
His sword attacks were so incredibly fast, each single slash appeared as two slashes. It looked like a magic trick: together with his bloodline technique, it made it even more difficult to distinguish reality from illusions. He had thus created a slash that never missed its mark.
“ — Dual Slash.”
My blade already drew an arc in the air.
Two sword strokes were performed.
The sensation I felt of metal cutting through flesh was only from one slash.
Grimnaught had managed to dodge one of the slashes, even though this was his first time seeing the technique. I couldn’t hide my surprise, which he used to kick the ground and circle behind me.
Immediately following with a merciless thrust from his ice spear. I dodged it by twisting my body to the right, then made use of the generated momentum to perform another Dual Slash.
“Ha…haha!! I thought you used some bizarre magic…but it was a sword technique!”
“Are you sure you have time to waste chatting?”
One more time.
Another slash scarred Grimnaught’s body.
Anyone who saw me would swear I only moved once. Despite this, every time I moved two different slashes were generated.
The sword strokes echoed around us, again and again.
Only the arcs they traced in the air were visible. Sword strokes of incredible speed — Traum’s final destination after countless battles — I saw them, stole them, formed my poor imitation of them.
However, even my imitation was enough to make Grimnaught’s heart tremble.
His smile broadened, as if impressed by the bizarre techniques I used.
“Time!? Indeed I do!! How could I not shout about this thrill, this fever!? An opponent capable of crossing swords with me head on finally appeared!! I cannot die without expressing the passion burning inside me!!”
Grimnaught’s body shuddered and quivered.
The warrior’s seizure, as some called it.
An expression of his ecstasy.
I returned Grimnaught’s feral smile with one of my own.
Not the forced smile I so often wore, but a natural one.
Grimnaught moved quickly, with unthinkable agility considering the massive size of his body. Then—
A mass of earth danced in the air.
An artificial gust of wind.
I waited for the right timing: just as Grimnaught pumped power in his legs to approach me, I let go of Traum’s sword.
I did not cast a single glance to the sword, as it melted back in the shadows, and called another name.
“ — Rudolf”
I was now holding a broadsword more or less the same size as me.
This sword, larger in size than the broadsword used by Idies “Game of Illusions” Farizard, a “Hero” I fought some time before, was Rudolf’s trusted companion.
I could see a grin form on Grimnaught’s lips.
It told me how pleased he was by the fact that I was fighting him head on.
He then thrust his spear on the ground, using it as a pivot to propel himself in the air.
I was wide-eyed, surprised by how his massive physique could move, and my opponent struck, determined not to give me the slightest leeway.
At the same time, the icicles floating in midair shot in my direction.
I smiled and firmly gripped the broadsword with both hands, preparing for my opponent’s rapidly approaching offensive, and spoke.
“ — Annihilate all that lies before my eyes… ‘Spada – Shadow Corpse Parade’!”