SETP Vol. 4 Chapter 23
Chapter 23 – Everything to Shreds
A loud, booming sound struck like thunder.
That very instant — it felt just like the air itself ground and rattled.
Fierce gusts of wind blew past the trees.
The ice covering the ground was peeled off and blown away as a jet black torrent clashed with the ice dragon.
A “Hero” that witnessed such a spectacle described it thus:
— I felt like I was seeing a recreation of a scene from a myth.
He couldn’t be more wrong, however.
Because the scene that impressed itself in his memory so vividly — was just the clash of two men and their pride.
A clash of sword and spear, where the swordsman fought to validate his beliefs, while the spearman fought to uphold his will until the end. The pure, innocent wish to fight against a strong opponent, denied to him for so long, was finally granted.
That was the only reason.
And because of that…
Their duel was not going to end — not so easily.
“ ——— !!”
A raspy, throat-rending howl.
Grimnaught’s eyes opened wide, like never before, as he screamed his soul out.
Despite the storming winds battering his body, he showed no signs of surrender.
The same could be said for me.
The only, clear “difference” in our clash of pride was in the weight of what we carried.
— I felt a hand on my shoulder.
I had no idea who or what it could be.
I didn’t have the luxury to turn and look.
Whatever or whoever it was, it seemed to know what I was feeling, as I was fighting to the limit of my abilities. It whispered in my ear, in a concerned tone.
Its voice, however, sounded like a strange, jumbled mess of many different voices.
It was like several people talked to me at the same time, using the same words.
『You’re going to have a bad time if you think too much — because *you’re not strong, Shizuki*.』
— the only one who could get away with something like that is Vincenz.
What the voice said was the only thing *we* both felt the same about.
He’s more special than anyone else. I heard that so many times too.
And every time I chuckled and nodded, said I agreed…a nostalgic scene.
『The enemy before you is not defeated yet. If you don’t want to die, you have to give it your all. You know what you have to do.』
— Forget the luxury of thinking about anything else than the battle.
So said the voice.
Maybe because I had been alone for such a long time…
I subconsciously started thinking of the consequences of everything I did, what would happen next. But the voice had seen through me.
『Use all of your power. If you don’t, you might not be able to beat that, as you are now.』
The voice implied how it was clear that both Grimnaught and I were only sustained by our willpower.
『You want that girl to see the answer you found after continuing to live, right?』
…what I found was a future much, much happier than the time I spent in solitude.
『This fight really took a toll on your body, you might be unable to move later…hmm, yeah, this looks pretty bad…but in this world there are people who believe in you, right?』
You know the answer, don’t you? Said the voice, kindly.
『So — you have to say it. And squeeze out every last drop of blood you have.』
The voice didn’t say what “it” was.
Because I was well aware of what it meant.
— I felt a searing hot rush in my body, like a high fever.
My body burned as if I was under a waterfall of boiling water. I was still surrounded by ice everywhere, but felt burning hot all the same.
The voice continued, as if to give me one final push.
『Just wish it. You just have to say the words.』
The words of those people who just swung their sword, without thinking about anything else, in order to fulfill their wishes.
Battlefields where human lives dropped like flies. There they turned their emotions into weights, to endure, fight and survive. That was all.
That was enough — to be able to cut.
“ — ha…ha…haha.”
I wheezed out laughter.
Not because I was desperately trying to follow my mentor’s teachings, but because the voice whispering in my ears felt so nostalgic.
I didn’t look at the source of the voice.
Not because of the bloody tears covering my eyes. I did not need to use my sight to know the answer.
It was maybe an illusion created by my weakness.
Or maybe a trick of the gods.
…none of that mattered right now.
The important thing is that the voice helped me make my resolve.
“ — not…bad.”
The feeling to entrust my whole self to the sword.
I honestly felt it wasn’t bad at all.
I even thought, for a moment, that it wouldn’t be bad to use up all of my power and die like that.
That was how strong of a fever I had.
I didn’t want to be wounded any further, however. Not because I couldn’t stand the pain, but for a much more humanlike reason.
“I can’t die *yet*, though.”
I had killed many, suffering all sorts of wounds in the process, so I knew well how far I could push myself before dying.
I thus changed my emotions into words. Words that would have made me chortle just a few months ago.
I can’t die yet. I couldn’t die in a place like that, at a time like that.
“And…so… I will cut you down.”
At the same time…
Something bursted into existence. It was black, the color of shadows. It rose upwards, without apparent limits.
It swallowed even the shadows around me — blended with them.
Then it changed — changed color.
Dark streaks appeared among my blonde hair.
The black mist surrounding me stretched like hair. At the same time, my “Spada” increased in momentum.
However — it wasn’t enough yet.
『You’re imitating *me* now, right? You’ve got to do a lot more than that!』
The man I admired was overwhelming, peerless, invincible.
…I know that already, so shut up. So I snapped back at the voice, shutting it out of my thoughts.
The voice had told me to not think about what would happen later.
Or you won’t be able to win, it said.
So I chose to believe it.
I poured everything I had.
My sight wasn’t working anyway.
I might as well give all of my “processing power” into my “Spada”.
Pour it, gather it, let it flow.
I focused all of my nerves on my bloodline ability, my “Spada”. To the limits — and beyond.
I felt it amplify, more and more, without stopping.
“Are you…are you trying to instill fear in me? In a natural warrior like me!? Hahaha…HAHAHAHA!!! Fantastic!! Simply fantastic!!”
Facing my killing intent, sharper like never before, Grimnaught trembled in ecstasy, his voice brimming with euphoria.
His words, however, were not registered by my brain anymore.
I did not spare enough power to even process their meaning.
The shadow-colored mass increased in size, more and more.
It continued to swell, without stopping.
“You’re going to strike me with all your power, with no regards for anything else!? A swordsman of your level!?! Aah…aah!! What a grand day this is!!!”
My body was falling apart, but it didn’t matter at this point. I couldn’t care less about any damage I sustained.
My actions could only be defined as hopelessly desperate, but Grimnaught looked at me with flames in his eyes, ragged breathing, trembling in excitement from the bottom of his heart.
My “Spada – Slash” and the ice dragon’s breath — “Glacies” — clashed.
It was a single second, but it felt like an eternity. Our attacks met, crossed, finally announcing the end had come.
“You have — my thanks!!!”
Grimnaught looked up at the sky, dotted with shadow blades, as if praying. The emotion filling his eyes was not fear or despair, but joy. A pure, innocent expression, as if he was filled with pride.
A body that withered day after day. The wish to fight a worthy opponent, unsatisfied all of his life, was finally fulfilled. He had finally found someone capable of giving him a worthy death: he probably felt truly grateful.
So he thanked me, even as I killed him.
He longed for battle, for a battlefield where he could test his skills.
No price was too steep to see such a wish fulfilled — even his life.
Such a belief was at the core of his soul, his personality, his way of thinking — I just couldn’t understand it, after all.
Normally, I would have just said that and turned away.
“Here — here and now, I send you my praise!! I praise the only swordsman in the world who faced Grimnaught Izak head on — the only swordsman to ever best me!!”
I didn’t even have enough strength left to listen to his words.
Despite that, my lips curved into a smile.
Grimnaught’s joy was transmitted to me through my “Spada”, in which all my nerves were still focused.
As the “voice” said, I uttered an oath to the enemy before me. The magic words I had said so many times before.
The oath engraved so deep in my soul.
“ — there’s nothing my Spada cannot cut.”
My consciousness was fading.
I said the words without hesitation, my usual grin on my lips.
As if laughing at Grimnaught for making me say something so obvious.
The “Spada” rising high in the sky expanded in size and carved through the ground, engulfing both Grimnaught and the ice dragon.
“Haha!! Hahaha!! HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!”
His roaring laughter echoed far and wide.
As if he was having the time of his life.
It shook my eardrums for five, ten seconds, then —
“Ha..haha…it’s my loss.”
It ended in a whimper.
Grimnaught’s voice was brimming with glee, until his last breath.