SETP Vol. 4 Chapter 4
Chapter 4 – A Lone Master Swordsman That Became the Sword Emperor
“Let me ask one question.”
Led by Cohen “Heart Scan” Socaccio, Elena and her two guards — Raem and Ulle — and I were heading into the ruins. Suddenly, Cohen spoke up.
The volume of his voice was rather subdued, which made me think the words were addressed to me: Elena and the others were following from a bit of distance away, probably too far to hear.
I replied immediately and Cohen continued, without turning around.
“I have been studying the past for a long time. As I listened to the voices of the ruins, I found the name of a single person.”
Cohen revealed the information he had without hesitation, maybe because he had already obtained mine from my memories.
“Rather than a name, it was a title, though— ”
Cohen’s tone seemed to gain a mixture of fear and admiration.
“ —‘Sword Emperor’. That’s what he was called. What I want to ask you is…”
“What I know about that ‘Sword Emperor’?”
“…yes. What I want to know is why he was called like that. I have my own theories, but I always wanted to know that. You know the answer, right?”
“Nope, I don’t know that either.”
So I carelessly replied, but Cohen’s words contained the truth.
Fay Hanse Diestburg, once called Shizuki, lived his life as a swordsman in the past.
Those memories existed inside me.
I remembered being called “Sword Emperor.”
Those memories, however, did not reveal the reason behind that name. I had no recollection of that.
I was given that grandstanding name completely outside my knowledge, after all.
I could talk about my own view on the topic, though.
“…He was called like that because he was a lone swordsman that survived on his own until the end, I guess.”
“A lone swordsman?”
“Yeah. A swordsman who lost everything, standing on a mound of corpses, with no one he could rely on, cling to or talk to. Looking at him, they all used that name, ‘Sword Emperor’, I guess.”
Why was I called “Sword Emperor”?
I didn’t know the exact reason. But if I could decide on the reason myself, it’d be something like that, or so I thought.
“It’s just my impression though.”
“No, that’s enough. You’re a *concerned party*, after all. It’s likely to be something like that. It also matches my predictions. Hearing your thoughts was good enough of a result for me.”
For me, the reason why I was called “Sword Emperor” was pretty much worthless, but the man before me saw it very differently. His voice felt rather excited.
“By the way”
It was my turn to ask now.
“The ruins are over there?”
I pointed at a group of men in sooty pale green military uniforms, positioned in front of the entrance of the ruins, as if to prevent outside access.
We could barely see them in the distance from our position, but they were going to notice our presence soon enough.
Just when I thought this—
Cohen suddenly stopped in his tracks.
I imitated him, as did Elena and the two men who accompanied her.
“Yes, that’s right. But before we go inside, we have to make a deal. Shizuki or whatever your name is.”
Cohen’s expression had traces of annoyance, as if a bad feeling he had turned into reality.
He continued talking, not leaving me any time to think about it.
“You said you want to kill them all, right?”
“What about it?”
“I’m going to lend you a hand.”
“…what’s gotten into you now?”
“The situation changed.”
Cohen Socaccio looked over his shoulder, the gaze behind his sunglasses piercing me. He stopped suddenly right before we arrived at the ruins. More precisely, as soon as he saw the soldiers in front of the entrance.
“There’s some trouble ahead.”
“There are many more soldiers than the usual. Too many.”
Cohen then turned from me to Elena, whose expression was still clouded.
“…what is it?”
“…Calsas girl, you have to go back.”
“What are you saying, after we came all the way here? No way.”
Elena said she was looking for “Time Magic”. As if it was the only hope she had left.
Clues about that magic could be found in the ruins, apparently.
She wasn’t going to give up on going inside after she came so close.
“Let me put it this way then. You said that you were called here, right? This is the result. This heavy security.”
Cohen clicked his tongue, irritated.
It didn’t look like an act to me. He was definitely irritated by her lacking powers of comprehension.
I could more or less understand what he meant.
He wanted to say that going any closer to the ruins for her was like a moth flying into the flames.
Cohen, however, was supposed to be on the empire’s side. Why did he not try to work in the empire’s favor?
That was probably the reason why he said “the situation has changed”.
I interjected in their conversation to dispel my doubt.
“Aren’t you on the empire’s side?”
“…I am cooperating with the empire only because it was convenient to learn more about history.”
In other words, if it stopped being convenient he would easily switch sides.
“History is everything for me. I am ready to sacrifice anything for the sake of learning more.”
That is why I call myself an archaeologist, he added.
“This woman traces her blood to the royal family of the Calsas kingdom — I have a personal debt to her, but more than anything, I want her to leave this place. As an archaeologist, above all else.”
“So you’re asking me to help you do that? And in exchange you’d lend me a hand in killing whoever created the ‘Abominations’? You really think I’d believe you, just like that?”
I wasn’t as intelligent as my brother Grerial, but even I could tell that Cohen’s words were full of contradictions.
More than anything, he was too suspicious. What fool would recognize something as poison and drink it all the same?
I was prepared to deal with everything on my own anyway.
I didn’t think I needed anyone’s help and was sure I would never change my mind about that.
“If you want to make her leave, you just have to take her and go, now.”
“I can’t do that.”
I can’t believe your words either, is what I wanted to say.
“Don’t get the wrong idea. I can’t do that *now*.”
My words were interrupted.
“I am cooperating with the empire as an archaeologist…the reason I am here now is because I was charged with deciphering these ruins.”
That was surely the truth.
“To be frank, it’s not going well. The person in charge of this mission is getting fed up with the situation.”
Before I could think about where he was leading to…
“The current relationship between the empire and the kingdom of Diestburg is shaky at best. The best case scenario is that they will detonate the ruins, so that Diestburg cannot use them. The worst case scenario is— ”
Cohen looked at Elena and continued.
“One more ‘Abomination’ will be born.”
“…watch your words.”
I looked at Cohen with enough hostility in my eyes to cause chills in the average person.
“I am. But it has actually happened before. It would be worse to pretend it didn’t, no?”
An unpleasant sensation wrapped around my body like tentacles, a feeling of disgust rising from within.
“The moment I leave this place, the ruins are gone. I don’t want for such an historical relic to be destroyed. Furthermore, I want her to escape from here.”
What a greedy guy, I sighed.
“Even so— ”
I can’t accept your deal. I was going to say that, but then I remembered something.
The reason why I was there in the first place.
The request I accepted from the merchant Dvorg Tsarrich, related to the ruins.
In other words, these ruins were valuable to me too.
Honestly, I couldn’t care less about history, but I had to honor the promise I made.
My shoulders and head dropped, then I scratched my hair haphazardly.
“You can’t leave the ruins in order to protect them. But you want Elena to escape this place. So you’re asking me to help: in exchange, you will lend me a hand. Is that right?”
Cohen produces one small nod to my assessment of the situation.
I had come here while leaving my companions, Feli and Ratifah behind. I came thinking of leaving as soon as my business in the ruins was done, but ended up with one more troublesome task.
My instincts, however, spoke to me.
Even if I entered the ruins now, nothing good would come out of it.
On the other hand—
“…no, I’m not going back.”
Elena refused to leave and I couldn’t bring myself to give up on a chance to know more about the “Abominations”.
“Besides, you all seem to have the wrong idea, but I can hold my own in a fight. I can protect myself and I’ve got Ulle and Raem with me too.”
Cohen laughed with disdain. He looked at Elena with pity and derision, as if looking at a fool who spoke out of place.
“You might be able to fight better than these soldiers…but that’s it.”
It felt like the atmosphere was going to escalate quickly, but—
The attention of all present was drawn to a name completely new to me. The tense atmosphere eased a little.
“A helpless fool who knows nothing about the value of history, but still a Hero. And the person in charge of this expedition. Definitely not an opponent you can handle.”
“…so that’s what you think, huh?”
“It’s the truth.”
I mentally expressed how sick I was of encountering them.
It’s not like there were so many around, but for some reason I crossed paths with them with terribly high frequency.
I looked down at my waist, where my crude shadow-colored sword hung.
What did it mean for me to wield that sword?
I knew it more than anyone else. It was imprinted deep into my body, into my soul.
If I hated it, I had to refuse to wield it, no matter what. I should have stayed as far as I could from it. Yet, I did not.
“You’re planning on siccing me on that “Ice Coffin” guy?”
“If we want to be sure she escapes, we need someone equal or superior, right?”
I found myself unable to reply right away.
There was still a chance this was all a trap by Cohen. Or rather, that was the most likely scenario at the moment.
He was on the empire’s side and I barely even knew him. I could not find any reason to trust him or be trusted by him.
Even if I treated his words as lies and turned my back on them right now, no one had any right to chastise me. And yet—
I shook my head to the conflict in my heart and agreed to Cohen’s proposal.
“Basically, I just have to keep Elena safe, right?”
“…I’ll do that, then. Even if this is all a trap.”
Based on the conversation I eavesdropped, Elena had suffered because of the “Abominations”.
The unending hate I carried for the “Abominations” inspired in me a sort of compassion for her.
—People in the similar circumstances end up gathering in the same place, strung along by the whims of fate.
Those words suddenly crossed my mind.
Who had I heard them from? I could only recall that I heard them a long, long time ago.