“Fire! Fire! Don’t let him through! It’s only one man!”
Shots echoed across the battlefield, focused on one area. While there truly was only a single target walking towards them, that gave them no sense of relief. Rather, the scattered bodies that had been carved to pieces around him only made them fire faster in panic.
Legs trembled as the gun-equipped soldiers backpedaled. People started hiding behind the walls of buildings. Only the voice of their commanding officer spurred them on. But still, there was only so much confidence they could hold before the first man fled in fear, and then another. Soon, the entire front of defenders crumbled at the sight before them.
The special guns that they equipped were supposed to be near unstoppable. They had been invented by the great Lamps Magellan. Each one fired a shot that tore through the strongest of defenses. Even magicians that used mana shields to protect their bodies were little exception.
Sure, they could weather against a fair number of shots, but the strain of blocking against hundreds of bullets flying at them would quickly strain their mana supply. If there had been as many magicians as there were normal soldiers, then that would have been different. But these new weapons gave them a numbers advantage against the relatively few magicians of Sistina, the main obstacle preventing the whole army from being overrun.
Mana absorption grenades that tore away a magician’s supply were needed. And also, magic guns and portal guns had reemerged. But these were makeshift and in short supply. Resonance Stones affixed onto guns were simple, connected to an endless reservoir, as they were told. The sheer extent of mana being used was seemingly impossible given how little existed in Purnesia.
But that had all been made possible due to Lamp Magellan’s existence as the Electi of Mana. The Purnesian side had an advantage because their lethal weapons had no limit, which made it difficult for the Sistina side to act.
Any careless advancement would end in drastic losses, like it had been with Duchess Reichenstein and the Valkyrie. That surprise assault that shifted the tides had robbed Sistina of two major players in the war. However, it apparently also stirred up the rise of another. One that was far more dangerous even with all of Purnesia’s new toys.
And that person was before them now. Equipped in glistening metal armor, he drew a sword forward that was cloaked by a gush of purple miasma. Flowing from hilt down to the tip, wisps came off the blade and spread through the air like kindling smoke.
Yet, this dull coloration was not merely dark energy scattering in the wind. With a wave of the sword, the miasma extended and whipped ahead of him, blanketing the area within its reach in a purplish hue as it swept across the battlefield.
Any bullets that were caught in that wave of purple instantly disintegrated. Any bodies that had not escaped its reach fell apart into piles of blood and flesh. It did not matter if one tried to block with mana absorption shields or wore expensive protection that boosted their defenses. Even structures where people hid behind crumbled like they had turned to sand. The purple wind cut through everything that wasn’t coated with thick enough mana. And for the people of Purnesia, there were indeed very few that could muster enough, much less possess the talent to use it properly.
This person, who looked like a normal man in armor, walked solemnly toward them as he sliced mercilessly at everything in his path. Those on the Sistina side called him the Chancellor, the Demon Cleaver, or just simply, Claude.
But to the Purnesian side, he was now referred to as the Grim Reaper, a being that left nothing alive in his path forward. One week ago, news of him wiping out nearly everyone stationed in Lodz came as a true surprise. While their plan to lure in the opposing army and ambush them with their new weapons had resulted in some success, any advantage quickly crumbled due to the Electi of Critical, emerging in a berserk state.
Now, they were dealing with the sole exception to their preparations. The Grim Reaper merely shrugged off every attack that they could throw at him. Bullets imbued with the strength of their champion were turned to nothing more than glass marbles flung by a child. Each wave of purple that met the attacks had robbed them of all mana, and thus, the ability for it to do any harm.
Because of that, the front lines, led by the Grim Reaper, slowly advanced forward, even while other fortifications held up.
The officer in charge clicked his tongue as his men sprinted away from the approaching Grim Reaper. Not that he blamed them. He had fought his fair share of tough opponents as of late. The bandages around his body from his last fight with the Valkyrie had made Major Golabki well aware when they were outmatched.
Still, he remained firmly rooted to his spot, pulling out a dual set of pistols to ready himself. After losing not once, but twice to the Valkyrie, he had settled on the fact that he was about to die honorably. After all, the rest of his family had already passed on, and he had no goals beyond that. But as the final killing blow never came, he looked up to see the Valkyrie had been shot. His vision was already blurry at that point, so he couldn’t tell clearly what had happened next.
All he could recall was the Valkyrie’s body falling over, and another Purnesian soldier walking over to check on them, some man he didn’t recognize. When he awoke days later, he was on a bed in an infirmary. Someone had rescued him from the battlefield. But strangely, no one could confirm what had happened to either the Valkyrie or the soldier that shot her. They had simply disappeared, presumably dead.
Everything was likely buried in the aftermath of the Grim Reaper’s charge. That was not hard to believe after he heard stories of a single man literally leveling the entire city of Lodz by himself. While he thought it was an exaggeration initially, his handiwork was now undeniable, even from a distance.
Soldiers torn to shreds. Barriers destroyed in an instant. Even when someone had the idea to run him over with a large truck that they used for supplies, that had also failed as well. The Grim Reaper had simply dodged out of the way and turned the vehicle into scrap metal within moments.
Now, it came down to Golabki to stall him while the others retreated. He had to chuckle at his unfortunate luck after barely recovering from the last defeat. But in truth, he was probably one of the few on the Purnesian side that could dance with the devil.
Fortunately, his opponent was a single person. And a one-on-one was where Golabki’s abilities shined the most. His quick reflexes and sharp vision allowed him to track that purple wind that blew from the Grim Reaper. And after facing off against so many criminals in death matches to level him up, the fear of death was hardly on his mind.
Finally in range, Golabki fired two shots from his pistols, watching as the Grim Reaper moved his sword to intercept them. He eyed the gust of purple wind licking across the ground ahead before diving forward and to the right, rolling past where it swept by.
He didn’t hesitate to tumble back upright, planting his feet to the ground before breaking into a dash. Firing more shots at his enemy, he used his experienced footwork to dash around the waves of purple thrown towards him. At times, Golabki swore he could hear the wail of death brushing inches away.
Despite the intense pressure looming before him, he maintained his cool as he dodged. Not analyzing his opponent, no matter how fearsome, would be a terrible mistake. Not taking the time to figure out some weaknesses to exploit was foolhardy.
Not even a minute later, Golabki stared at his opponent with an arched brow. He had certainly figured out something interesting about the Grim Reaper. There were details in his movements that seemed rather odd compared to the opponents Golabki fought in the past.
First of all, the Grim Reaper moved unlike any experienced fighter that he had ever encountered. While they were fluid and graceful, like he was accustomed to dodging, it felt to Golabki like he did so because he lacked the endurance to withstand any direct attacks. A solid hit could likely throw him completely out of rhythm and provide a great advantage for any attacker.
Few people could live long enough to get close to the Grim Reaper. But by doing so, Golabki noticed the poor grip he had on his sword. That was a telltale sign that he was unaccustomed to using such a weapon. The way that he swung the blade felt a bit wobbly as well. Perhaps, he was too focused on projecting miasma as an attack.
Either way, Golabki found this information useful during the fight. In an instant, he developed a counterattack.
Firing his pistols downward to force his opponent to react, he lightly smirked as the sword traced a predictable arc to intercept the attacks. The powerful bullets fizzled as they dropped to the ground, zapped by the purple wind.. The Grim Reaper barely gave the useless metal beads notice before shifting his attention back. But by then, Golabki had already dashed out of his vision.
The Grim Reaper spun around, carving at the air as a hasty defense, but there was no opponent to be found. He heard a light clink on the ground beside him, and looking down, there was a grenade there.
“No, you don’t!” he screamed, kicking at it quickly before it could go off and suck a hole in his defenses.
As the grenade was kicked away, it shattered into several pieces; the purple wind kicked up by his foot had cut through the weak points in the object. Feeling movement behind him, he then spun around, greeted by several bullets pounding into him. He bit his lip as the pain of the impact registered. Though the miasma protected his body from attacks, they were strong enough to be felt.
Brandishing his sword in front of him, he winced from the continuous assault. That was the first time anyone had dared to dive fearlessly toward him in this current state. Few others dared to approach him while the scent of miasma clung so heavily around.
Heavier impacts made loud clangs upon his sword. Looking up, the Grim Reaper saw the butt of a pistol slamming continuously into it. The bald man in front of him truly knew no fear. That was different from the one creating death all around. A look of panic flared up in the Grim Reaper’s eyes. That was a familiar sight to Golabki. It was the look of a man with too much power, unsure of what to do with it all. The carelessness of his movements, the uncertainty of his actions, and the very sense that he was pushing himself beyond his means – that was evident in the Grim Reaper’s eyes.
And because of that, Golabki knew he had a chance to prevail.
Before the Grim Reaper could swing his sword to create another purple wave, he smashed his pistol into the hand holding it. The sword flew out of his grip and clattered on the ground. He turned to Golabki with wide eyes and hands in the air, acknowledging that his weapon had been stripped from him.
With both guns at point blank against the Grim Reaper’s head and chest, the expression on Golabki’s face dared his opponent to move.
‘Any inch of movement from you and I’ll finish you off!’ they seemed to read.
The reason why Golabki didn’t immediately shoot was that the Grim Reaper had interested him. He didn’t care about the unnecessary danger that he put himself in, as long as he could learn about his opponent. His curiosity of Sistina’s Chancellor outweighed Golabki’s own worthless life to begin with.
Golabki wanted to know his motivation, his instincts, and his character. His years as an executioner forced him to judge his prisoners with a keen eye. And he refused to pull the final trigger until he knew.
‘Would he be damned by killing another innocent, or did this man truly deserve a death sentence?’
But unfortunately, the gamble that he made was still too hasty. He assumed that the Grim Reaper could only attack by making use of his limbs. He was on the lookout for the twitch of muscles in his appendages that signified the intent to attack.
There was one move that he hadn’t counted on.
A rush of mana expelled from the body of the Grim Reaper, originating from his core. In an instant, Golabki felt like his entire body had been shocked and blown backward. All he could hear as he fell was a single phrase that sounded like a weird attack name.
“Soul Rending Strike – Zero Point!”