“Why did you save me? You, of all people.”
Turning a deaf ear to my question, the man keeps gazing the night sky in silence.
Despite all the injuries he bears, his face is calm as he carries the air as if they were superficial.
As though the fierce battle just minutes ago was a lie, the azure full body armor that placed beside his feet has restored to its previous appearance.
“To think that the Great Azure Knight’s true identity is the ringleader of a bandit brigade, this world sure is full of surprise.”
The Great Azure Knight, the mysterious personage who come to rescue anyone who needs him. His existence is close to a fairytale more than anything. His tale is being told as a bedtime story across the whole continent. His figure is the aspiration of every child. There’s no one who doesn’t know him. He is the symbol of security.
But it turns out that that person is actually a wicked demon who kills for fun, I can’t even laugh at this terrible joke.
“Why are you doing this? Playing hero, now of all time? What, you think if you save people you can pay off all of your sins? NO, FUCKER!! It doesn’t matter how many lives you saved, you can’t bring back those whom you killed! Not my friends, not parents, nor my fiancé you rob right in front of me!”
At this point, I’m only screaming at a rock rather than a human.
Getting fed up with his silent treatment, I take the sword that lays near me with a swift movement and brandish it against him.
“Take this in your mind, finish you off right now would be a piece of cake. I don’t care how fantastical you are, oh the mighty Azure Knight, a single stab in your heart will kill you nonetheless.”
After I said so, I notice a slight movement from him. Paying no mind to the blade that almost touches his neck, he gets to his feet, then faces me.
Betraying my expectation, he instead turns his heel and strides off after he stored the azure armor into his spatial bracelet.
It was as if I’m not even worth his time.
A black shockwave flies to him. It’s the Black Crescent Wind that I fired from my sword completely by whim.
It’s an attack that successfully cleaved those Wyverns. I have drained most of my Mana in the previous fight against those flying lizards. If he didn’t come and meddle into it, I might survive, but there’s no guarantee I can spare any of my Mana and Vitality. In a sense, this is also an attack that he saved.
This is not, by any means, an attack that could be withstood by a single human.
I have forgotten that he’s not a human. He’s a beast in human clothing.
But that didn’t end in vain, I have successfully stopped him in his track. With his seemingly defenseless back facing me, he only stands there.
A silence that wrapped with the night wind.
Before he decides to raise his voice.
“ …You said you’re here to avenge your family. Which village?”
I can feel my palm bleeds from how tight I grip my sword.
He doesn’t even remember it. My whole life, my everything, he took it away in a single night and indifferently forgotten it. He dares to.
What remains in me is only fury. I care not if my own ego is engulfed by it. My desire to kill him is almost uncontrollable.
I will kill him.
I will kill him.
I will make him taste hell.
I won’t die before I see his heart stopped by my own eyes.
But, I shouldn’t be drowned. I can’t get overwhelmed by my anger. The current me can’t even touch him. I have long known what kind of creature he is.
I could as well plunge into him right now, but I will lose this golden chance I have. It’s doubtful whether I can meet him again in the future.
I have been harboring this fury for the past decade. Losing it on an impulse will be foolish.
“9 years ago. In a nameless village near the northern border.”
I will hold back for now.
What I have to do, is to make sure he brings me along. He was not alone back then. He brought his band to devastate my village. They raped my mother, toyed with our life, and massacred everyone for amusement. None of them will be forgiven. I will kill them with my own hand.
And if I’m with him, I will have the chance to do so.
“…9 years. I see… So that’s why.”
Carried by the winds, his soft murmur reaches my ears.
“Follow me. Why don’t we see how far your vengeance can take you.”
Without looking back even once, he continued his track.
There’s only one thing that he has in mind right now. He acquired a new pawn that is me. No more, no less. My future attempts mean nothing in his eyes.
But he’s wrong.
“I’ll make you regret it.”
This fire inside me will continue to burn until the bitter end.
We arrived at a fort hidden in the mountains. The place is surprisingly close to a pioneering village and still inside a certain viscount’s region. I’m told that there’s a cave concealed behind the fort, for if they were ambushed, they could easily flee and look for a new base.
But that is only one among many means of escape they have.
The fort is painted navy and has many vines spreading along its walls. They don’t light up torches or bonfire at night, which makes its exterior as dark as it could be. However, when I stepped inside, the interior is bright, illuminated by numerous magical lamps, that almost make me lost in a daze.
But realizing the fact that they can afford those lamps is because they looted from someone else pulled me back to reality.
The bandit gang of Loki. They suddenly appeared out of nowhere and steadily gaining names and infamy. Not only are they cunning, but they also have the sufficient power to do as they please.
Rumors say that they were ex-elite soldiers who ditched the incoming war. There’s a rumor that they took reign of the underground society. Some even said they’re more than capable of overturning the current monarch.
They’re animals that know no fear.
They’re the lot who responsible for the death of my dearest ones.
And now, I’m standing before them. Their gazes are licking me all over. I can feel them laughing with their eyes… nay, they are laughing heartily.
Because to them, I am a Jester who stands on the stage.
The reason is simple.
“Hey, newcomer! Mind telling us what’s your reason coming here again!?”
So asked a vulgar ape that seated quite far from me.
In response to that, I repeat my previous statement.
“ ……I am here to kill all of you.”
They once again burst into laughter.
Indeed. I don’t bother to hide my animosity at all. That is never my intention. I’m not here to play buddies with them. Because in the end, they will be nothing but rust on my blade.
And above all else, I’d snap out if I try to dam this overflowing hatred.
With girls in each arm and alcohol running in his vein, that ape and the other animals around him laugh as if there’s no tomorrow. Perhaps his lung can’t intake air because he does that, he starts to cough a fit all the while holding his stomach due to too much laughing.
I’m hoping he’ll die choking just like that, alas, he doesn’t.
“Cap’n! Where did ya found this amusing lad?”
So asks him to the inhumane beast after he calmed down.
That monster, he was so injured just hours ago, but now he’s completely healed to the point there isn’t a single scar left.
“Be careful when handling him. He’s prickly and tougher than most of you lot.”
“Heh, ye must be joking. This scrawny brat is?”
Instead of answering, he only lifts his shoulder then continues to drown himself in beers.
Looking at his leader, the ape only snorts back. He then raises his voice to one of his subordinates.
“Oi yellow monkey, try to taste him a bit. He’s Captain’s new toy so don’t kill him.”
The man the ape called stands. Just like how he calls him, he has a yellowish skin and slanted eyes. A feature uniques to Eastern people. He is armed with a weird straight one-handed sword that has no sword guard on it.
From the way he walks towards me, I can reckon he has unusual martial arts tempered onto him.
In the outside world, he could get a considerably high standing with his abilities alone. He would be a troubling opponent for many warriors out there. But in here, he’s only a gofer for the monsters.
“No hard feelings.”
Speaks him with a broken pronunciation.
Then, all of a sudden, he approaches me without his feet moving at all as if he was sliding on slippery ice. It’s hardly a stance to speak of, but his sword is aiming at me and ready to be bathed in blood.
I parry the assault with my own sword and take a half-sidestep to evade his advance.
But then I notice a blade accelerates towards me from his direction without any warning, which then I parry it again unhurriedly.
I can’t tell where will his next attack come from. His form is obscure, and his swordplay is odd. His straight sword wiggles like a snake despite being a rigid iron. And above that, I can’t read his deadpan face.
There haven’t any attacks from my side, only parries and dodges.
He is honestly an annoying opponent to deal with.
But his defense is all over the place. He focuses too much on the bizarre swordplay that he lets his opening unconcealed. He must be thinking that his opponent will get flustered by that and won’t have enough room to counter. However, that is wrong. Parries and evades for a while and he’ll soon run out of stamina. Observe for a few minutes, and his attack pattern will be revealed. He depends too much on the surprise element that once I get used to him, he’ll start to look like nothing but an idiot.
That is all he amounts to. Frankly speaking, he’s still too naive.
No wonder he’s only a gofer.
Getting fed up by his meager party tricks, I encounter his attack for the first time.
A bare strike that is not packed with any kind of magic struck his chest, and he falls just like that.
Must have been surprising, both for him and for the audience. But I’m done recording his swordplay in my mind, I won’t waste my time any more than this.
“In the end, you lowlives only know petty tricks and deceives.”
His sword tricks can hardly be any use against the sheer immense power that further reinforced by unfathomable techniques like what that monster showed me when he appeared in his Azure full body armor.
However, it may play a good role against the other animals beside him.
The vulgar ape that was only spectating on his high horse steps down and approaches me.
“Punk. What’ve ye done to him?”
His tone is cold. I can tell that he has quite a high standing from how the venue is now wrapped in silence in his presence.
But I’m unaffected by it.
“He’s finished. Can’t you see it with your own eyes, ape? It’s fine if so, you’re next in line after all.”
Having said that, I swing my sword right and left. Showing that ape that I’m not done warming up.
His face is gradually getting redder. And before long, he explodes.
Betraying my expectation, he instead laughs so hard that his vein pops out.
“Cap’n! Can’t you give him to me!? I want him so badly I almost kill him on the spot!!”
“No can do. He’s mine.”
“Are you asking for my permission, ape?”
Noticing the change of his boss’ air, he backs down. Seeing him, the man continues his drink carefreely. And the ape can only obey him and return to his seat.
In conclusion, he has everyone lashed.
Looking like recalling something, he once again raises his voice.
“Ah right, I forgot to say this. That guy will be y’all’s next captain so better don’t mess with him. Take that in mind.”
“What the fuck are you trying to do!?”
With the door behind me slammed shut, I once again threaten him with my sword.
And he, again, looks indifferent with it.
“You’re cold for someone whose ass has been covered.”
“Speak human, beast.”
“Watch your mouth, woman. It’s not hard to get me aroused, and I bet you don’t want that to happen.”
I almost choked by his words. There’s no depth of the vile he possesses. I’m even thinking I should just kill him now, once for all.
But I won’t.
“I’m a man, you horndog.”
“Don’t try to pull wools over my eyes, girly. I know it by the time I saw you. You should be grateful; you don’t want to spend the night in the den of swordsmen, do you?”
I lost words.
I took him too lightly.
Finally deciding to kill him on the spot, I step back to create the momentum then swing my sword.
But, without me noticing, he already caught it. My blade. My attacks which speed I could boast about. He caught it with his bare hand, casually.
“Quite an ill-tempered girl aren’t you.”
So he said, then brushes my sword sideways. He does it oh so lightly, but what I feel is an enormous force so strong it almost snapped my bone into two.
Despite how painful it is, I don’t let it show on my face. I won’t.
I have seen it. His strength. I have seen a glimpse of it. But experiencing it directly leave me vexed. There is an abyss between him and me, and he made sure I’m aware of it.
I don’t say anything.
I can’t say anything.
No matter what will come out from my mouth, it won’t help me kill him anyway.
Giving a single glance to me, the man walked deeper into the room. He then lays his back in a bed that placed in the corner.
“Go sleep, lass. Your eyes are bloodshot, and there’s a big day waiting for you tomorrow.”
With his eyes already closed, he says so.
“ … I’ll kill you in your sleep.”
“Do it if you want.”
And not long after that, a soft snore is heard. I’m only standing in silence, looking at him sleeping with all the care he has.
Then, a single slash flashed.
“Hey, newcomer! How’s your butt doing!?”
“Quit it! Don’t you see he’s lacking sleep? The captain must’ve been too harsh for his virgin ass!”
Going merrily this early in the morning, three savages that noticed me by chance raised their cries then left the restroom.
I have recorded their faces. They’ll be the first ones I’ll kill after that monster.
In the end, no matter what I did, everything was but a futile attempt. It was as if his bones were made of steel, his muscles tampered with iron, and his skin was a chain armor.
He is truly a monster in every definition.
But that doesn’t mean he’s perfectly invulnerable. He’ll die if I poison him, and I also can try drowning him when he’s asleep. Sword is not everything. I only take it up to further ensure my vengeance.
But now knowing that it’s meaningless against him, it no longer holds any worth to me.
I should’ve learned more underhanded tricks beforehand.
“Does staying up for the whole night helps you cool your head off?”
A nauseating voice reaches my ears out of the blue. In response to that, I only turn a glare at the owner of it who appears behind me.
“Figures. You spent your voice screaming all night long after all. And you still have those bloodshot eyes on you.”
So he was awake.
“…I’ll make you die… from sleep deprivation…”
A hoarse murmur escapes from my mouth.
“It’s rather adorable how much you’re thinking of me. Must be hurt speaking like that. Here, I brought you some honey.”
He trusts a small jar filled with sweet looking honey to me, but I brushed his hand aside.
“…I don’t need… anything that you… plundered…”
“You’ll need to eat something, sooner or later.”
“…I have… my rations…”
“Have it your way then.”
Placing the jar on a shelf nearby, the man strides off. I watch him heading to the door while I’m still on my ground.
“What are you dallying for. Get your feet moving. Today’s your big day.”
Tasting a lingering scent of iron in my mouth, I decided not to say anything and just follow him.
We passed several corridors, climbed down two sets of stairs, after we arrived before a dark room below ground, he finally stops.
“I should have known it. Bringing me to an underground dungeon, quite the sick fetish you have there, beast.”
“Once you can talk, you’ll never stop.”
Unhesitantly, the man steps into the room and me after him, with my hand on my sword’s handle and him within my attack range.
Despite how dim the room is, the perimeter feels unnaturally clear as I don’t sense any presence or malicious intent that aimed at me. At least he isn’t planning an ambush on me this time around.
Although I doubt that will mean anything if he actually did.
As my eyes gradually getting used to the lighting, I found a man in thirties waiting for us in the middle of the room. I didn’t feel his presence at all until I actually saw him.
Unsurprisingly, it’s a person I know.
“Don’t ye fucking call me ape!”
Says the vulgar ape with his nose beet red. I can assume he has been drinking from last night since a strong alcohol smell is leaking out of his rotten mouth.
“I’m the vice-captain, the second man in charge. Ya better watch yer mouth next time, greenhorn.”
For a drunken man, his stance is firm and his eyes are clear. Either he has trained his body to tolerate against alcohol, or he simply strong with it.
“It’ll be you who should watch your attitude against your next captain.”
Rebukes the man who, without me noticing it, has already circled me and makes me sandwiched between the two.
This is dangerous.
I know the ape standing before me is nowhere near my level, but the monster is closing the only way out with his back.
Whatever that might happen in this room, my chance of survival is near zero, if not nil at all.
“‘Bout that matter, Cap’. Ye sure he’s—”
“……Ye gotta be kidding me. Lass, walking like ya had two balls on yer crotch must’ve been very displeasing.”
“…I’m no longer a woman the night you massacred my whole village.”
“Ye must be a lunatic then.”
“You’re not one to talk. None of you are.”
“Ye surely are prickly, you know that.”
“I believe that beast over there have told you that beforehand, except your small brain can’t contain that much of memories. Ape.”
Just like last night, his face has turned red and ready to explode. He’s going to laugh like an idiot again, I presume.
But, I was wrong.
Suddenly, a strong killing intent attacks me. Almost reflexively, I draw my sword from its sheath, readying myself for the incoming combat.
“Finally showing your true color, ape?”
The same time he launches himself to me, I also give a preemptive strike.
From his stance and his way of moving, I can see he’s more or less a grappler, if not a monk or any class from the barehanded fighting system. His endurance is high, much so that I bet he’d still move even after I behead him. I should call him cockroach from now on.
Surely, he leaves no opening, unlike that party monkey from last night. But that doesn’t mean I can’t make an opening to strike.
For the most part, barehanded fighters’ biggest weaknesses are mental attacks and spiritual attacks. It’s decided then, I’ll use Hidden Phantom Sword Art from Twelfth Phantom School to go against him.
Now, let’s see if he can keep up with the most troublesome hidden sword school on the continent.
“Leave it at that.”
In a blink, the beast that was behind me suddenly showed up in the slight gap between us.
Yet again, he stops my sword oh so casually with his bare hand.
“You’re wasting time. And you, girly, we can’t exactly deal with all of your whim. Stay put and hear what we’re going to say.”
“You have no right to order me.”
“I have the might to do so.”
Saying so, he let loose an intimidating aura befitting for a monster he is. It’s so fierce my knees almost gave up, my lungs almost forgot to intake air, and my heart almost stopped.
But they didn’t.
I won’t yield to something as measly as this.
“If you want to frighten me, do it right.”
“Impressive. But for now, I’ll have you obediently listen to me.”
All of a sudden, I feel all of my strength sapped away from me as I crumbled down to the ground.
I can feel the goosebump that runs up my back. I can’t even lift my sword. I’m completely defenseless now.
I’ll die before I could fulfill my revenge.
I’ll die while that inhumane beast is still on the loose.
“Oh, c’mon. Don’t get all panicked, it’s not like we’re going to eat you.”
“…damn sure… you… won’t…”
“…Stubborn ain’t she.”
Even though I’m immobilized, it seems like I still can speak. That means I at least could do something if I utilize magic arias rightly.
“Anyway, I recall you said that I’m the Great Azure Knight last night.”
Says him, then squats down to make my eyes level with his.
“I’m only a generation of Great Azure Knight. And you will be the next.”
His finger is pointed at me.