The first time Hans heard about a holy sword was when his grandmother read him a storybook many years ago. The story was about a hero who defeated the Demon Lord. After receiving a holy sword from an archangel, the hero persevered through all kinds of trials to accomplish all his goals; and the book ended with the hero marrying a beautiful princess. During his young, naïve days, Hans dreamed of becoming a hero. But as he grew older and came to know reality, he realized how hopeless his dreams were.
His status was that of a count's servant; it was a far cry from a hero. Heroes or princesses probably had servants, but they were never mentioned. He was like a non-existent character who didn’t even appear in the first few pages of a storybook. And like all grownups, Hans had pushed his dreams far away, into the deep corner of his mind. But right now, a white holy sword flashed in his hand like it was letting its presence known.
Estellade emitted out bright light as Hans wielded it. Having watched Zich’s fighting, half with admiration and half with envy, Hans knew how to basically use Estellade.
His enemies became enveloped by a stream of light as they were pushed back. Every time Hans swung his sword, a bright light lit up the area.
‘Stay calm. Calm.’ Hans told himself as his heart thumped. Getting too excited in a fight would have a detrimental effect on him. Whether his situation was positive or negative, he had to maintain his composure during battle. If that was impossible, he had to trick himself into thinking that the situation was going well for him—this was what Zich had taught him. Soon, Estellade’s bumpy trajectory returned to normal.
Light continued to shoot out of Estellade as his enemies were busy blocking and evading his attacks. He couldn’t fight the same way as Zich who had struck a mortal blow and sliced the neck of everyone else besides the leader with a few swings. But Hans didn’t feel disappointed. Zich was an unreachable entity to him and not someone he should compare himself to.
Four of the robed figures stuck closely to Hans and eased Snoc from fighting off his opponent.
As Estellade collided against one of the robed figure’s swords, Hans’ enemy flew away. The light intensified Hans’ mana. It seeped into his muscles, veins, nerves, and his whole body and boosted his physical ability.
He was now able to use skills that he couldn’t do before because of lacking physical and mana strength.
He felt something in his hands. It wasn’t the hard feeling he got from two swords colliding. It felt soft like he was cutting through flesh. One of his enemies clutched onto his half-sliced neck, but the blood didn’t stop pouring out from his neck. While the robed figure groaned, ‘Kkurgh! Kkrugh!’ he spurted out blood even from his mouth.
Hans rushed towards his enemy. It felt like Zich was instructing him: ‘Dive into your opponent’s weak points, defeat the weakest one among your enemies, and try not to miss your chance after inflicting a serious injury on your opponent.’
‘…And clearly finish them off at every opportunity you have!’
Estellade brimmed with light, and Hans sliced the air widely.
Light filled with mana flew out like crescent moons. As Hans struck down his opponent, his opponent’s eyes grew wide open. This was the man’s last expression before his death.
The light that landed on his stomach cleanly cut the man into two. As if his top and bottom had gained a mind of their own, they each fell separately to the ground. As one of their members died, the robed figures began to be pushed back further. They had their hands full with Hans’ attacks, and the light aggressively dug into their openings. One fell and another one soon followed.
Snoc killed one of the robed figures by smashing a rock on the figure’s head while they were busy fighting Hans. In the end, the only people who survived were Hans and Snoc.
“Haa! We survived!” They had won even with a disadvantage in power and numbers. Hans loosened his grip on Estellade and breathed a sigh of relief.
“Senior! That is…!” Snoc quickly ran to Hans’ side and stared at Estellade that Hans was holding.
“Wow! You have the qualifications to wield a holy sword!”
“It seems so.”
Hans looked at Estellade again. As it was showing off its strength, the sword shone its pure white blade. Hans’ heart seemed to swell up with emotions. He had wielded a holy sword that only those specially chosen could wield, and he felt like he was one step closer to his dream. Then, Zich popped into his head. Hans wanted to show off to Zich how he was able to hold Estellade, and most of all, he wanted to thank Zich.
Although they had begun their relationship in the worst way possible (which was one-sidedly Hans’ fault), Zich had helped Hans in many ways and didn’t laugh at his dream. And Hans thought he was only able to meet the holy sword’s qualifications thanks to Zich. If he had never started this journey with Zich, it would have been impossible for him to wield a holy sword.
Snoc looked at Hans’ Estellade with envy for a bit, but he quickly shrugged it off, saying, “I have Nowem anyways.”
Nowem responded loudly.
They heard something move. They immediately looked towards the noise and felt chills run down their backs. ‘Don’t let your guard down and always double-check after a battle is over’—Zich had reminded them of this lesson over and over again. However, they had completely forgotten it because of Estellade’s shining existence.
‘If Sir Zich was here, he would have killed us.’ Hans and Snoc both had the same thought as they saw that one of their enemies was still alive.
They were worried about getting scolded by Zich, but their hearts also plummeted at the thought that they could have gotten ambushed. Fortunately, their enemy could only crawl on the ground, and he wasn’t able to move well. The man raised his head. There was bright red blood all over his face. Judging by the injuries on his face, it was unlikely that he would survive. While letting down some of his guard, Hans moved towards the man to end his life.
“…Do you think you’ve won?”
The man laughed. He laughed while blood was splattered all over his whole face, so he looked grotesque. But since they had all sorts of horrifying experiences from following Zich around, Hans and Snoc didn’t even flinch. Hans raised his sword.
“You guys will all die. Very soon, a terrifying nightmare will come down upon this city, and all of you will perish with this city!”
“What do you mean?” Hans questioned.
The man did not reply; he just laughed.
Hans brought Estellade down on the man’s body. The man’s neck rolled across the ground.
“Shouldn’t we have gotten information from him?”
“It’s not like we’re Sir Zich. It’ll be hard for us to get information from him just by using our words. And even if we manage to get information out of him, we don’t have the skills to know if it’s true or not. But most of all, it didn’t seem like he would tell us anything.”
Snoc nodded his head.
“Let’s go back for now. As Sir Zich told us, we should wait for him in the lodging.”
However, the last words that the robed man said lingered in Hans and Snoc’s hearts for a long time.
* * *
Zich looked down at the ‘Key That Distorts Destiny’ in his hand with a very serious expression. Then, Lyla tapped him a few times.
“Hey, let’s heal that first.”
His cut finger was still bleeding profusely.
Zich took out a potion and poured it on his fingers. The potion he took out was the highest quality potion he got from Karuwiman. Even though it couldn’t regenerate whole limbs, it was able to regenerate a finger. After Zich made sure that his finger was regenerating, he stared down at the Key That Distorts Destiny in his hand again.
“That…” While pointing towards the Key That Distorts Destiny, Lyla swallowed her words.
Zich asked, “Do you know something about it?”
“…I don’t know.”
“I’m sorry, Lyla, but I’m not in the mood to play around with you.”
“I really don't know anything about that.” Lyla shook her head. “There’s something that sort of comes to my mind. But right now, I don’t know.”
“You don’t know about it now? Then did you know about it in the past?”
“…I have no idea about that as well.”
Zich stared at Lyla. She didn’t avert her gaze. It didn’t seem like she was joking around. For a second, Zich thought something along the lines of, ‘Since she can’t teleport, should I force information out of her?’ But even without her teleportation abilities, she was a formidable opponent. Moreover, Lyla’s reaction didn’t seem like she was simply refusing to answer.
“…Just tell me as much as you can. That’ll be good enough.” Zich decided to give up on all his plans that used force.
Fortunately, Lyla didn’t continue to refuse. “…Okay.”
Lyla raised three of her fingers. “Three. I can reply to three of your questions.”
“Isn’t that too stingy? Can’t you increase the numbers a little bit?”
Lyla shook her head.
‘I guess I can’t help it.’
When Zich was wondering what to ask—
Lyla, who was about to talk, and Zich, who was waiting for Lyla to talk, both looked down at the same time. Both of their gazes returned to the Key That Distorts Destiny that was on Zich’s palm.
“It just moved, right?”
The Key That Distorts Destiny moved for sure. Zich had even felt it move on his hand.
The key moved a little further. It slowly turned in Zich’s hand. The sharp ends of the key pointed towards a path as if it was a compass. Zich and Lyla both looked at the path where the key pointed towards.
“…Should we continue moving while talking?”
They began following the direction that the Key That Distorts Destiny pointed towards.
* * *
Zich and Lyla followed the path that the key pointed to, and whenever they reached a crossroad, the Key That Distorts Destiny spun around and pointed them towards a new path. It was obvious that it was guiding them towards a specific path.
Lyla asked, “Have you decided what to ask me?”
“But are you really able to give me a reply? From what you’ve told me so far, there seems to be something wrong with your memories.”
“…Yeah, that’s true. But don’t worry. I won’t count the questions I can’t answer.”
“Hmmm.” Zich looked down at the key on his hand.
‘It really seems like she doesn’t know about this.’
After hanging out with her for a bit, Zich found out that Lyla was not a very good liar. Of course, she could also be acting like a bad liar, but if this was true, Zich would not be able to trust her at all; and that would also mean that she could perfectly control her smallest behaviors and reactions to deceive him.
‘I should at least ask her some questions. Maybe trust is something I should think about later.’
“Okay, Lyla. First, tell me your real name.”
“…What?” Lyla was taken aback.
Zich carefully observed her response. She didn’t look taken aback by being asked an unexpected question; rather, she looked as if she didn’t know how she should answer.
That was even stranger.
‘It’s just her name though?’
‘Does she think that I can identify her by just her name?’ However, this also didn’t seem like the case.
“But that’s an alias.”
“No, it’s not.”
“Didn’t you just quickly make that one up when I asked you what your name was?”
“But you’re saying that’s your name?”
Lyla nodded her head.
‘Hmmm, how should I interpret this answer?’
Thinking about it, the robed figures who chased after Lyla called her the ‘Core.’
‘Even though Core could be her name, she said that wasn’t it.’
There was a big possibility that ‘Core’ meant something entirely different.Previous Chapter Next Chapter