Reincarnation of the Swordmaster Chapter 15

Assassin (2)

“The awaited assignment is here,” the man said as he entered the abandoned building. Darkness surged from all directions.

[It must be him.]

“Right. The fool. He showed up without any provocation on his part. Thanks to him, it looks like the purpose of my visit here will be resolved.”

“That’s what I’m saying.”

The man grimaced slightly as he looked around and waved his finger. “Was it necessary to bring so many? It’s just a kid after all. Wouldn’t one or two of my underlings be enough?”

[He’s a disciple of the Swordmaster. I think that’s reason enough.]

“But he’s just a kid. A talentless kid who has only learned the Imperial Sword Technique.”

In his view, the guild was overreacting. There was no valid reason for him to come all this way.

[But that kid is dangerous. He’s an anomaly. Remember, a practitioner of the Imperial Sword Technique nearly brought our organization to the brink of annihilation when it first revealed itself to the world.]

“That was when the organization was small. Besides, he wasn’t alone then.”

The young man argued. Due to his youth, he was not fully aware of the past events. Above all, he was confident.

“The Imperial Sword Technique is for the lowly.”

“I’m not so light that I’d lose to something like Imperial Sword Technique. He’ll fall by my hand. I’m a descendant of a great hero.”

***

“I always wonder,” Rayka murmured, her face marred with injuries.

“Why can’t I beat you?”

Her confidence was overflowing. She knew she was talented. She had mastered the heroic sword techniques and was utilizing them well. Yet, she had never managed to defeat Asher even once.

“You do manage to wound me.”

“It’s just scratches. Barely that.”

“On the contrary, I’m more surprised.”

Having managed to wound him so soon, only half a year into proper training, was beyond exceptional talent. No matter how gifted she was, mastery of sword techniques would take time. Besides, Asher had battled numerous heroes and monsters, knowing hundreds of countermoves.

“And besides, it’s too tricky to fight against you. Changing weapons at will.”

“Is that so?”

Asher tapped at his wrist guard, and the spear in his hand disappeared. He was very pleased. Although still inexperienced, the ways to utilize it were abundant.

“It’s about time.”

“Ah? It’s that time already.”

The sun dipped below the horizon. Rayka waved her hand.

“See you tomorrow.”

“Don’t rush. You have plenty of time.”

“Same to you.”

After Rayka left, Asher was alone in the training ground. He stood for a moment, then began to swing his sword.

“Is it night already?”

Three hours passed, and it had become dark. Asher wiped off his sweat and headed towards the baths.

While on his way, he ran into Luke.

“Good day, sir.”

Without a word, Luke watched him. As Asher moved to enter the changing room, Luke spoke.

“Tomorrow.”

Asher turned back to look at him—his eyes were firm.

“Tomorrow. Go to the alleyway written down here at midnight.”

“What?”

“Is it a refusal of an order from your employer?”

“…,”

Asher took what Luke offered and looked at it, then chuckled softly.

“Understood.”

“Make sure to go. If you don’t, you will be expelled.”

Luke spoke harshly and strode away. Asher watched him then entered the bath.

***

“Alright, Asher. Training again today.”

“Pass for today.”

“Eh, why?”

“The young master asked me to do something.”

“Luke asked you?”

Rayka made a bizarre face. It was a highly improbable notion.

“What is it?”

“Just stopping by somewhere. Nothing big.”

“Really? It’s not something weird?”

“I doubt it.”

Rayka looked worried, and Asher waved his hand.

“…I’d prefer if you didn’t go.”

“I’m still an employee for now. It would be wrong to refuse an order. Besides, I think I know what it’s about.”

“Is that so?”

“Just train on your own today.”

“You must come back, okay?”

“You worry too much.”

It was time. Asher stepped outside. He felt several gazes from the citizens. Ignoring them, he stood in front of the alley that Luke had mentioned. Wiping the dust off the wall, an inverse cross symbol appeared.

“…These guys.”

Asher slowly walked into the alley. He felt multiple presences. They thought they were well-hidden, but to him, they were amateurs. A small chair appeared in front of him. He sat down.

“Isn’t it about time you showed yourselves?”

Silently, individuals dressed in black approached from all around.

Fourteen of them. Quite a number.

“So, what does the disdainful Mottoloria want with me?”

“!”

They flinched at his words, and then clapping sounds followed. A man in a black robe appeared, clapping his hands.

“I’m surprised you knew.”

“Who else could it be under these inverse crosses, if not you guys?”

Decades ago, he smashed them but had not been able to eradicate them. And now, he was facing them again.

The robed man smirked.

“Even a Swordmaster’s disciple cares deeply, huh? Even told you about us.”

“I didn’t hear it from him. This is all from my sources. Sending a note to come down this alley was too obvious. I was worried you might not be the assassins but someone else.”

“You talk too much for my liking.”

“Is that so?”

Asher muttered indifferently. This was his body’s first real battle. His mind was steady, but the body might react differently under influence.

“Since you know, and still you came… to find your grave?”

“You’ve come.”

“A graveyard, then.”

At the man’s words, Asher muttered under his breath. The killing intent of the assassins struck his whole body, the oppression constricting him. Longing for the familiar sensation, Asher loosened his body.

In that moment, an assassin burst out of the darkness, clinging to his back. Just as he was about to stab with his dagger, Asher spun around. Twisting the assassin’s wrist, he caught the falling dagger and plunged it straight back in, causing the dark figure to collapse.

The movements flowed smoothly, and in an instant, they couldn’t even comprehend what had happened.

“You rejects, shunned even in the underworld, who cannot step forward without your master’s permission, swept away like ants in a storm, you are nothing.”

“…You.”

The man’s face hardened. Asher pulled the dagger from the assassin’s throat. Blood splattered on Asher’s face, staining it crimson.

“Who are you? Who knows our secrets?”

“What matters is not that. I am your target. There’s only one thing I must do then.”

Asher drew his sword.

***

Hyban was walking down a lavishly decorated corridor. Gold ornaments placed all around captured his eye, and opulent patterns painted on the walls indicated the status of the person who resided there.

A ruler higher than any other man.

As Hyban opened the door, he saw a middle-aged man sitting on a high throne inside the room. Hyban, chuckling, chose a chair and plopped down on it.

“It’s been a while, child of the empire.”

“It has been more than twenty years.”

The man replied calmly. There was neither respect nor admiration in his gaze toward the Swordmaster—just a neutral look.

“I never thought you’d become the emperor. I thought you were clever but expected you would be driven to the outskirts due to your low succession rights.”

“I killed them all. That’s why it became mine.”

The man adjusted the crown on his head and answered with tired eyes.

Seeing the reality-weary, once bright and clever child was a depressing sight for Hyban.

“At least you survived. Want some candy?”

“Your lack of respect for royalty hasn’t changed.”

“Royalty?”

Hyban smirked.

“I walk the path of the sword. I’ve reached a state that transcends racial boundaries. Human authority means nothing to me.”

“I know. Just making sure. Twenty years is enough time to forget.”

“Twenty years… Yes, it seems the empire has changed somewhat.”

“I didn’t think much had changed.”

“Current captain of the guard.”

“Ah.”

The emperor stroked his chin at Hyban’s words, and Hyban laughed as if amused.

“Putting everything else aside, that alone is quite surprising. I never thought the current guard captain would be that child.”

“The empire does not discriminate between races. If they are capable and loyal, elves and orcs alike are welcome.”

“I know. It’s just amusing to me. That noble races are fixated on human forms. Moreover, that child.”

“That child wanted that position. I could have given a better position, but that child was fixated on being the guard captain.”

“Well, that makes sense.”

Hyban stroked his chin, pondering briefly before grinning mischievously.

“It would be interesting to meet that child.”

Talking about his month-long stay in a remote territory, the emperor didn’t recall the name of the territory. It was a small and insignificant region, too close to the capital to be of any real value or interest.

“Yes. I encountered an interesting boy. I wonder what it would be like to meet that current guard captain.”

A boy who greatly resembled his respected father. How will he react? The anticipation was unbearable.

“Hmm.”

The emperor leaned back with disinterest as Hyban chuckled. The emperor had sacrificed everything just to survive as the emperor. He had no spare interest in swords.

“If the Swordmaster finds it fun, then it must be about swords. Then it’s of no consequence.”

“Enough of the idle talk; let’s get to the point.”

Such immaterial matters were merely trivial. A solemn gravity slowly filled the emperor’s gaze. The weary man was gone, and the great ruler of the empire had emerged.

“That stuff you talked about, it’s true, isn’t it?”

“Yes.”

Hyban nodded. The emperor chuckled dryly.

“The great hero did a pretty stylish cleanup job. He abandoned even his people and his territory to flee.”

“Don’t be too harsh on him. He must have tried his best.”

“But look at the result. A hastily mended rift is coming undone, and the darkness is re-emerging. You’re on the run, aren’t you?”

“Don’t worry. My body isn’t weak enough to die from such trifles. The immediate priority is to locate the hero. I would appreciate the empire’s cooperation.”

“Hmm.”

The emperor touched his crown. His voice, devoid of emotion, filled the room.

“No. There will be no support.”

“… What?”

Hyban’s face contorted in an instant. Simultaneously, a commanding presence filled the room, causing the knights behind him to involuntarily draw their swords from the intensity of the force. However, the emperor’s face remained unchanged, facing the pressure head-on.

“You’re joking. You must know what the situation is?”

“The emperor is in no position to joke, sadly.”

Hyban gripped his sword tightly. The guards seemed poised to leap forward, but they were suppressed by an invisible force, unable to so much as twitch a finger. Though the atmosphere was about to burst with tension, the emperor calmly spoke.

“The problem isn’t just that one thing. Ironically, there’s really no capacity.”

Hyban slowly relaxed his grip, and suppressed groans erupted around them.

“What happened?”

“Your heroes, twenty years ago, most of them disappeared. Just vanished, without a word. Thanks to them, the world plunged into chaos.”

“I left first. Wait, the others disappeared too?”

“Didn’t know? You must have gone to places with absolutely no flow of information.”

“…”

Hyban fell silent at the emperor’s words. The emperor waved his hand, and the noise from the guards faded. Only the two of them were left in the vast space.

“Now, not all heroes left, so that’s settled. The hero was one of them. But now, it’s the ones who stayed that are the problem.”

“… What is it.”

“It’s not just one hero that was broken.”

The emperor stated plainly.



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