Reincarnation of the Swordmaster Chapter 38

Chapter 38: Captain of the Guard (3)

“Are you the disciple of Master Haiban?”

Caught off guard by the sudden question, Asher nodded after regaining his senses.

“Temporarily, but yes.”

“I see…”

Aureina’s eyes, as she looked at Asher, seemed to tremble with an unidentifiable emotion—a detail that did not escape him.

‘Why such a look?’

It wasn’t merely the look one gave to a disciple of a swordmaster; it was filled with complex emotions. As if to lighten the atmosphere, Levrock approached with a laugh.

“Indeed, a very gifted child. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say our territory owes its recovery to him.”

“To think he is so young and yet went to confront goblins. There must be a reason why Master accepted him as a disciple.”

Aureina spoke with a stark expression. Asher was used to it. She had barely changed her expressions since she was a child. However, Levrock seemed noticeably awkward.

“Master Levrock.”

“Hm? What is it?”

“Could you please leave us alone for a moment? I would like to speak with him privately.”

“Um… alright. I’ll return after your discussion.”

Levrock stepped outside. The training ground was left with only an elf and a human, silently staring at each other.

‘Why the captain of the guard?’

Asher wondered.

Aureina was of a race whose forest was destroyed by humans, the last of her kind. Thus, she chose to live with minimal contact with humans, not forming ties with the empire even after her retirement. But now, a captain of the guard?

‘Could it be that this child was the first to discover my body?’

Unlike the other children, he had spent his late years together with her, although that didn’t mean there was deep affection between them. After all, he too was responsible for the destruction of her race.

‘Maybe I showed her a disgraceful sight.’

No. Perhaps she found it satisfying in some twisted way, considering he was friendly with the destroyers of her kind. Aureina finally spoke with a blank face.

“You seem unsettled.”

“I won’t deny it.”

Aureina was the captain of the guard, a position on top of all the guards, demanding much responsibility. It wasn’t a trivial role that could spare time for small matters, like attending to someone who merely defeated some goblins without significant trouble.

“There must be another reason then.” Aureina sighed, her voice tinged with reluctance.

“Let me tell you. I am here at Master Haiban’s request. He couldn’t come himself, thus delegated this task to me.”

“Is that so.”

That damned request. Haiban had said at their parting, ‘When we meet again, I’ll explain everything.’

That must be what she referred to. But why the captain of the guard?

“And he left a strange message as well.”

“…”

What a peculiar hobby.

Asher murmured inwardly. The message must have been clear.

“Let’s get to the point.”

Suddenly, Aureina’s demeanor shifted. The complex emotions in her eyes disappeared, replaced by a cold, judgmental gaze.

“Firstly, let me tell you. The empire does not trust you.”

“That so?”

Understandable. As much as Haiban was a swordmaster, he had disappeared twenty years ago. For such a figure to suddenly present a disciple and ask to share secrets would naturally cause confusion in the empire’s view.

Even though he had realized the identity of the doppelganger, the empire hadn’t witnessed it directly.

“A boy knowing about monsters that vanished fifty years ago? It would be strange not to be suspicious.”

“The secret I’m to share is known only to a few within the empire. Even with Master Haiban’s command, I cannot speak freely. My reason for being here is to judge you. With the eyes of an elf—to discern the right and wrong.”

Elves, the species of balance. Unswayed by emotions, they discern truth and falsehood.

“Master Haiban judged you as a human based on… your swordsmanship.”

When mentioning swordsmanship, Aureina’s eyes trembled slightly.

“Please, demonstrate your swordsmanship to me. This is a request from the empire.”

“Understood.”

He had no reason to refuse. It was a swordsmanship he had practiced for half of his life. He drew his sword, and watching him, Aureina quietly bit her lip.

Aureina was shocked to see Haiban return. That someone gone for twenty years had reappeared, bringing unforeseen issues.

But it was his next words that surprised her more.

‘The one I’ve accepted as a disciple. He resembles your father. In swordsmanship, and even his speech.’

Aureina gripped her sword tightly, her gaze no longer characteristically elf-like but twisted with emotion.

‘A person resembling him should not exist.’

Following his death, she had accepted this truth in despair, turning to the role of the captain of the guard as an escape. Yet suddenly, an unrelated boy resembled him.

‘Don’t make me laugh.’

It was a sense of inferiority. Aureina’s eyes flickered as she watched Asher swing his sword. For now, she would observe, and if not…

‘She would simply do her duty as the captain of the guard.’

A deadly gaze followed, and the sword moved.

Simultaneously, Aureina’s pupils dilated.

***

The swordplay ended. Truly, there wasn’t much to label as swordplay; the imperial sword techniques were merely a series of straightforward linear and circular motions.

‘What she can discern from this, I don’t know.’

Asher could only hope for the best, reading the elf’s judgment. He sheathed his sword and turned to face Aureina.

“Have you concluded your observation?”

Aureina remained silent, her mouth opening and closing before she finally spoke.

“You.”

She looked at Asher as if enchanted, her eyes shaking.

“…What relation do you have with Master Kensho?”

“Kensho?”

Asher was baffled by the unfamiliar term. No swordsman he knew carried the nickname Kensho.

“No, it’s not that.”

Aureina abruptly shook her head as if snapping out of a trance, denying her own words with a jerk of her head. The connection remained unspoken, the elf captain wrestling with thoughts only she understood.

It seemed as though he was flustered, having mentioned something that should not have been said.

“…I apologize. I need to take a break. I’ll see you in a bit.”

Areina bowed slightly and left the training ground, her figure disappearing with a stagger.

“What’s that about?”

Asher muttered to himself.

***

Asher was sitting in the center of the village square, looking at a house.

That was his house, the place where he was born, grew up, and where his family lived. But now, a pastry shop stood in its place.

‘How time flies.’

He could feel the passage of time in various aspects. What could his family be doing now? His sister might be dead by now. Her sons and daughters would be at a dangerous age. What about the grandchildren? Footsteps echoed from behind.

“Are you all right?”

“Yes. I apologize for any trouble.”

As he turned, Areina was standing there, with still a tremble in her gaze. Asher brushed off his body and got up.

“Let’s talk then.”

Asher returned to the castle. Rebeirok appeared puzzled, but Asher did not resolve his confusion and reached the training grounds again.

“……”

Silence fell once more, but it was a different kind of silence this time.

Areina was restless, glancing at Asher now and then, her lips parting then closing repeatedly.

Clearly, she wanted to say something but refrained from speaking recklessly.

‘I didn’t expect sword skills alone to change so much.’

It seemed the conversation wouldn’t progress if things stayed that way. Eventually, Asher spoke first.

“May I ask you something?”

“Yes? Ah. Yes.”

Relieved that he initiated the conversation, Areina’s expression softened. Asher asked with a sigh,

“Why did you become the captain of the guards? You are an elf. Such a position would seem meaningless to you.”

Areina’s expression hardened unexpectedly at Asher’s question. To him, it was a natural question. He had thought that after his death, Areina would seek out other elves.

“Because it was his position.”

“His?”

“My father. Of course, he was my adoptive father. My father was human.”

Though it was supposed to be a secret, she felt it was okay to disclose it to the young man in front of her. Areina continued with a yearning look,

“He was the captain of the guards. A man I am proud of. That’s why I follow in his footsteps.”

“…Were you close?”

Asher asked with a slightly stiff face. He had not guessed that Areina had harbored such feelings. She shook her head slightly at his question.

“No. I don’t know. I never expressed it to him. Besides, he probably raised me out of sympathy. He didn’t really have affection.”

“He wasn’t like that.”

Asher replied immediately, and Areina looked a bit surprised, then slowly smiled.

“Thank you.”

It was merely a simple consolation, but to her, the boy in front of her seemed like her father.

“Ahem. I apologize. You resembled him so much that I mistook you for him.”

“Did you admire him?”

“Yes.”

Areina nodded decisively, complicating Asher’s feelings.

‘Admiration.’

He wasn’t without respect. A man who refused to succumb to his poor talents and steadfastly walked his path. There were those who admired him for that alone.

But their admiration was merely respect, the kind offered to someone who endures a thorny path.

However, Areina’s feelings were different. They were of clear adoration, from someone who wished to walk the same path.

‘Why.’

He was a man without talent. Not worthy of admiration.

Reflecting on it, Raika was the same as Areina. Why? Why would they admire someone like that?

He breathed quietly. The truths he had not known in the past were not easy to accept.

“Let’s get to the main point then.”

“Yes.”

Areina’s expression became serious. From a somewhat relaxed face to the face of the captain overseeing all guards, she began,

“I will convey a message from Highvan.”

***

“First, let me say this. This is a secret known by only a few within the empire. If it becomes known outside, we will assume that Mr. Asher disclosed it, and the empire will send a pursuit team.”

“I understand.”

Although it was a grave declaration, Asher simply nodded. It was a line he had often said himself. He had not expected to be on the receiving end though.

“As you know, the hero has disappeared. Abandoning his fief and people, he vanished without a trace. Initially, only his fief was in turmoil. But gradually, strange incidents began occurring.”

The shadow-less one.

A nightmare spreading throughout the village.

People dying in their sleep, sucked dry.

Clear abnormal phenomena.

“The empire dispatched a search party. As its outline became clear, Highvan returned. And he disclosed one fact.”

“The Demon King might have returned.”

“Ah, you know.”

“I’ve looked into it somewhat.”

Areina appeared flustered by Asher’s brief response. It was strange not to have guessed as much.

Umphert, Artolia, and even a succubus. What a mess.

Areina continued with a somber face,

“But the biggest problem isn’t that.”

“What is the problem then?”

“Twenty years ago, the heroes disappeared.”

“I know that.”

He had heard it from an assassin of Motoloria. After he died, half of the heroes had vanished.

It might seem natural to those like Raika living in the present, but it was surprising to him.

“They have returned now. That wasn’t the problem. The issue arose with heroes who, like the previous hero, had stayed at their posts.”

This time, they disappeared.

Areina’s face was grim with the unfolding events.



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