Reincarnation of the Swordmaster Chapter 42

“Eh?”

Someone groaned. Their faces showed no anger, only confusion. It had all happened too suddenly.

“…You.”

As they came to their senses, killing intent surged forward. They approached with menacing expressions, drawing their weapons.

“This bastard. How dare…!”

“Resentment, huh? It seems hardly the emotion for those who intended to sell others into slavery.”

The glass he had been handed earlier. It had reeked of sedatives and drugs.

“According to the strict laws of the Empire, those who trade humans are all to be executed. If there is evidence and witnesses, summary execution is allowed without accountability. It’s clearly written.”

The slavers hesitated.

“Are you going to kill us to silence us? Or will you flee outside the empire?”

“……”

They advanced slowly. Asher moved.

“Karon. Protect Reika.”

“Yes.”

Karon drew his sword. A man watching from a distance suddenly charged.

“Die!”

The blade swished by, and Asher moved his hand. The charging man collapsed instantly.

“Yikes!”

Two more men lashed out with their swords simultaneously. Catching the blades with his hand, Asher flicked them away. The men watching their swords fly away slowly fell to the ground.

“……”

As the situation unfolded, the slavers began to slowly back away. Asher waved his hand. A dagger flew, piercing through the heads of the slavers.

“Thought you could run?”

“……”

And it was over. Despite being over twenty in number, they were merely civilians, untrained in proper swordsmanship.

After cutting down about ten, some tried to flee, but none escaped; they were completely annihilated.

Asher shook the blood off his sword. From the beginning, he had no intention of letting them live. Human traffickers were among those he despised the most.

“Watch. Reika.”

Reika looked stiffly at the bodies.

“If it weren’t for Karon and me, you would have trusted these people and drunk their wine. Then, you’d have been overpowered by the drugs.”

Even with his skill in swordsmanship, he couldn’t have exerted his full strength while drugged. Any resistance would have been futile.

“And then you would have been sold to unknown people and never returned. Maybe you would have been tormented and killed by them.”

Reika’s face grew pale. Asher sheathed his sword.

“The world isn’t peaceful, especially not now. Unwarranted kindness should always be met with suspicion first.”

Regardless of talent, power, or age, this was a world where people die. Reika slowly nodded. Karon looked intrigued.

‘…Do you understand?’

One couldn’t know such nuances without sufficient experience. Asher had seen through the situation as if he had faced it numerous times before.

‘It’s not even surprising anymore.’

Given Asher’s actions so far, this wasn’t unusual. Asher seemed absorbed in his thoughts, bowing his head.

‘These people made it to the capital.’

What a state the world was in. It wasn’t a place for slavers to speak, but Asher walked over to the wagon and pulled back the covering cloth.

“Ah.”

Reika’s face contorted.

“Uh…”

“Who, who are…”

Inside, several people were trembling. When released, they repeatedly expressed their gratitude. None were injured or weakened significantly; they needed to be in sellable condition.

“Where were you captured?”

“I, I don’t know. I was traveling, and suddenly after being friendly, I drank the wine they gave me, and I lost my memory, ending up like this.”

Listening to their stories, most were ordinary travelers. The belongings they managed to keep during the suppression were still in the rear wagon. Some found and collected their items, and others joined in the journey to the capital. Most of the travelers were self-sufficient, arranging their food and finding places to sleep.

‘It won’t be too bothersome.’

Asher leaned back. The former captives comforted and looked after each other. Reika also mingled among them, caring for them. Suddenly, someone approached him.

“Did you save us, brother?”

“Brother.”

Feeling an odd sense of familiarity, Asher silently nodded.

The newcomer was a boy, perhaps in his mid-teens, yet still showing traces of youthfulness.

“Thank you. I will definitely repay this kindness someday. Just my luck, getting into this mess on the way to the capital.”

“Do you have a guardian?”

“No. I’ve been an orphan from the start.”

The boy shrugged. Though he mentioned being an orphan, there was no sadness in his voice; he just mentioned it as a matter-of-fact.

“When I was suddenly captured as a slave, I truly thought it was the end. With this young body, I couldn’t even resist. I thought I would die without even living properly.”

“That’s not something a kid should say.”

“I’m a kid, so it’s fitting to say it. If I die before becoming an adult, it rightly is a premature death.”

His words were unusually mature, prompting a smirk from Asher. An interesting kid, he reminded him of an old friend.

“I should meet up with my master soon. That old man, he’ll probably starve without me around.”

“A master?”

He didn’t appear to be physically trained, nor did he seem to have a knack for magic.

Guess it didn’t matter.

From the boy’s words, it seemed he wasn’t even sure if his master was proper.

Asher turned to leave when he noticed something on the boy’s hand.

The pattern was visible.

“…That.”

“Hmm?”

“That pattern.”

“Oh, this? My master drew it for me. He said that with this, I could avoid fights, but damn, I ended up captured as a slave anyway. It’s my fault for believing that swindler.”

The boy grumbled. Asher silently observed the pattern—a black crescent moon overlaid with a red sun.

‘Well, time has passed. It might be quite possible.’

The succession of power.

He would witness it once again before his eyes.

***

Heroes.

Beings with the power to transcend humans and defeat monsters.

Their powers and their paths varied immensely.

Those who honed their swordsmanship to reach the realm of a Swordmaster.

Those who repeatedly practiced mental discipline to achieve enlightenment.

Those who abandoned their divine status to descend.

And those who received the mantle of a hero through succession.

‘The Master of the Depths’ was a hero of the latter kind.

He blocked the expansion of darkness from the lowest places. When his body grew frail and he could no longer act, he would accept a disciple, pass on his power, and die. Then, the disciple would inherit the name and power of the Master of the Depths.

The boy in front of him was the one to receive that succession.

‘A curious feeling indeed.’

Asher thought, sitting in a carriage that spared him the trouble of walking all the way to the empire. The boy in front of him kept rattling on and on.

Asher had already watched a succession of power once before. His friend had been chosen and had received that power. The fact that the boy in front was about to receive this power meant that his friend was nearing the end of his life.

‘Isn’t it sudden?’

The Master of the Depths’ lifespan was similar to that of a regular human. The immense power, accepted without preparation, was too much for the body to handle. But this time, it seemed he had lasted a long while.

“So, the old man just keeps asking me to cook for him, but what does a little orphan like me know? I ended up burning the food, and he complained about that, too. He treats his disciple like a maid.”

The boy seemed unaware of who his master really was. He merely thought of him as an old man, a bit senile, and felt pity for him.

“I got a note summoning me, so I’m going, but who knows? Maybe there’s really no one else to cook for him.”

“Maybe.”

The boy would find out when he reached the capital what he was going to inherit.

“And how did you end up as a disciple?”

The boy’s name was Gerun.

Gerun leaned his head against the wall of the carriage with a nonchalant expression.

“Nothing special. What’s an orphan kid to do? I barely scraped by as a pickpocket. One day, I tried to pickpocket the old man, but he caught me right away. I thought I was done for, thinking I’d be dragged off by the guard and beaten to death. So, I begged him, pleaded.”

Then the old man had looked at Gerun with a strange expression, sized him up, and said with a smile,

“Would you like to become my disciple?”

“I just agreed to get away at that moment… But it was probably a mistake. He only ordered me around, didn’t teach me anything as a master should. Plus, he kept me close, didn’t let me go far. Always had to stick by his side.”

Asher nodded slightly.

Just being near him was training. The darkness emanating from the Master of the Depths was something no ordinary human could withstand. If Gerun had managed to endure it calmly, he must have had some potential in that regard.

“I finally got free and started wandering around again. Ugh. I wonder if he’s still alive; I’m getting on in years myself.”

At the end of his speech, his worry was unmistakable.

Asher chuckled quietly.

“He’s alive. That guy’s tough.”

“Hey, you know the old man?”

“A bit.”

“Huh.”

Gerun’s eyes sparkled, looking at Asher with a mixture of admiration.

“You don’t seem the right age.”

“Not exactly.”

Their ages might match in terms of mental years, not physical.

“Ugh. Maybe I’ll ask him to teach me swordsmanship this time. I want to be strong like you.”

“I’m not strong.”

“You are! You killed all those slave traders by yourself! I’ve seen plenty of folks walking around armed, claiming to be swordsmen, but none as strong as you!”

“Hmm.”

Asher looked nonchalantly as Gerun clenched his fist and shouted.

The power Gerun would soon receive was beyond comprehension. His strength was merely human, slightly out of the ordinary, but still within the larger scheme.

‘…No news of him.’

Caius had said. The Master of the Depths had recently cut off all outside contact.

‘Has he returned for the succession, or…’

In the midst of this, a joyful exclamation erupted from outside the carriage. The surroundings began to get noisy.

The carriage had arrived in the capital.

“Wow!”

Leika’s eyes lit up as she exclaimed. The heart of the great empire unfolded before her.

“So big…”

The capital was immense. The city walls alone towered over the Ilyak domain by several times, and their majesty was indescribable. Leika murmured dreamily,

“So this is the capital…”

“We’ve arrived.”

Karon’s face also bore a trace of emotion. Asher stepped out to gaze at the city walls.

“……”

The capital of the empire. He had spent half his life with this place.

He knew everything about it. Who built the city walls, how many guards there were, what the most popular bar was.

But things must have changed since then. Twenty years was enough time for mountains and rivers to transform.

Asher moved forward with a wry smile.



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