Reincarnation of the Swordmaster Chapter 44

Chapter 44: The Heart of the Empire (2)

“Aye, surely not.”

The guide spoke with definitive disbelief.

“How could Sir Caron ever lose to you? He must have held back.”

“Is that so?”

“Of course. There’s no way Sir Caron would be defeated by a girl who hasn’t even come of age.”

“Seems so.”

At Asher’s words, Caron silently twitched the corners of his eyes.

Of course, that wasn’t true. Caron had fought in earnest and hadn’t managed to withstand even ten exchanges against Leyka.

Caron was undeniably strong. He possessed skills worthy of admiration.

It was just that Leyka’s talent, like that of the heroes, spanned beyond the human realm.

“…Let’s get to the main point. How is the lady’s integration going?”

“Ah, yes, certainly. If you are Sir Caron’s master, you must be qualified.”

The guide hurriedly found Leyka’s papers and passed them to her after a few signatures.

“Then, please come to the location written here tomorrow to take the test.”

“What?”

Leyka was taken aback.

“A test? There was no mention of that.”

“It’s a given so we didn’t notify you. We are short on people, so we can’t accept all the candidates. Just a minimal demonstration of skill and you can be admitted right away.”

Asher had taken the test too. He had a high proficiency in the imperial swordsmanship, so he passed without any major problems. Leyka asked anxiously,

“How likely am I to pass?”

“Every year, about three to four hundred people come here. It’s considered a good year if even two pass.”

“…”

The guide chuckled and handed the papers to Leyka.

“Don’t worry. How could a pupil of Sir Caron not pass?”

“A pupil?”

“Isn’t she? With a knight like Sir Caron around, there’s no need to learn from anyone else, right?”

“Ah, um…”

Leyka responded with hesitation.

***

“Damn it. A test.”

Back at her lodging, Leyka took off her outer garments. She muttered as she threw herself onto the bed.

“What if there’s a written exam? I’m really not confident about that.”

“Don’t worry too much. There’s no way you wouldn’t pass.”

“That’s easy to say. It’s a test that only two out of four hundred pass.”

Leykah sat up with a gloomy expression.

“…But you were that famous a knight?”

“It’s all in the past.”

“Still, to think you were the top of the academy.”

Those who wielded swords all came to the academy. To rise to the top amidst such competition equated to being the best swordsman of the time.

“Why did you come to a rural domain like ours?”

“…There was an incident.”

“What incident?”

“I’m sorry.”

Caron replied with a bitter face, refusing to answer further.

“I came under Lord Reberoc with the condition that I wouldn’t be asked about it, so it’s difficult to say.”

“…Is that so?”

Asher could somewhat guess what the incident might have been. If he listened to the talk about Doppelgängers, estimating wasn’t too difficult.

‘Brainwashing, no doubt.’

Either heretics or monsters subdued and brainwashed him, and he probably turned his blade against his own comrades. That trauma might have driven him to sever ties with the world and retreat to a small domain.

For such a skilled knight to abandon honor and power, it must have been a life-altering event.

But it had nothing to do with him. Asher opened the door to leave, to which Leyka abruptly asked,

“Where are you going?”

“I told you, I have my own matters to attend to.”

“Wait, just like that?”

Leyka blocked his path. Asher shook his head.

“I’m not leaving right away. I’ll be back, so don’t worry.”

“No, it’s not that. Don’t you have any advice for the test? You’re my teacher after all! How can you just leave?”

“Advice?”

Asher shrugged.

“Why offer advice when the outcome is obvious?”

“Yikes…”

Leyka clenched her fists, trembling, but it was the truth. As obvious as an apple falling to the ground, it didn’t even need to be seen. Asher pushed past her.

“I’ll be back in a few days.”

“Jerk. Hope you trip and smash your nose. Where are you going?”

“The Sword Gate.”

“Oh. That place?”

Interest sparked in Leyka’s eyes.

“I want to go too.”

“You didn’t even know about it.”

“I asked on the way here. It sounded interesting, so I wanted to visit.”

“Suit yourself.”

“Great. Caron, how about you?”

“I’m fine.”

Caron declined Leyka’s invitation.

“I’d rather not feel inadequate again.”

***

“Wow…”

Leyka gazed around with excited eyes. The bustling sounds of the market were audible. Although the Ilock domain was quite lively, it was still just a rural area. It couldn’t compare with the heart of the empire.

Asher, too, felt a novelty. The capital had been his home for decades.

It was a nostalgic feeling. Over twenty years had passed, but not much had changed.

Lost in his emotions for a moment, he moved forward, past the heart of the empire and into the outskirts. He walked into a street lined with various guilds, where dazzling high-rise buildings stood densely packed. Amidst them, there was a dilapidated building.

“Here.”

“…Here? Really?”

“Yeah.”

Asher answered as Leyka skeptically scanned the building up and down.

“Looks like a rundown building.”

The neglected exterior was dusty and shabby.

“This is the place.”

Asher entered the building. A half-slumped employee only nodded his head in Asher’s direction.

“You might have entered the wrong place?”

“No.”

“Oh? Really?”

The employee looked perplexed.

Reika took her seat by her face and looked around with disgust.

“It’s completely ruined.”

The inside was worse than the outside. Books were strewn about carelessly, and occasionally, bugs could be seen crawling around.

The clerk cleared his throat with a slight cough and extended a register.

“This place hasn’t seen visitors for a while. We’re not prepared. You do know what this place is for, right?”

“Yes, but it’s been a long time, hasn’t it?”

“Huh? No one comes here anymore. At most, once a year? That’s about it. And that’s only when a rookie examiner comes by because they’re bored.”

“…Is that so?”

In the later years of my past life, it wasn’t frequented much, but at its peak, people used to line up and wait. But once a year?

The employee grumbled as if complaining.

“That’s the way it is. Even being the Sword’s Gate. Most can’t even open the first door, right? Who would want to come here? Anyway, right? There’s no entrance fee. Just write your name here.”

I wrote my name in the register. The date right above it was indeed a year ago.

It’s truly ruined.

Asher groaned uncomfortably.

“Then off you go. You’re free to try, but you can’t break the door.”

“Break it?”

“Some people have tried. They couldn’t actually break it, though.”

Where the employee gestured, there was a small door.

A door barely wide enough for one person to pass through. Asher and Reika approached it. Reika stood in front of the door and turned around.

“How do you open this?”

“Just push. It will open if you are qualified.”

“Alright.”

Reika rolled up her sleeves and placed her hand on the door. As she exerted strength in her delicate hand, the door did not budge.

“Uh, what?”

Reika’s face registered surprise, feeling like she was pushing against a great tree.

“Isn’t this stuck?”

“Nope. It won’t open anyway, so please go back.”

The employee casually responded while eating snacks. Reika clenched her teeth and exerted more strength; her face grew red, and her veins bulged on her wrists.

Crrreeeak!

“Wha, wha, wha, what!”

The door moved slightly. It was a movement so minimal it was embarrassing to say it opened, but it was enough to make the snacking employee stand up suddenly.

“My goodness!”

“Phew. Phew.”

Reika wiped the sweat with her trembling arm.

“This is damn heavy.”

“My word! There is actually someone who can open it!”

The employee made a scene as if seeing a monumental event unfolding. Reika rubbed her sore arms with a sheepish look.

“Really?”

“Yes! I haven’t seen anyone do this the entire time I’ve been in charge! My goodness… Miss, your name?”

“Reika Halbark.”

“Reika Halbark… Good. Your name will now be known to all examiners who come here. Miss, you have accomplished a great feat.”

“Heh.”

Reika’s eyes sparkled. There was no way she would feel bad about receiving praise.

“Asher. Try it too.”

Reika heartily slapped Asher on the back.

“You might be able to do the next one.”

“Eh. I doubt it.”

The employee bluntly responded.

“The people who open the first door are very few, to my knowledge. And all of them were swordmasters or became swordmasters. And, historically, nobody could ever approach the fifth door. It’s impossible.”

“For such a place to.”

Reika smiled proudly. Opening the door was an affair that would definitely boost one’s pride.

Asher put his hand on the door, which had barely moved, and pushed.

Creeeak.

The door swung open smoothly, as if it had been open the entire time.

“…Eh?”

“Wh, what?”

The employee turned his head in confusion. Reika gaped at the open door while Asher had already gone inside.

“It might take a while, so just go back.”

Without waiting for a response, Asher entered. The door closed, and a scream erupted from behind. Beyond the door Asher opened, there was nothing but a small room and yet another door in front.

Asher approached and pulled it open. It opened smoothly.

The Door of the Sword.

Not a remarkable place. Not a place with grand rewards. It contained only seven doors.

Despite this, the place was well-known. Because only those who honed their swords could open the doors.

Doors that open according to their own realms. Once, those who called themselves swordsmen all aimed for this place. It was a kind of rite of passage to try and open the doors. But that didn’t last even a decade.

The reason was simple. Virtually no one could open the doors. Not second nor third rates, and not even first-rate swordsmen could open the first door. Only those just below a swordmaster could barely open the first and second doors.

Creeeak.

The door opened again. Asher reached the fourth door and pushed it. It revealed its interior as if it had been open from the beginning.

A place not even a swordmaster might reach the fifth door. People lost interest. Only a minimal few besides could not even open the door, so why would they want to come?

Trying to open the doors became a pointless act, and there were even rumors that it wasn’t really about proving one’s mastery with the sword, but something else. Eventually, only young swordsmen who overestimated their own talents came.

Creeeak.

The fifth door opened. And then the sixth.

Asher moved forward without any hindrance.

According to common lore, no one had ever opened the seventh door.

Creeeak.

The seventh door opened. Beyond was a space unlike any other seen before, and in the middle, a golden sword was embedded.

The sword chimed.

[Oh. What? It’s been a long time, hasn’t it?]

“It sure has.”



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