Reincarnation of the Swordmaster Chapter 55

The Fallen One (3)

Screech!

The sound waves spread, but they miss Asher, narrowly passing by. The sound waves emitted by the bat move in a straight line. In other words, if you avoid the range, you’re not affected. It was a familiar beast. It reached him in an instant, and he stabbed with his sword. Now four left.

He spreads his hands, dodging the attacking beasts and throwing needles in all directions. He finds something wriggling in the dark and hurls a spear at it. The black dog disappears. Three left.

Squeal!

“This one’s weakness is the small tail. Cut it off, and it shrinks.”

He dodges the mouth of the pig and stabs the sword into its tail. The pig shrinks to the size of a fist.

“Now two left.”

He calms his stiff chest and controls his breathing. His muscles begin to ache.

Every move was with full force. Had he spared his strength unnecessarily, he would have died long ago. His limit was approaching. He forces himself to stop trembling.

The remaining beasts are two – Giane, a formless entity, and Sumoka, who consists of clumped mist.

“Not too difficult.”

If fought individually, both were troublesome beasts. Giane was hard to counter because it was invisible, and Sumoka had a freely spreading body with no clear weakness due to its strength.

However, it was different when both appeared at once. Asher stopped moving. As Sumoka swelled up and charged, Asher stepped back and stabbed backward. With a disgusting sensation, something invisible collapsed.

He grabbed the formless entity and threw it at Sumoka. Covered in the formless something, Sumoka writhed but couldn’t move freely. Asher climbed on top of him and drove his sword through. Soon, it turned into mist and vanished.

“Is it over?”

Giane and Sumoka. Whenever these two appeared together, their patterns of behavior were always the same. Moreover, Giane’s body had the power to suppress the mist like Sumoka. Then it was simple.

“I never thought you could actually do it.”

The sword muttered as if it was taken by surprise. Though one was taken out by Takan, there were hardly any who could handle seven beasts. At most, a hero. And Asher had done it.

“Sigh.”

Although he was at his limit, he could still move. Asher aimed his sword at Crocus. Crocus looked at him with a defeated expression.

“To capture all seven beasts? Who are you?”

“Your enemy.”

Feigning unconsciousness was the first step. Asher rushed at Crocus and punched him in the stomach.

Clang!

“Ugh!”

However, the one who was repelled was Asher. Asher shook his numbed fist; it felt as though he had struck iron, and his bones seemed cracked.

“Lucky I pushed myself.”

Crocus muttered, as darkness swirled behind him.

Slowly, through the expanding darkness, large eyes with reversed coloration in their pupils and whites were visible.

The air changed. It was gloomy and thick, making it hard to breathe. A terrible thing seemed to stir the mind, and the fear engraved in the body reacted instinctively.

A powerful presence enveloped Crocus.

“Wow.”

The sword muttered incredulously.

“Really? A demon?”

***

Most people think of demons and demonkind similarly, but they are distinctly different species. Demonkind are born from mana and reside in the demonic realm, always coveting the terrestrial world.

But demons do not reside in the demonic realm. They inhabit a different, alien space, a dimension not yet fully understood, occasionally revealing themselves to the world.

Existing before mana was born, they are rare, but when they do appear, they distort the world.

“Insane. A real demon?”

The sword muttered in dismay. Asher was just as taken aback.

Demons. Alien beings. It was known that they couldn’t appear in the world without proper rites, yet here one was, without any such ceremonies.

“Not an ascension then.”

It wasn’t a direct descent of a demon into the world but merely lending power—a considerably lesser power than that of a real demon that Crocus could handle.

“And not the main body either.”

That was to be expected. If it were the demon itself, even a mere possession would have caused tremendous fluctuations. This small space, let alone the capital, would have collapsed.

And the world would have drowned in darkness. The sword muttered.

“Lucky it didn’t have a name. That’s some consolation.”

“Risky.”

As it wasn’t named, nor the main body, and not an incarnation but a possession, all these restrictions did not diminish the existence’s fierce nature.

A being with the name of a demon. That bore transcendental power.

Suddenly, the pupil moved. The white eye glared at Asher. The sword quietly murmured.

“Huh. Seems interested in you. What did you do?”

“Maybe.”

Asher had encountered demons before, but he was unfamiliar with the one before him.

“Crocus is being consumed by magic?”

The true master of the abyss is not swayed by magic. That’s why he is a hero. Though doubts creep in at his current state, the proposition remains unchanged.

[Demons aren’t magic. They are beings born from evil. Even the master of the abyss can’t withstand conjuring such evil.]

“You sure know a lot.”

[That’s not the important part. The problem is how to withstand this.]

The darkness trembles more intensely than before. Thick and ominous, it begins to cling to Asher’s ankles.

[If only the seal were broken, it’d be easy to capture… but the situation is quite bad now.]

“It doesn’t matter. I will only defeat the interferences.”

Crocus shook his head and raised his hand. The darkness moved at his will.

The sticky darkness swirled towards Asher.

“Die, lowly creature.”

***

“Damn it.”

Asher cursed as he leaped forward. The darkness dispersed around him, seemingly with a will of its own, trying to grasp him. He shook his body roughly to free himself and kept moving.

It was different from before. Not something that shakes the mind, but a darkness that swallows existence itself. If he were to face it, even he, no, that is, he couldn’t return intact. A hero might have endured, but he was not one.

“…I’m going to die.”

His body was already in terrible condition, and he continued to use ‘power’ out of necessity—had he not used it, he would have died long ago. His muscles and bones screamed at their limits.

‘Fortunately, the direction of the power is simple.’

As it was the first power he had gained, it only showed simple manifestations. He couldn’t twist it into something more complex. Although this simple manifestation contained an irresistible force, it wasn’t unavoidable.

‘Then I must.’

Close in, stab.

Asher grasped his sword. It was just borrowed power, so if he could just defeat Crocus, it would naturally recede.

Avoiding the swirling darkness, he moved forward. Almost brushing it by the breadth of a paper, he pushed his body to its limits, advancing like an invincible warrior.

Despite all adversities, his steps didn’t halt. Imprisoned in the darkness, Gerun blankly watched Asher.

“Ah…”

Like most young boys, he had idolized the heroes in fairy tales. Despite attacks by evil, despite the moments when they seemed indefensible, the sight of them marching forward without despair was deeply fascinating to a boy weary of reality.

But that had been shattered. The hero who was his teacher had fallen into madness. The protagonist realized he was merely a character in a fairy tale.

Yet before him stood a man of steel will, not bowing to an undefeatable foe, his steps unceasing.

To Gerun, he looked just like a fairy tale hero.

‘How did it come to this?’

A sudden thought made Asher chuckle. He had just come to meet an old friend. But that friend had gone mad, and now he was fighting to save the world from crisis.

‘A hero, huh? Doesn’t suit me.’

He was just an exceedingly ordinary human. He couldn’t be a hero.

But that didn’t mean he was someone who would just watch a crisis unfold and do nothing.

“This…!”

“Oh.”

As he came to his senses, he saw Crocus’s startled face right before him. Asher, unconsciously, had raised his fist. His swung fist cut through the darkness and landed on Crocus’s abdomen.

At that moment, the darkness burst out.

***

“Phew.”

Crocus wiped the sweat off his forehead while taking deep breaths. That was close. Had he been slightly slower, he would have been the one to fall.

“Is he dead?”

Asher, swallowed by the darkness and slammed against the wall, didn’t move. The demon’s darkness. It swallowed the soul itself, irrespective of the mind. It was unbearable.

“Ah. Ahhh! Ahhhhh!”

Gerun watched blankly, then screamed. Crocus slowly approached him.

“Now, my disciple. Let’s continue what we were doing.”

The guards and Arueina were held back by the darkness, unable to come out. No one was there to interfere.

“…Why!”

Gerun shouted as if spitting blood, his eyes full of murderous intent towards Crocus.

“Why are you doing this!”

“Time changes many things.”

Crocus smiled bitterly.

“I’m not an exception.”

“But! You are! You were a hero! Why!”

“Hero, eh? I’ve come to despise that word. It’s detestable.”

Crocus shook his head. The oppression and shackles were too hateful. That’s why he had decided to let go. Gerun gritted his teeth fiercely.

“…I am different! I won’t go mad!”

“Really? Can you guarantee that?”

Crocus’s face contorted. He shouted as if expelling all his despair.

“Can you really guarantee that you won’t change, no matter the time, no matter what you see!”

Startled by the force in his shout, Gerun hesitated. Crocus stomped his foot.

“No! I was once like you! I swore I wouldn’t go mad! That I wouldn’t change! But what was the result? I eventually gave up everything! Can you really guarantee you won’t do the same!”

“…….”

Gerun tried to speak, but couldn’t find his words. Even a bright boy could not withstand the will of someone who had lived a century.

Crocus said bitterly, “Time shakes everything. There’s no exception. You’ll give up eventually too.”

“No.”

At the sound of the voice, Crocus abruptly turned around.

Asher was slowly rising to his feet. It was clear he was in bad shape, but he was still moving.

“…How!”

“You gave up because you were weak.”

Those words, denying his own existence, distorted Crocus’s face.

“In that case, can you guarantee! That you! Will not change!”

“Yes.”

Asher clenched his trembling hand into a fist. He had indeed not changed. Through reincarnation, even in moments close to death, and in his youth, he had always remained the same.

That’s why he could say it.

The weak one is you.

Asher punched the wall. Cracks spread, and the ceiling began to fall.

“Oh no!”

Crocus hastily wrapped himself in darkness as rocks fell.



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