Chapter 133: Hunt and Chase
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
Kohen and Miranda trod on the ground covered with mud and melted snow.
In contrast to the neat and sophisticated urban structure of Eternal Star City, the streets of Dragon Clouds City appeared cluttered and unplanned during the winter—with inconsistent sizes and layouts of the roadways, houses along both sides of the streets seemed to be piled on top of each other. Sharp spikes of ice formed under the eaves and lumps of snow were heaped around the shops’ signs. In spite of that, Kohen thought that the meticulous construct of Eternal Star City gave off a grim, chilling vibe, whereas Dragon Clouds City had a hint of orderliness amid its’ apparent chaos.
His hunch was confirmed when the Northlanders were seen travelling through streets as well as alleys, following their daily routines with ease and familiarity. This was particularly visible in the boroughs’ many winding paths.
The Armor District was one of these examples.
Loud, Northlandic voices echoed in the chilly air, accompanied by hearty laughter and curses. Bundled up in thick winter clothing, the Northland men hurried back and forth with loads of goods. The women, with baskets hanging from or clasped in their arms occasionally stopped by to converse with folks from all walks of life, haggling over prices of goods with ferocity and aggression that could match the men’s as children scuttled down the street in groups.
This seeming state of disorderliness that Northland uniquely possessed reminded Kohen of the Great Desert, back on the Western Frontlines in the Blade Fangs Dune Military Camp—a vile, lawless place where soldiers, crooks, vermin, thugs, fugitives, mercenaries, and adventurers gathered. Unlike the camp, the gloom of animosity and violence were absent in the chaotic Northland. Instead, there was brightness, a sense of security, the hustle and bustle of the market, and perfect harmony.
Miranda Arunde was someone accustomed to the solemnity of the Tower of Eradication and the systematicity of Constellation. She could merely frown at the Northlanders; their lifestyle and mannerisms made her feel rather uneasy.
A troop of soldiers were marching down the street, heading their way. The group was headed by a leader, who greeted the civilians around them.
“That’s a disciplinary officer,” Kohen whispered, “There aren’t many visitors in the Armor District, so naturally we’ll draw attention. Let’s find somewhere to hide.”
Miranda nodded, turning on her heel and the two slipped into a small alleyway between two houses. They then sought for their target amid the confined spaces.
Kohen’s short-lived career as a police officer had provided him with experience of patrolling and performing searches in the cities. He traced and moved along the walls, looking for a possible hiding place.
Miranda surveyed the empty alleyway, listening hubbub of the street in the distance. “Where’s the place Gu told us about?” She frowned.
“It’s probably near,” Kohen mumbled as he groped the walls along his path. “What we ought to do now, is determine which one of these houses has…”
All of sudden, the two of them froze.
There was a man in the alleyway, who was dawdling in their direction.
Kohen seemed slightly puzzled, whereas Miranda was alarmed.
The man was a tanned, young Northlander with a sullen look and he was dressed in a filthy, ragged robe.
Just an ordinary pauper in the city.
The young man, as if traumatized or overwhelmed by grief, kept on walking in a daze, turning a blind eye to them.
Kohen and Miranda shared a glance and moved aside, clearing a path for the man.
He walked through the space between the two, sauntering past them.
However, Miranda turned around and called out to him, much to Kohen’s confusion.
The young pauper stopped in his tracks and turned to face them with a baffled expression.
“What are you doing sneaking around? Planning to kill someone?” said Miranda slowly. Her eyes were narrowed.
“What?” The young man was perplexed. “Kill what?”
Kohen furrowed his eyebrows.
Miranda had never acted recklessly before.
There was a sharp glint in Miranda’s eyes as she jutted out her chin and arched her eyebrows. “If that’s not what you are up to, why would you hide that sword by your waist underneath your robe…”
“And fake the way you walk?”
The young man’s expression stiffened.
Kohen held his breath for a split second.
He glanced at the man’s waist, but there was no telltale bulge of a concealed weapon.
“I don’t understand. What does my sword have anything to do with you—” Completely baffled, the young man protested.
“Just drop the act.” Miranda touched the sword handle by her waist and her expression darkened. “Where I was for the past three years, I had to deal with dozens of spies, scouts and smugglers sneaking across the border every day.”
The man’s vacuous eyes began to sharpen.
Getting the hint, Kohen shifted himself to the other end of the alley, blocking the man’s path from behind.
The narrow passage was barricaded on both sides and there was no way he could escape.
“Do you know what you have in common with those people?” said the daughter of the Arunde Family as she shook her head sarcastically. “The answer is: every single one of you believes that you’re good at hiding things.”
The young man slowly straightened up and his expression turned cold.
Miranda sighed. “They too thought that no one could see through them as long as they appeared calm.”
Kohen chuckled lightly.
‘Gosh, Miranda’s observation skills—she’ll be a better police officer than me.
‘With a little more effort, she can even get into the Kingdom’s Secret Intelligence Department.’
His heart sank as he thought of the secret service and Raphael.
“Now, remain calm, mister,” he warned as he reached for his sword. “We just want to figure something out—besides, it’s never a good idea to start a fight in a small alley like this.”
“Such a shame.” The young man sighed regretfully. “If only I had one more second to get to the right spot…”
Then… the fight broke out.
With a swoosh, the man swung his right elbow backwards like an arrow, aiming for the top of Kohen’s head!
His sudden attack caught Kohen by surprise.
But Kohen remained composed and responded with a counter-attack. His left arm shot up and he fended off the elbow strike with a swipe.
It was the sound of clashing blows.
The two men felt a jolt and the bones in their forearms trembled.
Unmoved, the blond officer stretched his right hand out and prepared to seize his opponent’s upper arm.
At the very next moment however, the young man swung his right hand, slamming it against the side of Kohen’s left arm. With a hefty shove, he gained momentum from his opponent and bounced off him!
The young man leaped towards her.
With his right leg, he aimed a full-speed kick at the dark-haired swordswoman!
Miranda dodged it, her back leaning against the wall.[email protected]@@@[email protected]@@@@=======
Thus, she managed to evade the attack.
She lifted her left leg and took a stride forward, on the tip of her toes—a move that seemed so unmotivated and random,
But she was in fact aiming at the attacker’s right leg!
Astonished, the young man lost his balance.
He quickly held on to the wall with his left arm and steadied himself just as Kohen’s iron fist rammed into his back with a swish.
Every inch of the young man’s muscles shook. He turned around and clenched his teeth.
The men’s fists clashed mid-air!
Nonetheless, Kohen, being the one who took the offensive, managed to gain the upper hand. The young man, having to ward off his strike, stumbled backwards.
Meanwhile, Miranda shot her hand towards the latter, directing her attack at his neck.
But the young man spun around, revealing a sword hilt with a brass pommel strapped to his waist underneath the robe.
Fueled by an energy from within, he gained the strength to dodge Miranda’s vicious hand strike!
With his short and flexible hand, he pulled his hand-and-a-half-sword out of its sheath, swooping it down on Kohen.
The confined space of the alleyway meant that Kohen’s long and sizable saber was at a disadvantage. He could only guard against the attack with half of his saber drawn out of its sheath.
A look of disbelief appeared on Kohen’s face.
Charging at him from the opponent’s sword was a wave of force that Kohen deemed familiar.
Driven by instinct, Kohen summoned the Power of Eradication.
Glory of the Stars shone bright from within him and he began to expel the vile force.
In the meantime, the strength of his arm was given a boost, and with a sudden jolt of his saber, the hand-and-a-half-sword was shaken off.
Despite being seemingly astounded by Kohen’s composure and decisiveness at such a critical moment, the young man could not afford to hesitate after his missed strike—Miranda’s footsteps were closing in on him from behind.
He leaped into the air, then stomped on both sides of the wall. He somersaulted over Kohen’s head, landed far behind him, and skidded out of the alley.
‘He’s running away!’
Gritting his teeth, Kohen swung his right arm and shook off the tingling, numbing sensation inflicted by the dark energy.
He raced after the man.
“Is that him?!” Miranda started to run as well, following closely behind Kohen.
The young man turned abruptly into another alley, going deeper into the heart of the borough.
“I swear on my life!” Kohen, swayed by his momentum while making the swift turn, ran into a wall.
Unaffected, he continued his pursuit of the man at full speed as he shouted, “That’s the Power of Eradication!”
“Don’t forget about our mission!” Miranda said coldly from far behind. She hopped over to a window at the corner of the alley. With her right hand latched on to the windowsill, she made the turn in a swing.
She landed, rolled across the ground, got to her feet, and sped forward within mere seconds. She reminded her companion, “We are here to investigate, not look for a fight! The disciplinary officer is still on patrol!”
In the alleyway, far ahead of the young man, an earthen wall about the height of two men came into view.
Seemingly familiar with the layout of the backstreets, the man sprung into the air when the obstacle was still a dozen feet away. He stepped on the wall to his left, then the one to his right.
And with that, he bounded over the wall like a spider.
Despite Kohen’s great height, his agility rivaled that of the best scouts. He leaped forward, grasping the wall with his forearms.
Kohen’s face turned crimson as he pulled himself upwards with the monstrous might of his forearms, like a giant, black-headed spider monkey. He managed to roll over the wall and land on his feet, after which he resumed his chase!
“Watch out! It’s a trap!” Miranda tipped over to the wall on her right, a rush of pulsing energy bubbled inside her. “He’s waiting on the other side!”
Unlike the young man, whose tactic was to build up his speed with the aid of the walls on both sides, the nimble-footed Miranda only paced along the right wall, tilting her body. After six light steps, she rose into the air and glided over the obstacle effortlessly!
“Trap or not, we’ve got to get him!” Gnashing his teeth, Kohen scowled as he struggled to save his breath. “We just have to intercept him!”
“Land a blow on the back of his skull! It’s risk-free, subtle, and effective!”
The young man scurried up three flights of stairs with his shoulders hunched. He moved past two startled Northlanders and turned into an alley.
Kohen, hurrying behind, climbed the stairs in long strides. He muttered his apology as he elbowed past the Northlanders and entered the alleyway as well.
‘Damn it, this fellow sure can run.’
“I’ll keep my eyes on him!” Kohen felt his stamina draining. “Intercept him!”
Miranda did not reply, but she did not go after them either.
Once she reached the top of the stairway, the power of Pegasus’ Music erupted within her and she rose up into the air.
‘It’s time to take a shortcut.’
The two Northlanders watched in awe as Miranda hovered over them and clung onto a drying rack, swinging herself into the sky. She then held on to a windowsill about the height of a three-storey-building, and with some leverage from her feet, she flipped onto the roof!
Without catching a breath, she darted from one roof to the other, heading towards the two men, who were racing along the alley’s twists and turns!
Hounded by Kohen, the young man left the backstreets and sped into an open space between three houses.
It was then that Miranda soared into the sky.
She grabbed the handle of her sword, knowing that she would land on the open space, about two meters before the young man.
However, her faultless interception was followed by a mishap.
The moment Miranda flew off the roof, she felt a chill from head to toe.
A premonition of imminent danger washed over her.
Out of instinct, she unsheathed her sword. With her upper body turned and her arm outstretched, she stabbed the surface beneath her!
The tip of her sword sank into the roof behind her and brought her to a halt.
In that instant, the young man and Kohen disappeared into another alleyway.
Miranda hung from the sword, grasping it with one hand. Her legs swung forward due to inertia and as her feet swept up into the air, a sword flashed across the corner of her eye!
It was only inches away from her boot.
Miranda broke out in a cold sweat.
‘Thank goodness, I stopped just in time.
She was eyeing the glint of the sword, which then alighted alongside its owner to the open space.
The owner of the sword straightened himself up. He was a middle-aged man with short hair.
Miranda pressed herself against the roof and yanked her sword out. She hopped down from the roof and landed in front of him.
She glared at the man with a dark look on her face and found herself in the presence of an elite among the supra class or even higher….
Miranda stood up, catching her breath. “Disaster Sword, we meet again.”
The man said nothing.
Instead, he merely stared at her. His eyes were vacant as though he was a corpse.
“So, this is the trap you’ve set up?” Miranda studied her opponent, scanning for clues and useful information about him. “But… why are there only two of you?”
“You must have great faith in yourselves.”
The man shook his head calmly.
“Disaster Sword? It’s not the first time I’ve heard it, but being called by that name… how ironic.”
He turned and whipped out a strange sword.
It was supposedly an ordinary longsword, except its ridge was hollowed out. The slot stretched from the middle of the blade to a few inches before its tip, taking up about one third of the sword’s length.
Miranda squinted her eyes: it was common to notch a groove-like fuller, or “blood gutter” on a sword—this indentation, despite its name, was not made for the purpose of blood-draining, but only to lessen the weight of the weapon. Normally, a sword was fullered from the foot to the middle of the blade.
However, there was something odd about the man’s sword. First of all, although the completely hollowed-out ridge would significantly lighten the weapon, it would surely damage the quality of the blade; secondly, the empty slot was situated between the middle part of the blade and the tip, suggesting that it may be a literal “blood gutter” made to drain its victim’s blood.
The skill of the swordsmith who forged the weapon in question was undoubtedly outstanding—Miranda concluded that among the swordsmiths in the Tower of Eradication and the elven or dwarf community, only a few were capable of such a feat.
“Not bad,” the man said with a hoarse voice. “You’ve travelled a long way from Constellation.”
“A huge progress for the Tower of Eradication as it seems.”
‘They know we are Constellatiates?’
Miranda felt a ping of anxiety.
‘How did we give ourselves away?
‘Perhaps it is as Kaslan said. In the eyes of an expert, there’s nothing we can hide?’
“So, what could be the reason for you to work for a certain archduke of Eckstedt?” Miranda did not see the need to draw her weapon at this point. Instead, she attempted to collect more intel—as the Fortress Flower mandated, it was the most crucial principle in their line work: Know thyself, know thy enemy.
“You’d go as far as assassinating the Prince of Constellation, for them? What could you possibly get from this?” she asked again. “Other than conquering the Tower of Eradication, what is the point of this? Eckstedt’s throne? Or, Constellation’s? Or, perhaps you would like to start a war between them?”
“Our aim?” The man seemed unperturbed. “Thrones? A war?”
His cold voice reeked of total contempt. “Such short-sighted plans would never cross our minds.
“The Tower of Eradication was never part of our original plan. That just happened by chance.”
‘If not for the thrones or war… what drove them to lurk about the Black Sand Region and attempt to assassinate the prince with the power of the Mystic Gun?
‘It’s not always for justice then!’
“Looks like you’ve been here for quite some time.” Miranda was slightly disheartened, but she tried to probe him using a different approach. “After all, you’ve managed to infiltrate the firearms black market in Dragon Clouds City as well as the Mystic Gun Unit in Black Sand Region.”
“Now that you’re exposed, why don’t you test them out on us?”
“Mystic Gun?” The man lifted his sword casually, not bothered by what Miranda had said. “As a swordfighter, it is best to focus on your primary weapon… despite how powerful guns are.”
‘His lips are sealed tight.’
“Let’s get this over with. We stem from the same roots, but we are destined for mutual annihilation,” said the man calmly. “We have five minutes to settle this before the disciplinary officer and his troop get here.”
‘Looks like there’s nothing I can coax out of him.’
Miranda took a deep breath as she rotated her wrist. She then stooped down a little and get into position.
‘I capture him alive.
The two of them slowly approached one another. Miranda let go of her senses, and Pegasus’ Music was unleashed.
Miranda kept herself informed by feeling the rhythm of her opponent’s combat style, just like her countless sword fights before this.
What came next, however, was a flicker of the sword!
Miranda was filled with panic and terror!
There was no rhythm in his movement; nothing she could feel.
The man’s sword—to Miranda’s dismay—had advanced five feet from where he was.
And before she even realized, it was piercing the left side of her chest.
Kohen, still in pursuit of the enemy, noticed that the young man had stopped running after another turn around the corner.
He stomped the ground beneath him repeatedly and came to a halt.
He held onto his sword, regulating his breath at the same time.
“As it appears”—the young man smirked—”the swordsmen of the Tower of Eradication are overrated…”
Miranda did not follow them.
It was then that Kohen felt a spasm of dread.
‘Was she intercepted by someone else?’
Kohen took a deep breath and immediately calmed himself down.
‘Looks like it was their plan to separate us.’
“I see.” Kohen glowered at the young man who seemed relaxed. “You were expecting us?”
‘A supra-class elite.
‘And to top it off… he’s so young.’
“Of course,” the young man chuckled, shaking his head. “Did you think you could find us on your own?
“We wanted to be ‘found’.”
He reached for the sword by his waist. “That Far Easterner, Gu sold us out?”
‘Damn this narrow alley.
‘It makes it hard to draw out my sword.’
“Hardly the case. We paid him beforehand,” The young man slowly pulled out his hand-and-a-half-sword. “We had an agreement: if someone came to him for information about us…”
He then shrugged, giving Kohen a ‘just-so-that-you-know’ look.
“Really?” Kohen kept an eye on every movement the enemy made. “We paid him as well,” he said, with an air of restraint.
“Is that true? Then, it must have been the tip you offered.” The young man grinned and took a step forward, raising the sword in his hand. “It wasn’t enough.”
Kohen let out a mirthless laugh as he got ready for a fight.
‘This space is too cramped. Sword movements like the left-to-right hack and diagonal slash will be difficult to perform.
‘It’s time to employ the sword style I learned from one of the scions, Klaudier.
‘Let’s hope it’s still fresh in my memory.’
“Is this then, the first contact”—the young man snorted, inching towards Kohen—”between the descendants of the Inner Tower and Outer Tower in forty years?”
“Certainly not,” the latter shot back, recalling a fight he once had as well as the swordsman in red and black in Red Street Market. “I ran into a friend of yours back in Constellation a month or two ago… He and I are the lucky bearers of such an honor.”
The young man’s eyes turned grim. He stopped in his tracks and his smile faded.
“You are the person who killed Groudon,” he said.
“I won’t take full credit for that.” Kohen shuffled forward with caution. “But, I’ll take half of it… perhaps, not even half.”
“Do you know?” the young man said meaningfully, taking a step to the left, “the Tower of Eradication is the rightful successor of the Temple of Knights. During the Battle of Eradication, it is, other than a handful of warriors, the strongest and most noble existence fighting for the survival of humanity. After the war, its members bore the duty of guarding humans against the Mystics and they have devoted themselves to the continuity as well as development of the Power of Eradication.”
“Are you giving me a lesson on our history?” Kohen scoffed at him. “This, coming from you, the traitors?”
“Traitors?” The young man tittered, shaking his head.
“Do you even know how we defeated the Mystics back then?” His stare hardened. “Those never-aging, indestructible, imperishable entities?”
“Well, they may have been immortal beings, but they also had a deadly weakness, which made them vulnerable to attacks aimed at their Achilles heel.” Kohen gradually uncovered the best spot to launch a strike.
“Warriors with legendary anti-mystic equipment and mystic-resistant Powers of Eradication battled against these foes. They were ready to die for their cause…” Kohen went on, “The civilians may not know about that, but we do.”
“Pfft, legendary anti-mystic equipment? Mystic-resistant powers?” The young man laughed and his expression darkened. “No, you don’t know a thing.
“You have been fed with shameless lies—ordinary Power of Eradication could barely compete with mystic energy,” he said grimly. “Anti-mystic equipment? Before those were even invented, what do you think we relied on to fight against those immortal beings to survive?”
“Hmph.” Kohen’s glare sharpened. He hardly cared about what the young man had to say. Instead, he was actively seeking and targeting his opponent’s weak points. “The last Disaster Sword I bumped into was not as talkative as you.”
In response, the young man shifted his feet and threw his hand-and-a-half sword straight at Kohen!
A vicious surge of the Power of Eradication exploded within the young man, and the tip of his sword glistened!
Not being able to tell the intended direction of the sword— Kohen gnashed his teeth.
‘What’s the nature of the enemy’s power? Changing the course of the flying sword, muddling one’s senses, or boosting the speed of the weapon?
On the verge of peril, Kohen went with his battle instincts and parried the blow.
The sword collided with his saber and the tip of the blade was only two inches away from his throat.
His enemy’s power was above average.
Compared to that of the swordsman back in Red Street Market, this man was similarly vicious, but he had the added ability to inflict a numbing, painful sensation.
It gradually set upon Kohen’s saber and arm, threatening to crush him!