Chapter 138: Numb Hands
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
‘It’s so cold. Where is mother? What about Aunt Fina? They’ll come back, right?’
She thought dazedly as she curled up from the cold on the snow-covered ground. The chilly wind blew past her cheeks and neck, causing a pain that was akin to being cut by a knife.
Even her limbs were rapidly losing all sensation.
‘What about my younger brother and sister? What about Uncle Enzo?’
She was starting to Miss Talia’s hot pies, even though she always hated the garlic on them.
She walked past a person lying on the snow-covered ground. That person was sound asleep, and his curled-up body did not move at all. But he had the happiest smile on his face.
He did not even know that his eyebrows and hair were covered in frost.
‘This is a “smiling person”,’ she told herself.
Yesterday, when she tried to brush the frost on their faces away, Uncle Enzo smiled and told her that those are ‘smiling people’. They liked to smile while asleep in the wild during winter, and would only wake up in spring. Good girls must not disturb them, and it was the best not to go near them.
Obediently, she continued walking forward.
Her skirt was a little torn, and she was very dismayed over it. It was a skirt Aunt Liscia gave her before departing for the capital city.
She walked past a second ‘smiling person’. This ‘smiling person’ seemed to be a woman who was around Talia the female slave’s age. She wore very few clothes, leaned against a rock with the corner of her lips curled upwards, and had a baby in her bosom.
But the baby was not smiling. Instead, the baby’s tiny eyes and lips were shut tight, and did not move at all.
This made her very unhappy.
‘Why is the baby not smiling? Shouldn’t everyone in the Northern Territory smile?’ Uncle Nolanur had said this to her.
Beside the stables of Cold Castle, when Uncle Nolanur was about to leave with her two other uncles, he laughed loudly and embraced her like usual. He then rubbed his stubble on her face despite her aggrieved protests.
‘Alright, Nolanur…’ Her thoughts were in a jumble, and she could not help but smile as she thought about her youngest uncle.
‘If you appear now… I’ll… show mercy and forgive you for your beard.’
Continuing on the snow-covered ground, she encountered a third, fourth, fifth and sixth… so many, countless… smiling people.
Then, someone who was not a ‘smiling person’ finally appeared in front of her.
With dull, glassy eyes, she raised her head and looked at the boy, a stranger to her.
Dressed in ragged clothes, the boy was bent over a ‘smiling person’ and searching for something. The boy realized that she was approaching and raised his head like an angry beast.
His dark red eyes were extremely horrifying.
The boy subconsciously and fervently guarded the items in his bosom and glared ferociously at her. His voice was cautious and guarded. “I found this one first! The food, clothes, and everything else are all mine!
“Go away now! Go far away! Go and scavenge from some other corpse!
She inhaled weakly, feeling the pain in her wind-grazed cheeks.
‘So fierce.’ She pouted. She was a little hungry, though. Her sight was blurry.
The icy coldness surged into her lungs through her mouth, nose, and airway, making her heart convulse.
She walked towards the boy.
“Little b*tch, if you dare take one more step forward…” The boy, who was also trembling from the cold, opened his mouth and flashed his teeth with a ferocious expression. “I will chew you into pieces alive!”
She ignored the boy, but her consciousness was becoming number.
Her sight also grew dimmer.
And yet she still advanced through the snow-covered ground on unsteady steps. She relied on her sight instead of the touch of her feet to be sure that the ground was beneath her feet. She could hardly feel her limbs anymore—they have been numb for quite some time.
The boy crawled on the ground and let out a deep growl that sounded like a wild animal, as if preparing to attack. Watching the hideous-looking boy, she inhaled deeply. Her lungs quivered again from the cold air.
She continued walking forward.
The boy’s face went from cautious to hateful and murderous. He extended his right hand that held a long, rust-covered awl from behind his body.
‘Mother said before that when meeting a stranger…’
Roaring furiously, the boy pounced onto her weak body and pushed her onto the ground.
‘When meeting a stranger…’
She pinched her cheek that had been numbed by the cold.
Glaring at her face, the boy ferociously raised the awl in his hand.
Watching the boy’s dark red eyes, she forced the corners of her lips upwards.
‘We must smile. Everyone from the Northern Territory should smile, shouldn’t we?’
The next moment, the Chief Seed among the Swordsmen of Eradication, Miranda Arunde opened her eyes abruptly in an alley in Dragon Clouds City.
A sword with a groove in it pierced through her breastplate into her left chest. The tip of the sword had penetrated an inch deep into her skin. It stopped just before her endlessly beating heart, yet the blade did not move even an inch further.
The middle-aged Disaster Swordsman furrowed his brows.
He stared at the tip of Miranda’s sword which had lodged inside the groove that spanned from the tip to the middle of his sword, stopping his strange sword from advancing, stopping it from piercing into the swordswoman’s heart.
Just now, Miranda resolutely extended her sword at a crucial moment and lodged the blade inside the groove of her enemy’s sword. Just like how a carpenter lodges a wedge inside the groove in a piece of wood.
Miranda held the hilt of her crossguard saber tightly with her clad in black gloves. Refusing to bulge from the enemy, her forehead was drenched in cold sweat from pain and fear.
‘He maneuvers the sword very quickly. And… that feeling of being unable to escape, does it come from his Power of Eradication?’
“Not bad indeed.” The middle-aged man exhaled softly and showed a look of admiration. “Your reaction, observation skills, and temperament are exceptionally outstanding. You are very young, too, which is rare… My student is very intelligent, but lacks practice and experience. He would need at least five years to reach your level.
“However, you were already on the verge of death from the beginning…” The middle-aged man’s tone was cold, and he abruptly exerted force onto the sword that had pierced Miranda’s chest, pushing it forward.
Under the force, there was a slight change in shape to the two swords that were lodged together. The sound of metal clashing against each other forcefully rose into the air.
A surge of pain hit her chest. Miranda’s face contorted slightly.
The sword had only to go another inch deeper to reach her body and drew blood.
Gritting her teeth while holding her breath, the swordswoman tried to let neither the intense physical pain nor the psychological worry affect her.
Listening to the enemy’s rhythm in his movements and feeling the enemy’s beat while he swung his sword, she forced herself to enter the zone.
She was in an extremely disadvantageous position after only the first attack. She had to find an opportunity to turn the tide.
Resisting the enemy’s sword with all her might, Miranda opened her eyes wide and observed her unmoving enemy under the setting sun.
The middle-aged man heaved a sigh. “You know, I didn’t want to do this at first, but from what I can see right now, it seems that using only sword styles and speed cannot take you down at once, and the patrols will be here in four minutes.”
Then, the middle-aged man showed a pained and disturbed expression.
A violent Power of Eradication exuded from his arm muscles and seeped into the two interlocked swords!
Miranda’s expression changed.
‘Is this… the type of ruthless and unbridled Power of Eradication that Kohen talked about?’
As the middle-aged man’s arm trembled, an explosive energy rose from his sword. It was as if a fierce, man-eating beast was released.
Vibrating at an increased speed, the two swords made sounds that were akin to groaning patients that could not bear their burdens anymore.
Miranda could feel the tip of the sword inside her body vibrating and moving closer towards her heart!
Blood splattered everywhere.
Miranda pressed her left hand to her chest in pain.
But it had not ended yet.
The two swords clashed together and emitted sparks, detaching from each other in the air.
The middle-aged man’s sword disappeared. It then suddenly reappeared again, like a star in the night sky!
Its strike aimed at the injured Miranda.
The swordswoman raised her sword with trembling hands and subconsciously waved it in the air.
Having detached for less than a second, the two swords clashed again in the air!
Miranda’s sword blocked the enemy’s attack twice.
Both retreated a step at the same time.
Pale-faced, Miranda leaned against the wall behind her and looked at the middle-aged man with wide eyes.
“I hope you have a peaceful death, swordswoman,” the middle-aged man said as he sighed, flinging away the blood on his sword.
But the middle-aged man’s expression suddenly froze. He noticed the blood on his sword. There was only a little bit of blood on it.
‘How is this possible? I definitely pierced through her heart… But she…
‘Is her heart on the right? Or is she equipped with protection that can shield her from the Powers of Eradication? The dwarves’ Refined Crystal Drop Board? The elven royal family’s Fine Silver Armor? Or silica gel?’
The middle-aged man raised his head in disbelief and stared at Miranda who leaned against the wall weakly.
“That strange Power of Eradication did not work, did it?”
The swordswoman inhaled deeply and removed her left hand from her chest.
A long wound extended from Miranda’s chest to her shoulder, but it only scratched and pierced through her light armor, drawing little blood.
The middle-aged man wore an astonished gaze.
According to the original plan, his beast-like Power of Eradication would have invaded her body without her being capable of doing anything to stop it. It would damage her internal organs and delay her movements. It would even devour and exterminate her Power of Eradication like a natural predator.
Then, when she cannot move or was in immense pain, he would push the blade of his sword into her body with his Power of Eradication. It was supposed to pierce straight into Miranda’s heart. Perhaps not deeply, but it would have been deep enough for her to bleed.
Next, he would wave his sword with horrifying speed and mobilize the blood in her entire body. Within fractions of a second, bright arterial blood would spray out of the Swordswoman of Eradication’s chest until the moment her life ended.
But unexpectedly, she was able to block off the attack that was bound to pierce her chest…
The middle-aged man stared at the girl in bewilderment.
“From when I started attacking, your movements were quite normal, and you could smoothly wave your sword. You were able to fend off my attack without hesitation. Does this mean that…?” A few seconds later, the middle-aged man looked as though he understood something. His gaze was filled with astonishment. “Impossible…”
The middle-aged man furrowed his brows tightly. “You… you are not affected by the ‘Touch of Greed’ at all!”
Miranda inhaled deeply and repositioned her sword.
“The ‘Touch of Greed’? This is the name of your Power of Eradication? Such a despicable name,” Miranda said coldly.
“My companion told me about that feeling before. An unbridled Power of Eradication that aims to invade, damage and destroy.” She raised her sword and pointed it at her opponent. “An ordinary Swordsman of Eradication would probably be helpless in the face of such a horrifying Power of Eradication.
“But when a situation arises where this power doesn’t work… What would all of you do?”
The middle-aged man did not speak. Instead, he brandished his sword with lightning speed.
The sword with the groove in it whistled through the air and pointed at the swordswoman’s throat.
Having been more than prepared, Miranda wore a solemn expression and turned her wrist. Her Power of Eradication surged along with the movement and supplemented the force of her hand as she pointed her sword at the middle-aged man.
Two trails of sparks appeared from the violent clashing. In the blink of an eye, their swords clashed twice. The two figures moved rapidly. After their swords met one final time, they immediately pulled back, creating a distance of five steps between them.
Stepping back and feeling the vibration from her crossguard saber, Miranda calmly pondered over her enemy’s distinguishing features.
“I attacked you eight times with my sword just now. You only managed to block me twice, and I even hit you once.” Looking at Miranda’s lacerated left leg, the middle-aged man said steadily, “Your sword style is sloppy and ordinary, and you cannot catch up with my speed at all. Your body seems agile, but you are just lithe. Occasionally, you even misstepped while dodging my attacks.
“The unusual problem was that your sword was even trembling slightly when our swords met, to the point that it affected your craft. That is supposed to be beginner’s mistake.
“Apart from that stunning interception at the very beginning, your sword is practically useless.” The middle-aged man shook his head. “With your way and ability of wielding the sword, you should have died ten thousand times over. How did you survive until now?”
Miranda did not say anything. Instead, she scrutinized the middle-aged man carefully.
Then, her enemy suddenly flashed a smile. “However, among the eight times I attacked you just now, you were able to perfectly avoid the five most fatal blows, either by dodging or by brushing past them.
“You also launched a counterattack at the subtlest moment.” Looking at his lacerated left arm, the middle-aged man frowned and said in astonishment, “and you succeeded, too.”
Miranda finally frowned.
“There is only one explanation.” The middle-aged man took slow steps. Miranda’s sword slowly moved along with his position.
“You do not depend on ingenious sword movements and agile steps when fighting. Instead, you rely on your observation skills and senses.” The middle-aged man’s pupils contracted slightly. “You identify the enemy’s patterns and the timing of their attacks. Even with lousier skills and shabbier moves, if one appears in the most suitable place at the most suitable time, the most ingenious attack can be made.”
Miranda exhaled mentally. ‘He found out.’
“You are practicing one of the Four Main Original Powers of Eradication—the Pegasus’ Music. It is famed for the precision of timing and the control of rhythm.” The middle-aged man heaved a loud sigh. “It has been a long time since I have seen this legacy from inside the Tower of Eradication… and the reason you are not afraid of the ‘Touch of Greed’.” He raised his head. His gaze was oppressing. “I have roughly guessed it too.”
Miranda was slightly stunned.
The middle-aged man fixated on Miranda’s hands which were clad in black gloves.
“It’s your hands, isn’t it?”
Miranda stared at him in disbelief.
‘Forget about the Pegasus’ Music. For him to even realize… this?’
Miranda grasped her sword tightly.
“Your hands were the first to come into contact with the ‘Touch of Greed’.” The middle-aged man narrowed his eyes and scrutinized his opponent carefully. “But there was no reaction at all… Is it because of those gloves?”
Miranda did not say anything for a few seconds.
The scene in the wilderness many years ago appeared in her mind.
That bone-chilling coldness…
“No, it’s not the gloves.” Miranda exhaled softly, raised her head and readily told the truth. “It’s just my hands.”
The middle-aged man furrowed his brows.
“A long time ago… my hands suffered from serious frostbite.”
Yards of white snow appeared in Miranda’s mind.
“Upon recovery, the sense of touch and pain were mostly lost,” Miranda said plainly, as if it had nothing to do with her at all.
“I can neither practice nor use those ingenious, splendid and enigmatic sword styles. In the beginning, I cannot even raise a teacup.
“No matter how horrifying the pain wrought by your power is, my hands are unable to feel it.
“In the face of these hands of mine that has been numbed for years, what can your invasive Power of Eradication do?” Miranda slowly raised her sword. It was obvious even to the naked eye that her hands were shaking slightly.
The middle-aged man stared at Miranda’s hands with a shocked gaze.
‘Those hands… Those sword-wielding hands… Actually… cannot feel pain, and have no sense of touch either?’
The middle-aged man’s gaze was filled with pity…
“You can actually hold a sword with these hands of yours that have no sense of touch?” Speaking slowly, his voice was filled with admiration.
‘This young girl… For those senseless hands to be able to hold the hilt of a sword, and to wave it countless times in the air, there must have been a lot of suffering involved.’
“So, the Pegasus’ Music was imparted onto you. Of course, this is also the Power of Eradication that suits you the most.” The middle-aged man nodded. His gaze was filled with acknowledgement and excitement. “To discard what your hands feel and disregard specific moves, following the rhythm of the battle instead. To entrust your sword to your observation skills, perception, and judgement. Your teacher is probably a genius.”
Miranda did not say anything. She only stared at her gloved hands in a daze.
“Please forget my earlier disrespect.” The middle-aged man placed his sword behind his back and bowed respectfully at Miranda in the standard style of the ancient swordsmen. “You are a swordswoman who deserves admiration…
“I am Sarande Klein, a Swordsman of Eradication from outside of the Tower of Eradication. It was indeed my honor to fight hand-to-hand with you.”
Miranda also sheathed her sword and returned the salute expressionlessly.
“Miranda Arunde, the 134th Chief Seed of the Tower of Eradication… Due to something all of you have done to my friend’s right hand, please forgive me for it is very hard for me to say that ‘it was also my honor fighting hand-to-hand with you’.”
Klein smiled slightly. “Right hand, is that so?”
Both straightened their bodies. Their swords reappeared beside them.
The next moment, they closed in on each other again!
Klein’s rapid sword movements and Miranda’s ingenious movements moved back and forth within the tiny space!
In barely ten seconds, Miranda managed to dodge four fatal strikes from her enemy and launched a counterattack at the most vital moment.
There was blood on Miranda’s waist and behind her ear. Klein’s left forearm was bleeding, too.
“You leave such a deep impression.” Klein stepped away from her and sighed. “Given time, you can definitely reach supreme class.”
Miranda nodded in acceptance of his acknowledgement.
‘No matter how fast you are,’ Miranda thought, ‘you cannot bypass the process of drawing your sword. With process comes rhythm—the moving and stopping, and the rise and fall of your sword.
‘There would then be weaknesses that I can control and destroy his movements.’
“And I also noticed something.” Miranda scrutinized her enemy as she stepped away from him. She said flatly, “Your so-called ‘Touch of Greed’, that ceaseless, continuous violence…”
Klein was slightly stunned.
Miranda’s gaze was firm.
“It is the ‘Glory of the Stars’, isn’t it?”
Under Klein’s surprised gaze, Miranda confidently said, “Sorry, this Power of Eradication… I am way too familiar with it”
The scene in the Tower of Eradication, where Kohen held his swollen arm and cried miserably appeared in her mind.
Both met eyes for a moment.
“I really admire your observation skills, but it is not just that.” Klein shook his head and chuckled. “The ‘Touch of Greed’ is not the ‘Glory of the Stars.”
Under Miranda’s puzzled gaze, Klein kept his sword beside his waist. “If you really want to put it that way, it can be considered as an upgraded version of ‘Glory of the Stars’, from outside the tower.”
Miranda was bewildered.
‘The upgraded version of…The Glory of the Stars? Is he referring to those violent characteristics?
‘Then… The Disaster Sword’s Powers of Eradication are derived from the original ones…’
“Thirty more seconds.” Klein sighed. “Forget about it, there isn’t enough time.”
Miranda stared at him in shock.
“See you next time, numb-handed chief.” Klein nodded slightly.
Miranda gritted her teeth and ran after him. “Wait!”
Klein turned and punched the wall beside him.
Amid the dust, his silhouette disappeared from Miranda’s sight.
At this moment, the patrolman’s voices rose from outside the alley. “It’s nearby… It’s suspected that there’s an illegal armed fight, and that those people are chasing each other for no reason. What was that sound?”
Coughing non-stop because of the dust, Miranda gazed determinedly at the direction Klein left from. She punched the wall indignantly. Amid the approaching sounds of the patrolmen, she sheathed her sword and left.
Clang!As Kohen’s sword was about to pierce into that young man’s throat, a sword appeared out of nowhere and deflected the police officer’s rapier.
Kohen quickly turned to face the newcomer who had his body turned against the setting sun.
However, the newcomer’s sword caught all of Kohen’s attention.
It was a medium-length sword with an extremely thin blade, with a black pommel on the hilt.
A round hole was drilled onto the sword’s knuckle-guard, allowing the user to put his index finger through it.
Kohen’s pupils constricted. He recognized the sword. He was way too familiar with that sword.
And way too familiar with… the sword’s owner.
“Get the hell out of here!” the newcomer said, loud and clear to the young Disaster Swordsman. “Go and look for your teacher.”
Covered in wounds, the young man awkwardly got up and limped away, but Kohen did not care about that.
He opened his eyes wide and stared at the newcomer in disbelief.
After seeing this person, he stopped wanting to care about anything else.
Kohen swallowed his saliva with difficulty and asked in the most disbelieving and surprised tone ever, “Why are you here?”
“And… what are you up to now?” Staring at the newcomer, Kohen furrowed and relaxed his brows repeatedly.
“What am I doing?” The newcomer snorted softly and walked towards him.
“To get here before you idiots ruin everything.” The newcomer revealed a pair of dark red eyes in the darkness and said plainly, “And to stop all of you.
The newcomer stepped out of the shadowed alley.
“Kill all of you?”
Kohen’s ex-batchmate from the Tower of Eradication and the current member of the Kingdom’s Secret Intelligence Department, Raphael Lindbergh, had a sword in his left hand. Blinking his dark red eyes, he looked at his former friend, the police officer, Kohen Karabeyan, with a smile.