Chapter 200: Encounter
Translator:?EndlessFantasy Translation??Editor:?EndlessFantasy Translation
The elf stared calmly into Kaslan’s eyes, and like countless times before this, felt the faintly discernible presence in the air.
Based on experience, she would first detect some mixed-up fragments and scenes, similar to overflowing and murky river water, laden with mud and sand.
After a fraction of a second, these disorderly fragments would follow a powerful rhythm that depended on the mental state of the person being read. It would then coalesce into a distinguishable, purposeful, and logical consciousness that is obtained through an organization filter.
For countless years in the past, this was how she rapidly and accurately read other people’s minds. The strength of warriors, the weakness of cowards, the schemes of kings, the menace of nobles, the greed of merchants, and the degeneration of Priests.
Of course, this time-tested method would also fail on rare occasions.
Aida furrowed her brow a little as she watched Kaslan wave his pike. The only thing she could feel was murderous intentions, deep and boundless.
Kaslan’s gaze was indecipherable. He waved his pike, leaving a shimmering trail in the air with its tip.
The pike appeared in front of Aida’s eyes.
The air was still radiating with nothing but killing intent.
Aida threw her arms open like a bird. She lowered her knees, bent her body backwards and raised her head in an unbelievable maneuver.
The Soul Slayer Pike’s black tip swung through the air and grazed Aida’s chin. The next second, the elf’s silver pupils constricted a little. She turned her body gracefully to the side and managed to evade the tip of the pike. Then, her body moved back into her original position, like a longbow snapping back into place after it had been stretched taut.
She exuded a sort of rapturous beauty while her bright white hair whipped about in the wind. Even her body, which she moved to bend and stretch to its limits, was filled with the presence of power.
She rolled to the side, creating a safe distance between her and her opponent. Kaslan drew back his pike and watched her coldly.
Aida sighed to herself. Even though the Soul Slayer Pike had forced her to the edge of death many times, from the start to the end, Aida could sense nothing but an extremely pure killing intent.
He did not have even the slightest bit of thought governing his mind, actions, or attitude. It was completely different from the Kaslan she met in the past.
‘Even the stupidest bird, animal, insect, and reptile would have a clear sense of awareness and a clear train of thought, right?’
The elf focused her gaze on the tip of her opponent’s pike and decisively halted the fragments of consciousness that surged into her perception. She knew that there would only be a pure and unsullied killing intent.
This was a man who had complete mastery of his own consciousness; devoid of all thoughts and goals during a battle, totally freeing himself, succumbing to his killing instincts. This hampered her ability to use her psionic power.
Aida solemnly brandished her machete with a flourish and adjusted the distance between her legs.
‘There is only one type of situation that can mold someone into a warrior like this,’ Aida thought, watching the impassive Kaslan.
The battlefield; it was not the quick battles that involved ambushes, assaults, pursuits, and annihilation, but the bloody and tough battles that take thousands of lives and last for days.
Vast battlefields, incessant fighting, threats and dangers that lurk everywhere; wave after wave of massacres, and layer after layer of opponents. This torturous, terrifying hell can mold a normal person into a wild beast whose only cares would be to battle and survive. Driven by a crazed bloodlust, warriors can turn into the most powerful killing machines.
Aida had lived for a very long time and had encountered opponents like this before. She closed her eyes gently.
Time to throw away all unnecessary battles and burdens… and engage in a primitive battle. Just like her ancestors.
Her older sister’s teachings on the training field echoed in her ears once more, as clear as before.
“Aida, you must remember that as an elf, we love beauty and nature.”
Under the dazzling white Sacred Tree, her older sister’s tone was unusually solemn, holding the authority of a father. Even though Aida once felt her father’s consciousness a hundred years before she was born, she had never heard her father’s voice with her own ears.
Hands behind her back, Aida’s older sister said flatly to the trembling Aida, “But elves are neither weak nor vulnerable. Even though we are the heretics of the Ancient Elf Kingdom, we are their strongest branch of descendants.
“Among all the remaining elf bloodlines in this world, we are not only the most belligerent ones, but also the best fighters… We are the Sacred Elves.”
Her older sister’s expression became solemn. She turned and moved to the side… revealing three captives who were tied up.
The round-eared humans trembled violently and were extremely anxious. One had his head shaved until there was only a tuft of hair left at the center of his scalp, he looked just like a rooster. Another had a thick layer of oil in his hair, and the third one was bald. They were blabbering at the elves in human language.
The rooster looked really ugly. On the other hand, Thick Oil did not look that ugly. As for baldy, he looked… God, she almost wanted to puke.
“Aida, follow tradition.” Aida still remembered her older sister’s words, the three human’s faces as they struggled with all their might, and her older sister’s cold smile. “Raise your machete,?chop off their heads… And complete your coming-of-age ceremony.”
Aida opened her eyes. The extraordinary memory of elves allowed her to recall every single detail clearly.
Combat maneuvers that she was once adept to—but slowly went out of practice due to a reliance on psionic power—returned to her body.
The machete held tightly in her hand, she charged towards Kaslan.
He felt so thirsty, his throat almost burning. His tongue, just as dry, rubbed against his teeth, causing a strange sensation, like coarse cloth rubbing on wood.
He was panting as he lay on the scorching sand. He was hiding behind a large dune to evade fatal threats—the sun, the fiery sand, and the enemies.
He could not help but tighten the grip of his right hand on the sword hilt. Passed down from generation to generation in his family, the sword was covered in dust and blood.
‘So tired… So much pain.’
He flexed his swollen and sore wrist, and felt the burning pain in his shoulder. He gritted his teeth and persevered.
‘Damn it, that gray mixed breed’s hammer-and-chain even had barbs on it.’
Of course, compared to his Captain Wanda, whose capability was above supra class, he was already very fortunate. ‘Some of the captain’s brain matter is probably still on the hilt of that hammer-and-chain.
‘Pity the captain’s lover, still waiting anxiously for him at Wing Fort. I heard that the captain once saved her from the hands of bandits without regard for anything. What a pity…’
He sighed internally. He then felt the pain again.
He loosened his sun-scorched armor a little and pulled open his collar, sticky with sweat and blood.
‘No matter what, I must treat my wounds.’ He thought.
A bottle was flung through the air and landed beside him, making an indentation on the sand. He turned, puzzled.
“Use this. It’s low-quality Chaca Wine that even hyenas won’t drink. I bribed the quartermaster for it.” With a bandage over his left eye, a veteran leaned against the sand dune and took out his flint with his unbandaged hand. He skillfully lit the hand-rolled cigarette between his lips. “It’s not too bad if you only use it to wash your wound. Just don’t drink it.”
“Thank you.” He turned his body over absentmindedly. As he panted, he took the bottle and opened it with some effort.
The veteran finally lit the thick roll of tobacco between his lips, and threw the flint in his hand away without hesitation.
Smoke seeped out of the hand-rolled cigarette. The veteran pulled a deep drag and let out a satisfied moan. He then extended his blood-covered hand and tore off the butt, mixing it with the sand and burying it. To the scouts with visions sharper than hawks, even the smallest wisp of smoke could attract their attention.
“That phrase isn’t used here often.” The veteran buried his face in the sand and comfortably exhaled his only puff of smoke.
Kohen grit his teeth and stared at the reflection of the sun through the Chaca Wine in the bottle, he then licked his cracked lips. He held back the urge to drink it and raised his head to asked, “What?”
“We don’t say ‘thank you’.” The veteran turned over and swatted away the elbow next to him that had invaded some of his space. He then turned his head and said to Kohen, “Too cringy.”
Kohen glanced at the bottle in his hand, then at the hideous wound on his shoulder. He hesitated and sighed.
‘It will be over soon. Endure it.’
“Alright.” He opened his mouth and pulled open the cap with his mouth. He took three deep breaths and muttered in a soft voice, “Then… I owe you one.”
The next moment, he shut his eyes tightly and poured the wine on his wound. The burning pain on his shoulder was like a continuous flame. He trembled and a loud moan escaped him. He felt the bottle cap in his mouth slowly change shape.
Finally, the pain ended.
Drenched in sweat, he spat out the bottle cap, and with trembling hands, tore up a portion of his clothing. He bandaged his wound the way his captain taught them to.
The veteran watched everything from the side and sneered.
“Hah, to be able to die together with the son of a powerful noble.” The veteran chuckled and said in a mocking tone, “I can’t believe that I could be so fortunate.”
Kohen ignored the veteran.
He had to endure being mocked and ridiculed like this from the first day he arrived at Blade Fangs Camp in the Western Deserts, whether they were intentional or not.
‘I’m used to this.’
“Is that so?” he said flatly and gave his bandage one last yank.
“No wonder you were posted to such a good squad even though you just arrived.” The veteran exercised his hand and sighed. “You could have become a commander, or at least a captain after one or two years.”
“What a pity that your luck isn’t great, novice.” The veteran shook his head.
Kohen felt a little annoyed even though he was very grateful for the help the veteran had given just now.
“None of us here are fortunate.” Deciding to change the topic, he raised his head and looked at the ten or so soldiers who were resting beneath the sand dune. Most of them were covered in injuries and seemed distressed. “Are these our only survivors?”
“Of course not.” The veteran expression’s was a little unpleasant. “Some were held captive—a fate worse than death. I heard that there is a lack of food among the mixed breed, and a lack of men among the Barren breed.”
Kohen recalled those skulls in the abandoned camps, strung up into a line and stuck into the ground. He felt nauseated, but tried his best to push that feeling away. “Lack of men?”
“The tribe of Barren breeds is experiencing a serious population shrink, but don’t get me wrong”—the veteran sneered—”they will give you some kind of drug to make sure that you stay hard down there until they’re done, or until you’re dead. Under the usual circumstances, you would be long dead before they’re done.”
He stared at the veteran’s meaningful gaze, and sighed. He stopped thinking about this issue.
“Why are you making things so hard for yourself?” The veteran’s voice rose again. “Why did you leave your comfortable manor and castle like an idiot to seek death here?”
‘God, so annoying.’
He thought about it agitatedly. But no matter what, the veteran gave him the bottle of wine just now, he could not be rude.
His shoulder felt a lot better. His gaze dimmed. ‘It’s true, why did I make things so hard for myself?’
At that moment, he suddenly missed his home in Walla Hill. The old castle with plenty of prohibition gates and locks. The spiritless manor.
His two talkative younger sisters whom he wished he could grab, swing in a circle and throw, and that stoic-faced old man.
He flashed a bitter smile.
“At least…” He sighed and rested his head on the scorching sand. “I am free to choose my way of death here.”
The veteran stared quietly at Kohen. He suddenly chuckled.
“You should had stayed in your comfortable manor.” The veteran shook his head. “Everything here is too unfair for you, pampered boy.”
He felt a surge of indignant resentment.
He turned and said with a sigh. “Unfair? How about you? Why did you come to the Western Deserts, to this hell?”
The soldier froze momentarily.
“Me? Hah…” The veteran narrowed his eyes, as if he was reminiscing a distant past. His tone was tired and jaded. “For someone who should have died a long time ago, it is only fair for me to risk my life fighting those gray mixed breeds… There’s nothing fairer than this.”
Kohen listened to the veteran’s words and said nothing. He only sighed after a long while.
“Hey, novice.” The veteran stared at the sky and said faintly, “Remember this: There’s no glory on the battlefield.” The veteran exhaled slowly. “Only life and death.
“Credit is not given to the chess pieces,” the veteran muttered with a reminiscing gaze. “It is only given to the chess players.”
Kohen tightened his grip on his sword.
‘This is Karabeyan’s glory. Or at least, it’s past glory…
‘It is past three o’clock, but reinforcements have yet to arrive. So…’
“When will the next pursuit be?” He stared at the sky and felt a surge of despair.
“Soon,” the veteran said nonchalantly, “These gray mixed breeds are not deterred by the heat. We’ll all die here.”
The next moment, a black figure appeared on the horizon. The massive figure wore an ugly armor and held a hammer-and-chain that looked extremely familiar to Kohen.
‘Hammer-and-chain. That hammer-and-chain… The captain’s brain matter is still on it.’
Terror rose in his heart. The one half of the head remaining on Captain Wanda’s neck seemed to be smiling at him.
The terrifying and massive figure charge rapidly towards them with heavy footsteps.
Each and every step caused several sand particles to rise into the air.
It waved its hammer-and chain.
Kohen unconsciously struggled to get up and felt a wave of dizziness. He felt an intense pain in his right arm. Instinctively, he opened his mouth.
“Enemy…” He inhaled a mouthful of cold air and shouted incoherently, “Enemy attack!”
“Orcs!” Kohen Karabeyan roared furiously and sat up in the darkness despite the intense pain. He shouted subconsciously with all his might, “The gray mixed breeds are here!”
But this time, he was not met with crude yells and unpleasant curses; there was only the icy clanking sound of iron chains, the echo of his own voice…
And the intense, never-ending pain in his right arm.
Still in shock, the police officer panted. His heart was beating constantly.
There was no desert. No scorching sun. No gray mixed breeds. No… such battles.
Roused with a start from his nightmare, Kohen suddenly noticed that he was breathing in the thick scent of lamp oil instead of the dry air unique to deserts.
It was then that he realized that he was not at the dangerous frontline of the Western Deserts.
The police officer shook his head vigorously. He panted and brought his consciousness back to the present.
“Wake up, Kohen. Watch your right arm…”
Miranda sounded faint and weak.
Kohen endured the intense pain. Drenched in cold sweat, he realized in shock that his upper body was encircled tightly by an iron chain. Even his fingers were bound within. He could not move at all.
“Where are we?”
Kohen turned his head, and unsurprisingly, he saw Miranda bound up in a similar fashion in the dim prison cell across from him. He cried fearfully, “Where is Kaslan?”
“I don’t know.” Kohen could see half of the swordswoman’s pale and flustered face. “This place seems to be near Heroic Spirit Palace.”
“Shut up, Citizen of the Empire.” Outside the prison cell, a soldier who was dressed like a patrol turned and said coldly to Kohen, “One more word and I’ll dislocate your jaw.”
Miranda met Kohen’s eyes and shook her head a little. At least six men were guarding his prison cell.
The police officer exercised his ankle, which was also tied down. He concluded that he stood no chance.
He sighed and laid back down on the floor.
At this moment, some distance away, a thick iron door opened. Light shone in through the opened door.
Kohen raised his head and narrowed his eyes to adjust himself to the light. Another fleet of soldiers entered with two tiny figures in tow.
“Watch them well.” The leader was an armored knight with a tall and large build. He coldly commanded the soldiers in the prison cell, “This is one of the archduke’s most important captives.”
Kohen furrowed his brows.
‘Most important captives?’
At this moment, a youthful voice came from the prison cell beside Kohen.
“You… It’s you?”
The lad whom was suspected to be part of the Disaster Swords struggled towards the cell door with all his might. Shaken and agonized, he cried out at the two equally shocked children,
Under Kohen’s almost stumped gaze, the Second Prince of Constellation, whom Kohen had met once in the Hall of Stars, was brought into the prison cell with his hands tied behind his back. There was a little girl with him.
Flustered and shocked, the prince raised his head.