Chapter 260: The Reason for Battle (One)
Translator:?EndlessFantasy Translation??Editor:?EndlessFantasy Translation
Heroic Spirit Palace, another corridor.
Miranda’s sword cut a jagged line in the air.
Amid the crisp sound of clashing metal, she gritted her teeth tightly as she brushed past Kroesch.
In the next second…
A gush of blood spurted out from Miranda’s lower abdomen whereas Kroesch’s left leg armor became seriously deformed.
The two people who had their backs against each other pulled apart for some distance. Their figures swayed as they both fell to the ground.
“Haha, as expected of the Chief Seed.” Kroesch sat on the ground with exhaustion spread across her face. She endured the pain as she used the edge of her blade to pry open her deformed leg armor and pressed down on her bone. “Even with your unhealed injuries, you can still accomplish this much.
On the other hand, Miranda leaned against the wall, dripping with cold sweat. She desperately covered the wound on her abdomen, incessantly urging the Pegasus’ Music to slow down the blood flow and close up her flesh. She did not acknowledge Kroesch’s words.
They knew that after engaging in this brief yet intense fight, both of them had reached their limits. What remained was the contest of perseverance and spirit.
“Tell me.” Miranda opened her mouth with difficulty. “Betraying a friend, murdering the king, using the Tower of Eradication to fulfil your own ambitions… How does it feel, Esch?”
Kroesch paused slightly. Her gaze turned to the sword in her own hands. It was a saber acquired from the Tower of Eradication: Centurion. The hilt of the sword was engraved with a symbol from the Pegasus series: the Silver-Winged Pegasus. It represented a firm and steadfast belief.
“It feels amazing, Mira.” Kroesch withdrew her gaze and sneered. “The joy of breaking the rules.”
What was unexpected was that Miranda did not look angry, neither was she sceptical. Lady Arunde just watched her quietly with a subtle gaze.
The swordswoman softly opened her mouth. “Esch…” Her tone was filled with grief. “These few years since you left the tower, you must have been getting by poorly, right?”
Kroesch trembled slightly and her arm began to tense.
“I heard from Kaslan that you were rejected by the White Blade Guards, otherwise, you wouldn’t have…”
Miranda heaved a sigh. “But I beg you, don’t lose yourself. Think about your ‘heart of the sword’.”
The corridor went silent. Kroesch’s breathing grew faster and faster.
‘Heart of the sword. My… heart of the sword?’ Still, Kroesch clenched her jaw.
“Mira, you’re an heir to the Northern Territory, born into a noble background. You served under the Fortress Flower right after graduation…
“To have everything go well for you, of course you wouldn’t understand the struggles of a woman who was born a commoner has to experience in this world.”
Miranda was stunned for a moment.
Just when she was about to ask “what struggles”, the other party suddenly got up. She charged at her, limping and hobbling.
Miranda was surprised. Unable to care about the pain in her abdomen, she leaped up.
The swords, ‘Soaring Eagle’ and Kroesch’s ‘Centurion’, neutralized each other’s attacks in the air. They were in a stalemate.
“White Blade Guards?” Kroesch’s arm was trembling as she towered above, suppressing her opponent. Miranda could only muster all her strength in response.
Both of them listened to the force exerted on the swords in this trembling sword fight. The contact point for both swords shifted continuously, both attempting to find the rhythm of attack and the perfect spot to apply force.
“On top of that, from the grandest Dragon Clouds City to the most remote countryside manor, no suzerain was willing to hire me for fear that I could beat up all their protectors and guards,” Kroesch said with hatred. “In the span of one year, I brought with me the hopes and skills from the tower, yet I was wandering like a beggar who disgusted everyone.”
Miranda had her sights set on the injury of the enemy’s other leg. She quietly moved her feet and searched for an opportunity. “So when Lampard extended a hand to you, you decided to take revenge with death, even if it means to go against the creed?”
Kroesch’s sword-hand trembled slightly. Miranda’s eyelid twitched, she grabbed the opportunity in an instant.
With a twist of her sword, she swiftly broke out of the disadvantageous position of being suppressed. Then, she took a step forward, whirled around, and using the advantage given by her legs, she lunged her sword forward in an attack!
But out of Miranda’s expectations, Kroesch—with an injury on her left leg—did not retreat or fall into her rhythm as she had anticipated.
The round-faced swordswoman let out an angry yell. Disregarding the injured conditions on both of her legs, she leaped and pounced forward!
‘What?’ Miranda’s pupils constricted.
The sword brushed past Kroesch’s short hair and even took a few strands off, whereas the edge of Koresch’s blade went straight for Miranda’s injured abdomen.
By the skin of her teeth, Miranda dodged the edge of the other party’s sword in the end. However, as the enemy seized her opportunity, she was struck on the rib by the hilt of a sword.
Amid the sharp pain, Miranda revealed an expression of pain. She fell backwards continuously until she fell on the ground.
‘This is bad. My ribs…’
At this moment, the wounds from the battle against Disaster Sword began to ache dully.
In front of Miranda, the overexerted Kroesch was also weakened and fell down. She propped herself up on the ground with her sword. She desperately applied pressure on the aggravated injury on her left leg.
“You don’t understand,” Kroesch said painfully, “In the City of Halting Light, a viscount finally agreed to hire me… as long as I was willing to marry him.
“I knew about it, there were similar cases before this. He probably wanted a woman who can obediently spread her thighs open after elegantly brandishing a sword.” Kroesch revealed a satirical smile. “I thought he wanted the sense of accomplishment; of having his dignity satisfied to make him feel like a man.
“So I rejected him.”
Miranda felt the condition of her rib injury with a pale face as she listened to the words of her former cohort.
“‘However brilliant you are, you’re still a woman in the end,’ that’s how he said it.” Kroesch gritted her teeth ferociously, the rim of her eyes turned red. “Just right-right before… the drug he gave me… took effect.
Miranda shuddered suddenly!
In disbelief, she looked at her friend and the mournful expression that appeared on her face. The latter laughed in a mocking way. Miranda felt an ache in her heart. She softly spoke up.
“I don’t care about those things he did!” Kroesch’s unusual smile caused Miranda to feel uneasy at heart. “In reality, he didn’t really do anything, did he?
“But that night. I will always remember his eyes, those words he said—that humiliation, that contempt.” Kroesch’s tone grew urgent. “And the panic in my heart at the time… It seemed as if I was going to lose all my worth as a woman. From that day onwards, I understood one thing.”
The eyes of the guard captain for the Archduke of Black Sand turned cold.
“The reason I was thwarted at every turn and was rejected by everyone wasn’t because I lacked ability, or because I lacked physical strength, or that I had insufficient experience.” Quivering, Kroesch straightened out her body, pressed her weight on her sword and said coldly,
“It’s because I am a woman.”
In her sadness and heartache, Miranda stared at her former best friend, only to feel a heaviness in her chest.
“In Northland, they don’t believe that a woman can become a warrior, can fight wielding a sword, or can survive independently.” Kroesch’s gaze turned solemn as she staggered towards Miranda. “They don’t even allow it!
“This world cannot tolerate women being ‘stronger’ than the men, because that is their exclusive privilege.” Kroesch took a deep breath. “And moreover, they cannot tolerate women surviving alone without depending on the men at all, because that is also their privilege!
“Once I thoroughly understood this, many things were readily solved.
“Do you remember all the stories we read in the tower: the knight’s novels, historical plays, and the romantic poems? No matter what sort of woman she was, how valiantly independent, how loyal and unyielding; if she wants to be liked by the readers, she would have to fulfil one condition.” Kroesch gasped for breath, an ominous glint flashed in her eyes. “She must be able to get f*cked by the men—f*cked by the hero!
“When a distinguished woman gets f*cked, the readers feel a greater sense of accomplishment; a virtuous woman, they’ll feel a sense of conquest; a gracious woman, they’ll feel more pleasure down there; a pitiful woman, they’ll feel more dignified; a pure, lovely woman, they’ll feel more secure; a cunning, insidious woman, they’ll feel more satisfaction!”
“As long as she’s a woman, whether she’s the heroine or a supporting role, she must be the attachment in the man’s life and exist for the man.” Kroesch braced herself against the wall, gritted her teeth and said, “From the novels to reality, from birth to death, from law to life, this is the story this shameful world tells us repeatedly, and it is the f*cking truth!”
“What exactly are you talking about?” Miranda shook her head in disbelief as terror swept into her heart. “Esch!”
“Even for you, Mira. In Constellation where the women have inheritance rights, if you don’t have a strong husband, your vassals wouldn’t wholeheartedly obey you either.” Rays of dissatisfaction and pain seeped from Kroesch’s eyes.
“Even women as independent as Heart of the Rain and Fortress Flower must achieve results far exceeding the ordinary to receive equal standing as the men, as well as receive the same rewards as the men.”
In that instant, Miranda suddenly thought of her past, of how the subordinates in the fortress looked at her, of her father’s expression when she was seven, of… Raphael.
“So, I understood another thing: The ones who rejected me and the independence of women weren’t the White Blade Guards, nor those suzerains…” Kroesch walked in front of Miranda, her gaze was desolate and her voice hollow. “…it is this damned world.”
Kroesch’s voice fell. Miranda stared blankly at her, for Kroesch’s words—regardless of whether it was her past misfortune or astonishing perspective—had shocked her.
Kroesch regulated her breathing and steadily raised the sword in her hand, her face was frosty.
She said viciously, “F*ck them all.”
Enduring the sharp pain in her ribs with great difficulty, Miranda rolled onto her side in a dishevelled manner and evaded the killing blow from Kroesch’s sword.
If it was not for the inconvenience of the other party’s leg, she would have been decapitated long ago.
Reacting quickly, Miranda turned around and lunged with the sword on her hand. She went directly for the abdomen.
Just as Kroesch, who had less mobility, circled her sword back in defense, Miranda’s sword pivoted wondrously and jabbed straight ahead.
It struck Kroesch’s left ankle; it was as if Kroesch herself had moved her sword away so that Miranda could hit her.
The tip of her sword collided sharply with Kroesch’s boot.
Kroesch fell onto the ground in excruciating pain, she clutched onto her ankle in the boot.
They are both in the Pegasus branch. Miranda’s Pegasus’ Music learned more towards linking attacks from herself and from her enemies while manipulating the enemy and her own rhythms at the same time, creating an unnoticeable opportunity to break through the enemy. Similar to an alternating and repeating concerto.
This was presented vividly during their exchange of blows just now in Kroesch’s heavy, ribbed pommel and Miranda’s ankle attack.
“Thinking too much?”
Enduring the pain from both her ankle and legs, Kroesch snorted coldly. “You don’t understand, Miranda. The most terrifying thing isn’t the injustice suffered as a woman, nor the repeated failures in resistance. Rather, it is how, in thousands of years, even our own women have taken these things and regulations as just and rational.”
Both former schoolmates fell to the ground and glared firmly at each other. There was only a distance of three steps between them. This was just the right distance to thrust out a sword attack—the final strike.
“My mother was an ordinary countrywoman, my father never loved her.” Kroesch clutched Centurion as she searched for an angle. “Since I could remember, she sat in the house all day twirling knitting with the needles in her hands. From dawn to dusk, she guarded the light on the table persistently, waiting for her only support to return from the glorious White Blade Guards, even if he never returned.
“And yet, my mother remained proud of that man. She believed that it was an incomparable honor to be the wife and daughter of the king’s security guard, as if both our worth could only be reflected in that man. Even if he only appeared before me for the first time ever at my mother’s funeral.”
Kroesch laughed softly.
Miranda stared firmly at the enemy’s shoulder, adjusting the position of her sword’s tip accordingly with Kroesch’s weapon.
“After mother died, I was brought back to Dragon Clouds City and was entrusted to be raised by a lady of noble birth.” Kroesch’s complexion darkened. “Lady Adele married one of the people with the highest statuses in the country—the heroic, up-and-coming, bold, and just Prince Soria Walton.
“You cannot imagine what I saw.” Kroesch could not help but to speed up her breathing. “If other people still knew how to use florid words to hide the fact that women were assets to them, then Soria Walton was probably an honest man. To him, assets should be treated as they were—with a whip.
“When I was a child, I hid under the bed countless times, and with my hands over my mouth, I would tremble in fear as I listened to that damned bastard enter the door.” Tremblingly, she said, “I would hear Lady Adele’s pained screams, listen to that bastard prince treat her like the lowliest female slave, venting his resentment towards his wife time and time again. Prince Soria was punishing her for the utmost disrespect and humiliation towards him. That disrespect being the fact that Adele did not set aside her first night for her newlywed husband, but gave it to a knight in her hometown when she was younger instead.
“I always climbed out to comfort Adele, she would be naked and covered in bruises after he left dispirited. With a body covered in scars, she would cry as she hugged me, telling me and herself at the same time: Don’t be sad, because this was her sin, and also a woman’s fate.”
Miranda looked at this side of Kroesch in amazement. It was a look she had never in the slightest seen before in the past at the Tower of Eradication.
Kroesch said exhaustedly and in fragments, “You know, Miranda, in reality, from birth until death, we women have never been complete human beings compared to the other type of human since the beginning. When we are children, we are the assets of our fathers, used in exchange for the assets of another man. After we grow up, our faces and bodies become the reputations of our future husbands, our first nights and chastities their dignity, our lower bodies their territories, our wombs a warehouse to extend their bloodlines. Even our thoughts must be theirs.”
Kroesch’s eyes were filled with a dull grey hue. “The moment I cut my whole body open and turned it inside out, I realized that the only thing that belonged to me… was this sword.”
Miranda swallowed her words. In her eyes were a mix of grief, bewilderment, pain, and other emotions.
Finally, Miranda heaved a sigh. “What exactly do you want to do?”
Kroesch looked quietly at her and squeezed out an unpleasant smile. “I want to use this sword that I’m left with… to take back the things women were deprived of since birth. And from then on, allow women their independence.”
In that moment, Miranda swayed a bit and fell against the wall in low spirits.
“I don’t understand,” she said, her face drained of color.
Kroesch merely let out a snort, as if she was not surprised at all.
“Mira, I don’t blame you. Blessed, pitiful, innocent, lamentable woman… happy with the status quo, yet the least bit aware.”
Miranda pursed her lips, looked at the sword in her hand and then at Kroesch.
“Regardless of what you plan to do, history and the world have been operating like this for thousands of years. Even if you become a god, such nonsensical words…” She gritted her teeth and shook her head. “You simply will not succeed!”
Kroesch raised her head suddenly. “Of course I know I’d never succeed!”
The guard captain of Black Sand Region had a pained and twisted look on her face, causing a shudder to run through Miranda’s heart.
“Whether it’s this concept the world has become accustomed to, or the deep-rooted traditions in Northland, or our own awareness…” Kroesch sucked in a breath, her gaze firm. “But in everything, there must be someone who takes the first step.
“His Grace, he was the only one in Northland who could throw out the restrictions, break tradition and crush stereotypes.” She resumed her tranquil expression and said unquestionably, “And only when he has shattered everything Northland and the Eckstedtians believed in, denied every inch of the past that had fallen behind, that’s when women will finally have the hope of gaining a whole new future in the new world built on the ruins—to not live as anyone’s attachment anymore.”
Miranda did not know how to answer her. She only frowned and shook her head continuously with a sense of forlornness in her heart.
“The other people in the world may remain unchanged, and in the end they may not even look into the eyes of those women who are eager for their independence and hopeful for the future,” Kroesch said coldly. “But at least, I want to let them know that in that earthshaking age of turmoil, under the hands of the archduke who shook the world, there was such a woman!
“The world will know that she was a woman, she too could bleed, perform meritorious deeds, fight, and survive alone. All without the need to naively become some man’s wife, to rely on her face or womb to survive, or to put on the identity given to her by the world, just to survive while gasping for air!”
“Just like Queen Erica; just like King Yao.” Anguish and hesitation surfaced in Kroesch’s eyes, but it immediately turned into impregnable icy coldness. “Like this, through myself, through our repeated efforts, repeated attempts, repeated failures… The unjust can be made up for, and predicaments can be broken through!”
In the next second, Kroesch suddenly raised her sword. Subconsciously, Miranda also raised the ‘Soaring Eagle’ in her hand.
The two swords met and clashed in the air. Neither one had the slightest intention of defending, but instead pierced into their enemy’s bodies!
Blood flowed out from Miranda and Kroesch’s chests at the same time. The two who had a matchless understanding of one another had correctly guessed their counterpart’s intention. Their postures at this moment were almost exactly the same.
With their swords in one hand, they thrust forth, and with the other hand, they grabbed the blade of their opponent charging at them. Their gazes met, and the atmosphere was melancholic.
“So, for this incomprehensible reason, you placed yourself in the hands of Lampard…” Miranda gripped her old friend’s sword as her eyes widened amid her pain and trembling.
“…and betrayed us all.”
Opposite her, Kroesch revealed a smile mixed with apology and relief. Crimson liquid began to spread beneath the both of them.
Kroesch opened her mouth and said in a soft voice, “No, Mira. It isn’t incomprehensible.” Her face trembled slightly as tears flowed from her eyes. “It’s close at hand, but you’ve been disciplined to accustomization by this world.”
Breathing in a daze, Miranda recalled all the things in the tower as her sight blurred.
“His Grace bore the weight of so many people’s expectations and beliefs, including mine…”
In her ears, Kroesch’s voice grew further, smaller, and more indistinct.
“He will succeed. He must succeed.”
 scherzo: a playful composition, typically meaning a joke, originated from the Romantic period. A good example of a scherzo is Chopin’s Scherzo No. 2.