Human Translated By:
- Garcar (Section 3, 4)
Machine Translated By:
- Cirdan Lunae
Japanese to English Checking By:
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——As the one known as the Admirer, Halibel made full use of his title as the Kararagi City-States’ strongest individual.
Even if one surveyed the entirety of the Four Great Countries, they would have no choice but to say that there were no shinobi who surpassed him. Even the Empire’s strongest shinobi, Olbart, would have to make a bitter expression and admit he was the most powerful. Evaluated as an equal to the Sword Saint, the Mad Prince, and the Blue Lightning, alongside the strongest of each nation he had a track record which one could not be ashamed of.
There was only one difference between Halibel and the other three: he did not belong to any nation, proclaiming himself a masterless ronin.
The Sword Saint who was bound by treaty to the Kingdom, the Mad Prince who had been branded a national traitor and confined in the northernmost tower, even the Blue Lightning whose selfishness was renowned around the world held a position.
Only the Admirer Halibel was a free man who held no official position.
Of course, Halibel himself held a sense of gratitude and belonging to his homeland and would sometimes be asked to investigate and resolve serious problems in Kararagi. But, as far as the idea of his existence being owned by someone else was concerned, being used as a bargaining chip in negotiations and transactions was something he was extremely averse to.
——He would side with those he wanted to help, and he would turn his nose up at those things which did not interest him.
That was Halibel’s motto as one of the strongest, the owner of such a whimsical nature naturally caused the assessments of those who knew him to be divided into two extremes.
On one hand, there were those who were rejected with a “Without me y’all would be just fine, just fine, you’re remarkable.”
On the other hand, there were others who were accepted with an “It’s amazin’ that you’re able ta move someone like me, you’re remarkable.”
Either way he always relaxedly spoke of his praise for others, and so he was always called the Admirer.
Naturally, this was not the only reason for his nickname; no matter what opponent or action he was faced with, it was Halibel’s way of being to give an objective evaluation.
Halibel: [Golly, guess there really are some casters who got nasty personalities. ――There ain’t an ounce of love in this.]
Puffing smoke from his kiseru, there was no admiration in the words that escaped Halibel’s mouth.
The tone of his voice was slightly lower, making him sound irritated, something that those who knew him would be surprised by as he was rarely ever displeased.
Halibel did not have a favorable impression of the undead, but there had been a moment when the scope and result of the technique made him feel some admiration for the opponent caster.
But, for the state of the opponent right in front of him, not a single shred of admiration could be found.
Slightly opening his eyes which were as thin as threads, Halibel looked at the opponent in question with his golden irises—— throwing away his tattered garments and wielding an incredibly famed sword was Eugard.
Just moments ago, one of the Nine Divine Generals, Groovy, had been facing off against this formidable enemy, but now he was unable to stand due to the burden of a technique that had become intertwined with his soul.
Seeing that same thing, Groovy, who was beside him, wiped up the blood coming from his mouth.
Groovy: [Oi, dat’s…]
Halibel: [I said don’t force yerself ta talk. I can see it too. ――That kid, he said that he wanted ta leave this ta an expert on curses.]
Stroking his beard with one hand, Halibel recalled the boy that had assigned him to the fourth bastion.
Vincent had acknowledged the boy, who had gathered immense trust for his judgment of his surroundings, enough that even Anastasia held high hopes for him and told Halibel to respect his opinion as much as possible.
Due to his deep knowledge of curse techniques, that boy had assigned him to deal with this opponent who was said to be a decisive factor in the battle for the Imperial Capital. With all of Anastasia’s boasting, he was eager to fully display the true strength of Kararagi’s strongest.
Halibel: [Really didn’t see this comin’…]
The unenthusiastic Halibel, and Groovy who was at his side, both looked at the same thing.
They were both aware of the left side of Eugard’s chest, where the human heart would be and where a semi-transparent venomous looking thorn now appeared―― the very same Curse of Thorns that had been indiscriminately disseminated across a large portion of the Imperial Capital was also eating into Eugard.
From this mysterious fact, two possibilities emerged.
The first was that the Curse of Thorns had even engulfed the caster, Eugard, and was an indiscriminate curse in the truest sense of the word.
However, Halibel evaluated that the second possibility had a higher likelihood of being true.
That was to say――,
Eugard: [――Demi-human, answer mine query.]
After he had finished ascertaining that his right hand had regenerated, Eugard cast his voice towards them.
Naturally, the one who was told this and was pierced through by his gaze was the sudden intruder, Halibel. To that statement Halibel asked “Me?” and pointed to himself with his finger, to which Eugard nodded.
Eugard: [If mine judgment does not err, thou art a wolfman, yes?]
Halibel: [Ahh, that’d be right. I’m a wolfman… since Vollachia went ta the extremes, we’re in a position where we gotta feel ashamed of ourselves throughout the world. Seems like we’re gonna die out soon.]
Eugard: [I see. ――I see.]
The second part of his phrase was filled with an intent to eradicate him, but Eugard nodded quietly, as if to confirm it. Halibel was suspicious of this situation, meanwhile Groovy raised his hoarse voice to say “Oi!”
Halibel: [I told ya, don’t force yerself…]
Groovy: [Dat’s naut impoartunt, FUHG! Dah Emprouhr of duh Braiyer ish..!]
Eugard: [――I bear no grudge against thee personally.]
Before Groovy could finish speaking with blood running through his voice, that declaration was made along with a physical form.
The casually wielded Fiend Sword flashed with black, and disregarding Groovy’s presence, it cleaved through Halibel, splitting him in two from his groin to the top of his head.
In just a blink of an eye, Halibel had been split vertically in twain.
At the terrible scene, Groovy, who hadn’t been able to speak in time, was at a loss for words while Eugard, the one who had cut through Halibel, remained in a posture with the Fiend Sword raised overhead,
Eugard: [However, thy race was once complicit in causing the death of Mine Star. Therefore, akin to the molepeople who bear the same sin, I shall eradicate all of thy kind as an example.]
Halibel: […Ahh, I finally managed ta remember. Ancient Emperor-san, ya were the original cause of us goin’ extinct.]
After speaking words to the opponent he had slain, Eugard scowled when a response was given.
In front of Eugard, the person who answered was Halibel, whose body had been severed into left and right parts right down the middle. Eugard blinked slowly at Halibel’s body, as each half gradually parted from the other.
Eugard: [That is a surprise. That thou hath yet to perish even in that state, is it perhaps beyond the final destination for those who train themselves to the extreme?]
Halibel: [That’s quite the amusing evaluation. But that ain’t it. ――It just ain’t my real body.]
Just as Halibel laughed playfully, the left and right parts of his body instantly collapsed, and a large amount of black fur fell on the spot.
Drawing attention to such an unrealistic scene, behind Eugard――,
Eugard: [Do not heedlessly sneak upon mine back. It shall not be pardoned for any other than Mine Star.]
Halibel: [Heh, now ain’t that quite the big deal.]
On the opposite side of his collapsed clone, Halibel’s body was cut in half by a slash from Eugard’s right arm―― by the Yang Sword that was held there once again.
However, the bisected upper and lower body that immediately burst into flames was not the main body either.
Having just dealt with the sudden attack to his back, Eugard exclaimed “Ngh” in surprise as his body abruptly sank down.
The cause was a third Halibel, who had grabbed him by both of his legs and dragged him down into the street. Halibel slipped out of the ground, and swapped positions with Eugard who was thus buried up to his waist. It would have been ideal to bury him up to his neck to restrict his movements, but,
Halibel: [It ain’t gonna go so swimmingly, as expected.]
The third Halibel grumbled and was torn to shreds above the burning remains of the second Halibel.
With vertical, horizontal, and diagonal slashes, he made cuts in a grid pattern and blew the pieces of the body apart; having also cut the ground into pieces with those slashes, Eugard jumped out.
With the Yang Sword in his right hand and the Fiend Sword in his left, he had recovered his fighting stance.
While dual wielding two Enchanted Swords that surpassed human knowledge, Eugard readied himself and was assailed by two new Halibels from left and right. It was a sort of revenge against the inexhaustible attack of the undead, but the increase in Halibels was something different to that of the common undead.
Eugard: [Thou art a devoted menace.]
Accepting the fact of Halibel’s clones with equanimity, Eugard swung the two Enchanted Swords simultaneously.
Against the Halibels as they came from the left and right, each Enchanted Sword was readied to unleash a deadly attack―― but, a third Halibel who had appeared behind Eugard, grabbed his arms, and stopped him.
Halibel: [Sorry ‘bout this, but I can actually go up ta three.]
Having detained both his arms, the two Halibels belatedly used their hands to pierce the immobilized Eugard’s head and torso.
As a master of the Flow Method, the sharpness of Halibel’s spear hand was more akin to that of a famed sword rather than a mediocre cutting tool.
Without missing their aim, they pierced Eugard’s right eye and solar plexus, demonstrating their might which was enough to cause an instant death.
Eugard: [Do not attempt to scheme against mineself. For any other than Mine Star it is irreverent.]
Stating this, his unpierced left eye met Halibel’s and immediately afterwards, the radiance of the Yang Sword shone more brilliantly. The next moment, the red glow burst into flames, and including Eugard, the entire area was instantly engulfed in an inferno.
The explosive spread of the fire engulfed three Halibels who were in contact with Eugard, and burned them to a crisp.
Then, a beat later, the flames disappeared like an illusion, and the three Halibels were all reduced to cinders. Eugard, who had also been scorched, regenerated the burnt surface, and stepped forth unperturbed.
Then, looking around with his golden eyes―― he noticed that Groovy, who had been there just a moment ago, had disappeared.
Eugard: [I had not thought him so courteous as to back down. ――What is thine aim?]
Halibel: [――I ain’t likin’ this. I hate it when someone figures out my tricks.]
Having left Eugard far behind on the battlefield, Halibel shook his head and sighed at how troublesome he was, not just because of his swordsmanship.
Eugard masterfully handled the powerful magic swords without being overpowered by them.
In addition to his considerable strength, he was virtually immortal due to being an undead and possessed a high level of insight. He had also seen through the deception that there was a limit of three clones, and had skillfully responded to deadly situations.
Halibel: [That’s what I’d expect of a man who almost turned the tide of a losin’ war single-handedly. Do ya think he’s prideful?]
Groovy: [If you’re asking me that, fuhg…]
Halibel asked this while holding him, and Groovy thrashed about in his arms as he was being carried away from the battlefield.
If they had remained there, they would have been caught in Eugard’s final burst of flames, making their situation even more unbearable, but there was no cause for him to be so grateful.
After all, as a warrior himself, he could understand why he would not want to be kept back from the battle.
Halibel: [But, ain’t there a chance you’ll die from this? To begin with, ya forced yerself to move yer body with poison… that’s quite the reckless thing to do.]
Groovy was slightly surprised that he had pointed that out, and Halibel flicked his own nose with his finger.
As a Shinobi who was familiar with all kinds of poisons, he could surmise what the faint strange odor mixed with Groovy’s blood was. As for its use, Halibel would never have imagined or attempted it, and the thought of it caused him to shudder.
Halibel: [Honestly, the people of Vollachia sure are determined ‘n scary. Not to mention Olbart-san, who’s still grinnin’ even tho he’s missin’ his right hand. Despite bein’ an old man, I ain’t no match for him.]
Groovy: [And, what abouht youh…]
Groovy: [It’s gonna fuhgging get worse, that’s how it usually is, clumsy curse…!]
Halibel: [――That’s a problem, ain’t it?]
Responding with a hint of confusion in his voice, Halibel replied to Groovy, who slurred as he dealt with his bloody throat that was rapidly getting worse.
This was why he was taking Groovy away from the battlefield, not to abandon his duties and flee the Imperial Capital, but as part of the strategy for victory.
Recklessly challenging an opponent without knowing anything about them is a fool’s errand. Halibel’s strength was such that it could defeat most opponents by sheer force alone, but this was not the case with this opponent.
That was not to say that his opponent was not superbly talented.
Halibel: [Well, if I were to keep fightin’ with him like we were, I’m sure I’d be stronger than him. That’s the truth, but――]
Merely defeating Eugard was not enough to fulfill the task that had been given to Halibel.
Halibel was tasked with dealing with the “curse” that would determine the outcome of the decisive battle for Imperial Capital, and simply defeating Eugard would not solve that problem.
That fact was the biggest problem.
Groovy: [Yhour, thornshh are…]
Halibel: [They’re all gone. That’s the second clue.]
Groovy: […The first one, is that Emperor’s fucking thorns.]
Groovy, who was being held by Halibel as he ran and kicked the ground agilely, peeked at Halibel’s chest. Beneath his wasou, the Curse of Thorns that should have been on Halibel’s chest was gone.
It emitted an oozing pain, so it was no wonder that it was expected to be the biggest obstacle to be eliminated in the fight against the undead. However, Halibel had yet to take any proactive action to remove it.
The thorns had disappeared despite nothing having been done. On the other hand, it was not Halibel that had made the thorns disappear.
What that meant was――,
Groovy: [That fucking bastard…]
Halibel: [From the sound of it, it looks like you ‘n I are havin’ the same thoughts. It’s reassurin’ to hear that the Master of Curse Tools is sharin’ the same opinion as me.]
Groovy: [It’s a fucking mishmash of shit all mixshhhed togetterh. That fucking bastard, the solution is fucking annoying…!]
Groovy cursed out his undirected anger as if spitting.
In the same frame of mind as Groovy, Halibel once again regained his initial misgivings and was convinced that the second possibility, which came to mind when he saw the thorns on Eugard’s chest, was the correct one.
The Curse of Thorns, the logical reason why they were entangled in Eugard’s chest was simple.
Halibel: [Them thorns weren’t the Emperor cursin’ the people ’round him, but…]
Groovy: [His Excellency Eugard was cursed by some bastard, and now the curse is being amplified like a motherfucker.]
――Eugard Vollachia, Emperor of the Briar, had received a curse as part of the sabotage concerning the Imperial Selection Ceremony, a rite of succession for the Imperial throne that had persisted for a long time within the Vollachian Empire.
After all this time, which of his opposing Imperial siblings had been responsible, and how distinguished of a curse arts user they had been involved with, were not certain things.
Only, intended for the forthcoming Imperial Selection Ceremony, the brutal strategy which had intended to diminish the competing opponents, greatly distorted the fate of the young Imperial who went on to become Eugard Vollachia.
――The Curse of Thorns placed upon Eugard, was a terribly cruel yet simple thing.
That was to say, through the binding of thorns, an unbearable agony that gnawed at his heart was bestowed upon him.
And, that was also something that applied to those in Eugard’s surroundings.
If the young Eugard cried and screamed at the pain of the curse, his family members and servants would try to save him from it. But, when they would try to get close to him, they would all be caught up in the curse, and thus would refuse to approach.
Within such solitude, the curse aimed to kill Eugard amidst the pain―― that was the true form of the Curse of Thorns placed upon Eugard.
Due to the dreadfully ruthless Curse of Thorns, Eugard should have been unable to even reach the Imperial Selection Ceremony, and should have been a tragic Imperial whose life came to a quick close.
That would have been the synopsis that the person who had ordered for the curse to be placed upon Eugard had in mind; but here, a huge, huge, so huge that it would go on to change the destiny of the Empire, coincidence had arisen.
By birth, Eugard had “congenital analgesia”, the inability to feel pain.
Therefore, the constantly active Curse of Thorns did not bestow pain upon Eugard himself, but instead only continued to grant pain to those around him; as a result, he was left completely alone.
Even his family and servants did not approach him, and living by himself in the mansion which had been bestowed to him, Eugard spent his childhood without any opportunities to make contact with others; he thought that this was the reason why his expression was always so stiff, but it was fifty-fifty between that and his natural disposition being the reason.
In any case, Eugard and the Curse of Thorns had miraculously continued to coexist.
His contact with others had been limited to an absolute minimum, but even so, there were times where he had no choice but to make contact. During each of those times, the people who got caught up in the Curse of Thorns naturally reported that “Eugard was the one who placed the curse”, and Eugard had never denied it.
In reality, regarding the true form of the Curse of Thorns, Eugard did not know whether it was something placed on him by somebody else, or if he was the one invoking it for some unknown reason.
Furthermore, the curse arts user who had placed the curse, and would thus have the answer, never appeared in Eugard’s life afterwards, and the one who had ordered it remained unknown.
Therefore, with the true form of the thorns that haunted his every step unbeknownst to him, the King of Thorns continued his walk for a long, long time.
If the curse had never been placed upon him, then those steps would have been interrupted somewhere during the Imperial Selection Ceremony, bringing them to a permanent halt.
The thorns isolated Eugard, and the goal of the one who had placed the curse upon him was fulfilled, albeit not in its original form.
???: [Would it not be more comforting to count the stars in the sky than to look out into the darkness?]
――That was, save for his encounter with the girl, who had stepped into Eugard’s thorns, and had approached him.
Eugard: [I assumed thou hadst fled, wolfman.]
Halibel: [Well, it ain’t like I didn’t think ‘bout it… Sorry, that’s a lie. I didn’t think ‘bout it in the slightest.]
Eugard: [For what reason hast thou made an attempt to deceive mineself?]
Halibel: [It’s a habit of mine ta be ramblin’ on with loose lips. I’d be delighted if ya could forgive me without takin’ it too seriously.]
Eugard: [The act of deceit against the Emperor is irreverent. Yet, judging how thou hast confessed thy mistake, I shall disregard thy lie from a moment prior.]
Greeting Halibel as he returned to the stage, Eugard drew back his chin in a composed manner.
Without being disagreeable regarding Halibel, who had at one point left the battlefield and then returned, Eugard’s imposing stance had the dignity of an Emperor to it as he spoke.
Even without his strength, his caliber was undoubtedly worthy of being called Emperor.
Halibel: [Ta go ‘n make such a person as angry as lava, just what kinda things did ya guys do, my ancestors?]
At his undetachable connection with Eugard, Emperor of the Briar, Halibel scratched his cheek.
From Halibel’s perspective as a wolfman, Eugard could be called the archenemy of his entire race.
Needing to feel ashamed of their race throughout the entire world, the Vollachian Empire was still to this day an environment in which wolfpeople, and half-wolfpeople of mixed blood―― werewolves, would be unable to escape the death penalty if they were to be discovered. The one who had cemented that as law to last forevermore within the Empire, was none other than this very Eugard.
The two races of wolfpeople and molepeople were established as the sworn enemies who had betrayed the Vollachian Empire, and amidst a long history, many of their brethren had lost their lives, and they were massacred to the verge of extinction.
In the future, that trend was unlikely to be completely lost.
Therefore, from Halibel’s perspective, it was natural for him to harbor an equal amount of hatred towards this opponent, but――,
Eugard: [――Turning such a gaze upon mineself shan’t be pardoned.]
Halibel: [What kinda eyes does it look like I’m makin’?]
Eugard: [Eyes Mine Star would make on occasion. Anyone but Mine Star who turns such eyes upon mineself, I shall not pardon… Nay, ‘tis not to mine fondness.]
Hearing Eugard’s answer, in which there was likely no lie or falsehood, Halibel took a deep breath, and placed his hand over his left breast.
Thereupon, the Curse of Thorns was not present. Upon him, who ought to have been an abominable, detestable wolfman to Eugard, the curse was not being invoked. ――That was something that more so ruffled Halibel’s feelings.
Halibel: [Supposin’ that kid went ‘n sent me here predictin’ that I’d get these feelin’s, then, lil’ Ana, ya really gotta watch out.]
On the back of his closed eyelids, envisioning the girl whom he had known since she was a young child, and who had not ended up growing to be very tall, Halibel held the kiseru in his mouth as he said those words.
Then, setting the tip alight, he got a good whiff of the smoke before puffing it out.
Breathing out, he made up his mind.
Halibel: [It’s fine if ya don’t forgive me, Emperor-san. That’s the kinda relationship between us, ain’t it?]
Eugard: [That sort of relation would be?]
Halibel: [Between wolfpeople, ‘n the Emperor of the Briar.]
They each had a reason to hate the other, and a reason to destroy the other.
Pointing at himself and his opponent, Halibel spoke thus, to which Eugard’s expression did not change. He did not know just how many things were locked on the other side of that invariant expression.
And though he did not know, Halibel had made up his mind.
By merely defeating Eugard, the duty he had been entrusted with, and his own determination, would not be fulfilled.
Halibel: [I’ll set ya free from that darn disgustin’ curse, ‘n make ya nothin’ more than just a king, O King of Thorns.]