Arc 8, Chapter 50 – “Eugard Vollachia”

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――Eugard Vollachia was a King who had been forced into solitude.

Having been afflicted with the Curse of Thorns for as long as he could remember, he was forced to grow up in a terribly unbalanced environment, with even his family and servants unable to approach him.

With his painless condition, Eugard did not have to experience the suffering of the Curse of Thorns, of which he was the source, but understood from the expressions of pain and screams from those around him that his existence was a source of torment to people, and so he accepted his life of isolation.

As for the Imperial Selection Ceremony, his chances of winning it were doubtful as well.

Common sense dictated that since he was afflicted with the Curse of Thorns, it would be very much inadvisable for him to assume the Imperial Throne and be in charge of the national government of the Vollachian Empire.

Even if he could become Emperor, he thought that an Emperor who could never appear in person to meet with important state officials or to negotiate with the leaders of other countries must not exist.

Therefore, once he decided that he should not win the Imperial Selection Ceremony, Eugard had settled that his life would end at the age when the ceremony begins.

Until that age, Eugard would gather all the knowledge he could and serve the Imperial Family―― namely, for the improvement and peace of life of Imperial Citizens.

With the Curse of Thorns gnawing at him, Eugard had been forced into solitude.

However, despite his circumstances, Eugard did not consider himself unhappy. He did not feel that he was cursed, and as long as there was a rational answer to the “why”, he did not resent the person who had done it.

Some people were born blind, some were crippled. He thought that his inability to live side by side with others was just one of those things.

And, in a world where people constantly lost their lives due to blindness or crippled limbs, he considered himself lucky to have survived thanks to his position as a member of the Imperial Family.

Thanks to his origins from the Imperial Family, Eugard had been able to continue living without family or anyone close to him, as well as never knowing of starvation. Because of that, he would fulfill his duties as a member of the Imperial Family.

While he was sorry for his mother and the people of his house, he would never be able to seize the throne of the Emperor. ――Then, at the very least, he would use the not-so-long years of his remaining life for the sake of the world that encompassed him.

――Hence, meeting her had been the biggest mistake of Eugard’s life.

It was not because he came to wish for the Imperial Throne, which he had ought to have given up on. Nor had he abandoned the mission of the Imperial Family.

Only, he had ended up with the desire to live. ――To live with Iris, he had ended up desiring so.

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The Curse of Thorns was something that had been cast upon Eugard Vollachia, and its effects had been designed to force Eugard into solitude.

To achieve that objective, what might be the conditions under which it would manifest its maximum effectiveness?

The opposite of isolation could be said to be love. That was to say, the Curse of Thorns was a curse that kept the people one loved at a distance.

In other words――,

???: [The thorns went ahead ‘n disappeared from my chest, ‘n the fact that they haven’t disappeared for anyone else has gotta be the answer.]

Biting lightly on the mouthpiece of his kiseru, Halibel murmured while patting his own chest.

Having betrayed the King of Thorns, wolfpeople and molepeople had ended up being labeled as traitors in even the fairy tales that had been passed down for a long time; being one of the former himself, the reason that the thorns had disappeared from his chest, was that Eugard had recognized Halibel as a wolfman, and thus he had fallen outside of the conditions for the Curse of Thorns.

The Curse of Thorns would not be activated unless directed at something one loved.

Halibel: [Bein’ someone with immense affection, I can’t help but wonder who that was bad for.]

Mixing his frustration with the purple smoke, Halibel took a deep drag from his kiseru.

The special tobacco dropped onto the bowl burned out in a single puff, filling Halibel’s unusually large lungs with smoke. In the subsequent instant, biting down on his teeth and tossing the kiseru upwards, Halibel in his black kimono tilted his upper body, and the black hair on his back was slashed by the Fiend Sword that was swung diagonally.

Behind him, as the cityscape of the Imperial Capital tilted diagonally in the aftermath of that slash, Halibel’s towering stature stepped forward, along with another three tall figures doing so simultaneously.

Those tall figures were Halibel, each one an exact duplicate of the others.

However――,

Eugard: [That acrobatics feat of thine, I have witnessed erstwhile.]

The Yang Sword wielded in his raised right hand descended, and flames covered the path of the four Halibels.

The hue of the scorching flames was too intense, creating a curtain of flames on the street that even appeared white, forcing Halibel and his duplicates to make a choice. Namely, the options were to leap over the flames or to take a detour―― however, Halibel took neither of these two choices, and instead went for a third.

Halibel: [It’s a lil bit different from the trick I showed ya earlier.]

Two of the four Halibels took the lead, thrusting their palms into the rising curtain of flames.

Halibel’s palms, released in conjunction with a step that caused the cobblestones to explode, moved like battering rams that could blow away a poorly constructed castle gate in a single strike. However, these two strikes were stopped just short of the flames simultaneously, and the generated wind turned into a storm, blowing away the fire.

Eugard’s expressionless brows moved slightly at the strike, but it was still too early to be surprised.

The two who had lagged behind surpassed the two who had advanced earlier, forcefully slamming the same battering ram palms into Eugard’s torso.

Eugard: [――Hk.]

Suppressing the groan in the depths of his throat, Eugard was blown directly backwards by the impact. However, it was shallow. In an instant, Halibel’s palms were caught by the flat side of the Yang Sword, and he himself was propelled backwards.

Even so, though Halibel’s attack could not be completely nullified, Eugard was forced to recognize his extraordinary martial skills despite his position as Emperor.

Without assuming the position of an Emperor, he would have felt as if he had lost face, as his opponent was solely a shinobi.

But, it could not be helped.

Given Eugard’s constitution, he could not rely on subordinates to protect himself. The Emperor had no choice but to protect himself.

Halibel: [I ain’t gonna hold back.]

Disregarding the circumstances, the pursuit did not ease for Eugard, who had been blown away.

To kill the inertia of flying backward, Eugard slid his toes on the ground and turned towards the voice of Halibel that had sounded nearby, and he attempted to deliver a slash with a twist of his body.

However, the Halibel who was there received the diagonal slash, and promptly disappeared in a scattering of fur. From directly below, another Halibel kicked up, catching Eugard with widened eyes.

Eugard: [Muggh…]

Kicked in the back, Eugard floated in the air and as he was pounded by Halibel from all directions. From all sides, there were mirror images of wolfmen who swung their hands in karate chops. Eugard, however, was not about to let himself be defeated, and used the Yang Sword’s pulverizing ability against them.

In essence, in the explosion of the atmosphere caused by super-rapid heating, their movement would be disrupted.

The bright, red-hot Yang Sword spun in the explosion, and Eugard’s slash circled in the air as it cleaved all four Halibels in half.

Instantly, the four Halibels erupted in flames―― all of them turning into fur.

Instead, from directly above, an elbow strike as powerful as a battle-axe smashed Eugard in the head, and the Emperor crashed into the streets of Imperial Capital as he spun vertically, creating a circular crater accompanied by the sound of an explosion.

Landing beside the crater, Halibel quickly reached out, catching the kiseru that he had tossed with his mouth just before the collision.

And then――,

Halibel: [That’s somethin’ that’d usually kill ya, but I’m guessin’ things won’t go that easy?]

Eugard: [――Indeed.]

Amidst the dispersing smoke, Halibel’s voice as he looked down into the center of the cavity was met with a calm response.

Though it was quite harsh to not have inflicted any damage despite everything he had done, the outcome was as expected, so the emotional toll was kept to a minimum. With this current confrontation, Halibel revised his evaluation of the Yang Sword and the Fiend Sword. He had initially considered the Fiend Sword to be more dangerous, but the Yang Sword was proving to be more than formidable.

And more than that――,

Eugard: [Art thou employing both clones with substance and clones that are hollow?]

While raising his body within the crater, Eugard analyzed their combat from just moments prior.

Neither confirming nor denying the observation as correct or incorrect, Halibel licked the blood dripping from the cut that had emerged on his left cheek with his tongue, offering silence as his response.

Eugard: [Such technique would require a blood-curdling ordeal to master. ‘Tis worthy of commendation.]

Halibel: [Well, thanks for that.]

His responses were kept minimal to avoid giving up information unnecessarily, but Eugard’s observation was correct.

Halibel’s “clones” could be divided into two types, those that were merely illusions made of fur, and genuine clones with substance on par with Halibel’s real body.

With this combination, the essence of Halibel’s fighting style evolved around toying with his opponents, and even just the illusory clones were equipped with the ability to completely subdue any average opponent.

The problem was that Eugard was not any average opponent, and furthermore, Halibel’s signature tactic of cursecraft would not work against him.

Techniques designed to kill would not be effective against an opponent who was already dead.

Not to mention that Eugard’s soul had already been inflicted with a curse so strong that no others could surpass it in that regard.

However――,

Halibel: [If I don’t follow through on the things I’ve decided to do, I’ll be in for a scoldin’ by lil’ Ana.]

Spinning the kiseru around in his hand, he placed the next piece of tobacco into the bowl and lit it.

Same as before, he filled his lungs with smoke in one go, and deceived his brain with the illusion that his limbs were coursing with strength. Then, towards Eugard, who was in the center of the cavity, his next attack would――,

Eugard: [This shan’t do, as thou art too formidable. I have no choice but to display mine true strength.]

In the next instant, Eugard leapt out of the crater and raised the Yang Sword before him.

As the Yang Sword descended, Halibel promptly intervened, not with a sword, but by catching Eugard’s right arm which held the weapon to block the attack.

Immediately after, the released shockwave passed behind Halibel, reducing the mangled and incinerated remains of the Imperial Capital’s buildings to scattered embers.

At this moment, Eugard only held the lone Yang Sword in his hand. The Fiend Sword he had wielded in his left hand until then had been thrust into the cavity, abandoned.

That was not a decision to relinquish a powerful weapon.

Eugard: [Rather than dual wielding a combination of twain swords I have yet to grow accustomed to, I shall face you with the single blade in which mine mastery doth reside.]

Halibel: [Really now, you’re a darn unpleasant person, Yer Excellency the Emperor.]

In all cases, choosing the opponent’s least favored option was originally the style of a shinobi.

Against Eugard, who implemented that with insight and determination, Halibel kept Eugard’s arm restrained, and had his clones step forward from three other directions.

A palm blow and a kick, together with one of them delivering a scatter shot of flying debris by striking a stone they had scooped out from the ground―― Eugard, with his arm held, deflected them away with his overwhelming swordsmanship.

The Yang Sword in his right hand had instantly vanished, then had reappeared in his left hand, and through that he was able to blow the three approaching Halibels away whilst scorching them.

Two among them were clones made of fur, but the one who had performed the scatter shot was a genuine body.

Sensing the burnt smell of his own fur being scorched, Halibel delivered a karate chop, boring into the cheek of the Eugard as it grazed past, and a few seconds of ultra-high grade combat had begun.

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――Herein, there lay an irony that ought to be called a twist of fate.

The Curse of Thorns had forced Eugard into solitude, but the curse itself brought no pain whatsoever to Eugard, who had congenital analgesia. However, even if Eugard was divorced from pain, it was a fact that the curse still ate into his body, and that he continued to receive its effects.

In truth, though the young Eugard had not felt pain either, he did experience a suffocating sensation due to the oppressive nature of the curse, and his actions had thus been limited. But, that influence had determined the amount of time he had left, and was rather inconvenient for Eugard, who had already made up his mind concerning the things he wanted to do.

The level of concord between his body and mind was uncertain.

But, at some point, the effects of the Curse of Thorns had stopped having any disturbance whatsoever on Eugard’s body, and Eugard became fully capable of taking action for the sake of fulfilling his own objectives.

That was to say, Eugard’s body had grown to be able to deal with the danger that constantly threatened his life. ――The details of how the strongest Emperor in the history of the Empire had been born lay within that irony.

Having optimized itself in order to simply live, Eugard’s body worked incredibly as a foundation for nurturing his mechanical diligence.

In a position where no guards could be assigned to him, Eugard had trained himself in order to protect himself; having been granted talent, as well as a body that could fully utilize that talent, he continued to grow stronger beyond comparison.

Since the Curse of Thorns had made Eugard stronger, this was a meaningless supposition, but his strength and ability with the sword were such that even if the Curse of Thorns had been absent, he still would have been able to wipe out the Nine Divine Generals of that era.

Of course, Eugard’s battles, in reality, almost always consisted of him beheading an opponent who was suffering from the effects of the Curse of Thorns, and his battles against the Nine Divine Generals went mostly the same.

For Eugard, battles were not a contest of strength, but rather a situation in which he must perform the duty of executioner.

Eugard: [I bestow mine praise.]

This was not a widely known fact, but among the Vollachian Emperors throughout history, Eugard Vollachia was the Emperor who spoke those words the most.

Precisely because they stood not on the same base, precisely because he understood he had been granted a position that differed to that of others, Eugard was generous in his praise towards others.

Therefore, this was quite the ironic encounter.

The ironic fact that the Emperor of the Briar, who had given the most praise to others in the history of the Empire, and the wolfman who took that way of being upon himself in the modern day, naming himself the Admirer, were clashing here like this, separated by life and death.

But within this chance encounter, there yet remained another irony that ought to be called a twist of fate.

As mentioned previously, battles were always a one-sided affair for Eugard.

As the Curse of Thorns ate into his target, Eugard would face off against enemies that could by no means be said to be in perfect or usual condition, and he would behead them; he never attained victory by any other means.

That general conception Eugard Vollachia held of “battles”, began to change.

Through his fierce clash against the Admirer, Halibel, a wolfman who did not receive the curse, that change was yielded.

Eugard: [Hah――]

As a breath leaked out from his slightly opened mouth, a flash of Eugard’s blade dyed the world in crimson.

The fiery flash of the sword diagonally cut through the air, yet within the path it carved, the figure of the tall wolfman was nowhere to be found. His opponent had ceased producing clones at random, and had altered his movements towards a thorough evasive maneuver.

His objective was not to buy time, but rather to ascertain Eugard’s swordsmanship.

Eugard: [A fine decision.]

Honest praise, complimenting that the correct choice had been made, filled Eugard’s heart.

This resurrected body was in great shape despite the poor quality of its skin, and Eugard even harbored the misapprehension that he could move inexhaustibly.

Of course, that was not the case in reality. This body was not something that could surpass his strength in life, and he ought not to desire anything more excessive than the restoration capabilities whenever the body was broken.

Even the bodies of the undead still felt pain all the same.

Ergo, Eugard stood here alone as the guardian of this location. Even if the others were undead, so long as they entered the range of the curse, they would still be tormented by the binding.

For even if they were undead, Eugard had no intention of indiscriminately inflicting pain upon the peoples of his country.

And above all――,

Eugard: [I do not wish to allow any personage to disturb mine battle against thee.]

A battle, this was indeed a battle.

Contesting his skills against Halibel’s, while altering the very form of the Imperial Capital, Eugard funneled all his might into the arm wielding the Yang Sword, and absorbed himself in his rendezvous with an enemy who refused to die.

Since his birth, since his death, this was the very first time he felt his spirits surge within himself while swinging his sword at another.

The first time Eugard had fatally wounded a person was when an assassin, having broken into the mansion where he lived in isolation from his family, writhed in agony in the courtyard as they held their chest, begging for Eugard to kill them.

Ever since taking his first life at the age of seven, as far as Eugard was concerned, drawing a sword was tantamount to performing an execution.

Though, how was that?

The sensation of wielding his trained swordsmanship to the fullest, yet still only pursuing a life it could not reach, oh what a luscious and esteemed sensation it was.

Eugard: [――――]

His thrust-out arm was caught from above and below by his opponent’s karate chop and knee, pulverizing his elbow. The Yang Sword which had parted from his hand vanished into the air, and transferring it to his intact right hand, it flashed with a horizontal strike.

His opponent evaded it by slipping into the ground, and brushing Eugard’s left hip with his fingertips as he slipped through, a hole around the size of a fist was gouged into his hips.

As he turned around, he made an attempt to reach the distant back with the Yang Sword, but he was thwarted by the outstretched arm of a clone from another direction; simultaneously unleashing kicks at the chest of the other, he was furiously blown away. Blown away. Away.

Eugard: [Half a step.]

Next time, he would take half a step further.

Even though Eugard’s swordsmanship had failed to do so just ten-odd seconds prior, he was confident that he would be able to do so the next time around. It was a feat he had never performed during his lifetime or after his death, however, he could envision innumerable derivative techniques.

That was the growth of an undead, greedy to the point of desperation.

――Forced into solitude by the Curse of Thorns, and with his notion of battles having been altered to that of executions, Eugard Vollachia had never had the opportunity to improve his strength as a warrior.

For the purpose of self-defense, his sword could be trained as much as was necessary due to his unique circumstance, but naught more than that had been required.

That swordsmanship of Eugard’s was now rapidly gaining a vast amount of experience, becoming greatly polished.

Eugard was completely unaware that the being he was facing off against was the strongest being of the Kararagi City-States―― namely, a being among the top five most powerful individuals within the current world.

But, absorbing such enormous amounts of combat experience through this confrontation of which he was ignorant, as an undead, Eugard was allowed to grow into a being that greedily became stronger, to an extent much greater than he had been during his lifetime.

Eugard: [I bestow praise… Nay, I thank thee.]

Therefore, what spilled from Eugard’s mouth was not commendation, but rather gratitude.

A descendent of the abhorrent wolfpeople, had brought about a powerful emotion which Eugard had never felt during his lifetime. Since that was not a displeasing sensation, there ought to have been an appropriate evaluation of the one who had presented it.

That was something that had come from the bottom of Eugard’s heart.

Halibel: [Ya don’t gotta thank me. ‘Cuz after all, I’m gonna win.]

As ever, Halibel’s quick comebacks were irreverent, but even that irreverence was refreshing.

When he thought back on it, Eugard had scarcely experienced being talked back to, perhaps because people did not want to oppose the Curse of Thorns. Excluding those who had chosen to betray him, it was essentially only Iris who had ever expressed her opinions to Eugard――.

Eugard: [――O Star of Mine.]

In front of Eugard as he muttered so, the figure of the wolfman faded like mist.

Combining a peculiar walking technique with an unbelievable movement speed, an optical illusion occurred in a form differing from that of the clones. At the sensation of afterimages being left in his consciousness, Eugard could not help but admire that versatility.

However, there was no need for him to be deluded by such a cheap trick. The approaching presences were from directly above, and from his left and right; at the signs that lethal strikes were furiously closing in, Eugard turned the other way, utterly undaunted.

Then, going half a step further than last time, he stepped towards the rear.

Eugard: [Thou plainly scatterest thy presence. ――Ergo, the direction bereft of any presence is where thou truly residest.]

Halibel: [Guh.]

His angle of turning around had been insufficient, but still the bottom of the Yang Sword’s hilt sunk into Halibel’s side. The moment he received the sensation of his opponent’s bone shattering, Eugard immediately channeled heat into the Yang Sword’s blade―― the yielded explosion allowed the bottom of the hilt to bury itself even deeper, crushing Halibel’s insides.

Eugard: [OHHHHHH――!!!]

With an impact so powerful that it broke his own wrist, Eugard blew Halibel away.

Realizing that he had involuntarily roared as he blew his opponent away, Eugard gained a slight shock. Within Eugard’s vision, the blown away Halibel crashed into the rampart, and the wall violently fissured; the tall wolfman threw out his legs, and lowered his head.

That had been all of Eugard’s might. He had unleashed a tremendous blow, the most polished blow he had ever fired off in all his time both alive and post mortem.

That sensation was being updated again and again during his fight against Halibel. Half a step, he had taken half a step further. Next time, he might even go half a step further, and then half a step further again.

Or even further, further beyond, to where scenery, the likes of which Eugard had never before seen, was stretched out.

If Halibel stood back up and continued to fight, he might be able to grasp that. Henceforth, rise, rise, rise and do battle; as Eugard recognized that he was thinking this from the bottom of his heart――.

Eugard: [――I must hasten to the side of Mine Star. I am finished with thee.]

Taking the upsurge of spirits approaching their peak and his strong emotions as a warrior, he twisted them into love towards Iris.

Halibel: [――――]

He shall admit to it. His battle against Halibel had indeed raised his spirits.

In every conceivable meaning, this had been a stimulus which he had never experienced in either his lifetime or his time after death. He had gained the perspective that upon that path of enhancing himself, which he had not gone down before in his life, such scenery existed.

He did not know whether he would ever be able to have an experience as significant as this in the future.

However, even so, no matter what.

Eugard: [It doth not compare to having Mine Star within mine sight, even if that is for but a blink of an eye.]

That was Eugard’s sense of values, something that had never changed in both his lifetime, or after his death.

No matter the unknown stimuli or elevation of spirits, they would not be able to reach Eugard, who knew Iris.

Despite having understood that he ought to relinquish it, that he ought to give up on it, the reason Eugard had desired the Imperial Throne was because he understood that without it, he would not be able to keep the time he had with Iris for even a second longer.

Since he had obtained the Imperial Throne in exchange for that selfishness, even though the time after he had lost Iris was far longer than the time he had spent with her, he continued to fulfill his duties as Emperor.

Eugard Vollachia was the Emperor who had spent the least amount of time in the Crystal Palace of the Imperial Capital during his reign.

After losing Iris, Eugard spent most of his life as Emperor by his lonesome. He even concluded the objective of producing successors with a minimal amount of contact, and had dedicated his life to the Empire.

Everything else in his life, he used for the sake of Iris.

Therefore――,

Eugard: [――I slay thee, O sable wolfman.]

Declaring that any further time was unnecessary, Eugard took the Yang Sword in his hand, and turned his feet towards the rampart.

Then, he aimed to burn the collapsed Halibel to a crisp with a flash of the sword―― he had been unable to do so. Having just attempted to swing the Yang Sword, Eugard’s right arm burst open at the shoulder.

Eugard: [What?]

At the impact that gave him no sensation of being pierced, Eugard raised his eyebrows. But, the pinnacle of his shock lay at what occurred right after. ――The arm of the undead did not begin to regenerate.

Having been shattered like ceramic, fragments of his right arm scattered, and the Yang Sword was thrust into the ground.

And then――,

Halibel: [――Finally found the deadspot.]

Akin to an exhale, Halibel spoke in a low voice as he stood up from the rampart. The wolfman, leaning his back against the fissured wall as he stood up, placed his kiseru in his mouth once again.

Slowly, he placed tobacco into the bowl, snapped his fingers to set it alight, and breathed the smoke into his lungs. While beholding that action, Eugard placed his hand over the injury of his right arm which was not recovering.

The arm that had disappeared from his right shoulder onwards showed no signs of starting to regenerate.

He clearly understood. Eugard’s right arm had been the first part of his resurrected body to die anew.

The one who had done that was Halibel who stood before his eyes, and it seemed to be the result of the “deadspot” of which he had spoken.

Eugard: [There yet remaineth an abundance of things of which I am unaware.]

Halibel: [Ain’t that right. It’s fantastic that I was able ta teach ya that. The wolfpeople were ‘bout to be wiped out just before I could do so.]

Clearing his throat with a smile, Halibel nodded as smoke escaped his nostrils.

The versatility of this wolfman had impressed him repeatedly, but this was the highest grade. To think he was even equipped with a technique to kill the undead, his skills and expertise were terrifying.

Eugard: [In the same manner as thou hadst rended mine arm, shalt thou take even mine life?]

Halibel: [That was my intention for observin’ ya after all. Seems like it’ll be a lil’ tough, but… well, I think I’mma be able ta do it, don’t ya agree?]

Eugard: [Thy boasting is irreverent. However, as it is refreshing, I shall forgive it.]

Drawing the Yang Sword out of the ground with his remaining left hand, he faced Halibel. Though he could not read the expression of Halibel, who stood with a loose posture, that statement and demeanor were audacious, and they were no bluff.

Eugard’s opponent had also made preparations to slay him. As the bugging passion within his chest, something he had become aware of for the first time, surged once again, he immediately trampled it.

Feeling an unknown avarice within himself, he could clearly state this.

There existed no radiance in this world that could satisfy Eugard more than Iris.

That was why――,

Eugard: [――Sixty-first Emperor, Eugard Vollachia.]

Halibel: [――Admirer, Halibel.]

They gave their introductions, and in the next moment, the figures of both Eugard and Halibel disappeared, as time itself vanished.

Eugard: [――――]

Behind each of them as they plunged forth, the kicked ground exploded, and clouds of smoke immediately erupted. Using those explosions as a propelling force, the dozens of meters between Eugard and Halibel had disappeared.

With such extreme speed that it appeared as if the world had shrunk, Eugard’s blade sliced through the air in anticipation. The unleashed slash of red dyed its diagonal path a deep crimson, and releasing heat a moment belayed, a scorching temperature capable of melting even stone and turning it to liquid was produced.

However, Halibel slightly inclined his body to evade that slash, and only suffering the flesh of his back being slightly singed red at his right shoulder, he pressed forth.

Then, towards Eugard, who lacked an arm, Halibel sprang his front leg up and kicked; Eugard raised up his knee and caught the blow, and a shockwave exploded between the two of them.

The shockwave blew the flames and rubble around them away, and at a distance where they could feel each other’s breaths, they furiously traded blows. Between karate chops and the treasured sword of crimson, between kicks and elbows, ramming and grappling techniques interlaced, and the blink of close combat chipped away at Eugard’s body, piece by piece.

But, his opponent had also sustained damage.

Strangely enough, despite having an arm missing, the degree of wear and tear on both sides was around the same.

Therefore, in order to secure victory, Eugard took half a step further mentally.

Eugard: [――The Yang Sword Vollachia.]

In the midst of their rally, the treasured sword, its name having been called out, vanished from Eugard’s hand.

Sheathed into the sky, it was a supreme treasured sword that could be freely drawn again. Having relinquished it, the left hand that had become empty caught Halibel’s knee, and he crossed gazes with his opponent’s thread-like eyes.

As irony would have it, the eyes of the wolfman and the undead were both of golden hue; just what did those eyes see? Putting strength into his jaw, enough to bite through the mouthpiece of his kiseru, Halibel’s body greatly bent backwards.

Above his head, the Yang Sword, which was unsheathed from the sky, nearly grazed him.

The Yang Sword that had been sheathed in the sky, was drawn again from the sheath that was the sky. By utilizing that mechanism of sheathing and unsheathing the sword, Eugard performed a deadly strike―― though it was the first time he had used it, it had been magnificently dodged.

However, with his stance broken, Halibel used his momentum from bending backwards to place his hands on the ground, and furiously performed backwards somersaults to avoid, avoid, and avoid the successive slashes.

As Halibel escaped from him, Eugard took a moment to charge up his next sword slash―― he noticed something.

Eugard: [――――]

Beyond the backwards somersaulting Halibel, there was the crater in the ground which Eugard had made.

And towards that cavity, a small figure from outside the battlefield leapt―― it was Groovy. Groovy Gumlet, who ought to have withdrawn from the warfront, leapt whilst coughing up blood.

In the direction he was headed, the Fiend Sword was lodged within the crater, and reaching his hand towards it――,

Eugard: [Magnificent coordination. ――However…]

He did not call the sudden intrusion an act of cowardice.

He had been aware of Groovy’s existence from the outset. For Groovy to assist Halibel in the eleventh hour was only natural, since they were allies, or rather, anything else would not have made sense.

But, he would not allow that action. Overcoming even that, Eugard would be victorious.

Eugard: [――I shan’t allow thee to take the Fiend Sword.]

Holding the Yang Sword aloft, Eugard threw it at Groovy as the latter leapt towards the cavity.

That instant, the speed of the treasured sword accelerated as it spewed fire, and becoming a ray of crimson light, it went past Halibel’s flank, and made a mad dash towards Groovy.

Even if he had let go of it, the forte of the Yang Sword was such that he could return it to his hand at any given moment.

After the treasured sword skewered Groovy, he would recall the Yang Sword to his hand and challenge Halibel. Rather, at this moment, it was a delightful miscalculation that his body was now lighter without the Yang Sword as he pursued Halibel.

Of course, he had also considered the possibility that Halibel had aimed for this, and would counterattack, so he readied himself, and――,

Groovy: [――Hk.]

The thrown Yang Sword flew in a straight path and skewered Groovy’s small body.

Even though Groovy twisted his body, the treasured sword of crimson still pierced his right side. As the blade bore deep into his body, Groovy widened his eyes and coughed up a blood clot at that impact, and then, an ear-splitting screech――,

Groovy: [――We got you, fuckface.]

Had not been let out.

Instead, Groovy’s bloodstained mouth smiled, and he stretched out his finger to point at Eugard. There was disrespect, but surpassing even that, there was a shock that occurred within Eugard’s vision.

With just one more step to go ahead of him, Groovy’s hand did not reach the Fiend Sword, but even though he had not touched it, it snapped out of the crater as if to escape from his hand, and flew away.

Groovy: [Just so you know, this bitch-ass katana fucking loathes me…]

It was reasoning beyond his comprehension, however, such strange idiosyncrasies were an unavoidable part of Enchanted and Treasured Swords.

Snapping out, the Fiend Sword fled from the cavity while revolving, and caught by a hand covered in black fur, the bewitching luster of the blade flickered.

――With the Fiend Sword in hand, Halibel readied himself before Eugard.

Eugard: [――――]

For a brief moment of combat, Eugard immediately recalled the Yang Sword; with the treasured sword no longer inside of him, Groovy’s abdomen spilled a vast amount of blood.

But, Eugard had certainly taken up a weapon, and brandished it towards Halibel, who shouldered the Fiend Sword.

Then, as the flash of crimson swung down from overhead, it was unleashed as a blow that updated the most supreme swordsmanship in all Eugard’s time both alive and after death――,

Halibel: [Really now, that’s just so darn praiseworthy. ――If it weren’t me, that woulda completely destroyed anyone on the receivin’ end.]

Eugard: [What an arrogant manner of speech. However, taking that preeminent feat into consideration, I shall forgive it.]

As Halibel made that statement at such a close distance, Eugard drew his chin back without altering his expression.

Suffering a conclusive blow from the Fiend Sword that surpassed even the finest brandish of Eugard Vollachia, Eugard’s body was severed obliquely.

Halibel had been the one to perform that feat, and around the left side of his chest, the Curse of Thorns was coiled.

The fact that Eugard Vollachia truly felt admiration from the bottom of his heart in regards to the Admirer, Halibel, was something that, without a single word needing to be said, was exceedingly obvious between the two who had crossed swords.

21 thoughts on “Arc 8, Chapter 50 – “Eugard Vollachia””

  1. Its interesting that Halibel told that he won’t hold back, yet still he chosen not to fivefold his strength by creating four “real” clones like he did with Zarestia and Valgren. Although it mostly was a fight against 1/5 of Halibel’s full strength, Eugard performed monstrously great.

      1. Same as Cecilus stating each time that “he was serious with Arakiya”, yet still keeping zori on himself? Hal canonically used only 2/5 of his full strength against Eugard. Or you meant that Halibel using only 2 bodies of 5 possible is indeed his full strength? Then what’s about moments when he used all five? Is it “fully full strength go beyond!!!!1!” from your perspective or what?

      1. Zarestia is the great spirit of wind, she is a major plot for Rem if. Valgren is the evil 3 heads dragon zombie that he kill during the train escape.

    1. I mean it was probably even less than ⅕ of his strength cause he couldn’t use curse arts against him but yeah, still very impressive

  2. ‹Not to mention that Eugard’s soul had already been inflicted with a curse so strong that no others could surpass it in that regard.›

    So does this imply that if someone was already inflicted with a more powerful curse, then they won’t be particularly affected by a less powerful one? Is this the reason why Subaru was almost completely immune to the curse in the gladiators island, because he already had the Ulgram curses from arc 2 and the Dragon Blood curse from arc 5?

    ‹Eugard was completely unaware that the being he was facing off against was the strongest being of the Kararagi City-States―― namely, a being among the *top five* most powerful individuals within the current world.›

    Wait, top 5?? We know about Reinhardt, Cecilus, Halibel and the mad prince; so who is the last one?

  3. How can the undead feel pain. Wasn’t mentioned in a previous chapter that the undead don’t feel pain? Also, how is possible for anyone entering the Curse of Thorns area to be affected immediately by it, it’s strength only increasing by closing on the distance to the source of the curse, but without Eugard himself knowing about their presence since he must feel some kind of love towards them for the curse to take effect towards those persons?

  4. Maybe they dont feel pain bcuz it heal right away, but the effect of the curse are constant and didnt actually damage the body so there no way to heal or defend against. And the curse power is like a big barrier that inflict any who enter, the reason why halibel didnt have a mark is bcuz eugard loathe his race as whole and that is not what the curse was for.

  5. It was mentioned that Halibel was one of the top 5 strongest in the world, but only the Mad Prince in Gusteko who is locked up in the tower in the northernmost region, Sword Saint Reinhard Astrea of Lugunica, Admirer Halibel of Kararagi, and Blue Lightning Cecilus Segmunt of Vollachia are considered the strongest. Who’s the fifth? Satella maybe? I don’t quite think so, but she’s the only one we can truly say is accurate, because we know this isn’t referring to the dragons, Pandora, and Regulus.

  6. Who are zarestia and valgren? Why do I just don’t know some names but some comments mention them. Do I need to read the side stories?

    1. Zarestia is from the bonds of ice side story and Valgren is a dragon that Stride Vollachia summoned in Sword Demon Battle Ballad: Act 1. So yes, those two are side story characters

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