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Chapter 1, Episode 26: Poison
Three sels (9 km) west of where Hiro is fighting on the battlefield, there are several large cliffs, and filling the wastelands within their shadows is an army of 20,000 strong.
They are the Fourth Imperial Army of the Grantz Grand Empire, the nation which reigns supreme on the central continent.
At the head of the army was a male commanding officer straddled atop a horse with a long, white mane.
His name is Trye Frien von Loring, general rank.
He has a long history of service as a valiant general for the Grantz Grand Empire, and is one of the Five Great Generals.
General Loring glances behind him.
There is an extravagant carriage wobbling on the rough surface.
An important person, to both the officer and the Empire, is riding in it.
A horse races to the carriage from ahead of them.
Noticing this, General Loring turned forward.
It’s one of the scouts.
「General! Reporting! Margrave Grinda has commenced battle near the border and the situation does not look to be in his favor.」
「Of course not. Lichtein’s army should have 15,000 men. I don’t know how capable Margrave Grinda is, but there’s no way he can win. No, maybe I should rather praise him for holding out this long.」
This area hasn’t seen so much as skirmishes in many years.
There’s no way to gauge his abilities.
However, even if he were skilled, Margrave Grinda’s territory normally has 3,000 soldiers at the ready.
It’s 3,000 if he assembles them all. And there are units that cannot be mobilized because they are needed to maintain public order.
General Loring estimates he has about a 1,000 men.
He thinks it strange that they were able to stand up against 15,000 opponents with those numbers until now.
「It seems 「Mars」 is there.」
After hearing the scout report this, the general finally understands.
「Ohh. She came all the way to the southern border from the distant west?」
「However, I was not able to confirm whether she was alive or not. It looked as though she was defeated by the enemy general.」
「That little girl went out onto the frontline? Really now, when she could have quietly stayed in the rear.」
He thought she was a bright young girl, but it seems he was wrong. This is an example of there being a difference between bravery and foolhardiness.
The name of 「Mars」 is too heavy a burden for one like her.
It was troublesome to have Third Imperial Prince Brutar grant that title to her on a whim.
‘The name of 「Mars」 is befitting of that person,’ he thinks as he turns to the carriage once more.
As he does, an overpowering voice came out from within the carriage.
The general, who was simply called by his name, slowed his horse down and approached the carriage window.
It was a bit dim inside, and sitting within was a man surrounded by women in the nude.
That man was Schtobel, the First Imperial Prince who accompanied the Emperor during his military expedition.
Just the other day, along with the Emperor, First Imperial Prince Schtobel overthrew Ferzen, a large nation which held influence over various other nations until its defeat to Aura two years ago.
Without returning to the Imperial capital to celebrate his victory, First Imperial Prince Schtobel had come to the south with his elite guards. He also brought along with him the princesses of Ferzen whom he took as spoils of war.
Perhaps because they had no hope for their future, or because they had witnessed hell, the eyes of the princesses had lost their light. They looked like the eyes of the dead.
If the First Imperial Prince grew tired of them, they would likely be sold off as slaves right away.
While sympathizing for their future, General Loring replied.
「Call the scout over. I want to ask him something.」
General Loring immediately exchanges looks with the scout who had come to report what he had seen.
The scout rides towards the carriage.
General Loring tilts his chin to signal him to head to the window.
With a nervous look, the scout approaches as instructed.
「… What about Leihil?」
The scout stares blankly in response to Schtobel’s question.
Loring immediately comprehends the meaning behind those words, and whispers into the scout’s ear that he was ordered to check on Leihil.
The scout gasps and opens his mouth in a panic.
「Yes… It looks like a mysterious young boy barged onto the battlefield and General Leihil seemed surprised. But the boy was no match for the enemy general with his spirit weapon—」
「A mysterious young boy?」
「Yes, he appeared in enemy headquarters with an imperceivable swiftness.」
As soon as he said that, the window was smashed into pieces, and the fragments pierced the scout’s face.
The scout was about to yell from the intense pain, but a thick arm stretched out from where the window used to be and covered his face.
「Agh! Ugh, ugh!」
The horse ran away from the scout who was now unable to breath.
However, the scout’s legs remained where they were and flailed about midair.
After letting out a sigh, Loring grabs the scout’s waist and speaks out to Schtobel.
「Imperial Prince Schtobel… I’d like to ask that you desist with your games. Please remove your—」
Before Loring finishes his sentence, there is a snapping sound, and the scout’s body goes limp.
The princesses inside the carriage let out a scream. Perhaps they heard the snap.
It was possible that the scout might have been able to say something if he recalled more, but now that his neck was broken, it was too late. Loring thought he had lost all his emotions, but he let go of the soldier’s waist thinking it to be unfortunate. The dead body which fell to the ground disappeared into the rear.
「… Was there perhaps something that did not sit well with you?」
「His report wasn’t concise, so I executed him. Do you have a problem with that?」
He sounded irritated, and there was enough bloodlust in his voice to send chills down your spine.
But Loring simply shrugs his shoulders. Apparently, he has nerves of steel.
「I don’t think you would listen even if I did.」
「Then don’t say anything. But that so called imperceivable speed concerns me. And he said it was a young boy at that.」
「If he wasn’t mistaken, then there’s a chance that that boy might possess one of the 「Five Great Treasured Swords」. If that is the case, it might be too much for Leihil to handle, even if we did give him a spirit weapon.」
「That’s not necessarily true. Because we had him drink “that”.」
「Hmm… Then, we can’t predict the outcome, can we?」
Once, when he heard Schtobel’s ambition, Loring remembers being so shocked that he simply stood there, mouth agape.
But he also happened to see that ambition in his dreams. He ended up wanting to see where this man would end up.
Loring laughs at how he still gets fraught with emotion every time he thinks about it, even though he should know better at his age.
Then, he voices his unwarranted anxiety.
「The spirit king’s curse may befall us one day.」
「… What are you saying the current spirit king is capable of?」
Loring couldn’t say anything in response to Schtobel’s disheartened words.
「I will become <__________> no matter what.」
The word muttered by Schtobel was shot down by the violent rain and went unheard.
The battlefield was in a state of chaos.
The soldiers led by Margrave Grinda were struggling on the frontline.
In the center of enemy headquarters, Hiro had begun a fierce battle with the enemy general.
No— You could say that Hiro was completely on the offensive.
A tear in space rips open and a spirit weapon appears. Hiro grabs the handle and cuts down Leihil.
He moves to his opponent’s blind spot using his ‘lightning swiftness’. The space before his hand splits open and a new spirit weapon appears.
Using that, he slashes away, then casually thrusts at his opponent.
As he moves to Leihil’s rear, a new spirit weapon appears, and he pierces through Leihil’s back.
If someone were watching this battle, all of this would have appeared to have happened in the blink of an eye.
All you could see was a network of silver lines drawn in all directions, almost like a spiderweb.
With a great surge of force, spirit weapons pierce the large body over and over.
Specks of blood scatter about on the earth, and Leihil lets out a scream as he writhes in agony.
His arms, his legs, his chest, every visible part of him is covered in fatal wounds.
And yet, Leihil was alive.
A black, sinister aura wraps around Leihil, and his wounds begin to to heal instantaneously.
The spirit weapons which were piercing him fall to the ground and disappear.
Something felt out of place from the very beginning, and Hiro remembered encountering that feeling before.
「… So you’ve become a *’fallen one’.」
TL note: Kanji is “fall/degenerate” and “sky/heaven”.
This is the “true name” used to refer to “fools” who attempt to take in the powers of a spirit.
Over a 1,000 years ago, the king of a certain country smashed a spirit stone and ground it into dust, simply out of curiosity.
He then had a man drink it, but nothing happened when he did.
The king was disappointed. But then, in the middle of the night when everyone was sound asleep, the man began to suffer.
The man, whose appearance had changed, lost his reason and was reduced to becoming a monster.
A patrol soldier who noticed the unusual phenomenon was his first victim. Next, the monster ate the king, and then went on to kill everyone in the castle, regardless of age or gender.
Other countries took advantage of the mayhem to take them over, and Hiro had participated in that battle.
「So foolish… You can never go back once you’re affected by a spirit’s ‘poison’.」
It’s true that the divine protection of a spirit is alluring.
But having said that, if you take that into your body, it doesn’t mean that it will be all the more effective.
It is not a power to be contained in the vessel of man. They would soon lose their humanity.
But Hiro remembers that the appearance of ‘fallen ones’ didn’t stop there.
The kings of countries which were about to fall to ruin drank ‘poison’ in hopes of landing at least one blow to their attacker.
It was a dark age in which there were those who would even make use of ‘poison killings’.
However, this does not mean that everyone lost their reason. A very rare few were able to hold onto it.
Those who maintained their reason obtained physical abilities far surpassing human beings.
Humans who withstand poison—
—Are known as 「warlocks」.
A roar loud enough to tear the eardrums can be heard.
The body, which was already twice the size of Hiro’s, had swollen right before his eyes to now stand at three times his size.
He can no longer be called human. He was more an ogre or a gigas. He was a ‘monster’.
(But this is a failure.)
As Hiro readies 「Excalibur」, the ‘monster’ begins to move at the same time.
But instead of heading for Hiro, he begins to attack the Lichtein soldiers.
With a swing of his arm, five Lichtein soldiers were blown away from the arising wind, and those who were trampled had their spinal fluid sprayed across the ground.
『What is this thing?!』
『Attack! There’s a monster here!』
『Where’s his Excellency?』
While falling into a state of mayhem, the Lichtein soldiers commence their attack.
As if throwing a tantrum, the raging monster begins to flail about, sending all the Lichtein soldiers to oblivion.
Furthermore, they don’t realize that the monster is ‘Leihil’.
And it’s no wonder that they don’t. There isn’t a single trace of Leihil’s former self left in him.
Those who grabbed their bows to shoot off arrows, those who stood bravely against him, those who had their backs to him with tears in their eyes, all of them were buried by the monster’s hands.
They were all dying so easily, as if they were ants beings effortlessly crushed underfoot.
Then, another situation arose which disheartened Lichtein’s soldiers.
A blaze rose up from behind their headquarters.
『Hey, are you serious…? Isn’t that…』
『The supply train…』
『It’s burning despite this rain?!』
Screams rise up from the enemy soldiers.
As Hiro gazes at the blazing flames, he instantly realized that it was Liz’s doing.
The only thing capable of that in this heavy rain is 「Laevateinn」.
You could say the outcome of this battle was decided at this point.
With the loss of their commander and their supply train, the only thing left for them is retreat or surrender.
But they are in no position to surrender quietly. They still have Leihil to deal with.
If their commander were present, they might have been able to recover from the situation, but he had turned into a monster.
As such, their only choice was to drop their weapons and frantically try to escape.
『Retreat! Run away! I can’t do this anymore!』
『I-I’m running for it, too!』
『Damn it, wait for me! I’m going, too!』
No one wants to die. No one wants to fight a reckless battle.
They immediately point their feet towards their own country and begin to run.
If one were to look down from overhead, it would look like an avalanche was racing full force towards the Dukedom of Lichtein.
Hiro did not chase after them.
This was because there was another opponent he had to face.
Hiro quietly settles his breathing. He holds the handle of 「Excalibur」 with both hands and raises it up, invoking the image of the Second Emperor’s statue.
Hiro kicked the ground beneath him and leapt forward.
—A battle surpassing the realms of human intelligence had begun.