The Knight’s End
As the golden light scattered through the surroundings, Gran suddenly fell out through a distortion in space. After picking himself up, he cursed as he looked around his surroundings.
“Shit! Shiiit! Another brat… Where the hell are you!? Where is this place!?”
All around him were rocky walls and a dark stone ceiling, he must be in some sort of cave. Gran, who had suddenly been thrown into this strange cavern completely out of the blue, was disoriented at first, but as he began to gather his wits he heard a young yet sensual voice from behind him.
“You find yourself in a gold and silver mine, in an industrial town narry a few leagues from the capital.”
He twisted around hurriedly. But, there wasn’t a soul to be found. That voice, though, sounded like it had been whispered in his ear.
“I have brought thee here… Most honourable commander of the Imperial Knights… Kehehehe… You really ought to watch your step around spatial magic, no?”
Then he heard a voice from his side. He swung an arm at the source of the voice, but hit nothing, as that malicious laugh echoed off the walls.
“Who are you!? Show yourself!”
“Ehh~? If you yell at such a lovely young maiden like that, I’ll be petrified~”
Contrary to her words, her voice sounded like she could barely contain her laughter. Whether or not he noticed, the blood vessels on Gran’s head pulsed so angrily they looked like they might burst as his face turned red again.
“You cowardly wretch! You can’t hide from me forever! Stand and face me, like a true knight should!!”
“Can a man who pointed his blade at mere children truly say that?”
That childish voice suddenly turned cold, rebuffing him completely.
“S-Silence! That was simply my strategy! It was the only way to make that coward Shirley face me…!”
“Muahahahaha! Strategy!? Your entire ploy was truly to take those children into your hands as hostages!? Muahahahahaha!!!”
Gran was stunned at her loud lampooning. Whilst he understood the barbed nature of her words, it was the venom with which she said it that truly shocked him.
“Even if it was deep in the woods, the adventurers dwelling in the town obviously noticed something was afoot and began to enter the forest when some irate fellow began knocking down trees left and right. And more than that… Kehehehe! To think that those children would treat you to such hospitality… Fuhahahahaaa! Just remembering it is enough to send me rolling with laughter! Fuhahahahaha! Some knight of peace and justice you claim to be, do you even know just how many laws you’ve broken!?”
Gran was aware that his face was growing hotter and hotter by the second. Even though he was the Imperial Grandmaster, he had been humiliated over and over again by mere children and behaved disgracefully. Being told all of that to his face, his inflated ego was at risk of bursting.
“You…. Y-Y-Y-You bastard!! C-Come out right now!! Aren’t you the true villain, slandering people like this!?”
“Have I uttered a single falsehood?”
After being forced to flight by Lumiliana and made into an object of ridicule by the twins, Gran couldn’t bear to be insulted or laughed at anymore as he violently smashed his arms around and yelled out curses, like a child throwing a tantrum.
“That said, you may not be able to think clearly because of this sword… Or perhaps, is that truly thy true nature?”
After dragging Gran’s name through the mud to her satisfaction, the source of that voice finally revealed herself. With the pitch black horns that grew out of the side of her head signifying her as a member of the demon race, that young looking girl with blonde hair was leisurely sat back in her armchair, floating above the ground. Her crimson eyes pierced through him, her lips curved into a mocking smile.
“It has been some time, child. When was it that we last met?”
“You are… Canary!?”
The blonde girl… Her true identity was the Golden Witch, Canary, who now sat above him both in form and spirit. He spat out words at the object of his hatred.
“Just like I expected, adventurers are a sorry lot compared to us knights! Get down here, you coward! I will defeat you myself!!”
“Then try it.”
As soon as she spoke those words in a quiet voice, Gran’s world was suddenly shrouded in darkness. At first, he could only feel confusion, but once he felt the sensation of his legs not being on solid ground he began to panic, only to realize he couldn’t breathe as he tried to cry out. As he flailed his arms around blindly, he suddenly regained his vision and freedom after smashing back down into the earth from a sudden height.
“FUHAAA!? W-What the hell was…!?”
“Hmph, that was simply no good. I was trying to make something amusing out of you, but… Unfortunately, the material was simply too poor.”
Canary showed him the photograph she held. On it, there was an image of Gran, his head stuck in the cave’s ceiling without any signs of destruction.
Even though he was an idiot, he realized straight away what that meant. Canary, a genius at spatial magic, had teleported Gran’s face into the rocks.
“Perhaps next time I shall embed every part of you but your nose into a block of orichalcum. I’ll title it ‘The Fool Fossilized for All Eternity’, hmm~? Do you not think it’s a grand idea to leave you for the rest of your life inside a prison like that, wasting away without even being able to utter a word? Right now I’m quite taken with a form of art called ‘wabi-sabi’ that’s caught on in the Trading Country…”
Canary’s mouth twisted into a wicked smile, the shape of a crescent moon. The intimidation flowing out of the Golden Witch was only intensified by the sparks of golden light that flew by Gran’s face. Abandoning all his willingness to fight, Gran gave into his biological instincts, a scream erupting from his lips as he put to flight.
“Oh ho ho, fleeing, hmm~? Good, that’s for the best…. If you manage to escape, I’ll overlook all of your crimes.”
Gran didn’t hear her words as he ran away as fast as he could, but when he turned a corner he was suddenly bathed in a fiery blood lust that turned his own blood to ice, rooting him to the spot.
A woman stood there, the point of her unsheathed rapier facing the ground. With one red eye aflame and one blue eye like frost, Shirley glared straight through Gran.
“What should I say… It has been some time, hasn’t it? You’ve changed quite a lot.”
Her voice was as flat as if she were exchanging some idle pleasantry, but in this situation, those words sent a chill down his spine. The witch behind him and the demon swordswoman in front, Gran was completely against the wall, but then Canary’s words floated into his ear from behind.
“Now now, whatever could be the matter? If you can defeat the woman who stands before you, you shall ensure your escape? Fear not, for I shall not interfere.”
It was a ludicrous thing to do, but for Gran who was in such an utterly helpless situation, he chose to believe in the witch’s honeyed words.
Rather, this wasn’t just an opportunity to escape, but an actual opportunity in of itself. He had ordered some investigation done on Shirley. She was a semi-immortal who could regenerate her wounds by sapping her magical and physical power, so long as her brain remained intact.
Meanwhile, the blade he held called Dáinsleif that was made of the indestructible metal called adamantite provided him with infinite regeneration from the souls of his victims, with no caveats or weaknesses.
Simply put, her brand of immortality paled in comparison to his. If he fought her one on one in close combat, he would win a protracted fight. It was impossible for her to destroy this adamantite blade that even the best dwarven smiths in the world could so much as nick… Gran’s face suddenly lit up with joy.
“Ha… Hahahahahaha! Oh, the heavens truly haven’t abandoned me! They must be testing me to truly prove that I am the world’s strongest swordsman! I’ll cut you down and turn you into just more fuel, then cut the arms and legs off those cheeky brats and present them to His Imperial Majesty! Then, once Alice wakes up, she’ll realize the true love she holds for meeeee!!”
His pride as a swordsman, the jealousy that once burned in his gut when he saw Shirley, and the blind love that lead him to betray the man who was once his best friend. The sword that carried all of those feelings was swung at the spot between Shirley’s eyes.
Since there was such a difference in stature, the fight should have been over in an instant. The most Shirley should be able to do was attempt to dodge his blade, but as Gran slashed down at her from up high, Shirley stood her ground, stopping the arc of his sword with that thin rapier she held.
Any appraiser worth his salt could tell that rapier was a masterpiece that must have been forged by a smith of some renown, but it was still such a thin sword, only made from steel. It should have been cleaved straight through by that brutish sword, but there was no hesitation in Shirley’s eyes, which had the ability to see everything.
“Just like always… Sloppy!”
Shirley’s eyes shone as they scanned Gran’s body all at once. Then, her body coiled up almost like a spring, she flew forward, unleashing a flurry of blows that could shatter stone.
Her sword flashed countless times, surpassing the speed of sound, hammering away at Dáinsleif. All of her thrusts hit the same exact point on the blade over and over again, forcing Gran back despite their massive difference in size.
The strength behind Shirley’s continuous blows was so intense that Gran’s arm holding the blade began to crack at the seams, blood flowing down his fingers. The force generated by her strikes flew through the entire cave, all the way into the distant entrance, blasting out into the clear sky like a constant eruption. A perfectly round hole was formed in a meteorite hurtling through the vacuum of space, it was swordplay that transcended reason.
But, even with such power, the adamantite wouldn’t bend. Even Shirley couldn’t do it with mere sword skill alone.
…But, that supernatural ability of hers made it possible.
There was a cracking sound as a line began to run its way through the blade. When he realized just what the person in front of him had done, Gran’s muttered in disbelief despite the heat of battle.
“This is adamantite…? The hardest magic sword in the world…? So… How…!?”
The crack spread even further and finally, that unbreakable magic sword shattered into pieces.
“How could it be broken!? This is the family treasure of the Wolff family, how could Dáinsleif lose to such a skinny rapier like that!? WHAT THE HELL DID YOU DOOOOOOOO!?”
Gran screamed in despair at the unbelievable scene, but Shirley hadn’t done anything to Dáinsleif with magic.
In all things, there is a weak point. It may be a tiny point, no larger than a point of a needle and invisible to the naked eye, but if such a weak spot is constantly hit at a specific angle, even the strongest material will collapse.
Shirley used her unique ability to pinpoint that spot, then with swordplay that outstripped all human perception she had unleashed a flurry of blows against it, a display of exquisite skill and dexterity. The Demonic White Sword had developed this technique in secret, just in case a situation ever arose where her beloved daughters were held captive in some sort of prison, the move she named ‘Insect Bite’ had shattered the blade, setting loose the poor souls of the murdered Imperial innocents that it held captive.
The myriad of limbs fell away as the sword was broken and Gran’s excess body broke down, eventually leaving his original form alongside Alice covered in a pile of melting and rotting meat. His will had been broken. And as a result, his clouded reason began to return to sanity and Gran began to feel an intense feeling of self-loathing for what he had done.
He had taken up the magic sword that had been sealed away simply due to his disgust over having lost to Lumiliana in the tournament the year prior, but whilst that was a deed he could atone for, there was nothing he could say to ask forgiveness for the innocent people he had used as fuel for his own power.
What happened to the boy who once pushed himself on with a noble goal in mind? Just where did he go so wrong? Even if he had been deeply jealous of Shirley’s gifts and talents, he could have used it as motivation to improve himself, walking the path of a chivalrous knight that had always been his dream as a child.
There should have been some way to turn his life around. But, for all these years it was like he was mired in a swamp, ever since he met Alice.
Once he unleashed the true form of that monstrous sword, he had also learned Alice’s true nature. He had never seen this woman for what she truly was, the one who had turned that once amiable youth into this wretched buffoon.
“It’s because of you…! Everything… It’s all because of you….!”
But despite everything, Gran who had the habit of keeping up his pride by shifting all the blame for his failures onto others tried to shift the consequences of his actions onto Alice this time as well. Although he can’t deny his own immaturity for falling for her wiles, this was the only way that he could keep even a shred of his pride, as he cursed the woman who whispered words of love into his ear for over ten years.
“Shit…! Die… I wish you were dead…! If you… If you had never shown yourself… I might have lived happily…!”
Was this simply an outpouring of his own regrets? Even he knew what awaited him after all this. Despite being the Imperial Grandmaster, he had attempted to kidnap the twins that his country had specifically signed a treaty stating they wouldn’t do.
At best, for that crime, he would be stripped of his peerage and title of knight. But his crimes far exceeded just that. As his mind clouded with fear about the unspeakable torture and public execution that awaited him, he glared at Alice with eyes full of hatred.
 A traditional type of Japanese aestheticism focused on imperfection leading to a more nuanced form of beauty. If Hyouge Mono taught me anything, it was very popular during the Sengoku Period.
Next chapter wraps up volume 3. That said, I’m in the process of moving, so things might be a little more irregular around here this week.