Tsurugi no Joou to Rakuin no Ko:Volume 1 Chapter 2

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Chapter 2 – The Previous Night[edit]

"So— You say that you will be just seventeen this year? How did you survive in the battlefield these ten years?"

The campfire crackled. At the side of the flames, a muscular man with a bushy mustache spoke bluntly to Chris:

"Isn't your sword a famous weapon from the Eastern Country? Only knights with an established name could get that. Did you slip into their bedrooms to get it? Hahahaha......"

Although the boor looked clumsy, he was a true Knight who had been awarded the Purple Rose badge and purple banner of the Celestial Kingdom army.

Speaking of which, the long years of war had caused the national resources to weaken. Because of that, it was impossible for the Army to last if they did not bestow the name of a Knight upon the captain of the mercenary squad. Chris regretted his decision of negotiating personally, and at the same time averted his gaze from the mustached boor.

In the dark night, tents were raised on the field. A few troublesome-looking mercenaries had their backs on the campsite, surrounding the fire with their gazes focused on Chris and the boor, maliciously leering at the conversation between the two as though they were watching an entertaining show.

Actually, Chris only wanted to tell the captain that he wanted to leave the team that night. However, for some reason, not only was he dragged into their idle chatter while they drank, he was forced to go along with their topics as well.

"This sword is even taller than you. How do you use this? Why don't you give it to me? I'll say, instead of holding a large sword like this, playing with a longsword is a better fit for you. Come over to my tent tonight."

Among the dirty hisses, the campfire continued to flicker. Chris was worried for his sword, hugging it in his lap at the same time.

"I snatched this sword from an enemy after killing him when I joined an expedition to Princinopolis."

Even though Chris thought that those people wouldn't listen to his words, he still gave such a statement.

It was a treasure he had won from a rather famous enemy general, and that weapon in turn gave him each of his jobs. He never stayed in a mercenary squad for long. However, as he was a kid who looked and was built as slender as a girl, the sword was absolutely necessary for people to recognize his strength.

When the mercenary squad had been recruiting fresh blood, the person who interviewed him was not the bear-like captain, but an aged soldier. He witnessed Chris's talent, and informed him of the duration of the contract. However, said soldier had left the battlefield due to injuries, causing Chris's application to leave to become extremely troublesome.

"Hmph. If I was the one organizing the recruitment of soldiers, I would've kept you by my side to serve me long ago."

He grinned broadly, thoroughly inspecting Chris from his head to foot with his dirty gaze.

It was definitely not the first time Chris had encountered this gaze. He was often mistaken on the battlefield for a male prostitute among the crew entertainers.

"Why do you want to leave, and today to boot? We're going to launch a final attack on the enemy tomorrow. They might just be a tenth of us. Are you scared?"

"Boss, he's probably so scared he peed his pants. What a wuss."

A mercenary sitting near the campfire spat out those words, making the audience laugh out loud.

"I heard that they have the Salt Sprayer on their side this time. He probably feels like running away after hearing this news."

"I heard that quite a few kids from the other teams wanted to slip away when they heard this news as well."

"Wahahaha— You're talking about that Salt-Spraying fellow? Isn't that just some kind of excuse those guys who ran away after losing a battle made up?"

"You're talking about the guy on the battlefields without any armor and who's in all white, aren't you?"

"I heard that even javelin throws and arrows couldn't hurt him."

"How can there be such a person?"

The rumor that they were discussing was known to Chris as well— the Salt Sprayer, the 'Salt-Spraying Soul Reaper of the Battlefield'. It was a strange news spread among mercenaries these last few years. It was said those who saw that person definitely wouldn't come back, and that it was a folly to meet him.

Actually, there would always be such rumors on the battlefield, but when you think about it, one would not be alive after they really met such a soul reaper, so who in the world would be able to spread such a rumor? Thus, everyone would just ignore this with a laugh.

"Say, quite a lot of rumors of spirits and monsters have surfaced these days, and people gave them seriously exaggerated names."

"Really, something like the Salt Sprayer or Star Eater...... The heck? It's not like we're telling stories to make a kid sleep."

"The Star Eater huh—? Hah, chances are that that rumor is bogus too. Something like him completely eradicating a thousand men brigade, eating his comrades' fates to survive......"

"And also, I heard, in the last war that happened at the borders, a team of fifty people rushed into the enemy camp, and only that guy returned with the head of the enemy commander, while all of the others died."

"Ahahahahahaha— That's crazy, if he really had such powers, he'd have long been knighted!"

"Isn't that so? If there's really such a person, I'd have long dragged him out and cut open his stomach to vanquish this thing!"

When he heard that, Chris's fingers subconsciously tightened as he held onto his arms with his palms.

He couldn't care less about the Salt Sprayer. However, they were talking about the Star Eater. He couldn't just pretend that he had never heard of that. After all, the so-called Star Eater was an accursed name that those who had once stayed by his side gave to him. The mercenaries giving rough laughter while holding cups of beer never would have thought that the terrifying Star Eating Beast that they were discussing was the young kid before their very eyes.

"Why is this guy shaking?"

The bearded mercenary captain glanced at Chris and had a colossal misunderstanding about his reaction, "What's wrong? Scared of a kid's bedtime ghost story like this? You wanted to leave just because of this? What kind of lunacy are you spouting?"

"The validity of my contract is only until the sun rises tomorrow morning."

"Hah? Is that for you to decide?"

It seemed like the captain did not know of the effective time of his contract. Chris could only sigh.

He could feel the sense of pain that continued to pulse on his forehead and the back of his hands.

The reason that Chris was unwilling to stay in a mercenary squad or to be among Knights for an extended period of time was due to the beast brandings on him. After all, when the beast in him awoke, it would devour each and every one of the fates of the people surrounding him, without an exception. It was exactly the same as what the elder in the village used to say— the beast will 'devour people's fates'. On each new moon night, everyone by Chris's side would face a disaster— the mercenary squad that had sheltered Chris when he was little had been vanquished just like that.

—I don't want anyone to be dragged into this curse of mine anymore!

"This is bad luck. This concerns the spirit of the team, so you are forbidden from mentioning this anymore."

The captain stopped the topic in his low, rough voice. Chris could only shut up. Just as he was brooding over how he should leave the team in the coming battle, the captain's stern expression changed to a dirty smile......

"If you're scared, you can just stay in the camp. But you'll have to serve the soldiers at night, and you'll be dead tired."

The words made Chris shudder terribly. Because he could not hear any hint of a joke from the captain's tone anymore. That moment, the captain's stout bear-like body rose and headed towards him after walking by the campfire.

"W-Wait a minute!"

Just when Chris was standing up and was about to turn tail, a hand suddenly grabbed him from behind.

"It seems like I have to make you forget about any thoughts of leaving the team."

The stench of beer drifted to him from behind his ears along with obscene words. He turned around and saw a ruddy face behind his shoulders...... And there wasn't only one. There were a total of three people, working together to lock his shoulders. The act caused the giant sword in Chris's hands to loosen, falling onto the ground with a clank— I really shouldn't have mentioned this when they were drunk...... The thought just flitted through his mind. Chris did not even have any time to regret before his collar was grabbed by the captain.

"S-Stop it!"

"Bufufufu, look, don't you sound like a woman!"

"Don't you do anything stupid!" "See how we'll pity you after our Boss had his fun!"

Along with the captain, the other three whiskered faces approached as well. Fear surged in Chris's mind— Should I kill them...... No, I'll need to go against the whole camp if so, and will be vanquished by them. But if this goes on

Just at that moment, a tearing sound broke through the air between Chris and the captain, causing the bear-like face to shrink backwards in an instant. At the same time, a trail of blood blossomed on the tip of his nose, bright red liquid dripping downwards.


It was a short javelin. It had traveled through the space between Chris and the captain, piercing into the ground along its path and making a strong tremor in the end.

"—Who goes there!"

The three soldiers restraining Chris together paled, grabbing their swords at the same time. That allowed Chris to quickly escape from their clutches, hurriedly lying on the ground to grab his own sword in the presence of the strong aura on his right.

Unknowingly, only a dead silence filled the area. The hiccups of drunkards and clear tinkle of colliding cups disappeared completely, leaving only the crackling of the campfire.

The fire exposed a silhouette. A tall man walked out from a dark spot. The man wore a luxurious military robe with a purple silk cape. His jet black straight hair was tidily combed to the back, and his eyes were sharp like an eagle's. Maybe because of his youthful energy, the man gave off an arrogant, domineering feel.

"Actually starting on a young soldier in your team. What an undisciplined squad. I can almost smell the stench of swine in a pigsty. How nauseating."

The man's voice sounded as cold as metal just hardened.

"You're the one who threw the javelin huh!" "This guy isn't one of us!" "Blasted kid!" "Which squad are you from!"

"I want you to pay for the scratch on my nose!"

The captain kicked the campfire, and then dashed towards the uninvited guest along with four other soldiers with their blades.

At the instant the blades flashed, the surrounding soldiers suddenly felt a sense of terror. A slight commotion started to spread among the mass as well. Nobody made any loud noises— they were all struck deaf in shock and awe.

In an instant, all four muscular men fell onto the ground. The younger man had already pulled out his longsword when everyone else had been unable to respond, but there weren't any signs of blood at all.

Chris's gaze barely grasped what happened in that instant— with lightning speed, the man had flashed his blade past the throats of the two mercenaries who first lunged. It was so quick that it was chilling. However, the more terrifying thing was that the two whose necks were slit suddenly turned around to squash the other two onto the ground, as though invisible wires were directing their each and every muscle.

"W-What did you do!" "M-My body moved by itself!" "What's happening!"

The four stout mercenaries grappled on the ground.

What is the meaning of this......? The insignia on Chris's forehead pulsed continually. Evidently, it was not a swordsmanship anyone could use.

W-What is this person!

Chris finally remembered that the purple on that person couldn't be worn by those who were not among the clan of the Celestial Kings. Apart from that, that purple cape was embroidered with a badge of two unicorns in an arc......

"—My lord, why are you taking action alone? That is too dangerous!"

Sounds of footsteps followed the exclamation. After that, Chris saw a few young servants in extravagant military clothing running out from a dark location the campfire did not manage to illuminate.

"Master Cornelius, please return to the camp!"

"Why did you specially come over to the campsite of such a small unit!"

The young servants looked at the surrounding filthy mercenaries and couldn't help but frown.

"Aren't you exaggerating things a little? I just came over to a pigsty to have a look, but you nannies still wanted to come over. You'll become the laughing stock of the imperial court."

The noble whom the servants called Cornelius had his mouth curled in a sneer. The moment his name had been said, the surrounding mercenaries had froze. Chris had heard of the name as well.

Consort Prospect, Cornelius Epimex.

House Epimex was one of the Three Great Duchies at the zenith of aristocracy. It was one of the most prominent among the nobility. And among the nobility, only members of the Three Great Duchies were qualified to marry royalty. Not only was Cornelius the Lord of house Epimex, he was a skilled swordsman. He had won numerous battles on the battlefield, and had been appointed the general of this expedition, leading the whole expedition team.

It was said that Cornelius was a swordsman good at using magic swordsmanship, as his sword could kill without seeing blood.


The bear-like mercenary squad captain scrambled out from his underling's body after some effort and moaned while raising his shaking palm:

"Why did Your Lordship...... C-Come here......"

That moment, as though suddenly realizing what he should do, he hurriedly kneeled on the ground, pressing his head down before the general. The surrounding underlings quickly did the same as well.

"Swine in the pigsty should not mimic human speech."

To that, Cornelius just spat out in disdain. After that, his sharp gaze fell onto Chris.

That moment, Chris couldn't move at all. It was not because of fear. It was because the three beast insignias on him were burning his body like a blazing inferno...... He did not know why either. However, Cornelius's sharp gaze was like silver spurting out from a furnace, so cold that Chris felt thoroughly disgusted from the bottom of his heart.

—Why did the General come here?

—Isn't the main force of the expedition squad at the mountain?

Just when Chris was pondering about the questions with unattainable answers, Cornelius had already put his large sword in his hands away into its scabbard, and was walking towards him in large steps. Chris couldn't help but take a step backwards, completely forgetting about the necessary etiquette.

"I came to see what you look like."

Cornelius bent down and leaned his face closer while saying.

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—See me?

—See how..... I look like?

Confusion caused Chris to be flustered and unable to move. As a Consort Prospect, why would he want to recognize a wandering mercenary like him......

"Those swine probably hired you as a mercenary by chance without knowing anything. But in fact, there are quite a lot of people who know how you look like as the Star Eater as well. The extent of your reputation is far above your imagination."

Cornelius extended a finger, pressing it on Chris's chin to raise his face.

Quiet murmurs of discussion spread through the surrounding crowd—

"He's the Star Eater?" "A kid like him?" "Seriously?!"

The fragments of conversation suddenly surfaced vigorously like bubbles from boiling water, and disappeared in an instant one by one.

"You are the tough soldier who killed one person after another on the battlefield with your slender arms? You didn't even let your own people go." Cornelius gave a cruel smile. "I heard that the assault party sent a squad of four hundred people to infiltrate the fortress during the fortress assault battle on prelate territory, Decraet, and when they brought down the city gate, the only one alive when they opened the door was you, isn't that right?"

Chris swallowed after hearing that, but he just couldn't shift his gaze from the Archduke.

"Since you did so much in our service, why didn't you just join the Army and be rewarded?"

Cornelius's questioning voice was like a blunt blade, cruelly toying with Chris.

"Is it because of the brandings on you?" He asked.

Chris gasped in shock, and was caught by Cornelius when he was about to jump backwards. Cornelius grabbed his face with all ten fingers, and the force was so large that it almost squeezed the eyeballs out of his sockets. However, in the pair of chilly palms, the fear in Chris's heart and his trembling faded slowly as well.

He felt the insignia on his forehead shining with white light without waiting for the claw-like moonlight of the new moon to spill down.

—Why does he know of the branding of the beast?

"You were born in a village at Pruoua, weren't you? It was territory where Father once attacked in the past. I've already heard that a Beast's son was born there long ago, and was thinking of going there when the mark could be clearly distinguished. In the end, I heard that he burnt his village down along with the bandits that attacked his village, making Father and I so disappointed."

When he was talking, Cornelius's fingers raised Chris's face, "But I never thought that I would actually meet the son of the Beast on the battlefield. Hmm...... The insignia is indeed present."

He extended his index finger to touch the insignia on Chris's forehead. A scorching heat could be felt from the insignia.

—This person...... This person is just too dangerous. Sooner or later, I-I......

Just when the thought flashed past Chris's mind, a sudden assault hit him. He felt a cold sense of pain at the right side of his body, and everything before him dimmed. He supported his body with his hands, and realized that Cornelius had tossed him onto the ground. The purple cloak waved, cutting through the air in a circle, and Cornelius's silhouette that turned to leave had already walked past the other side of the campfire, and was heading towards the mercenary squad captain who was still lying on the ground step by step.

"Rise, swine." Cornelius called coolly.

"You shall be the rear assault in this battle" He said.

"......Wha—? Ah, yes, yes...... But in the contract, we......"

Before he had finished his words, Cornelius already waved his arms. The instant that his movements ended, there rang the sound of water droplets falling onto the sandy ground. The ears of the mercenary squad captain spurted blood. The body that was stout as a bear extended its hands to cover its ears while curling on the ground and making terrible howls.

This time, even Chris's eyes were unable to catch the movement of him pulling out his sword.

"I said, swine in the pigsty should not mimic human speech!"

Cornelius's cold tone while speaking was cruel like a sharp ice pick slowly stabbing into the skin.

He put his sword away into his scabbard, keeping it in his lap along with the scabbard, and took out a roll of scroll instead. The wax seal on the scroll caused everyone to swallow— it was a wheel with open wings. It was the symbol of each faction in the clan of Celestial Kings, the crest of the Sibyl Queen who governed the whole Celestial Kingdom.

"This is an Oracle Decree, prioritized over the contract."

Seeing the Oracle Decree, the bear-like mercenary squad captain hurriedly pressed his whole body down.

The said Oracle was a prediction bestowed upon the Sibyl Queen by the all-seeing Goddess, Tuekay. It was the divine power that supported the supremacy of the whole Celestial Kingdom, and thus nobody in the whole country dared to go against the Oracle Decree by Tuekay.

Even so, the dissatisfied clucking of tongues of a few people at darker spots in the campsite could still be heard. An atmosphere of doubt filled the surroundings, the soldiers' suspicion of the authenticity of the Oracle Decree completely undisguised.

Because the royal family had borne only daughters, the Three Great Duchies who owned qualifications to be the Consort Prospect were the true holders of power in the whole Celestial Kingdom. Hence, people in the Three Great Duchies would often do as they wished in the pretense of a fake Oracle Decree. It was something in the Celestial Kingdom that even children knew. However, even so, nobody around really dared to stand before Archduke Cornelius to demand that he open the decree and read its contents.

With the surroundings in silence, Cornelius put away the decree in his hands and said to the mercenary squad captain after glancing at Chris:

"You must be careful not to let the Star Eater escape— Now that his true identity is revealed, he might plan to escape."

The words were like a large rock jamming itself in Chris's throat, causing him to be unable to speak even if he had wanted to. After that, Cornelius turned around to focus his gaze on Chris once more. A pair of chilly eyes looked at him, passing through the darkness the campfire could not shine on.

"I'll say, you won't be able to escape no matter how much you try. People owning the branding of the beast are destined to be unable to grab anything, not able to have encounters that will stay in their life. You can only contain blood in your mouth, struggling on the ground in a pitiful manner forever, crawling if you can, struggling until the instant when your life ends, and dying like a wild beast. This is the fate that must be shouldered by one with the brandings."

—That person..... He actually knows everything, doesn't he?

—He knows of the brandings on me, and understands them far more than I do...... But why is that?

—He said that people owning the branding of the beast are unable to escape from such a fate no matter what? What a joke. Even without the influence of the brandings, my fate is still to die alone on the battlefield!

"......Star Eater......"

"Bringer of misfortune....." "Hey, he's looking at us!" "Why would a person like him appear in our squad?" "Damn, this is just eight lifetimes of bad luck!"

The people in the mercenary squad focused their gathering dissatisfaction on Chris.

"Boss, chase that guy out! He'll bring us bad luck!"

"Idiot, didn't you listen to Archduke at all? If you don't follow his instructions, things won't end with just an ear chopped off— all of you shut up and stop making noise!"

Chris listened to the noise made by the people behind him and left the area illuminated by the campfire. In the process, a few gazes were still fixated on him. He raised his head to look at the night sky. There wasn't a moon that night. The following day, would be the night of the new moon.

I have to escape before night descends once again...... Chris planned in his heart— I will escape to a twilight world where I will be all alone, where I will not meet anyone anymore.

However, Chris did not escape from the encounter. It happened on the two hundredth night the new moon hung on the night sky after Chris was born.

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