Hero's Ballad

by

fumiyu

Chapter 15 - The Sword (Book 1 - End)

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Chapter 15

Broken walls of a derelict building scattered the area. One could peek through the holes of the walls and still be able to see what was happening on the otherside. This was above ground, yet it was still considered part of a dungeon; First Floor Ephermal Labyrinth Dungeon. The reason is, of course, the labyrinth like structure that lead to the entrance of the dungeon itself.

A group of four came surrounded by men numerous men. Brett’s party consisted of himself, Krey, Mizz, and Raym. They all had a tense stare as they looked at the man in the luxurious plate armour, Adraine.

“You know the drill, put down your weapons and let us have our way.” Adraine laughed.

“Older brother, there's more of us. Let’s just kill the men hehe.” Ned commented.

Adraine frowned at his younger brother’s suggestion. Considering it never came to his mind. He knew the value and strength of each member in Brett’s party. If it ever came down to a fight, all 30 of his party members would’ve died and the last stand would’ve came to him and Brett. It was something he wasn’t confident of.

“Hmph, like we’ll give into that easily!” Raym shouted. “Adraine, don’t you think your arrogance invaded your brain?”

Adraine’s eyes stared into Raym’s eyes. The mere voice of an inferior being to him sent blood up to his head in anger.

“If money’s the problem, I’ll pay.” Brett groaned.

“Brett-” Raym shouted. However, Krey’s hand stopped her just as she was about to say her next words.

Adraine’s eyebrow raised. His hands reached for his chin, considering Brett’s offer.

“Alright, I’ll bite.”

“Older broth-!”

“Shut up!” Adraine shouted. His eyes turned back to brett and said, “How much?”

“2 Diamond coins.” Brett answered.

“Brett…” Krey whispered.

Both Mizz and Raym covered their gaping mouths with their hands. Krey, on the other hand, looked dumbfounded. 2 diamond coins was equal to 2000 gold. Its the savings Brett had built his entire lifetime.

“Whaaaat?” Adraine’s gave off a demeaning tone. “That’s all? 2 little diamond coins won’t even impress other nobles!”

“Hahahaha, just that? You gotta be kidding me! Hah!” Ned laughed.

Everyone in Brett’s party clenched their teeth to endure the humiliation. Other members in Adraine’s party all laughed with them.

“Alright, alright, calm down everyone.” The laughter died down as soon as Adraine commanded. “How bout this. I’ll take your two diamond coins, but you’ll give me that winged bitch? Of course, that guarantee is only for today. 2 diamonds is too little, if you know what I mean.”

Brett’s eyes were almost popping out from the anger the man in front induced in him. In his party, everyone were family. If one dived, everyone dived, If one ate, everyone ate.

—And if one got in trouble, everyone got in trouble.

Brett put his hands around the hilt of the sword on his waist. Do or die, a last resort.

“Lad, hahaha, shoulda done this in the first place.” Krey laughed.

“That’s right! This is more fun.” Raym licked her lips as her fingers ran down the double daggers behind and above her waist.

“Its not my fault if you die on your own kay?” Mizz shook her head, yet her lips formed a smirk under her light purple hair.

“Hahaha, come on Adraine. Let’s see whatcha got?!” Brett shouted.

Adraine’s face lit up like a red hot balloon. He thought he was being reasonable with his offer, but he greatly underestimated their familial feelings for each other. Now it came down to the last situation he least expected.

Dozens of magic circles appeared on the battlefield. Mizz began casting her routine spells before a battle. Speed, protection, strength, to everyone and a barrier around herself. Some of the men in Adraine’s party gasped as they saw her chantless incantations and a dozen circles of light appearing in a span of a second.

“What are you doing! Attack!” Adraine pushed his brother into the front.

Support mages on their side had just started their chanting while offensive mages began to look for advantageous positions. Archers on Adraine’s side climbed the derelict walls and trees surrounding the area and the warriors prepared a frontal assault.

In the span of a few seconds, everyone went into battle mode.

Clang!

“Hahahahaha!” Krey laughed. The first strike of the battle.

“Krey! you berserker maniac!” Raym shouted as she jumped up the walls aiming for the archers and other supports she can pick off.

Brett charged at Adraine, but in front him was Nedraine, his little brother. A slight frown appeared on his face from looking at Nedraine. The younger brother was always treated as a scapegoat for his older brother’s misdeeds. It twisted the younger brother’s personality into what it is now.

“Move brat!” Brett shouted.

“Brett watch out!” Mizz shouted.

A smirk appeared on Ned’s face. Suddenly, an explosion from his back sent Brett flying forward.

“Arggh.” Brett groaned. However, he steadied his balance and sterned his face. “You’ll have to do more than that to bring me down.”

“Yaaah!” Ned grunted.

A sword came flying at Brett’s face. In that instant, a circle appeared just below where the sword would meet Brett’s face.

Clang!

Looking back, Brett gave a thumbs up to Mizz. She used a small barrier to block the weak sword. If Adraine swung it, she’s convinced the barrier would have shattered at his strength.

“Raym! Get the pesky offense mages! Krey! Protect Mizz! Mizz, on me!” Brett commanded.

“Archers keep moving around! Don’t let the winged bitch get you and target their caster!” Adraine shouted. “Mages, what are you doing?! Focus on Brett!”

Neither side gave in. Brett’s party’s defense was absolute; no openings. On the other hand, Adraine stood behind the front lines overseeing everyone in his party. No matter what he commanded, none of his tactics worked on Brett’s party. His younger brother was also already knocked out just seconds after the battle started.

Even his front line warriors were single handedly getting beaten by Brett. Most were B ranks, but there were also A ranks in his warrior line.

“Don’t tell me, they’re stronger than A ranks?!” Adraine’s face continued to grow red from anger.

The battle continued. It became a battle of attrition, yet casualties on his side numbered more than Brett’s. In fact, all 4 members of Brett’s team were still alive.

As his combatants were getting downed one by one by Raym, anger finally reached his logical side. Adraine drew his sword and the jewels situated near his knees glowed.

Whoosh!

Adraine swept through the battlefield going passed Brett.

“What?!” Brett shouted.

The next moment, he heard loud overpowering clashes of metal behind him. His head turned back and saw Adraine exchanging blows with Krey. Little by little, Krey’s defense worn down by the constant smashes by Adraine.

And soon, the other warriors that passed through Brett got to Mizz who currently played the most important part of the team, support.

3 warriors hacked away at her shield. With each strike, the glow of her shield dimmed. Then, as if a glass broke, her shield shattered into bits of lights. And with it, her vitality took a blow because of the connection with her life force and her shield.

“Mizz!!!!!” Raym shouted. “You bastards!”

Raym zigzagged through the arrows aimed at her. Her dagger lit up like a flash and three icicles landed on the three warriors that surrounded Mizz. They froze up in an instant once they impacted with the icicle.

Boom!

A knee hit her on the stomach. Her body went into fetal position from the pain that hit her stomach. Adraine’s speed were nothing they’ve seen before.

“Mate, you rely too much on equipment!” Krey shouted as he swung his axe at Adraine.

But an explosion met his back. Raym was no longer there to keep the mages entertained. Brett’s whole formation fell apart with Mizz being incapacitated. Just like that, the battle of attrition came to an end and Brett knelt in defeat.

***


Numerous candles lit up the room. Books upon books piled and scattered everywhere. Giant paintings of grand battles littered the stone walls from corner to corner. The name of this place was Sage’s Tower situated in the Austere Palace.

“Philip!” Sage shouted. “I said Philip Nemean!”

The semi circular door opened without the person even knocking for permission to enter. A man entered. He had his golden blond hair neatly pushed back. No signs of arrogance nor pride showed up on his expression, except a sign of boredom. On his chest, he wore a full plate armour designed in the fashion of a lion. Ornaments and jewellry covered his armour, yet his armour still permeated the strength.

“Yeah, yeah. What is it now?” Philip Yawned.

“Today, the sun sets high with no clouds obstructing its view, correct?” Sage asked.

“Uh… yeah, obviously.” Philip replied.

“Did a man come to you 2 weeks ago on this very day about a certain dungeon?” Sage asked again.

“Yeah…” Philip’s eyes narrowed. “Wait, why am I even surprised that you know?!”

“In such a bright day, do you know why rain will fall on all of Austere?” Sage picked up a book and laid it down on her study table. She whispered, “No… not yet...”

“Can we just get on with the point?” Philip grumbled.

“Come Philip Nemean.” Sage strolled over to the door, exiting it.

As he saw that, Philip shrugged. There was nothing he could do but follow.

Now at the gate of the palace, the gate opened when she commanded “Open.” A carriage arrived soon after she stood a few steps away from the gate. Step, step, step. Her climb onto the carriage drew the attention of the driver with its grace. Next, Philip climbed up to the carriage with roughness in his demeanor.

“Driver. To the Adventurer’s guild. Go slow.” Sage said.

Her soft voice caused the driver to widen his eyes. Such a graceful lady, yet her destination was opposite of gracefulness itself—the adventurer’s guild. Sage snapped her fingers and the carriage started rolling.

“Mind telling me where we’re going?” Philip asked.

“Adventurer’s guild.” Sage answered.

“And why are we going there?” Philip sighed.

“To go adventuring.” A smirk appeared on Sage’s face. As soon as Philip saw her expression, his face paled. He knew that this current expression meant there was no way to get any information out of her.

His eyes turned to the coat of arms pin on her chest. In small letters it read, “Heroic-rank”. Violence is not the answer, he sighed.

The carriage treaded softly through the streets. 50 men, clad in armour, lined up in 3 single files behind the carriage.

Upon reaching their destination, the door of the carriage slammed open. Philip walked out first, scratching his head. Before, his hair was kept neat but after the ride, countless frizzed hair messed up the neatly kept hair.

Following him, Sage steps on the stairs of the carriage put on an air of grace. Everyone paid attention to the woman in the loose crimson robe that failed to hide her curves. A scar ran across her eyes and she had her lids closed the whole time. However, everyone knew she had sight through other means.

Mouths gaped as they saw the badge on her chest; the badge that signified a rank.

Step by step, her shoes hitting the floor resonated loudly in the silence of the adventurer’s guild. She stopped just in front of the clerk.

“The woman in violet hair named Mizz. Where is she?” Sage asked. But as soon as the woman in front of her opened her mouth, Sage interrupted again saying, “Don’t tell me she took a day off. Tell me where she is.”

The clerk looked down like a child being scolded by a stranger.

“...I heard she went to the labyrinth dungeon…?” The clerk answered.

“Good. That makes sense.” Sage replied.

“Hey, hey!” Philip roared. All the adventurer’s eyes turned towards the man in the lion-esque armour. A few gasped at the man’s courage.

“Don’t tell me you plan to go there again!?” Philip’s brows furrowed and he crossed his arms.

“Of course not.” Sage chuckled. “Look at all the soldiers willing to follow me.”

Her finger pointed at him. With her temperament, she assumed all the soldiers he lined up for her will also follow her into the labyrinth dungeon—just like last time, he thought.

Philip could only let out a sigh at her remark.

Step, step, step.

Her steps once again hit the floor causing an echo in the adventurer’s guild. The usual rowdiness of the guild was silenced by presence alone. Once she came near the carriage, both Sage and Philip entered.

“East Gate outskirts.”

“Yes ma’am.” The driver lashed the horses and the carriage took off.

During the ride, Philip scratched his head even more. Irritation caused him to itch uncontrollably, but not just any kind of irritation. Irritation originating from the woman in front of him was the sole cause of such a disorder!

“Philip Nemean.” Sage voiced.

“Hah?”

“Do you know about the birth of dungeons?” Her smirk sent a bewitching mystery to Philip.

“History lesson now is it…” Philip sighed. Of course, he knew what she was about to say next.

“Dungeons form naturally. In the deepest place of that dungeon, a crystal sucks the mana out of the environment around it. Humans, spirits, higher beings, are subjected to this rule too.” Sage pulled the curtains on the window to let light in. “Dungeons get deeper and deeper as it sucks out nature’s energy. However, do you know the history of our Ephermal Labyrinth dungeon?”


Philip’s eyes widened. “No, I don’t... Tell me.”

“A king once brought a sword from the lands of Dragonweild. It was given to him as a present from the great Charles of Dragonweild who united the country. But this sword was not normal. Along the way back to Austere of Asteria, the king became mad. The sword had caused his insanity, sucking away at his energy.

“Heroes from all over the continent tried to stop the mad king. After managing to kill those several heroes, the heroes retreated and set up a barrier around the king to trap him. In that place, the king died of his madness.

“Once the heroes confirmed his body, they took the sword and threw it down a well. They knew the sword was alive and it devoured its owner.” Sage’s monologue ended when the carriage stopped.

Both got out of the carriage, and set their first foot forward into the entrance of the labyrinth dungeon. Walls and trees became thicker as they strolled deeper into the dungeon.

“Tell me Philip Nemean.” Without looking at the man beside her, Sage asked. “Was the sword good or evil?”

“Of course it was evil. Such a sword shouldn’t exist!” Philip shouted.

Philiped turned his eyes and saw her large smile. It was a rare scene that do not happen by mere coincidence. Was his answer incorrect? The thought lingered on in his mind they walked with 50 men marching behind them.

“Answer me once more Philip Nemean.” Sage commanded once more. “Is a hero born or made?”

“Is that a trick question?” Philip furrowed his brows. “I’ll go with born. The mentality of a hero is born through lineage!”

“Hahahaha!” Her laughter stopped the march of the army. Beside them hung a cliff of 5 meters tall. “Go pick up the man in the cave below this cliff. Make sure you bring all his belongings.”

Her lips once again showed a mischievous smile. Every word she said had a bewitching mystery behind it. Philip had long ago gotten used to it.

So, following the command, Philip jumped down. The moist in the cave left him sighing with disgust. After walking for a minute, he found a body with its fist clenched onto a rusted sword.

Philip turned over the body of the body and whispered, “Kazu Tomoe…”

He picked up the body, but the rusted sword fell off from the grip of the unconscious body. Upon picking up the sword, Philip noticed its heartbeat. The rhythm of its beat felt like it was increasing. However, with a shrug, he left the vicinity. He’s seen many swords with a heartbeat. Others were fake and only had a heartbeat because of a repeated vibration spell on a gem.

Seeing the rust on the sword, it must have been that, Philip thought.

Now getting out of the cave, he jumped 5 meters up with leisure. His eyes turned to the imaginary eyes of Sage. In response, she nodded.

“Come, Philip Nemean.” Again, she strolled deeper into the first floor of the dungeon.


Soon, metal clashing on metal echoed through the forest of walls. As they got closer, the sounds became louder. And soon enough, they arrived at the peak of the fight. They saw numerous men attacking a party of 4.

The party of 4 were exceptional in their skill, but the other side had numbers. In the wars of attrition, numbers always win. Finally, the group of 4 came down to their last member. The blond haired rough looking man kneeled at the luxurious outstanding violet haired man.

Philip drew his sword and all of his men drew their swords in unison. As he was about to take a step forward, a hand reached to his side stopping him.

Sage still had a smile on her face and said, “Throw the boy into the fray.”

The command drew a frown on his face. “But this guy is half dead you know?!”

“Quiet!” The air vibrated with power coming from Sage. “Throw the boy into the fray Philip Nemean.”

Again she commanded him. A chill ran down his spine. Without further delay, Philip threw Kazu in with his rusted sword. “Sorry kid.”

***


Kazu’s eyes parted as the impact with the ground shook his consciousness awake. Around him, countless laid motionless. What caught his attention was Brett kneeling in front of the violet haired man. The violet haired man swung his sword across Brett’s chest.

Thud…

His body laid motionless. Kazu felt the thud on the ground and it woke up his half closed eyes.

Warning: Exhausted. Stats reduced to 15% of original (except HP and MP). Stamina is below threshold; skills disabled.



“Brett!” Kazu shouted.

“Oh?” Adraine turned his head to Kazu. “Great! I was looking for you.”

An arrogant smile upturned from Adraine’s lips. The bloodlust in Adraine’s eyes pierced Kazu. From the bloodlust alone, cold chills went up from his spine.

Stab.

Adraine appeared in front of Kazu, stabbing his thigh. Yet, he couldn’t let out a scream.

A twisted expression appeared on Adraine as if he looked down on Kazu like a boy playing with ants.

Danger screamed at Kazu’s every senses. The man in front of him was the very personification of both fear and hate to Kazu.

With his front from Adraine, Kazu crawled back in fear. He tried to grab the space around him, but he could not find what he searched for.

Adraine stepped forward and the smile on his face became more evil with each step. With every other step, he would slice or stab at the insect in front of him

Kazu’s clothes tore even more from Adraine’s play. Blood painted the ground beneath him with each crawl he took.

Then at last, Kazu’s hand felt a familiar touch. However, Adraine had his sword brandished in a stabbing stance. This time, it would aim for a vital.

Whoosh!

The sword pierced Kazu’s shoulder blade straight through. The rusted sword situated itself between his heart and Adraine.

—Rain fell on the field soaking everyone and blurring the blood on the ground.

Dozens of magic circles floated in circular motions around Kazu. A green glow enveloped him. It was a warm soothing feeling. All of the wounds on his body closed and strength brought itself back to Kazu’s hands, arms, legs, body.

The fear in Kazu’s eyes disappeared and the beating of the sword grew stronger and stronger.

“Mel, I haven't answered you yet right?” Kazu whispered.

Thump. Kazu’s heart thumped loud in his head. It grew in speed.

“Mel, I promise… as long as you never disappear from my side forever!” Kazu shouted.

Boom!

Mel: Kazu… of course~!

The air vibrated. Shockwaves permeated from the sword. A ray of light appeared from the bottom of the sword’s hilt. Soon, the ray of light moved upwards in a slow yet strong personality. The rusted sword transformed into a majestic Great Claymore. Its blade, 2 meters in length, drew fear in the hearts of enemies. The flat of its blade measured at 30 cm, and on that flat, veins of liquid gold and a haze of purple flowed. The veins drew a cross on the flat. Snake like celtic patterns looked as if they were alive drew its hilt. A sword named—Melcross.

The sword that was lodged in Kazu’s chest disintegrated. At this sight, Adraine stumbled backwards, falling flat on his butt.

“T-t-thats the Devourering Sword, Melcross!” Adraine squealed. “D-d-demon!”

Putting his hand on the hilt, power surged through Kazu’s veins originating from his hand. Kazu’s eyes turned to Adraine who still sat on the ground in shock.

“Get up.” Kazu commanded. “I won’t on the ground or without a sword.”

The arrogant words of the insect in front of him threw away all reason in Adraine’s mind. He crawled to get Brett’s sword and without delay, he lunged at Kazu.

—Slow.

The swings were like looking at grass grow to Kazu’s eyes. With each swing from Adraine, Kazu blew it away with one hand on the sword. In the overload state, nothing can stand in his way, he thought.

“AAAHH!” Adraine swung again.

Peng!!!

The sword in his hand broke in half from Kazu’s own swing. No, Kazu sliced through the sword. Such a slice even awed Philip hiding behind the wall while watching the scene.

“First, you demeaned me.”

Swing. The fibers of Adraine’s left leg sliced open.

“Then, you hurt my family.”

Swing. Adraine’s right arm flew away.

“Then most importantly, you hurt ME.”

Stab. The 30 cm wide blade cut through Adraine’s right leg. His eyes and mouth opened wide in fear.

“I won’t kill you.” Kazu again swung his sword with one hand, and the blood splashed away from the claymore. “Live the rest of your life like the insects in your fantasies.”

Adraine’s fell out of consciousness. Both shock and fear overwhelmed his system.
.
.
.

Clap, clap, clap.

Sage came in from behind the wall.

“Well done Kazu Tomoe.” Sage smiled. A bewitching beauty appeared from under the shadows of the leaves. Kazu stared in awe as she avoided all the dead bodies.

“Kazu Tomoe, do not worry about your family and their friends. Had we been a little later, I would have not been able to heal them in time. In fact, no one here is dead… except maybe for half of Adraine Kies.” Sage smirked. “Philip Nemean, carry the two women over there and those 2 men over there.”

The snap of her finger cleared Philip’s dumbfounded state. “Yes ma’am!”

4 soldiers ran down the sea of bodies and picked out Raym, Mizz, Krey, and then Brett in that order.

“Kazu Tomoe, you must be tired. Follow the men to the carriage and rest there.” Sage said.

Kazu nodded in reply. A slight blush appeared on his face and his shape seemed to shrink at her presence.

—The rain weakened as Kazu exited the field.

“Anything else?” Philip narrowed his eyes at Sage.

Another smile appeared on Sage’s lips. “A baptism of a hero…”

They strolled back to the entrance of the dungeon. To Philip’s surprise, 2 carriages awaited them.

“First Carriage, leave.” Sage said.

At the command, the first carriage left. Kazu and his unconscious family sat inside. All of them rested, except Kazu who looked out the window with Mel resting the end of the blade on the floor, and the hilt on his shoulder.

“Hey, don’t tell me this was all planned?!” Philip flabbergasted.

“Philip Nemean. Heroes are not born, they are made. The hammers of his trials refine him with every strike. Through this, his steel becomes stronger and sharper. And with that steel, his legacy will be born.

“I, Irimhind Crimfaine, with my own eyes will write down his story. In that book, his travels, his feats, his heroics, his downfalls, his defeats shall be recorded. A hero, dressed in the clothes of a demon, will write something new in the passage of time in the world of Ilmaira. Hahaha!....” Her neverending laugh echoed through the forest.




Epilogue.


In Southern Gate outskirts, loud noises came from a small house. Trees surrounded it and only using the path leading to the main road could one see this cozy house. Black smoke ran up from its chimney and a sweet aroma filled the vicinity.

“””“Welcome back Kazu!””””

“Un!” Kazu shouted.

“Welcome back brother!” Ene hugged Kazu’s foot.

After patting Ene on the head, his eyes turned to the giant claymore sitting just by the window. Beside it, a bowl of water sat with a sparkling clear blue gem inside. A warm smile escaped his face as both entered his vision.

Mel: I’m still mad at your for looking at that crimson whoever!

Kazu chuckled at Mel’s response. No one noticed and everyone celebrated the return of Kazu.

“Let’s eat!” Krey shouted.

“Come on, is that what you always think about??” Mizz snarked.

“Dibs on the leg… or maybe the whole turkey!” Raym shouted.

“Come now Ene, its your favourite ham.” Sene carried Ene up and fed her with some ham.

“Welcome back, son.” Brett patted Kazu on the shoulder.

“Un, I’m back.”


Arc 1 - The Sword - End.


###########
Thanks for reading. Heres both Chapter 15 and epilogue. Sorry for the long wait even though the chapter was almost half done... I had classes to do.

Arc 1 total of 64709 words.
4313.9 words per chapter.
Spoiler :

I loved the response from chapter 14, would like to see more of that...
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fumiyu

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