Vol.3, Ch.5, P.7


Note: Certain spell names have been changed. Please check notes at end for details.


 

Heavy.

Numb.

The weight of a thousand wounds unseen.

How alluring the earth looked.

Like a cool bed after a day’s labour.

Or a warm grave after a wintry life.

But still.

Still I clung to my sword.

“I… I see… Bites that bitterly, does it?” so wheezed my words. “No account recalls… any soul surviving… the Kōkūtós… Not till today… A precious precedent, wouldn’t you say…?”

A pained play at composure as I surveyed the violence wrought upon me. I then forced my gaze forward might and main, only to find Felicia standing fallowed of all wit.

“Ah…. a-aah…” she murmured, lost and lorn-like.

“…Felicia,” I called to her.

“Br… Brother… I… I’ve tried… to k… ki… Br…”

“Felicia…!” I called again, still bent and buckled on my knees. Straining my eyes, I peered upon her face, watching it well up with pallour. Incanting the Kōkūtós surely must’ve drained her dry by now, but such was not the sole weariness sallowing her. No, for that selfsame spell was a death-magick, conjured by Felicia upon her own brother. Attempted fratricide, then, seemed the ghastlier ghost haunting her hale.

“Wh… why…? I… I only…” she mumbled on, void of all volition for further battle. To hail her out of concern, vulnerable foe that she was, might’ve amounted to another betrayal on my part, but none of that mattered—now more than ever did my sister need her brother.

“Felicia, listen to me…!” I cried once more, whereupon she twitched and turned my way.

“…Brother…?” Felicia responded weakly, almost in a whisper. “What… what’ve I…?”

“You’ve done no wrong,” I assured her. “Fight, Felicia. Fight! For all you’ve sworn to protect!”

That’s right. Between us was not some debate to decide whose was the errant path, for cause and creed both were what had brought us to this battlefield. Wagers of war, we and all, forced to follow through on our dearest beliefs.

Or die in the endeavour.

“B… but… y…”

I shook my head. “…No, Felicia. It’s not to be… Would that we each could forge a future together, hand-in-hand. With our neighbours, our brethren… our beloved. But… it’s a sad thing, truly, that such fortune ill-finds every soul.”

Words awakening in Felicia a frigid shiver. Her face twisted with lament; her lips blanched from all blush.

“Yet souls we remain… carrying each our own creed, our own conviction,” I continued. “Thus in daring our destiny must we face our fate… We must fight—each other.”

“I… I…!!” Felicia quiveringly cried, tears coursing down her cheeks. Seeing it now, hers was a face most fair, even when wilted with woe.

How proud I was, to have a sister so abundant in beauty.

How pained I was, to be the brother breaking it all to pieces.

“I was ever yours…! Ever yearnful, ever yearning…! But so asudden…! So asudden… did you stop being my dear Brother…! The Brother I wanted! The Brother I needed! You took him away from me!!”

Felicia, weeping and wailing. Many winters of fettered feelings, now taking wing.

“Always…! Always… have I… you…! Ever… ever and always…!” she went on brokenly. “…Yet… and yet!!”

“Yet forge ahead we must. Fight we must,” I returned, rising to my feet. “…Felicia. We are foes now… You and I!”

“Aaaa────ah!!”

My sister’s soaring scream—

—answered now by a storm of odyl.

Sweeps and swirls of armillary magick all around her, unto whom then collected and coalesced many columns of blood-black levin. Stinging and snapping, raging and roaring: throes of thunder rupturing earth and air alike.

At such a sight my eyes widened. “This levin…”

Waving forth: my sister’s silverstaff. Behind its grim glimmer: a mournful glower. “If my foe you shall be… then…! Then be no more!!”

Frīgidus Ensis, Kōkūtós—two spells that’d earned my every awe. Yet here and now was Felicia daring a deadlier height. Lightning flaming lightlessly—a first to my eyes, but not a doubt to my mind: afore me was a magick nigh-unmastered by any in all the reaches of this realm.

Felicia then loosed another scream, as though to settle my suspicions. A scream drowning in tears, retelling the tantrums of her littlest years:

“Slihthund!!”

 

 

Unto her silverstaff: a convergence of the raven-red levin.

Fired new from its silver head: an endless length of lancing heat.

Slihthund—a magick marking the foe’s flesh and laying forth an ineluctable trajectory. Riding upon that path: a levin-line, sent with such speed so as to pierce through its prey with absolute certainty. Doggedly does it seek. Deathly does it strike. A spell suffering no escapee, no matter the distance, no matter the defence.

I quickened my thoughts. Time tarried. In that stilled instance played the vying of our minds, the next move whereof would reckon both victor and vanquished. I knew my hand; what of Felicia’s?

My stare turned to hers, to read the heart hid behind that ruby-red regard. And there, I saw it at once.

Willfulness. Unwillingness.

Half-steeled. Full-sorrowed.

A fight unforsakable. A fight unfinishable.

There she stood, aface the proverbial crossroads, anguishing in indecision, torn betwixt duty and desire. And in espying her despair did I know her designs: it was not my head nor my heart that her spell sought to extinguish. And neither was it any of my limbs, for in sundering just one would bring no clean end to this fight yet.

No.

Where she’d aimed… was my abdomen.

Back from my thoughts I thundered.

Springing to me: a spear of screaming Light.

Sweeping afore me: the sword of severing Dark—

—swung to a speed more desperate and defiant than all I’ve dared in my life.

 

 

—Vhaaahhnng!!

 

Such a shriek shot through the air. And with it, tufts and tendrils of sanguine-black odyl, fanning out in a fading flower-bloom from the meeting of metal and magick. In the wake of the sword-sweep was silken soot, feathering about in ribbons and rivulets.

And so was vanquished the unavoidable magick.

“Gegh…!” I groaned, faltering against the gravity of the all-body pain. Still, I endured it and stayed astood. But this was grim. Fatally so. Already I’d taken too many wounds from the Kōkūtós, none visible to the naked eye: my flesh, my organs, my bones—all of them were marred. Recuperation required time, but time was up: Felicia’s next spell would speak my end.

Yet, only silence hung.

Wending my wavering vision to my sister, I found her trembling uncontrolled.

“A… aa…” she breathed in broken gasps. Was it despair? At having her champion magick unmade afore her very eyes? Or was it indignance? At her faithful forte failing at every turn?

Nay. It was both…

“Gh… agh… gohokh…!”

…and one more.

Felicia had foundered full to the ground, and was now gripped by a fit of vomiting—a symptom of being sapped asudden of all odyl. What I’d thought was an impossibility was here on full display: Felicia’s unfathomable prowess, spent to the last drop.

Had she more to her mettle than just magicks, had she honed her craft even a mite more sharply… and had she been any less the sister I’ve always known, then this vie might’ve veered a different course. Indeed, were her words and spellweaving more wiley, certainly could she’ve caught me in some magicked cunning, with the wrath-red levin having long blasted a void through my belly.

“Aubh… bwahohh…!”

Yet her miring emotions had got the best of her: unbolstered and unembellished was her Slihthund. Thus was I able to answer it in full. An outcome perhaps exacted by our experiences, our paths, once so inseparable, now sundered all those winters ago.

Still, the more grievous wounds were found in my flesh, not Felicia’s. If not yet would she yield, then this hour would be my last…

“Hha… khahahh…!”

Gently did the curtains close. More so than I could have imagined.

With labour and languor, Felicia dragged herself up to her feet…

..

.

..

…and turned away.

Away, to totteringly flee our blood-feud. Away from this fraught fight, where her magicks had been maimed, her odyl spent unto deficit. A brigadier of the Order, broken in battle, soiled and sallowed, slowly receding into the distance.

“Felicia…” I whispered, watching my once-dear sister in pitiable retreat. Forth went a foot of mine. To find her. To follow her. But my body sooner slumped to the dirt, too weighed down by its wounds. What weakness. And yet… what relief.

Relief dirtied with doubt.

Doubt for myself. Doubt for my resolve.

After desperately defying the twenty blades of the Frīgidus Ensis had I closed the distance and dealt a wound upon my sister.

A mere shallow, skin-shearing wound.

But was I truly desperate?

Too desperate to full-brandish the blackblade?

A whole score of airborne daggers had I to answer, sure. But reflecting on it, I did not think myself so hard-put at that time.

Something… somewhere in me had stayed my hand. Some part of me, too pained at the thought of slaying my own sister. If not for it, would my blade have broken more deeply into Felicia’s flesh?

And found a heart to hew?

“…A trembling traitor. A second-guessing alga… Is that all you are?”

A question, quietly and cuttingly directed at myself, as I stared at Felicia fading from all view.

 

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Notes

 
Note: Certain spell names have been changed from Latin to Old English in order to maintain in-story consistency. Please visit the Soot-Steeped Knight channel in the Light Novels Translation Discord server where a complete list of changes will soon be posted. This message will appear for all chapter parts that include spell names, and will remain in place until the middle of June. I sincerely apologize for any inconvenience.
 

Slihthund

(Language: Old English; original name: “Ignite Stab”) “Slaught-hound”; “(lightning) strike-hound”. Levin-elemental battle magick. A spell formed as a stream of red-black radiation. In the blink of an eye, speeds unto and pierces a marked target, never ceasing until it has struck home. Absolutely unavoidable, this spell is considered as much a death sentence as it is an arcane and nigh-unmasterable art.

 

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Comment (1)

  1. howardplaza2

    Thanks for the chapter.

    Rolf is probably too nice a person to really fight in a civil war. Felicia, on the other hand, might very well be incorrigible.

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