50 – Sword Master, Karon (2)
A certain swordsman who established the first sect of swords, classified the realm of swords into three major categories.
The three classified realms were mainly distinguished through sword aura (劍氣). There were no other distinguishing factors as clear and distinct as sword aura. However, that was only applicable to the stages of Sword Seeker and Sword Expert.
Sword Masters were different.
They were something entirely separate.
There was such a tremendous gap between them that some argued there should be an intermediate stage between Seekers and Masters.
Sword Seekers who reached the realm say:
It feels like a massive wall is standing before me.
As they train their swords and accumulate strength, they approach the wall. However, no matter how high they look up, they cannot see the end of the towering wall. Facing this wall, numerous Sword Seekers suddenly burst into hollow laughter.
Experts, Seekers, and the like.
The distinction of this realm was not entirely meaningless. The years they spent honing their skills were not futile. The massive wall standing before them was speaking.
The world is merely divided in two.
Sword Masters and those who are not.
Transcending humanity and mere mortals.
Those who can reduce even an expert to a mere mortal. These beings are precisely the existence known as Sword Masters. Exotic beings that cannot be clearly distinguished by anything.
“Sword Experts are distinguished by manifesting sword aura, and Sword Seekers are distinguished by encapsulating a semblance in their sword aura. So, what distinguishes Sword Masters?”
A question that someone posed to the first swordsman. In response, the first swordsman burst into laughter and said:
“Do you need a distinction?”
He simply answered like this.
“You’ll know the moment you draw your sword.”
“Ah, this bastard is a Sword Master.”
People shook their heads in disbelief when they read that record, but as time passed, the world had no choice but to accept the words left by the first swordsman. There was nothing else that could express it more.
Even if one didn’t want to, they would realize the moment a Sword Master drew their sword.
The person standing before them is the pinnacle.
A transcendent being who reached the limit of the sword.
In the course of history, as it was with the swordmasters who once graced the stage, three swordmasters now pull the reins of this era.
Among those who keenly felt those words, there was one here as well.
The Sword Seeker, Rozelin Ascalo, was not just sounding an alarm but screaming in sheer terror. The man standing before him was a swordmaster. His name was Karun.
Even breathing became difficult.
Cold sweat ran down Rozelin’s spine.
In such a state, Karun approached Rozelin step by step. Rozelin lowered his head as if in the grip of a fear as if a messenger of doom was advancing. Gradually, the sound of his steps stopped. A colossal presence could be felt right in front of his nose.
Then, a light tap.
Karun tapped Rozelin’s shoulder. Rozelin slowly raised his head. There, Karun, clad in a robe, was smiling.
“Ah, it finally came back to you. I was wondering where I had seen you, and here you are, Rozelin Ascalo, isn’t it?”
Karun spoke as if he were genuinely pleased.
“A mercenary who reached the realm of the Sword Seeker at a young age and handles masterpieces. I’ve thought about crossing swords with you at least once. Nice to meet you. I am…”
Just as Karun was about to say his name, a coughing sound came from behind Rozelin. There stood Mid-ranking Priest Volcman, who seemed to be in distress.
I’ll hide my identity and travel with you.
That’s what Karun had said.
However, despite Karun’s apparent lack of intention to conceal his identity, Volcman was sweating coldly. An unofficial visit by a swordmaster. If that fact were to be revealed, it would truly be a very, very troublesome matter.
“I apologize for this intrusion. It’s a situation where I can’t reveal my identity…”
“Kar, Kar, Kar, Karun Kyung, I greet you.”
Karun, seeming embarrassed by Rozelin’s shaky response, patted his back as if to say, “Caught red-handed,” and glanced at Volcman. Volcman wiped his face and let out a long sigh.
“Since it’s come to this.”
Karun breathed out briefly.
“Do you know this adventurer named Ibe?”
“I came here to see that person. If you know him, can you make a place for us? Consider it a favor.”
The owner of the Sword Sect, the Sword Saint.
The giant among giants, extending a request.
Certainly, from the perspective of Caron, who has nothing in mind other than a sword, the request conveyed without much thought and the rejection wouldn’t matter much. But that’s merely Caron’s viewpoint.
“Do your best!!!!”
For Roselin, this was a mission that required risking her life, needing completion as swiftly as possible, even if it meant staking everything. It wasn’t just a bolt from the blue in the dry sky; it was akin to a Archmage’s meteor crashing down.
“I’ll make arrangements······!!!”
The situation has reached its peak now.
The moment led by Roselin’s hand, when Najin arrived at the stronghold of the Red-Eyed Mercenaries. As Najin opened the door on the first floor and stepped in, the gazes of the assembled mercenaries immediately fixated on Najin.
“They finally arrived!”
“Quick, leader, hurry up!”
They looked at Najin as if they had seen a savior. Finally able to breathe in the suffocating atmosphere, they cheered and pushed Najin up the stairs.
“The top floor, waiting in the office. Hurry! As fast as possible!”
Najin had no choice but to let them push him without understanding a word they said. Climbing the stairs, when he briefly looked back, he caught sight of Roselin, slumped in a chair brought out by the mercenaries, gasping for breath.
“Guys, I’ve had too much going on.”
It’s really damn hard······.
Listening to Roselin’s sighing voice and the mercenaries echoing her words, Najin ascended the stairs. The Sword Master Caron had come looking for him. Najin couldn’t fathom the reason.
“Could it be that he noticed I pulled out Excalibur?”
-Unequivocally, that’s not the case.
Merlin asserted firmly.
-It was something even I didn’t notice. At this point, it seems more likely that there’s something about the underground city where you were······.
After a moment’s thought, Merlin added.
-Anyway, unless he was warned by the Council, there shouldn’t be anything to expose. And besides, Caron isn’t someone who can be manipulated by the Council.
“Do you know anything about Caron’s Swordsmanship?”
-I do. He was originally the most likely candidate to draw Excalibur.
Among the three candidates, Caron was the most promising candidate to draw Excalibur. Hence, Merlin had a fair understanding of information about Caron.
“Seems like that man Caron resembles the original Sword of the Lake.”
“Not in swordsmanship but in character.”
“Essentially, a person who has no interest outside the sword (劍). That’s why I like him even more.”
As Vedi Biya praised, someone who knows nothing but the sword.
Above all values, there is only a sword, but Bedivere judged that its essence is upright.
“I guess I’ll have to meet you first.”
Najin took a deep breath and moved forward.
If the situation had already found him, there was no choice to escape. Although he couldn’t grasp how powerful the Sword Master was, at least it didn’t seem like he could escape.
Najin, who climbed the stairs and arrived at the door of the top-floor office, raised his hand. Then, he knocked on the office door a couple of times before grabbing the doorknob and pulling it open.
As the door opened, Najin was about to take a step inside. Najin’s senses tingled. A strange sensation, as if lightning were rushing down his spine. In an instant, his eyes widened, and a crimson hue appeared in his pupils.
“Ah, you’re finally here.”
A voice echoed.
Najin looked to where the voice was coming from. There, sitting with the familiar face of Sub-Commander Volkmann, was someone else.
A young man in his mid-to-late twenties.
Najin instinctively felt that the man who revealed his face by taking off his robe was none other than the Sword Saint, Karone. Despite not displaying his momentum, just being in the same space as the author made Najin’s senses ring alarms.
“…This is Half.”
Najin, who barely regained his breath, spoke.
“I heard you were looking for me.”
“Well, that’s right.”
Karone stood up from his seat.
“Nice to meet you. You might have heard already, but I’m Karone. We’re fated to meet like this, so how about we shake hands?”
He reached out his hand to Najin.
It seemed like a gesture asking for a handshake, but from Najin’s perspective, it was a situation where cold sweat could only flow.
Who was the person in front of him?
Karone, the Sword Saint, the master of the Sword Sect.
With the honorific titles and power he received, he could easily surpass a duke, and sometimes even rival the sun of the empire.
No matter how exceptional a swordsman is, if he doesn’t engage in politics, he can’t seize power. But if he possesses enough military power to overthrow the nation, power and titles will naturally follow.
Gerd, the Sword Master of the Empire, was like that.
Yuel Razian, the head of the sect, was like that.
The man in front of Najin, Sword Saint Karone, was like that.
Such a person is extending a handshake to me. But who is Najin? A man who wasn’t intimidated even in front of Merlin, the transcendent being of the night sky. Najin took a breath and accepted Karone’s handshake.
“I heard about you from Volkmann. They say you’re an exceptional swordsman…”
While shaking hands, Karone smiled.
“There’s no big reason for me to have sought you out.”
A pure smile. Eyes revealing clear intentions. Caron’s gaze was fixed on the black sword at Najin’s waist.
“I’ve been itching for a match with a sword. I could call you to the Sword Guild, but then too much attention would be on you… Well, you’ll have to be satisfied with this.”
Caron shrugged his shoulders.
“That’s all I have to say.”
“Don’t you have anything else to say?”
Do you have more to ask? If so, say it quickly. Najin grinned at Caron’s words. Sitting behind him, Volcman only smirked.
“If you have nothing more to say.”
It didn’t take Najin long to understand the meaning behind Volcman’s bitter smile.
“Let’s try our swords. Follow me outside. There’s a good place I saw on the way to this city.”
Caron said that as he packed up his belongings.
Of course, by belongings, he meant the sword leaning against the wall. Najin blinked blankly.
Sword Master Caron.
The reason why such a formidable figure sought him out was solely to ‘clash swords.’ It wasn’t an easy reason to accept.
‘Surely there’s another intention…’
Najin was contemplating Caron’s intentions. As Caron opened the door and turned his head abruptly.
“What are you waiting for? Hurry up and follow.”
With a sword on my shoulder, Caron urged.
His body was restless, as if he couldn’t endure it unless the swords clashed immediately. Volcman, who approached Najin, unable to follow the situation, whispered.
“…He’s always been like that.”
“I apologize on his behalf. Still, it’s an opportunity that may help you, so please forgive him.”
Volcman lightly tapped Najin’s back.
A brief journey in a carriage.
Najin, Caron, and Volcman arrived at an open field after passing through the forest. Caron had not spoken a word during the carriage ride.
As if no further conversation was needed.
If there was something to ask, it seemed he would inquire with a sword.
Najin, who got off the carriage, glanced towards Caron. On the opposite side, Caron, standing there, was limbering up. After rotating his arms once, he let out a short breath.
And then, clang.
He drew his sword. However, he did not raise the drawn sword. He planted the sword into the ground and held the hilt in his hand. With the hilt in his hand, he swung the sword in the air twice, as if grasping the tension, and swiftly swung it.
The ground was deeply excavated in a straight line.
Najin opened his eyes wide. He couldn’t understand what Karone was up to. It didn’t seem like he was unsheathing the sword, so how in the world…?
While Najin was perplexed, Karone rotated his wrist happily. As if to say, this should be enough. He quickly turned his head to face Najin.
“What are you doing? Don’t draw your sword.”
Karone said, tapping the scabbard.
Najin was the one who had witnessed Karone lightly swinging the sword and digging deeply into the ground. If he got hit by that, he could clearly envision his own immediate death.
…Could it be that Karone is not trying to have a match but trying to kill me?
Najin had a reasonable suspicion. He sighed and whoosh, drew his sword. The situation was still an excellent opportunity, after all.
“Well then, I’ll ask for a match.”
An opportunity to experience the pinnacle.
Although he couldn’t keep up with the situation, since it had turned out like this, he would make the most of it. Najin made up his mind and adjusted his stance.
-I swear, the only madman who would think of challenging a swordmaster in front of him is you.
“Huh? What are you talking about?”
-Oh, it doesn’t matter. Just do as you were doing…
In the midst of Merlin’s voice, which seemed absurd, Najin took a step forward towards the front.