161. Chapter 161
Blood oozed from Haze’s cut lips and the bitter iron-like taste spread over his tongue. His extended arm could grasp nothing. His family, who was within his reach just a moment ago, was sent flying by multiple magic attacks. He was slightly too late. His own right arm also had numerous lacerations, but they were only scratches compared to the lethal attacks his youngest brother had suffered.
“What were you thinking? So eager to die, huh, Haze!?”
Haze rebuffed the friendly soldiers who rushed over. For him now, even swallowing livestock’s vomit would have tasted better than their pity.
Suppressing the sourness welling up in him, Haze shouted the name of the nasty person who had carved countless scars into the ground.
Haze let his bloodshot eyes roam and quickly found the culprit. It was a girl, a former adventurer who had been naturalized as a citizen of Liberitoa. The girl shook her shoulders in agitation as he approached. He tried to grab her by the lapels, but a man stood in his way. No need to confirm. It was also a former adventurer, called Lefty.
“Lefty, move!! Don’t try to protect her, is she your girl or what!!?”
“Calm down, Haze. Besides, I was the one who gave the orders.”
Even though Lefty said that, he still went to protect Leethia.
Regardless of the truth, Haze couldn’t help but be furious. After all, He was still having a conversation with his youngest brother, Walm. Though Walm might be a stubborn guy, deep down Walm was a sensible and conscientious person. He believed that there might still be a way of reconciliation.
“I was still talking to my brother, why?! He just wanted to calm down, to sort out the news, his emotions. That’s why he walked outside, so WHY?!!! Why, did you do that?!!”
“That’s the more reason. If he regained his composure and turned his attention to the surroundings, there’d be a danger of him becoming alarmed. (Company) Commander Haze, you probably don’t know how your brother looks like on the battlefield. If we let that guy go, how much damage do you think would we get? If Highserk lost one of their pillars, we’d suffer less as a result.”
“Shut your damned pretext―― spit out the truth! It’s your personal grudge against my brother who helped in taking control of your hometown, isn’t it?”
Haze questioned the two former adventurers, but Leethia just looked to the ground. As for Lefty, who was originally not that expressive, didn’t waver in the slightest.
“Now now, wanna go at us? Calm down, remember, you have a family.”
Lefty restrained Haze in a way as if admonishing him.
Hearing Lefty’s words, Haze gritted his teeth as if they were crushing each other and impulsively kicked the ground.
“Yeah, my family, was there until just now!! AAAHH, DAMN IT!!! Satisfied now?! For my family, I have to abandon my family, is it… F*ck!!”
Even as Haze raged, the scattered Liberitoa soldiers stood guard and prepared to retrieve the body. In preparation for the failure of negotiations, thirty elite soldiers were ready to kill his brother.
Liberitoa hadn’t secured an effective route to the Imperial Capital vicinity. Considering the current situation in which it was difficult for a large force to cross the border, it could be said that their Foreign Minister had selected people to kill Walm very carefully.
“What about the damage?”
“Zero… Seems the one that could manipulate the “Fire of Hell gate” is nothing.”
“In the end, the “Demon Fire” user is just a human in front of his brother, huh?”
Among the group was even one who had once engaged Walm directly.
Haze silenced the chirping soldiers with his gaze, but suddenly he felt dizzy and his vision narrowed. His feet felt heavy, as if he were standing in mud.
How did things end up like this? Maybe he hadn’t been considerate enough of his youngest brother, or maybe he hadn’t been a trustworthy older brother in the first place? Haze repeated short breaths as he tried to find an answer, but the soldiers looking around suddenly made noises and let out a word he couldn’t ignore.
“There, is his body… Oi, he, he’s still alive!!?”
“Hurry up and finish him――”
Haze, quickly drawing his sword, declared.
“STOP!!! Even if I’ve to drag him, I’ll bring him back to Liberitoa. Where’s the healing magician? His wounds must be clo――”
The surrounding air turned cold in the blink of an eye.
A man stepped forward from among the crowd of frozen soldiers. It was Howard, one of the Liberitoa soldiers who had saved Haze at the border. He was now a member of the unit commanded by Haze, which was mainly engaging in scraping the Demon Territory, and they had helped each other many times.
“Haze, I understand how you feel, but even if he’s your brother, we just can’t help him. It’ll be a violation of orders. Besides, take a good look.”
Haze turned to his youngest brother who was lying helplessly on the ground.
The tough armor Walm wearing saved him from instant death. However, his overall appearance was, in short, hopeless. His entire body was evenly hit by 《Air Fang》, and from the wounds, crimson liquid oozed onto the ground. His limbs were unnaturally broken, devoid of life like dead trees, zero areas seemed to be left unscathed. And his strangely bulging chest suggested that his heart and lungs weren’t working properly.
“I’m sorry, but please prepare yourself. It’s a fatal wound. A wound beyond saving.”
Even without Howard saying it, Haze knew. After all, his experience as a soldier on the battlefield had told him that it would be impossible to save his youngest brother.
Lefty called Haze as if to urge him and make sure he understood.
“Y-yeah, I know. I know!! He’s my brother. That’s why… I’ve to do it.”
Haze sat on his knees beside his youngest brother, holding the drawn sword. His expression was full of remorse, like a sinner asking for forgiveness.
In response to the older brother’s call, the younger brother spurted out bubbling sticky blood.
With the air escaping from his torn throat, Walm could hardly speak.
“W-why…? H-haze… Whyy?”
Walm, unable to swallow the situation, asked a question.
Gritting his teeth, Haze apologized, knowing full well that he would never be forgiven.
“Walm, I’m, sorry, really.”
“I, trusted, you.”
A shiver ran down Haze’s spine as he looked into his youngest brother’s eyes.
Just as the war had changed Haze, Walm must have been changed by it as well. The golden eyes that didn’t exist in Walm residing in his memory, for some reason, seemed so dark and muddy.
“Yet… you betrayed, me.”
These words correctly described the current situation. And the result of deceiving his youngest brother, his blood brother, was the terrible scene before him, a devastation.
“I love you. Walm… please rest peacefully.”
Then, Haze quietly thrust his sword into Walm’s chest.
Maybe Walm didn’t have the strength to fight back, or maybe he didn’t even want to in the first place, he just spat an incredible amount of blood out of his mouth in response and let his heart slowly give up.
Haze had seen countless dead bodies before. But seeing his brother’s lifeless body right in front of him was too much for him, like he was being tormented by an unbearable mental burden.
Now all his brothers, who had the same blood as he, were gone from this world. One he could not save, and one he killed with his own hands.
Thinking about what he had done, his stomach got cramped. Unable to bear the nausea that rose within him, Haze moved slightly, spreading his stomach acid.
Dropping his butts to the blood-soaked ground, his feet were shaking like a fawn.
Not only his feet, but also his vision. Swaying left and right, unsteadily. So nauseating.
Seeing Haze’s condition, Howard rushed over and ruthlessly said,
“Haze, I know you’re having a hard time, but we have to leave. With this much commotion, the patrolling Highserk soldiers will be here soon.”
“Leave me alone, you don’t have to support me. I can stand up by myself.”
Haze couldn’t let himself look like the victim here. After all, his youngest brother had done him no harm.
After standing up, Haze looked down at his youngest brother’s body, which was getting colder and colder. This was the reality. The smile he saw at the beginning of the reunion, could be seen no more.
“We’ve to bring back evidence. Haze, move.”
A friendly soldier with a box for a head and an axe approached at a fast pace. The preparation was so good that made Haze want to vomit once again. It was pretty clear what was going to happen next.
Haze wanted to leave without answering Lefty, but he noticed that something had fallen out of his youngest brother’s hand. It was the ugly demon mask he had heard about. What was his youngest brother thinking as he stood on the battlefield wearing the strange mask? He just couldn’t figure it out.
“A demon mask?”
Even if the mask was ugly, for Haze, it was a memento of his youngest brother.
When Haze tried to pick up the mask, the supposedly non-moving object began to vibrate and a shriek shook the abandoned village.
Before the eyes of Haze, who covered his ears, the mask split in two. Following that, flesh extended out of the broken part and expanded in countless directions.
When the soldiers involved were sucked by the flesh, as their bodies were devoured, they could only scream.
Haze, who immediately jumped back, was stunned by the sight before him.
“Sh*t, three people got swallowed!!”
“Keep your distance, don’t get too close!”
“That’s not in the information. What in the hell is going on?!!”
Fresh blood spurted out without stopping, and the red color kept spreading. The flesh, which kept expanding and contracting, gathered in one place like a whirlpool. In the middle was Walm. Blood splashed down again and again, and the ground turned vermilion.
What emerged from within wasn’t Walm. It was a being with long hair colored a deep sea blue. The eyes were golden and reminiscent of reptiles. The size was two heads taller than Haze.
The being, clad in ominous blue flames that even affected the earth, was a female demon.
How long had it been since the great being’s body had been destroyed by a vile onmyoji and the violent samurai? [TN : Onmyoji, in a way is a Japanese exorcist]
Only boring, suffocating days continued after the ashes and the soul of the great being trapped in an ominous mask.
Even after flowing once more through the human world, which was in a great fire, those who wore it couldn’t make good offerings and all died in battle. In the first place, the number of humans who were allowed to wear the picky, annoying demon mask could be counted on one hand.
Sometimes covered with dust, sometimes buried in the soil, the demon mask which actually was a real demon would go around human’s hands. After two catastrophic wars of the human race, it had somehow arrived at a different world, worthy of being called the crucible of chaos. [TN : Two catastrophic wars, most likely, WW1 and WW2]
The Demon Mask had a lot of fun in this chaotic world during the Unification War. But that wasn’t enough.
The demon mask continued to wait, and finally, found the right human to attach itself to. It was someone from the same world, the same land, who continued to live up to its expectations, continued to bring it blood and flesh sacrifices. And unlike those who could only kill, despite his inner conflicts and anguish, he continued to fight, and for the demon residing within the mask, that was quite lovable, so to speak.
Now, such a male human was about to expose his dead body on the ground because of the devious scheme of his blood relative. And now a question came to the demon. Would a strong human as strong as this male human, both physically and mentally, emerge in the future? Above all, this male human was to the taste of the picky demon. Even though the demon liked to follow a policy of non-interference, the possibility of being buried for a century or two and ending up in the hands of someone far from its picky taste made it reluctantly generous enough to cooperate.
Perhaps the demon in the mask had softened after being sealed for too long. Certainly, it helped the male human in the graveyard at outside the fortress and in the bowels of the ugly snake-like creature. But the sacrifice for this trivial matter had been fulfilled. This time, it would be something crossing the line, a debt that the man must pay later. The male human must offer sacrifices until the demon could manifest itself in the world entirely by itself. And above all, the demon found the scene of blood brothers trying to kill each other out of love and hate quite adorable.
Only the collected offerings were certainly not enough, but using the male human, whose eyes were of the same kind, as the medium might be possible for what the demon was about to do. And so, the demon decided to consume the available stacked sacrifices.
Before the male human’s heart completely stopped beating, the trembling mask split in two, from which the flesh spread. In a brief moment, a sea of blood gushed forth. Thereupon, the surrounding air filled with heat, and the expanding flesh swallowed the male human.
In this way, a demon with a male human as its medium was born into the world. The gender of the demon called “Kaijin-dōji”, whose body and even gender weren’t fixed and would differ depending on the incarnation at its time, was female this time.
Kaijin-dōji, or in other words, the Great Demon of Ash, who loved to burn people, cities, and even countries to ashes and dust, appeared in this world for the first time. As her five senses felt the world, she trembled with joy at the welcoming world.
Exhaling the air she sucked into her lungs as a sign of her existence, the Ash Demon roared at the foolish opponents.
TN : Kaijin-dōji “灰燼童子”, roughly it can be tl-ed to the Child of Ash, but in this case, it’s most likely the Demon of Ash, or the Ash Demon. Why from child -> demon?
Well, here is a short explanation,
In some Japanese folklore, the one who exterminated Demon “鬼” (oni), was a child, thus a child was believed to have the power to get rid demon. In short, a being (child) who has a special power. Then “鬼” (Oni), was in a way, a being who has a special power. Thus, dōji “童子” can mean Oni “鬼” (demon). But here’s the thing, “童子” also used to refer to a child who chose to enter a Buddhist temple to study scripture while also doing miscellaneous work.
The fact that the author used “童子” instead of straight-up “鬼”, there are some plausible reasons.
- The demon is still young, or has a young child mentality.
- The demon isn’t all that evil.
- To emphasize that the demon is a mythical being.
- It’s just a name.
- There’s some other reason that will be used later in the story.
Also, another thing is, there is a Japanese folklore, where those working as blacksmiths, were called Oni “鬼”. The reason is, when handling a big very hot fire, the face of the blacksmith looked red from the side, which was very demon-like.
Which brings us to the kanji “童” itself. This Kanji other than meaning ‘kid/young’ could mean, those who are forced to do heavy labor, a.k.a, a servant.
Considering all of this, and the fact that Walm died from a heart attack, which was mostly caused by being overworked (in a way, heavy labor), and now can use Demon Fire, and has a Demon Mask… well, let’s see what the Author is trying to cook.
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