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November 26th, 1026th year of the Imperial Calendar.
In the center of the Great Grantz Empire, at a point 23 cells (69 km) away from the Imperial Capital.
The sun was setting, and a group of horsemen were riding at full speed along the road.
Leading the group was Selene, the second prince of the Great Grantz Empire.
“I found them.”
Selene caught sight of the army marching ahead. Although no banner was displayed, it must have been Tupoeus, the head of the Brommel family, who had left the battlefield. The visually visible force was about 3,000 men, whereas Selene was leading a cavalry of 2,000 skilled soldiers.
The roar of their hooves was assertive. Even at a distance, there was no place to hide on the plain, and the sound could easily reach the enemy. However, no matter how well one could see them, the sight of a group of cavalrymen approaching at full speed would make anyone fearful of them. Perhaps startled by the sudden appearance of the second prince Selene in the rear, the army of Tupoeus in front of them looked confused.
“We’re going to charge in like this!”
“Selene-sama! I have reports from the scouts!”
“What is it?”
“It seems that the “monster” is moving south. The target is the Imperial Capital, no doubt!”
“I understand. Send a message to Rosa, and… we’ll destroy them first!”
“Let’s go, kick all of them to the curb, Kanshou, Bakuya!”
He drew the twin swords at his hips, stood up on his horse, and dexterously killed the soldiers who filled the ground. The confused Brommel soldiers were kicked to pieces without being able to counterattack. There is little difference in numbers from the original. And the enemy’s chain of command is in disarray because of the sudden attack.
It was a battle that could not be lost.
So―until they stood in front of Tupoeus, the head of the Brommel family…
“Well, well, well, isn’t that the second prince Selene?”
When the calm tone of voice shook his eardrums, his beloved horse’s head was blown off with a spray of blood.
Selene leaped just before falling and landed on the ground with no difficulty. There was no time to mourn the death of his beloved horse, which slid across the ground, raising a cloud of dust.
A man approached him, and Selene asked in a dubious voice.”
The man in flashy clothes nodded with his arms outstretched. There appear two hooded figures near him, both of whom reek of death. He had seen those figures before, with the stench of death in the air. They are said to have accomplished the assassination of Grantz’s emperor three hundred years ago.
“Black Death Village, huh…?”
“Are you surprised?”
Tupoeus asked Selene with an exaggerated gesture.
“I am. First of all, I don’t know who you are.”
He has golden eyes and fluttering golden hair and is obviously well-trained, even over his clothes. But there was no resemblance to the Tupoeus that Selene could picture in his mind.
“He had brown hair and blue eyes. Above all, he is thin and short….. Well, that makes sense now.”
He had a sense of déjà vu from the beginning. This was the second time the same scene had occurred. When Selene looked convinced, Tupoeus smiled provocatively.
“Well, you seem to be convinced on your own; I’d love to hear your explanation.”
“The “Spirit Wall” has collapsed, the “monsters” are marching southward to the Imperial Capital without hesitation, and the “Black Death Village” is even located next to the person who seems to be the head of the Brommel family. Then, in all probability――”
“――You are… The Faceless King, huh?”
“Brilliant. You’ve already seen through me once.”
Tupoeus did not hide anything but easily acknowledged and applauded with words of praise.
There was not the slightest hint of happiness that he had arrived at the correct answer. One defeat, a complete defeat, still lingered in the air. Selene’s voice was husky as he asked himself the same question.
“But I don’t understand. Why are these soldiers following you when you are not yourself?”
“It’s simple. If only I had this “eye.” Doesn’t this look familiar to you, this figure of mine, which I am sure you have seen somewhere…?”
Selene recalled his memories with a frown. The person who looks similar to the current Tupoeus… is the portrait that hangs in the corridor of the imperial palace in the great imperial capital, and above all, it appears in history books to the point where one is sick and tired of reading about it. He is an indispensable figure in the story of the Grantz.
“…..The first emperor?”
“Yes, do you really think that the reason I went to all the trouble and risk of storming the palace as Gils was to fight you, who are in possession of Kanshou and Bakuya? It was all to obtain this body.”
Considering how he had pretended to be Gils, it is hard to imagine what the Faceless King would have done with the corpse of the first emperor, but what he saw in front of him must have been the result of his actions.
“Still, that is no reason for the soldiers to follow you. I don’t think they would remember the face of the first emperor, even if they knew his name.”
Only a limited number of people had access to the portraits displayed in the imperial palace. Even if they had seen the statues of the Twelve Great Gods of Grantz, it would be impossible for anyone but the most ardent believer to remember every detail.
“I told you. With this ‘eye,’ I have unfortunately not been able to acquire the ‘real thing,’ but I have picked up a few ‘knock-offs’ over the last thousand years.”
“The Golden Eye… or the Lion’s Eye, one of the three most secret eyes in the world… is that why you took my eye?”
Selene stroked the eye patch covering his right eye. He wondered why his “eye” had been taken from him, but it made sense now. The Faceless King wanted it. He wanted to obtain the “Lion’s Eye,” which was in possession of the first emperor, Altius, and which ruled over the human race.
“Unfortunately, the blood that has been diluted over generations is less effective than the real thing. Still, I was able to control those who knew the face of Tupoeus.”
He had always thought it strange. The former head of the Brommel family passed away from a sudden illness, and it may have been his doing. Tupoeus himself may have been murdered at that time. Then he used the “lion’s eye” to take over the Brommel family.
“So what do you think? You seem to have been chasing after me, but you have not forgotten that you have already lost once.”
“Running away because I am no match for you is not an option for me.”
“Then keep on struggling; it’ll only pass the time.”
“Don’t expect it to be easy for you… I’m going to give it my all right from the start.”
The two hooded figures flanking him stepped forward as Selene readied the “Kanshou and Bakuya.”
“O king. Leave it to us to deal with those who don’t know how to be polite.”
“It is fine. I told you I am not busy.”
The air was compressed by an unknown pressure. The space that could no longer hold out made a sound as if it were going to explode. The “Black Death Village” members, who had been overwhelmed by the pressure, bowed their heads in horror.
“I apologize for my outburst.”
The strange sense of oppression disappeared. The only thing that remains is the overwhelming difference in skill level. However, Selene has a reason why he cannot retreat. He has been leaving the twin wolf generals in charge of the rest of the army because of his own selfishness. They would continue to fight desperately, following Selene’s orders. Above all, he must avenge the humiliation he suffered in his first defeat and avenge Gils, who had raised him with love and affection after Selene lost his mother.
“Then, I will be your opponent―but there is too much of a gap in our abilities.”
Saying this, a sword appeared in the hands of the Faceless King.
“This one will do. It is very difficult to handle, and its users are limited. After the last owner was eaten, I decided not to give it to anyone.”
One of the five demon emperor swords―”Death Immortal.” The blade was stained red as if it had absorbed human blood, and the handle and the brim were discolored reddish-black. The blade of the “Kanshou and Bakuya” shook in Selene’s hand, as if wary of the sword that was emitting an eerie presence.
“It would be boring if it was over too soon. There is no need to use ‘Heaven and Earth Creation.'”
“If you’re not careful, you’ll get caught off guard.”
“That’s part of the fun. Let’s play. It’s child’s play, and I don’t need to show my true strength.”
“Don’t get carried away.”
Selene kicked the ground with all his might, and in an instant, he was close to the Faceless King. He crossed his arms with his right hand in the upper position and his left hand in the lower position. The space shuddered as he slashed at his opponent with tremendous force, and a blade run was created on the ground. However, the Faceless King did not move an inch from the spot but was still holding the attack with the blade of the “Death Immortal.”
“What, all you do is talk, after all?”
Selene was creating more slashes, cutting at an astonishing speed.
As if in response to Selene’s efforts, the soldiers of the Scharm family were outnumbering those of the Brommel family. However, despite their disadvantage, the Twelve Demon Lords of the “Black Death Village” refused to leave their master. If they joined the battle, it would be possible to reverse the situation.
Selene felt a strange sense of discomfort.
“Do you have enough time to think about the others?”
The Faceless King lightly shook the Death Immortal. Selene dodged it easily but noticed that his cheek had been cut. He wiped the dripping blood, but it did not stop, even though it was a shallow wound.
“The wound inflicted by this thing will not stop bleeding. Even the owner is no exception. As I said before, it’s hard to handle. It’s a real pain to deal with… just like the “Kanshou and Bakuya.”
The Faceless King advances with a light one-handed swing, and Selene was unable to land even a single blow while avoiding the blade and counter attacking. The situation was not a stalemate. The Faceless King was not in a serious mood. If he could manage to strike him with even a single sword, he would have a chance to win. However, something unusual was happening behind Selene’s wishful thinking. A scream that was out of place on the battlefield echoed through the air.
When he turned around, he saw a group of people breaking into the battlefield where friend and foe alike were mingling.
Leading the way was a giant of the Marked Tribe, whose entire body was covered in tattoo-like patterns, followed by a group of monsters. They ride into the battlefield and begin indiscriminately killing soldiers of both sides. Selene, caught off guard by the unusual situation, had a moment, just a moment when an opening arose.
When he looked forward, the bright red blade had already dug into his shoulder and made a cut directly across his side.
Selene was hit with a slash from the side, and he retreated, his face contorted with intense pain.