Prologue: Challenge

It had been roughly ten years ago.

 

It was on an afternoon deep in the middle of winter enshrouded by clouds as if it was about to begin snowing at any moment.

That day, Joe Lamberck, who had been returning to the capital, Zawoll, after easily beating back the savage tribe that had invaded, felt a penetratingly cold bloodlust and turned to look at the other side of the highway.

There, he saw a single boy off the side of the road.

He was covered head to toe in black, and even his hair and eyes were black as well. His arms and legs were lean, and he looked like he hadn’t had a proper meal in months no matter how you looked at him. If you only looked at the state of his body, he looked like a simple penniless boy.

 

However——his eyes completely overturned the above impression.

 

His boyishly clear black eyes, which were not due to his innocence, were filled by a bottomless void. He had the eyes of someone who had unfortunately seen and experienced something that most of his peers would never see in their entire lives.

The boy’s almond-shaped black eyes changed vividly the moment they met Joe’s.

His gaze was as sharp as a whetted blade and was brimming with such force that even Joe, with his long military history, corrected his posture before them.

Right after the boy’s eyes met Joe’s, his nihilistic eyes became dyed in the color of great delight, as if he had finally found a house after wandering the wastelands or his first cup of water in a desert.

He had clearly been waiting for Joe.

Joe knew this because, at the same time, he felt an enormous pressure like that of a large cataract bursting. The black-garbed boy lightly spread his knees, drew his right leg back a little, and placed a hand on the frozen hilt of the sword on his waist.

He was positioned to draw his sword at any moment.

With the exception of Joe, the rest of the army paid no heed to the boy. From an outsider’s perspective, the boy simply looked like he was spectating the march, and even it he wasn’t, no one thought that he would pick a fight with the grand general of Chandrys all on his own.

Only Joe, out of the entire army, accurately saw through the boy’s intentions. He had come to challenge Joe Lamberck.

——All by himself.

 

“Now come. Draw your sword and fight me! Prove to me how strong you are, and if you’re really as strong as people say!”

 

It hadn’t been just his imagination.

Even now, he felt the boy’s firm will through his keen fighting spirit and enormous pressure. Joe heightened his ‘Ki (Ekseed)’ born from the warrior instincts that he had engraved into his body and opposed the boy’s surge of power.

Without looking away from him, Joe urged his horse forward and drew close.

Just before getting too close, he stopped his beloved horse by lightly kicking it in the stomach.

They wordlessly glared at each other up close.

Invisible powers clashed and fought with each other. The boy’s fighting spirit did not decline in the slightest even after he learned how gigantic Joe’s was.

Joe even felt as if the invisible aura known as ‘fighting spirit’ was rising up from the boy’s slender figure.

Just as he had understood from the beginning, the boy was clearly picking a fight with him. Though he had no idea why.

However, Joe was honestly surprised.

What is this surge of strength that I’m feeling right now? This fighting spirit that’s suppressing my entire body? How long has it been since this boy first grasped a sword? Five years, or eight years? No matter how much I look at him, he doesn’t look any older than fifteen, so it must be ten years at most. No, even if it had been ten years……is it possible for a normal human to gain so much strength in such a short period of time?

 

——Natural talent.

 

That was what Joe felt from the boy before his eyes.

If they fought now, he would probably win. No matter how strong the boy was now, he wasn’t strong enough to rival him.

But, if he were to nurture this rare talent of his from now on……would I be able to beat this boy if we should fight again several years later in the future?

Right then, likely for the first time, Joe Lamberck predicted his own defeat. This was the first and last time he stood before an enemy and thought, ‘I might lose.’

Even if it was something about the future.

Joe’s ponderings caused his ‘power’ to weaken. The contest between him and the boy collapsed.

Then, the boy, whose eyes had been blazing until then, abruptly lowered his eyes. His violent fighting spirit vanished without a trace. The boy’s shoulders slumped in disappointment as he turned his back toward Joe without any lingering attachments.

——He took that as a sign of my cowardice,

Joe immediately realized as something suddenly welled up in his heart. However, he suppressed it and called out after the boy’s back as he walked away.

“Wait! You haven’t told me your name yet.”

The boy stopped for a moment.

“——Rain. But there’s no need for you to remember. I won’t appear before you again,”

he responded soberly before aimlessly wandering off to somewhere.

 

‘No, I don’t think so,’

 

Joe thought as he watched the boy……Rain grow farther away.

What had sprouted in his heart was not something as ambiguous as a prediction, but was solid conviction.

For some reason, that boy was trying to raise his abilities to the ultimate peak.

That was why——

 

Should you walk a life colored with battles from now on, I am sure that we will meet again……


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