At least three out of the four pieces of scum who captured me when I was a child are dead.
Of course they’re dead. 300 years have passed, and idiotic peasants could never hope to become gods. There was absolutely no chance of them becoming immortals.
I already thought this might happen, but for it to actually be the case…
They’re dead, and I’m still alive.
So is this my victory, then?
[…How did they die?]
The earl answers without hesitation. “M–My great-grandfather, along with Lord Festus, died of old age. Lord Dane was assassinated, I think.”
[…Assassinated by whom?]
“I… I don’t know!” I make no response to the earl’s words, and that seems to frighten him because he continues agitatedly. “I swear I don’t know! It happened so long ago, and… and…”
This is really disappointing…
They were supposed to suffer. I was supposed to kill them myself.
I fantasized about it so much, for so long, and now…
I grit my teeth and press down the anger raging within me and force myself to think.
What am I supposed to do, now?
Let’s not keep my priorities straight. Sometimes, I tend to forget it, but taking revenge was always only a secondary objective. It would have been nice if I could have tortured those peasants to death with my own hands, and I absolutely don’t intend to give up on hunting down anyone else involved in my imprisonment who might still be alive, but I need to focus on finding Nerys.
Nothing matters more.
According to the earl’s story, my ‘minions’ – I assume that refers to Father and Nerys – were dispatched by the God-Emperor’s warriors. But I find this difficult to believe. Nerys was only a few years older than me, but she was already ridiculously strong. She wouldn’t have let herself get killed or captured so easily. And Father knew the forest around the house like the back of his hand. He should have been able to lose any pursuers.
In any case, the only lead I have now are those ‘warriors’. Was the man referred to as ‘Lord’, who used wind magic to capture me one of them? If that’s the case, then they would definitely know what really happened at the time, yes – at least know better than the remote descendant of one of those idiot peasants. Just looking at that statue from earlier tells me that the story that’s been passed down here is completely inaccurate and untrustworthy.
I need to find those warriors, then, and wring out Nerys and Father’s whereabouts from them.
In case the warriors too are already dead, then find the God-Emperor himself.
My eye narrows in thought. From what Sif told me, this God-Emperor is the leader of humanity. And a god – as the name suggests. Several thousand years old.
…Things might become a bit dangerous.
But that doesn’t matter.
I will absolutely not give up.
I take a deep breath and look back to the earl in front of me. His lips are starting to turn blue from the cold, but beads of sweat are rolling down his temples. I can see over his hands and wrists that frostbite has already set in. If he doesn’t get to a healer pretty soon, amputation will be necessary.
[…Tell me more about the warriors that helped defeat the demon.]
“I… I don’t kn…”
This time, the moment I hear his answer, a flash of anger and frustration and annoyance slips past my control, and before I can restrain myself, I’ve already frozen the water in his eyes.
The earl’s hands want to rise up to his face but are blocked by the ice wrapped around them. Instead, he thrashes on the chair, almost toppling to the ground before I freeze the chair’s legs to the floor and immobilize it too. The earl clenches his teeth, little moans and sobs of pain escaping his mouth every now and then. His eyes are scrunched shut, tears of blood trickling down his cheeks.
And then, as I watch him, as the second rune’s black mist coils around my soul and seeps into its cracks, as my anger bubbles quietly behind my thoughts, a good idea suddenly pops into my head.
That’s right, isn’t it?
I can’t believe it didn’t occur to me earlier.
Even if the Odhran I want is dead, there should more…
[…What about your grandfather? Your father?]
“Haaa, haaa, haaa, ha… hahaha…” The earl’s panting gradually turn into a manic, breathless little laugh, and he replies in an amused voice. “I don’t know what you want with them, but I’m afraid they’re both dead already. Hahaha. How about that, huh?”
The earl snickers. “Heh. You really don’t have any luck. This one in front of you is the last of the Odhran line. So go ahead. Do what you want. Even if I die, the mine will continue to operate, and the city will continue to prosper. You will have achieved nothing. Instead, all my subordinates will hunt you down and slaughter you. Mark my words. They will destroy you utterly.”
Behind his rambling, I can hear the earl’s heart, beating frantically within his chest.
[…That, is a lie.]
“W–What? What is?”
There is a scent in this room – and in the hallways of this house, too. A scent remarkably similar to the earl’s own, but not exactly similar. A member of his family definitely visited this place recently. They should still be close by.
Finding the source of that scent won’t be difficult.
I will bring them here, whoever they are, and slowly kill them in front of him – he doesn’t really have eyes to see them with anymore, but hearing it happen will have to be enough. Then, I will find the descendants of the other two pieces of scum and do the same to them. If they follow Odhran’s pattern, their families should have kept the name of their ancestors after their own.
Good, good, good.
This is going to be quite pleasurable, I can already tell.
I feel a small smile tug on the corners of my lips. In my dantian, the 13 beads of blood-qi floating gently around each other also start to tremble slightly, their orbits getting more and more random and irregular. Bloodthirst starts to well up and fill my mind, pervading my thoughts.
And then, I abruptly recall the words the earl spoke, just a moment ago.
Even if he dies, the mine and the city will not be affected.
How very true…
Just one man?
Or just one family?
Or just three families?
No, no, no.
I almost forgot the bigger picture, with this scum sitting in front of me, but this… city… is quite prosperous, isn’t it?
Oh, I’m sure these people had a lot of fun, uprooting the trees and stripping the ground and blasting the mountain itself apart to search for their damn worthless metal. They have spent these 300 years very happily, while we were driven out.
…My house was built on the top third of that mountain.
There is not a single trace of it left, now.
It’s just… gone…
Since the people living in this place seem to want this orichalcum so much, then I’ll try and be helpful. I noticed when I made the trip back to Fushia City earlier, but the mine is actually almost a full kilometer away from the town. That’s not optimized. I should take it upon myself to bring them closer together.
I’ll do my very best, and bury the entire city into the mine.
Yes… Building their houses on the ashes of my own…
Those people have all trodden this ground and breathed this air for long enough…
The sharp sound yanks me out of my thoughts, and I look down to find the armrests of my chair splintered under my unconscious grip. The earl flinches at the noise, too. I see him swallow his saliva and open his mouth to start talking, but I have no more patience for words.
A layer of ice crawls up his chin and cheeks and shuts him up before he can actually speak. I don’t cover his nostrils, though, because humans need to breathe, and I wouldn’t want him to just die like that.
That wouldn’t be very amusing.
With an effort of will and a small amount of blood-qi, spikes grow from the bands of ice around the earl’s wrists and ankles and stab deep into him, eliciting more muffled cries. Then, the ice starts to rotate. Slowly, very slowly. The spikes buried into his flesh aren’t sharp enough to actually slice through, though, and only draw his limbs to rotate along with the ice. At first, the motion is still within the acceptable range of human joints, but his elbows and knees quickly start straining. The earl tries to shift his position on his seat to dampen the pressure, but more ice forces him back into his chair. His breath comes only in short, sharp, uncontrolled bursts now, as he feels his forearms and calves try to unscrew themselves from his elbows and knees. I slow the ice down even more to really give him time to taste and appreciate the feeling.
I’m familiar with what the earl is currently experiencing. Such a thing once happened to me, in the Tower, when a monster caught me. The event has remained pretty high on the list of things I wouldn’t want to go through again…
It was not at all fun for me.
So I very much hope it isn’t fun for the earl now, either.
And then –
snap! snap! snap! snap!
All his limbs break in rapid succession.
I feel a strong wave of pleasure wash through me as I hear that muffled scream and watch the earl’s face twist in agony, and my link to her lets me know that Sanae shares my satisfaction, our respective bloodthirst mingling and mixing until it’s hard to tell who wants this the most.
I feel the smile widen on my lips.
After a small pause, the ice resumes turning. Broken bones grind against each other. Skin, flesh, and muscles start to strain and tear, blood seeping through and trickling along the earl’s limbs.
Until he loses consciousness.
I don’t wake him up.
Instead, I coat his wounds in ice to prevent him from bleeding to death while I’m gone, and then I leave the room, letting my nose guide me toward my target.
The earl’s body jolts upright, his eyelids opening to expose ruined, unseeing eyes, their sclerae filled with blood. He quickly closes his eyes again, wincing and cringing at the pain.
And then, the agony of his destroyed limbs comes back to him and more moans and screams fill the room.
But they all stop abruptly when the earl finally notices the weak, scared sniffling of the little boy I hold firmly in my left hand, as if that sound was enough to make his pain suddenly become irrelevant. I hear his heart beat madly within his chest.
And I know I made the right decision.
I feel my own excitement rise, as if the earl’s heartbeat is goading the bloodthirst inside me toward new heights.
The boy I’m holding looks to be about my age – my apparent age, that is – with black hair and black eyes. He doesn’t look much like the earl, in fact, but their respective scent tell me that those two are family. The boy’s face is pale, but I expect it’s only from fear, rather than pain or disease or anything like that. Or maybe he finds the enormous ice fingers closed around his body uncomfortable? Perhaps he’s just sad that I interrupted his peaceful sleep to bring him here?
In the end, I don’t care.
He’s going to get a whole lot sadder in a few moments.
The earl turns his face in the boy’s general direction, growing horror filling his expression.
[…Say something,] I tell the little boy.
At his voice, the earl’s lips tremble for a few moments, until his face twists in fury and he starts struggling madly against his restraints. “You! Release my son! Release him immediately! Release him, I said!”
What a nice reaction.
“Let go of my son!” he screams, spittle flying around. “Let him go! You fucking monster! I will kill you! I will definitely kill you! I will grind your bones into dust! I’ll cut off all you limbs and give you to my soldiers to enjoy, and then all their fucking horses will get their turn too!”
I watch this human rage around before me, wondering if Father acted like this when he learned I’d been kidnapped.
I wonder what my captors would have told him in response if they’d heard.
Well, if they did hear, they clearly didn’t agree to release me, did they?
I’m pretty sure I would have noticed…
And since they didn’t show mercy, I don’t see why I would…
“Isn’t whatever grudge you have with my great-grandfather?” the earl asks finally, his tone turning to entreaty when I make no response to his threats. “My son hasn’t done anything wrong! He wasn’t even born at that time! Or is it because I’m the earl of Fushia City? Please, you can kill me if you want, but my son is completely innocent! He doesn’t deserve this!”
So what I should take from this heartfelt speech, apparently, is that only the guilty are trampled.
Only those deserving of it see their families torn apart by some dumbass fuckwit trash peasants.
Oh, yes. I definitely got what was coming to me.
Those 279 years spent wandering around, alone, serving as a walking snack for millions of demons were definitely justified.
I have no reason to complain.
…Is that how I should interpret the earl’s words, I wonder?
A renewed blaze of anger roars throughout my body, and I feel my smile widen even more, as if trying to reach from ear to ear by slicing through my cheeks. My entire body is shaking uncontrollably – I’m not sure whether in anger, or in laughter. In my dantian, the black fog swirls madly around my soul, so thick I can’t even see through it.
And then, I feel something abruptly give way in my mind, and actual, black smoke starts to drift up from my right arm and from my legs – those of my real, physical body.
The wells of energy inside me, which usually only produce a few drops of blood-qi per minute, suddenly gush out an endless amount of energy, enough to fill all my meridians to the brim. This torrent of blood-qi flows into my dantian, and in just a second or two, the smallest, 13th bead has grown to the same size as the 12 others.
And a 14th bead appears.
Then a 15th, a 16th, a 20th, a 30th…
A crushingly heavy qi pressure radiates out from me, shaking the building around me with its force. Both the earl and his son make a few strangled sounds as blood starts flowing from their ears and nose and eyes.
Distantly, through the mental link between our souls, I hear Sanae’s voice. I think she’s speaking to me, but I already can’t hear her words. I can only feel one emotion coming through our fraying link: elation.
I have no idea what’s going on with me, but at the moment, I quite simply couldn’t care less.
At the moment, all my plans of taking it slow and making those people suffer, all my plans of revenge, and even my plans of finding Nerys and Father, are completely forgotten.
At the moment, I just want to kill people.
It doesn’t matter who.
It doesn’t matter how.
I just want to slaughter as many people as possible, to quench this seemingly limitless bloodthirst.
My left hand clenches into a fist, and the crying little boy held in its fingers is crushed into pulp. A jet of his blood splashes onto his father’s face, but before the man can react to it, my ice hand grows even larger, and an open palm crushes him to the floor along with his chair and his desk, blowing a deep crater into the stone where he’d been standing.
I almost fall to my knees at the intensity of the satisfaction and pleasure that wash through me at the sight of the vague lumps of bloody flesh that are the only things left of the two of them.
This is not enough.
This is far from enough.
Very far from enough.
But before I can even turn around to look for more prey, the wall to my left suddenly explodes toward me.
A tall, heavily muscled man powers through the rubble from outside the room, a heavy fist already rushing toward my face, so fast that the wind howls and tears in its wake.
The moment I see him, I recognize this man for what he is.
I watch the fist approach my face. The texture of the skin looks strange. Reinforcement magic, probably.
I could dodge this punch. My reflexes are good enough for it.
Or I could strike back against it. My arms are strong enough for it.
But it seems more amusing to just take the blow.
So I do.