Chapter 24:


The Swordmaster and the New God

      Mildrid watched as the children ran around on the hill, their little feet scurrying along the grass. There was a group of five, all around eight years old. The village of Anfang had been in a ruckus when they were born. Having so many children in such a short amount of time was nothing short of a miracle.

      Her eyes focused on the child seemingly leading the pack. His blond hair and blue eyes stood out in the village due to his father, the one outsider in the village. Anfang’s residents all had similar brown hair and eyes, so anyone different had a habit of standing out. Mildrid didn't mind though, that was her son, after all.

      He was leading them all around like soldiers, marching to take on the Demon Realm. That was impossible, of course, but it was never a bad thing when a child dreamed. The border to the Demon Realm was impossible for any normal person to enter. According to the rumors, only a person who had been inside before could reenter. Mildrid always scoffed at said rumors. She knew that knights from the kingdom entered the kingdom from time to time; it was common knowledge. The Grand Commander of the knights of Somnia, Emilia, went in and out of the Demon Realm all the time.

      Everyone suspected that the kingdom had a way to enter the Demon Realm and kept it to themselves, not that there was any harm in that. Only horrors awaited anyone who dared to enter Mildrid was sure.

      It took her a second to realize that the playful sounds of the children had stopped. She snapped herself out of her daze and looked towards the cause of the silence. A man stood at the edge of the hill. He was dressed in a black chest plate and pants which both shone darkly against the evening’s light. A red flame was on the side of his leg, bringing a speck of color. A menacing looking sword was attached to his hip. Just looking at the sword was enough to cut something Mildrid felt.

      The most noticeable part of the man was his face. There wasn't a trace of anything positive on it. His lips were curled downward, and his blue eyes were blank. It felt like a mix of anger and sadness was shown upon the man's white skin. He had dimples, signifying that he used to smile on a daily basis. His blonde hair laid long across his face. Mildrid guessed that it hadn't been taken care of in a long while.

      He walked past the children straight towards her. One of them walked in front of the man, trying to ask him a question. She never got a chance. The man kept walking like he didn't even see her, knocking her over. He did not react to her scream as he walked over her.

      Mildrid looked at the man, making sure the girl was ok. She was being helped up by two of the other children. Mildrid briefly reminisced about how they were such good children before turning back to the man.

      “There an inn in this village?” He asked, his voice blunt and emotionless.

      “Yes, right past the town hall. It's impossible to miss when you enter the village.” Mildrid said, trying her best to keep her voice calm.

      “Take me there.”

      “Uhh, excuse me?”

      “You heard what I said, don't lie.”

      “Well, I'm in the middle of watching the kids right now. I'm sure you can find it on your own. As I said, it's impossible to miss.” Despite the fact she was terrified, Mildrid kept her cool. She was in the middle of doing something and wasn’t going to drop it just because some man told her to immediately.

      “Kids?” The man looked at his surroundings, his eyes latching on to the group of little ones, all huddled together in fear. “Oh. They can come along. They do live in the village, right?”

      “Sure, but this is their time to play. I'm not going to take them back just because some person I just met told me to."

      The man sighed. He then suddenly thrust his arm towards Mildrid’s collar, lifting her up in the air. “I said, take me to the inn. Next time you refuse, it’s the neck I'm lifting.

      He threw Mildrid back down towards the ground, a few feet from where he stood. Her body ached as she got back up. A few ribs feel bruised, and one felt like it snapped from hitting the ground. She knew that she couldn't keep him from the inn anymore. She didn't care what happened to her, but hurting children didn't seem to be taboo for this man, she guessed.

      “Ok, follow me.” Mildrid noticed her voice was shaky. She needed to keep on a strong front for the children she knew. They were still together, standing some distance away.

      “Hey kids, we're all going to go back to the village with this big man here, okay?”

      The kids all nodded, not saying a word. She knew they noticed the shakiness in her voice. They were all smart kids; hopefully, they knew to stay quiet and follow what she said.

      Mildrid led the way, the man in black right behind her. He was surprisingly silent when he walked, his armor not clattering in the slightest. Only the sounds of his footsteps came off of him, grass being crunched under his large shoes. The kids walked quietly behind them, around ten meters back. Understandably, they didn't want to get anywhere near the man in black, who towered above them.

      After what seemed like an eternity, Mildrid finally reached the village. The streets were quiet. Anfang didn't have enough citizens to ever have a crowded street. It was only when all the traders and shopkeepers came once a year that the village was truly packed.

      Brown wooden homes lined the dirt street, ample space between each house. Mildrid could still smell the wood burnt from all the fires the night before. Anfang had always had a cozy feel to it. You could go pretty much anywhere and be completely safe. They had an inn, but it only housed guests around once a month at most. Visitors, like the man behind Mildred, were a rare commodity.

      They reached the inn soon after. It was a tall building with several windows lining the front, the only building in town with the luxury of so many windows. He gestured for Mildrid to enter before him. She hesitated for a moment, then called out to the kids. “Ok, everyone, thank you for walking with us. Sadly it's time for you all to go home for the day. Goodbye now!”

      Mildrid put a wide smile on her face. But, fake as it looked, it seemed to convince the man in front of her as the children scattered.

      Inside, the lobby was mostly empty, except for one man, Kace, the manager. There was little reason for him to be in here, but he loved to use the front desk as his own personal workspace, a habit he had picked up around ten years ago when he entered his early fifties.

      “Name?” He asked, not looking up from the desk.

      “Austin Huber.”

      “Sure, and I'm the king, buddy. I can't check you in unless you're honest.”

      Before anyone could react, Austin had pulled his sword out of its sheath and swung it towards Kace’s neck. The swing stopped the second the black, and red sword touched his flesh, the blade slightly cutting through the skin. Everyone knew who Austin Huber was, the famous knight who served under Emilia. Physical descriptions were hard to come by, but all the stories about him collaborated on a few points. He was a blonde warrior, ruthless in his approach as he served the kingdom. He hated demons with a passion and would do anything to destroy them, no matter the cost or collateral damage. There was a rumor of him destroying an entire village, and killing all its inhabitants, just to kill a single demon.

      Kace looked up, eyes wide in terror. “O-of course Austin I-I-mean sir. I'll get you a room right away.” He grabbed a room key from under the desk, accidentally dropping it twice as he handed it to Austin.

      “Thank you for your help.” Austin reached into one of his pockets, pulling out a small silver coin and flicking it towards Mildrid.

      She grabbed the coin out of the air as Austin ascended the stairs. Just as he disappeared from sight, the Inn’s doors burst open, a flood of people entering the lobby. Mildrid recognized them as the parents of the children she was looking after. The kids had clearly told their parents everything.

      A man Mildrid knew well was leading the charge. He had blonde hair with green eyes shining with intelligence. He was wielding a sword in his hand, his clothes ruffling from the movement. It was Mildrid’s husband, John.

      “Mildrid.” John ran up to her, giving her a giant hug. “I'm glad you're ok. Our son told me everything, and I ran right over here. Apparently, I wasn't the only one with the idea.” He gestured to the crowd of parents behind him.

      “I'm glad you came, but I'm not sure there's much we can do,” she said.

      “Sure there is. There's a group of us and only one of him. We would bring shame to Anfang if we couldn't kick one man out.” A chorus of cheers echoed behind John.

      “No, I'm afraid Mildrid is right this time, John.” Kace stood up from his desk, his hand pressed against the wound on his neck. “That's Austin Huber up there.”

      All the noise disappeared when Kace spoke that name. A knight would be hard enough to beat. Most were masters in magic and swordplay, impossible to touch for the average man. Austin Huber was in a league of his own.

      John laughed in self-pity. “Well, I guess there's not much we can do. What are a bunch of farmers supposed to do against the ‘Knight with no Soul?’”