Ashes and Kingdoms v1 1-5

TL notes: It took 2 months, but we’re back! I’ve decided to put thoughts and sound effects in italics. Hopefully this will make things easier to understand. Well, at least we got some action in this chapter!

Volume 1, 1-5: Battle with the Dark Night

The west sky was dyed as if with an artificial vermilion color.

With the sound of bells, Fin and several soldiers, followed by long shadows, went outside the castle gates. The gate closed behind them and the sound of the bolt locking reverberated. The castle walls cast a purple shadow and the sky shone as if telling them to hurry home.

Fin and the group he was placed in split off into every direction and lit the bonfires to protect the town. The pedestal was enclosed so that it’s protected from the rain and wind, and there was plenty of resin and oil inside for fuel. When he going to swap the flame after igniting the first torch, a nearby soldier stopped him.

“Not yet. First is just one. Those things will come and if a new flame isn’t enough, we’ll use a new torch. Otherwise, we won’t last overnight”

Fin’s face stiffened and he nodded. He wanted to reply, but the inside of his mouth had become dried-up.

The golden afterglow was fading. When all the pedestals’ flames burst, the soldiers gathered at the edge of the castle walls, lit the last bonfire for themselves, and sat around it.

“You’re not lucky, eh?”

One of them started a conversation with Fin. Another complained.

“The unlucky ones are us as well. Even that idiot Iguros is better than this fledgling of a boy”

Fin looked around in silence. One, two, … five people. There are only six people, including Fin. One person noticed the uneasiness in his gaze and grinned.

“Don’t worry, the area that the six of us are protecting is just from this gate to the watch tower. The area outside is under another group. Can you see it? There, the fire is was just lit”

In the direction of his finger, a small bonfire near the wall edge lit up. Fin sighed a breath of relief. Several of the soldiers snickered a little, but he couldn’t afford to be concerned with them.

Iguros had a sprain and Fin was suddenly ordered to become a new recruit in his stead. Which also means, the army corps don’t have any reserves. There’s no doubt that they’re barely making it by with these numbers. In other words, it shows how extreme is a loss due to death or injury.

(Will I survive?)

When he became aware of his anxiety, unwanted sweat ran down his back.

As if to ridicule at Fin’s nervousness, the area gradually became darker and darker. The bonfire shone like a jewel in the dark. Fin, who was squinting due to the brightness, caught sight of some movement of another light source from the corner of his eye, and his body stiffened as he was startled. He unintentionally rose to his feet, but he felt a slap on his shoulder.

“Come now, just stand inside for a little bit longer, OK? I’ll switch with you soon, so for the time being, stop sitting and moving your eyes everywhere. You’ll tire yourself out, so come here. Even if you were to sleep right now, you won’t be able to, right?”

“That’s true”

Fin nodded with a stiff laugh. Okay, nodded the soldier as he quickly consulted his close comrades, and three of them touched their backs to the wall and lied down.

“First up is me. I’ll go with you”

“Hey!” One of them stood up and swapped the flame to the torch.

“But, you gotta properly do your own job. Look at your torch. Don’t drop it”

He handed one to Fin and held onto another one. When he drew his sword, he left his nuisance of a scabbard there and stepped forward. Fin similarly drew his sword and stood beside the soldier.

“Idiot, go a little over there. Two people this close isn’t very efficient, eh? Do you intend to stick to my ass?”

Pushed aside by his elbow, Fin blushed in both shame and anger and separated from him. He stood a little wider, wider than one would think would be acceptable. Modest self-assertion.

After that, Fin turned around once again to the wasteland and shuddered at the long stretch of deep darkness between him and the closest bonfire. He thought he saw scattered spots of blue lights in between the golden flames. No, are they really over there?

Fin unintentionally looked up at the sky, but the sun’s light had long disappeared. Starlight alone is not enough to light up the ground.

When he dropped his gaze, he understood for sure this time. There were an uncountable number of blue spots floating in the darkness. If it were just two of them in a set, then one would think they were the same as beasts as wolves, but in this set had three and it could possibly be a swarm of flying insects gathering. His fear became worse as being unable to see the figure caused his thoughts to be filled completely with what kind of monster it could be.

(Calm down, calm down. If you don’t, you’ll fail)

*Clatter* Fin fixed his grip on his sword with his shaking hands and held his breath, remembering his practice from noontime.

If he went out to the area where the darkness reaches for a moment…anyways, he just needs to run and not stop. A sword’s purpose is to protect. He shouldn’t think about defeating them. Just drive them away, shake them off, and send them flying.

Fin took a deep breath and fixed his eyes on the other side. He didn’t look at just one place but gave his full attention to the vast and vague field of his vision. As if to immediately know where a bonfire had been put out somewhere.

The soldiers on the left started to slowly advance. Fin also moved his feet forwards, as if he was being led. One step, then another, facing the darkness.

When he walked in between the bonfires, he suddenly felt like he had become one of the heroes that appear in epic legends. As long as these bonfires exist, the Beasts of Darkness will be repelled and he can deliver the finishing blow with the torch over his head and running away—

But, such a fantasy was short-lived. *Creak* In that moment that unpleasant sound reached his ears, things such as naïve hope and everyday thinking vanished.

*Grind*……*Step, step, rustle*……

In that instance, Fin had a flash back to when he was still with Oandus and the others in the windmill; they were all huddled in a room that they tried their hardest to keep the room lit as they waited for dawn to come.

(It’s the same sound. It’s them. They’re coming)

*Clatter, rattle, clatter* When he heard that dry sound, he unexpectedly remembered a wooden rocking horse, but being reminded of that didn’t help to relieve his heart.

(Here they come)

Where? Which one first?

He quickly looked around. And then—

“Right! Fin!”

A nearby soldier said at the same time Fin also discovered it. One of bonfires diagonally right of the line was missing. On instinct, he ran out and repelled something that came rushing out from the darkness with his sword.

“Tch!”

In a moment, a pain as sharp as one that pierces through the arm, ran through his body. Was I injured? he thought, but he had no time to be concerned about it. He ran with all his might to straighten the fallen bonfire and relight it. He felt the shadow that was there just a moment ago quickly took refuge in the darkness.

Immediately following, a sound that could pierce through the sky echoed and Fin held his sword above his head for protection. The second he took the blow, the sword had closely packed frost on it.

It can’t be. Fin became wide-eyed. At that time, the frost had already disappeared and there was only a thin layer of dew on it. Yet, color was fading from the hand holding the handle. Fin held his right hand and briskly rubbed with his left hand that was still holding the torch.

As soon as a little bit of the feeling in his hand returned and he was relieved, the flame on his left disappeared. When he quickly ran over there, a black shadow was going to cover the top of the pedestal.

“Damn it!”

He forgot Masod’s teachings and raised his sword overhead to slash at it. But just before that, the crouching shadow turned around and opened its mouth wide suddenly, rushing towards him.

It was unexpectedly huge. Right away Fin leaped back a great distance and stood guard with his torch like a shield. What he saw on top of the pedestal was a giant black wildcat. And what’s more than having three eyes that glowed a phosphorus blue light, the nose, ears, and limbs were indistinguishable.

The hand holding the torch lowered in the moment he was preoccupied by the sight. The beast abruptly bent over, and Fin jumped at the same time he came back to his senses.

(I’m done for!)

The image of his body being eaten in a quick gulp flashed in my mind. Without thinking of anything, he squatted there and only his left hand was high, raising the torch. But it was too late.

“Uwaa!”

The torch was sent flying with the impact. Fin couldn’t stand the pain; it was like his arm was torn off. His arm was fine, but there was no feeling in it.

Although he was struggling with fear of pain, he looked over his shoulder to search for the Beast.

“—!”

It was right beside him. Once again, the deep shadow arose within the black darkness. Its mouth open, ready to tear up its prey.

Nellis’s image appeared in Fin’s mind at that moment.

(No, I don’t want to die!)

While unaware of his mad cry, he thrust his sword in a daze. There was some resistance, but the Beast didn’t even  scream. What the wide-eyed Fin saw was the imminent Beast’s black fangs as it didn’t even stop with the sword piercing through the inside of its mouth.

(That can’t be)

Impossible. He won’t stand for this kind of thing happening.

Useless words spun around in the corner of his stunned head. Darkness flowed down the blade and the drips could be felt on his right hand. In that moment, chills ran through his whole body.

—It was without a doubt: hatred.

I hate you, I hate you, I hate you. I’ll kill you. I’ll get rid of you. I’ll remove every little trace of you from this world.

The words were not necessarily clearly thought, but he had a hunch that it was the Beast’s heart, or possibly the components that made it up. There’s no way that this is the same as a common, wild animal.

(It’s no good. I’ll lose)

In front of such tenacity, anger, and hatred, human strength cannot even compare to it.

Understanding this terror, Fin was seized by despair and at his wit’s end, he froze. At this rate, it looked like his right hand and sword would be swallowed up — but, in a sudden moment, his field of vision became bright.

All of a sudden, the Beast raised such a fierce scream that one would feel the worst guilt about it. While that was happening, Fin desperately tried to extract his sword. Within all commotion, Fin unintentionally let go of it.

“You f**king idiot!”

When the insult reached his ears and he came back to his senses, the Beast jumped back to escape into the darkness with the sword still half-buried in it. Fin was out of breath and sat down in a daze, but someone grabbed his arm and forcefully made him stand up.

“Not only did you let go of the torch, but also the sword. What the hell did you hear during the day, you fool! Don’t fall asleep and quickly pick up your torch!”

Fin was yelled at and he searched for his torch in a hurry. He took several steps away and knelt down; the flame was covered by sand and weakening. When Fin picked it up, a soldier came to help and restored the flame by touching his torch to it. The bonfire that was extinguished before had once again shone brightly.

“Don’t be idle. Return to the wall and come back after borrowing someone else’s sword. Hurry up!”

In other words, he was saying to get back to work. Two or three lights flicked in the far distance. When Fin rushed back to the castle walls, he received the sword from one of the soldiers who was awake.

“Don’t mess up again. I won’t save you. Get eaten by yourself”

How far from a reprimanding threat. Fin gave a stiff nod and ran back to his position. Although he wasn’t expecting any encouragement, his fear grew when he thought that his comrades might abandon him. It’s already hard enough to fight a Beast; he is at the edge of a cliff.

(Please save me)

He didn’t pray to anyone in particular. Someone, take me away from here. Save me. End this, please.

But of course, there was no response.

He lost all sense of time until the break of dawn. If he thought about dozing off for a mere second, he would be violently shaken awake. Although he was aware that he was injured in many places, a single bleeding wound couldn’t actually be found. He was just awfully tired and the dark stain of despair was gradually spreading to the corners of his heart.

The front line of bonfires were a little closer to the wall. If they were a little stingy by lessening the number of bonfires in the beginning, then they probably wouldn’t last the night. Fin’s feet were swollen in pain and the hands holding the torch and sword were gradually becoming heavy like lead.

But, he suddenly noticed this after coming and going several times in the interval between nightmare and reality. His view became slightly bright. He looked idly at the ground. The pedestal where the bonfire was extinguished and stones of the road that stretched far south. On that subject, he hadn’t been fighting for a while now. Those blue lights couldn’t be seen.

Fin looked around absentmindedly.

Before long, the sound of bells announced dawn. Someone tapped his shoulder and when he turned around, a soldier who had the same tired face gave a friendly smile.

“You survived, eh, youngster”






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