After the forces of the Gods and Demons had withdrawn, only few of their numbers remained in the realm of men; hence, when they struggle with another, they just rely upon the power of Humans. Across the ocean there was an ancient battlefield in the west. After years of flooding caused by rainfall, it had gradually became a swamp as the coastline stretched outwards.
At the bottom of the swamp, a skeleton was reassembling itself. It was a soldier who fought against the Gods in wars in the past. It was given a new mission. His body rebuilt before he tied the cursed longsword on his waist. When he was ready, he looked around before heading to a village.
He headed to the east for the village, which was located near the sea. The wind would blow the poisonous marsh gas from the west to the village. For a decade, babies born in the village were all deformed with only a sole healthy boy being the exception. He was given the burden of supporting the village from a young age for the elders in the village refused to move from the land they loved so much.
The boy worked hard on the farm every day, while in the weekends he had to go to the market with carts of crops. One day, he left home early and returned at dusk. When he was about to set foot in the village, a demon soldier who stood in his way, sword in hand.
Demon Soldier: The only able-bodied boy in the village, huh? I’ve been waiting for you.
The Boy: Who are you?
The Boy: Dad! Mum!
Demon Soldier: They reside in my sword now, boy.
The boy turned and dashed to his house, while the soldier unhurriedly followed. Poking his longsword into the door, the soldier opened the wooden door to find the boy kneeling beside his parents’ bodies, wailing loudly.
The soldier was disappointed with the weak child who paid no attention to his imminent attack. However, he must make use of the child’s hatred. He threw his longsword on the ground and kicked it to the boy. ‘Draw the sword. It leads you to happiness.’ The boy could hear a twisted version of his parents’ voice coming from the sword. Since the boy had never experienced happiness, it did not tempt him; rather, the threatening voice frightened him from drawing the sword. Seeing the hesitating boy, the soldier lifted the boy up by the throat.
Demon Soldier: Kid, make the choice. Draw the sword, or die.
Demon Soldier: You are too weak to protect your homeland and not even yourself!
Demon Soldier: Your vision is blurring now. Your hearing would be next.
Demon Soldier: You are stepping closer and closer to death.
Demon Soldier: If you don’t struggle, you will leave the world.
The boy could see the shadow of death. He wanted to live. Driven by his instincts he struggled. Since birth, he had been picturing himself casting off the fixation on the homeland of the elders and leaving the polluted village. Now that everyone in the village had been killed and the idea that his life had just begun came to him. He must set off from this starting point to find his future. The soldier released the boy for he was happy to see the boy struggling. The excitement of rebirth overrode the boy’s fear of the curse, then he raised the sword.
Demon Soldier: Very well. You finally raised the sword.
Demon Soldier: The cursed longsword will bring you nothing but power.
Demon Soldier: You can still make the choice.
Demon Soldier: I’m done with my mission! Once again I must die.
Demon Soldier: May the will of the Demons be with you.
At night, the villagers thought it was lightning that had been flashing so brightly. A kid climbed up from his bed and leant against the window, from where he saw three swords clashing on the field, sparks flying.
On his right Pollux held his cutlass over his head, which gave out a loud clang when its blade was hit by the cursed longsword. Pollux fended off the Paladin’s cursed longsword and struck it at its blade with the sword on his left hand, gaining the upper hand. He turned to thrust his cutlass at the Paladin, forcing him to withdraw the cursed longsword as Pollux’s cutlass nearly landed on his face.
The cursed longsword did not strip sanity off the Paladin. In most occasions, he behaved normally, yet whenever he met a god, he could hardly rein back his homicidal tendencies. Since he killed a god for the first time, the soldiers of Gods kept coming and in time, his blade has become stained with their blood. At the beginning he tended to stay away from the Gods beacause those he killed without a reason reminded him of the villagers slaughtered by the demon soldier.
Later, to counter the cursed longsword, the Gods sent several human warriors to attack him, endangering his life on multiple occasions. At last he had lost his patience and sympathy, gradually devoting himself to the Demons’ curse. He learnt that mercy was his enemy, and decisiveness means power. He set off for countless duels, focusing on sharpening his swordsmanship. Finally he became more powerful, that the Gods feared him so much and called him “The Paladin King of Darkness”.
The key to gaining an upper hand with a longsword against one wielding two swords was speed and length. The Paladin King of Darkness aimed the point of his sword at Pollux’s throat. He had been dancing back and forth to test how long Pollux could reach. Pollux, a nimble warrior, also knew that he was at a disadvantage and could only bet his victory on a counter-attack. Therefore, he had to wait for the Paladin to strike first.
No one attacked their opponent further. Until then, the fight lasted a bit too long. As they began to understand each other’s moves, they had been probing for even their opponent’s slightest mistake.
Paladin King of Darkness: Pollux the Dual Swordsman! An opponent like you is hard to come by!
Pollux the Dual Swordsman: Do you know why I have been waiting for you here, Paladin King of Darkness?
Paladin King of Darkness: Do Gods care about where they’re goin’ to die?
Pollux the Dual Swordsman: This is your homeland, Paladin! This is where you were turned into a Demon.
Paladin King of Darkness: Indeed. It has only been twenty years...
Paladin King of Darkness: ...and the village has become plagued with weeds!
Pollux the Dual Swordsman: Can the curse of the Demons take your emotions away?
Pollux the Dual Swordsman: Demon soldiers slaughtered the village, how could you join them?
Paladin King of Darkness: Join them? I’ve never seen them again.
Paladin King of Darkness: But I would feel that they differ from Gods —
Paladin King of Darkness: at least they would not disturb the peace of others with their hymns!
Paladin King of Darkness: The power of the Demons originated in the land, in the heart of everyone.
Pollux the Dual Swordsman: Enough of this. It’s time to find out who would win!
Paladin King of Darkness: I don’t get true opponents such as yourself often.
Paladin King of Darkness: Just let our swords speak on our behalf.
Pollux the Dual Swordsman: Think about your past, Paladin. Are you going to stay here on the wrong path?
Paladin King of Darkness: Mind your own business. Focus on our duel!
Paladin King of Darkness: Pollux! You make me tremble, but in an excited manner!
Pollux the Dual Swordsman: Let’s do this.
Pollux the Dual Swordsman: Cursed sword! Don’t contaminate my soul!
Paladin King of Darkness: Pollux, kindness doesn’t help but hinders you. Life is merciless.
One by one, the guards fell, no one in the village could resist. The old Paladin ordered everyone in the village to stand in a line. The children hid behind their parents, trembling as they were pulled to the back by the elders. As the Paladin thrust the cursed longsword to the ground, he stared at the front of the line. A deathly silence remained; mothers' cries, guards' howls, and children's screams all hushed by abject horror.
One after another , the heads rolled down from the middle of the square, people were killed for being taller than the cursed sword. In the parents’ arms were the trembling children sobbing desperately. As they cried, their parents covered their mouth. The children moved to the front of the lines with their parents as the sights of their families' decapitated heads fell to the ground until they were left alone. Again and again, children shorter than the sword was sent to the end of the line until none remained that were taller than the sword — only then, did the Paladin disappointingly dismiss them.
The Paladin slaughtered villages one by one in his search for a physically strong boy filled with malicious intent. Several months passed but his efforts were in vain, instead a thin boy with a dull face followed him. The boy would be extremely excited every time the Paladin slaughtered a village, making unintelligible sounds. The Paladin tried to talk to him, asking why he was following him, yet he never got an answer.
It was more than thirty years after the duel with Pollux. No more warriors were sent by the Gods for duels, yet he was listed for wanted for the brutal killings he was responsible for. However, veteran adventurers would always stay away from the Paladin, only those young and green would approach him...
One day when the Paladin was taking a nap in the outskirts, a batch of guards were there to take him down. The cursed sword warned him, and the Paladin kept his eyes closed deliberately. The guards tiptoed over to the Paladin and unsheathed their cutlasses. The Paladin dodged effortlessly but his face was still showered with blood. He raised his head to find the boy shielding him at the cost of his left arm which now lies on the floor.
The boy kept foolishly banging on the armor of the guards with his right fist, ignoring his appalling injury. The Paladin unsheathed the cursed sword and threw it to the boy to see how he fights. Possessing no technique, the boy swung the sword manically at the guards. The Paladin found himself increasingly intrigued.
Paladin King of Darkness: Kill, my boy, kill! Draw the cursed sword to balance the scale.
Paladin King of Darkness: You call that fighting? You’re just swinging the sword!
Paladin King of Darkness: You have to figure out how far your opponents are.
Paladin King of Darkness: Study their moves, and kill them with a single blow.
Paladin King of Darkness: Haha! You’re insane!
Paladin King of Darkness: It was sheer luck that your opponents were not skilled,
Paladin King of Darkness: or your recklessness would have gotten you killed!
The boy attacked incessantly as though he did not hear the Paladin. Blood flowed out from his wound, but he gritted his teeth and fought on without regard for his own life. Occupied by the spates of fierce attacks, the guards could hardly retaliate and death came as the sword parted through their swords and armor. The Paladin did not understand why he fought like that. If the boy was trying to protect him, then he must be insane. Maybe he enjoys the pleasure put forth by threat of death? Very well, thought the Paladin, I shall torture him, making him pure.
The old Paladin attached the broken arm for the boy with his pneuma, and carried him on his back.
Loneliness brings simplicity. Confinement creates hope. Hunger causes desire. Pain tempers willpower -
The boy's strength came from his defects. He had no family or anything to protect, and he did not enjoy the care of anyone. He struggled pass abandonment throughout his childhood; when he was abandoned in water, he learnt to swim; when he was abandoned on land, he learnt to identify fruits. The only thing he could never pick up was the way to talk.
The Paladin raised the hammer as he opened the cage, hitting on the boy hardly. The boy, with his limbs tightly tied, could only steel himself and endure the pain.
Paladin King of Darkness: Fabulous! Fabulous! It seems you’ve grown accustomed to this.
Paladin King of Darkness: Tomorrow I’ll use a bigger one, a harder one!
Paladin King of Darkness: Yes! That’s right! You must get used to pain, but never to being hurt!
Paladin King of Darkness: You must remember those who injure you or cause you pain.
Paladin King of Darkness: Direct your desire to kill into the blade!
The Paladin yelled frenziedly. Irritated by the boy’s hatred, he hammered the boy with a certain pattern. As the boy’s waist jiggled, the boy vomited a mouthful of acidic juice up on the Paladin’s armor.
Paladin King of Darkness: Everything eaten at lunch thrown up? Let’s have dinner then.
He thrust a bamboo pipe into the boy’s mouth, pouring food paste inside.
Paladin King of Darkness: Grow up as fast as you can! Hate me!
Paladin King of Darkness: Learn my skills and become one who can kill me!
For years the Paladin had been training the boy, purifying his mind and perfecting his swordsmanship. The old Paladin tortured him to make him resist, frustrated him when he resisted so that he had no one to rely on. The boy subsisted; his stomach always in hunger and his heart always in desire. Every year the boy would be released from the cage once as a celebration, when he had to confront an army alone. He would rush into the crowd like a hungry dog, killing anyone he saw. It was his happiest moment in a year.
A few years later the boy had grown up to a teenager while the Paladin aged further. He had been looking for the right timing when the teenager could inherit the cursed longsword. On a day of celebration, the Paladin planned to hand him the sword after the killing. However, when he opened the cage and threw the sword inside, the teenager pointed the sword at him.
Paladin King of Darkness: Haha. I know the day will come anyway.
Paladin King of Darkness: You’ve never told me why you had willingly followed me,
Paladin King of Darkness: not to mention the fact that you’ve never actually spoken to me.
Paladin King of Darkness: I know! You’re a mute .
Paladin King of Darkness: Come kill me! Take my sword!
Paladin King of Darkness: Come when you’re ready. Don’t let me down.
Paladin King of Darkness: You’d better be able to fend me off.
Paladin King of Darkness: Or else the past years would have been a waste.
Paladin King of Darkness: I know you’re the right person.
All the years in his life, he was forged like a knife. The cursed longsword did he wield, against him the Gods and Demons could never shield.
The bloody blade in the teenager’s hand emitted a purple glow which emptied into him, while a beam of light was also casted by his mentor’s body that flowed into the cursed sword. Since then, as a tradition among the Paladin King of Darkness was established, those who inherited the power and title must be murdered by their disciples. They had to attach their souls on the sword after death, so that they could stay with their successors... Until then, the spirits of the swordsmen had suppressed the curse. They wanted their successors to delve into the peak of swordsmanship so much, that their desire was even crueller than the curse, madder than the Demons.