Translated and edited by Hitogai
Sorry for the wait. Got caught up with some stuff. Next chapter shouldn’t take as long. Kind of rushed it so once again, apologies for any mistakes. Criticism is highly appreciated. Thanks.
P.S. I’m Canadian so I spell stuff with a “u”
Some TL notes for those interested:
狂鬼 -kyoki- I’ve decided to change this to “fiend” as it more accurately represents kyoki as a general name for beasts residing in the ashen forest.
輝石 -kiseki- Decided to translate this literally as “augite.” Modern meaning of the word refers to a specific type of mineral so in that sense, it may not be completely accurate in the story. However, latin and greek roots of the word which denotes a precious type of stone and lustre fits the lore of the story quite well I feel. Also something like “crystal gem” sounds kind of boring where I feel “augite” kind of gives it a more unique feel.
従士 -juushi- Probably having the hardest time with this and other military terms used in the novel. Quick google search comes up with a couple results: thane, yeoman, samurai follower etc. All of them can somewhat fit in the context of the story, but none really stick as a “beginner rank” kind of feel. Other search results yielded skyrim popping up with 従者 being followers. Anyhow, something relating servitude may perhaps be best, so I’ve decided to leave it as “attendant” for now though it may very well change.
I guess those are the big ones. Will leave the others for another time.
Lapis no Shinzou – Volume 1 Chapter 1 – Murakumo Kingdom
For most of his life, Shuou had lived away from Human civilization.
During that time, he had learned and studied various things under his master. However, to Shuou, it was difficult to grasp concepts through books and words. During the period he had been learning how to navigate and hunt within the Ashen Forest, actual training and direct experience yielded much better results than simply being told how to do something. Partially because of that, his desire to see, hear, smell, and experience the world for himself had grown stronger day by day. As a result, he had stubbornly left his home – and in turn left behind the person who had been both his master and the parent who had raised him.
Finally reaching the exit of the Ashen Forest, he found himself on a road paved with white stones. Named the “Luminous Road,” the road was created by mining and processing a special type of ore called the “Glowstone,” then laying it.
The Glowstone had a special characteristic; it would emit a faint light in response to the moisture and humidity in the atmosphere. The light that the stone emitted had an effect that prevented the spread of the Ashen forest and as a result, fiends would also often avoid passing through these roads. The exact reason was unknown and the effect wasn’t absolute. Even so, as long as one walked along a luminous road, it provided some degree of safety and so it became an important means of transportations for humans.
Shuou walked along the luminous road.
The surface of the road itself was rough, but it was laid perfectly level. Carriages would be able to pass through with little difficulty and so the circulation of goods and currency would also go smoothly on the road.
The Ashen Forest was filled with many intertwining plants and vegetation making it extremely difficult to maintain one’s footing. In comparison, the luminous road that was made by Humans for the use of Humans was much more comfortable.
With a light gait, he continued down the road. As the ground began to slant upwards, the luminous road suddenly cut off. It seemed that the area from this point onward was deemed as a safe zone by the people who lived on this land.
Continuing up the gently slanted slope, in front of him a city enclosed in stone walls soon came into view.
This world consisted of a mountain range that extended endlessly towards the East, West, North, and South. Located within the eastern mountain range was one of the great powers: the “Murakumo Kingdom.” Blessed with an abundance of mineral resources, the Kingdom’s treasury was bountiful from the manufacturing of weapons and its citizens lead luxurious lives.
【Royal Capital Murakumo】 was written on a flag fluttering at the entrance of the city. At its center was portrayed a winged snake-like animal.
The country where he had lived life as a juvenile in the past, Murakumo. Shuou had only learned of its name after being taught by his master. This was the royal capital where he had lived during his childhood. A feeling akin to nostalgia along with the bitter memories of his life as an orphan welled forth as the scent of the city he hadn’t seen for 12 years entered his nose.
It was currently evening,
The streets were crowded as men rushed home from work and women were out shopping in preparation for dinner. As people walked about their businesses, they would intermittently take peeks at Shuou. He was unable to discern whether it was due to the large eye patch that covered half his face, or because of his unfamiliar appearance.
Unable to calm down for some reason, he left the main streets and wandered into the back streets eventually coming to a quiet housing district. If it was here, he’d probably be able to calm down a little.
The items Shuou currently carried with him was a dagger made from the tooth of an insect fiend, an overcoat made from the hide of a beast fiend, and enough dried rations to last him a couple of days. He could somewhat make do by hunting for food and camping outdoors for sleep would also be bearable. If his goal was to simply “live” then that would have been enough, however, in the human world money would eventually become a necessity. Even for Shuou who had been living secluded from the human world, he couldn’t help but have the desire to sleep in a decent inn as well as to try the local delicacies.
In order to fulfill his goal of travelling and seeing the world, he needed money.
As if by fate, he spotted a signboard with the words “Occupation Services Guild” written at a corner of the street. His heart danced at the thought of it. While working and earning money was commonplace in the human world, it was a completely new concept to him.
Following the signboards along the street, he quickly reached the Guild building. While an outsider unfamiliar with the streets may have gotten along the way, Shuou had become accustomed to the backstreets during his childhood and thus had no problems navigating his way.
As soon as Shuou entered the building, a middle-aged man at the counter called out and greeted him.
“I came because I saw the signboard. Do you help people find work here?”
The man moved his eyes looking Shuou up and down.
“Yeah. Then what kind of work were you looking for?
“Something short term without restraints and with high a pay as possible.”
“A short term money-maker huh… Hmm, that’ll be hard”
His lips curled downwards as he began flipping through documents with a frown.
“Is it impossible?”
“No…well ya see… if it was during the summer we’d take as many extra hands as we could get to carry the goods from the caravans that travel through here, but winter’s comin’ and nobody’s lookin for extra people. Let’s see… the only jobs I can get ya are places that are recruiting long term.”
It looked like Shuou had come at the worst possible time. As he began to give up and thought about his course of action from hereon, the man raised his eyebrows as if suddenly realizing something.
“Ah, there’s one thing I can introduce ya to. The Royal Army is recruiting applications for attendants.”
“An attendant of the Royal Army…?”
Having undergone severe training under his master, Shuou had quite a lot of confidence in his physical capabilities and fighting techniques. That being the case, he had no qualms about work that involved physical labour, but entering the army also meant he wouldn’t be able to avoid being tied down for a long period of time.
“Long term work is a bit troubling”
“No no, that’s where you’re wrong”
“This here’s a recruitment for people to undertake a test that’s meant to pick out candidates for attendants. Even if ya pass, whether or not you join the army is completely up to you. On top of that, pass or fail, you’ll get a large sum of money after the exam is over.”
“It sounds a bit too good to be true”
“Yeah…well ya see…”
Groaning as if it was difficult to say, he continued,
“The test also serves as a graduation examination for the Jewel Institution that the kids of nobles possessing “coloured gems” attend. I hear the actual test is pretty dangerous and that more than half of the applicants end up dying every year.”
“Well yeah. Unlike the nobles, commoners like us with “colourless gems” only got our muscles and luck to protect ourselves”
In this world, aside from a portion of vegetation, all living beings were born with a stone called “augites” somewhere on their body. In the case of Humans, augites were embedded on the back of their left hands.
Augites were split into two categories: “Coloured” and “Colourless”
“Colourless gems” were named so after their muddy grey appearance and were by far the most common type; these gems had no special characteristic apart from their clouded appearance.
On the other hand, “Coloured gems” referred to the augites that glowed vivid colours such as blue and green. These augites allowed their holders to manipulate and interfere with elements of nature such as water and wind.
Coloured gems were only inherited through blood and so holders of these augites often belonged to a privileged class. Murakumo was no exception to this. Those who possessed coloured gems were considered nobles and aristocrats.
“Just a word of advice, but I’d recommend ya pass on this one”
“How long is the test?”
“According to these papers, around 1 month”
He’d be restricted for one month. On top of being able to receive a large sum of money if he returned alive, they also wouldn’t force him to join the Royal Army. These filled the conditions that he had set. It seemed that the test was exceedingly dangerous, however Shuou had the confidence to make it through.
“This job is fine. Please refer me”
“Are you serious?”
“Well… I mean I’m thankful since we get a large amount of money from the Army for these referrals but…”
Shuou nodded as he looked the half-doubtful man in the eyes.
“I get it. Looks like you’ve made up your mind. I’ll give ya a letter of introduction”
Written on the piece of paper that the man took out was the name of the guild and the signature of the referrer. Afterwards, the man sealed the letter with candle-wax bearing the Guild’s insignia and handed it over to Shuou.
“You’re a traveler right? Do ya have a place to stay?
“I have no money so I was thinking of camping outdoors”
“Camping you say… in this cold weather?”
“I’m used to it”
Even during his childhood, he had managed to make it through the midwinter weather. Now that he had grown up and with his current body, camping out in the streets was nothing to Shuou.
“If ya like, you could stay here? It’s nothing special but we could at least give ya some bread and soup.”
“Sure thing. It’d be a disgrace to the Guild if we let a guest of honour like you sleep on the streets.”
Though he had some reservations, Shuou decided to take up the offer.
The warm bread and soup placed on his table erased all the fatigue that had accumulated during his journey from the forest. It was delicious.
Shuou also took this opportunity to ask the man about his experiences working at the Guild as well as information about recent events in the city.
Night fell as time quickly passed by. Borrowing a bed located further within the guild, Shuou was finally able to rest his body.
―It was a productive start
As the fatigue began to envelope his body, his consciousness slowly faded into darkness.
◇ ◆ ◇ ◇ ◆ ◇
The next morning, rubbing his stomach after taking up the Guild’s offer of breakfast, Shuou headed towards the reception area for applicants located within the city barracks.
The “attendant” position described in the recruitment was the rank delegated to new recruits who had colourless gems. In other words, it was a ranking system meant for commoner recruits. Shuou, who also possessed a cloudy grey gem on his left hand, fell under this category. On the other hand, new recruits possessing coloured gems were divided into two rankings: “Luminous” and “Stellar” knights. Other than that, Shuou didn’t know the details as he decided it had nothing to do with him.
Shuou had never actually met someone possessing a coloured gem. Including himself, the adults he had met during his childhood as well as his master were all holders of colourless gems. The majority of people in this world had colourless gems and didn’t possess any special powers. So long as they continued living their lives normally, it was rare that they would ever encounter an owner of a coloured gem. Nobles and their children who were in possession of coloured gems would almost always enter the army at some point in their lives to make use of their powers.
―I’m looking forward to this
Shuou had heard many stories from his master about the powers of those who held coloured gems. Creating blades of wind then firing them, forming spheres of water and sending people flying. Just how strong were those who wielded these mysterious powers? Shuou’s curiosity was endless.
He quickly arrived at his destination without so much as taking a glance at the map that was handed to him. Worthy of its name, the army facility’s area was filled with sturdy looking buildings.
He entered the barracks as he walked through the sturdy gates. Passing through the lifeless courtyard, he proceeded further until the figure of a beautifully constructed stone building came into view.
At the entrance stood two armed soldiers keeping guard. As if waiting until Shuou came closer to the building, they sent him a stern glance as they placed their hands on the swords by their waists.
“Who goes there. State your business.”
“I’ve received a referral from the guild and came as an attendant applicant.”
Seeing the letter of referral from the guild, the two soldiers suddenly softened their expressions.
“Ah…that. There’s a temporary reception tent set up in the courtyard to the left of this area. Head over and finish up the registration.”
Following the directions, Shuou arrived at a fairly large courtyard with a lawn. He wasn’t sure if it was for training, but multiple dummies were set up with racks of wooden swords and spears nearby.
The temporary reception tent was located near a corridor leading to an annex of the main building. Shuou questioned whether there was a need to go out of the way to set up a reception tent outdoors in this type of weather, but he convinced himself there must have been some sort of reason.
Shuou could hear the voices of several men as he approached the tent. Taking a peek inside, he saw 3 men gathered around a small table entertaining themselves with some coin game. Compared to the two attendants that were standing on guard earlier, the three men inside wore uniforms made from expensive looking blue and white cloth. On top of each of their respective left hands rested a blue, green, and orange coloured augite. They were clearly officer ranked soldiers.
As Shuou called out, the three men turned to look in his direction.
The man sitting closest to Shuou stood up lazily and approached him.
“I received a referral from the guild. I heard that you were recruiting applicants for attendants here.”
“Well, finally huh. Count yourself lucky kid. You’re the last one. Put your name on this paper and sign that you agree to take the exam.”
His first encounter with coloured gem holders turned out to be the worst. Eyes as if they were constantly looking down on others along with frivolous and slack faces. It felt like the man in front of him held some sort of talent since birth to make others feel unpleasant. The man grabbed a pen nearby and purposefully tossed it on the ground to Shuou’s right.
Looking from behind, the two men still seated snickering at the situation.
“Also, people takin’ the exam have to leave all their belongings here for the time being. Money, weapons, and food. Leave everything but the minimal amount of clothing you need.”
“…The reason being?”
“Ha? Look, you came here because you wanna enter the army right? Then shut up and listen to the order.”
The man’s attitude became increasingly irritable. Shuou still had doubts about obeying the command without any sort of proof, but he wanted to avoid any conflict with the military. He reluctantly began handing over his belongings.
One by one, he placed his belongings on the table. His rations, weapons, and cloak. In the end, these were the only things he could really call his belongings.
“Hey, are you messin’ with us? Take out your money. If you’re hiding even a single coin…”
“I don’t have any money. If you want to check, go ahead.”
“Fine, then do some jumping jacks right there. We’ll believe you if we don’t hear anythin.”
Following their commands, Shuou jumped up and down on the spot multiple times. However, just like he had said, he didn’t have any money and no sound came out.
“Fuck, are you seriously broke?”
―Like hell he’d come here if he had money
As Shuou swore to himself, the men who were in the back came forward and began rummaging through the things he had placed on the table.
“As expected of a commoner. Nothing of worth.”
“The hell’s this? Dried meat? This dagger doesn’t even have a proper blade either.”
“This cloak isn’t bad. Dunno what it’s made of, but seems pretty high quality.”
At this point, Shuou’s doubt turned into conviction. These guys were using this as an excuse to steal things from commoners who came here looking for work. On top of that, they didn’t have the slightest intention of hiding it despite Shuou being right in front of them. To them this was a normal everyday routine.
“Right, I forgot”
The man who approached Shuou first turned and looked at him with a twisted face.
“Hand over that thing you’re wearing on your face. Looks pretty well made from what I can tell. Probably make a bit of money if we sell it.”
―Even if he were stripped naked, this was the only thing Shuou refused to hand over
“Hmm, that’s strange. I don’t think I heard you. Why don’t you say that again?”
Placing his hands near his ears, the man made an exaggerated gesture.
The two beside him held their stomachs and laughed as they watched on.
“I received this from somebody important to me. You can take anything else you want from me, but I won’t be giving you this.”
Their laughter suddenly stopped. As his lips quivered, the man facing Shuou looked at him with blood shot eyes.
“Don’t fuck with me! If I tell you to to take it off, you take it off! Some fucking commoner like you thinks he can go against me?”
Flying into a fit of rage, the man unsheathed his long sword and pointed the tip at Shuou.
“H-hey, isn’t that going too far? If this gets out, we’re gonna be in trouble.”
The two men who were previously laughing stepped in to stop him, but the man showed no signs of wanting to put his sword away.
“Shut up. This guy’s a spy from another country. We’ll go with that.”
“Go with it you say…”
“This shitty commoner resisted us. If we let this kid go, he’ll rat us out eventually.”
“That’s not good. If we get busted…”
One of their faces turned pale as they thought about what would happen.
“We got no choice then.”
The two others also drew their swords.
Shuou slowly backed out of the tent taking some distance from the men. Following him, the three men came out of the tent with their swords drawn.
―So if somebody doesn’t listen, they’ll shut them up huh. Simple-minded.
One man overflowing with enmity and two others following him afraid of being ratted out. Just how corrupt were these three. If the entire Murakumo army was like this, he’d lose all hope.
Shuou quietly sighed to himself. Since it had come to this, no matter what he did, the result would become bothersome.
The 3 men walked towards Shuou and took up positions with their swords up as if to surround him. Their movements were refined and clearly different from that of an amateurs’. They gave off an aura befitting of soldiers who had gone through intense training. The man in the centre raised his voice as if persuading the others.
“We discovered a suspicious commoner, but he resisted when we called out to him. We had no choice but to kill him. Got it?”
The two men on the left and right silently nodded.
The man on the left attacked first.
Swiftly closing in, the man threw out a horizontal slash.
Because of a severe burn, Shuou was unable to use his right eye. Even so, his left eye possessed incredible dynamic vision incomparable to that of an ordinary person. However, using his rare vision required a certain amount of concentration. As a child, he was able to use his rare talent only when he was calm. In situations such as fights where his presence of mind became unstable, his concentration would disperse and he’d be unable to use it. However, thanks to his teachers’ training he was able to maintain his calmness even during life and death situations.
Taking a small step backwards at the perfect timing, Shuou avoided the horizontal slash aimed at his stomach.
The man held his sword aloft shifting his eyes between the sword and Shuou several times with a blank expression. He was probably bewildered that there was no blood on his sword despite swinging it seriously.
“The hell you doing idiot?”
“Whatever! The two of us’ll end this instantly.”
The man in the middle brought his sword up in preparation to swing down diagonally while the man on the right came in for a thrust. Once again, Shuou twisted his body and avoided both blows with little effort.
―Their swordplay was nothing special
Within the Ashen Forest, there were fiends capable of swinging their claws lightning fast with little to no wind-up. Thinking back to the days he would regularly face those kinds of monsters, these slow swings couldn’t even be considered playtime let alone practice.
The men continued taking turns showering Shuou with their attacks, but he continued to effortlessly avoid all of their attacks just shifting his body.
“Fuck… I can’t hit him. What the hell is this guy”
Out of breath, the men propped themselves against their swords using them like canes while breathing violently.
“I’ve had enough. Let’s use our crystal essences… it’s time to get serious”
“Crystal Essence” was the term that referred to the powers that coloured gem holders possessed.
―So they’re gonna use their powers huh?
For the first time since the fight started, Shuou felt a sense of nervousness and put himself on guard. For the most part, Shuou understood the power of crystal essences that coloured gem holders could use. However, he had yet to see or experience it first hand.
The man on the left with the orange augite faced the palm of his hands towards the ground. As he did, earth and dirt slowly began gathering in the air and gradually formed into a thick arrow-like shape. Following him, the man possessing the green augite in the middle raised his hand and quickly rotated it above his head as a blade of wind began to form. At some point, the man on the right had also formed a roaring sphere of water that floated in front of his chest.
Shuou realized as soon as he saw it.
These abilities had the power to instantly destroy the human body.
―Looks like I can’t afford to get hit by these.
He prepared himself.
This was the first time he had seen a crystal essence.
Even if he was able to track the movement, he may not be able to dodge it.
He didn’t even know if he’d be able to see it.
He steeled himself. To put his life on the line.
―I might die
Following a signal from the man in the centre, all three released their crystal essences at once.
The blade of wind aimed towards his feet, the arrow of earth towards his chest, and the sphere of water towards his face.
―What…it was this simple?
Taken aback, Shuou was easily able to discern the movements of each attack.
Lifting his legs, he let the blade of wind fly past. Shifting his body to the right, he dodged the arrow of earth. Finally, he crouched to avoid the sphere of water.
What he felt then was not a sense of achievement, but a feeling closer to that of disappointment.
According the stories he’d heard from his master, crystal essences were something to be feared. Hearing the stories, he felt both fear and deep interest towards the power, but he now felt a sense of sadness having been able to deal with it so nonchalantly.
“What the fuck are you! Impossible. Not possible not possible not possible. It’s some kind of trick. No fucking way a mere commoner should be able to dodge a crystal essence!”
The green augite holder in the centre let out cries of anger as his face dyed deep red. The men on the left and right stared at each other with their mouths open as if they couldn’t believe what just happened.
In a fit of anger, the man continued pouring out shouts of anger. Seeing the man without a trace of composure left, it was clear there were issues with his personality. While thinking that, as if annoyed by Shuou’s calm composure, the man became further enraged.
“Fucking shitty clouded, don’t think you can remain so calm!”
The green augite user raised both his hands in the air.
Almost instantly, a blade of wind began forming in the palm of his hands. Doubling the size of his previous crystal essence, it sucked in the surrounding air and let out a roar as if ripping through the atmosphere.
What transpired next was something he couldn’t have imagined.
Suddenly, a cold chill sprung forth and engulfed the entire area. The breaths they let out chilled and emitted a misty white cloud. Everything in sight had instantly frozen over covered by a thin layer of ice. They were all taken by surprise. The man who had been channeling his blade of wind had his concentration suddenly cut off resulting in his crystal essence quickly dispersing.
“That’s far enough.”
They all looked towards the direction of the voice. Standing there, clad in an elegant uniform wearing a cold doll-like expressionless face, was a single girl.