Solo Swordmaster

REAPER SCANS

 

Solo Swordmaster

[Translator –  woni]

[Proofreader – sharlottle]

 

Chapter 59: The Gift of the Devil

 

Limon has lived for a long time. He’d been through a lot, too. That includes the time when he’d lost control of his own body under the curse of a dark mage.

But in this moment, an odd sensation he had never felt before swept over him.

Ziing.

The bow slid across the strings and a light vibration rang through the air. It was as light and sentimental as the maytime breeze going past a deep forest spring.

Zing.

The fingers of his left hand gripping the neck of the violin pushed the strings like he was caressing a lover. And each time, the sound of the Abyssal Black Violin shifted dramatically.

It would let out a sharp, nimble gust as if he was cutting it with a sword. Just when it quietened down to collect its breath, it would start running again like a virgin getting chased by the devil.

How fascinating. This was the first time he’d ever held a violin. Limon couldn’t believe that such a performance was possible just by leaving his body to the curse and following its meticulous directions.

The sound coming from the violin was most surprising. It constantly changed like the twitter of birds. It let out a fierce burst as if it was suddenly dancing. It bounced off his fingers. It would settle down with sorrow, as its weeps of woe turned into a cry, a raging cry tearing down.

The speed and angle of the bow, the finger positions on the strings—

Miniscule adjustments changed the vibration of the strings as the music shifted to infinity.

Perhaps he was drunk on it. Forgetting everything on his mind, he moved his fingers according to the tune in his head before the curse could lead him further. Even faster, more brilliantly, more beautifully. 

It was already an explosion of melody. Like a single leaf crossing the stormy oceans, the curse forced the impossible at each and every moment. The devil’s temptation would have been impossible even if one broke all of their fingers and tore their muscles.

But he did it. The body of someone who swung their sword trillions of times and trained their senses by escaping death countless times easily handled the overwhelming music.

It wasn’t enlightenment, god no. It was evolution. On a centuries-old giant sequoia blossomed a flower of potential. A human who had surpassed the limits and an instrument with the blessing of God harmonized to create a divine performance sweeping over the world in full bloom.

Limon was in a trance. He didn’t know how long he’d been playing. But the melody in his head came to a stop, and so did the bow in his hand.

The fluttering melody gradually came to an end, and the world fell silent.

 

***

 

“……”

The old man hadn’t lied, after all.

The curse disappeared as soon as the music stopped.

Despite being freed, Limon couldn’t bring himself to let the violin down right away.

All he’d done was play one piece. 

Pleasant fatigue swept over him. 

All that could be heard was an odd silence, as if the entire world had been listening to his music.

“Whew…”

He didn’t stay frozen for too long. With a deep breath, he shook off the fatigue and lingering essence of the performance, and put the violin and bow back into the box.

“I apologize for calling you senile. This violin is a magical instrument for sure.”

It was simple acceptance, an honest apology for misjudging the violin as a mere cursed instrument.

But the old man did not react. He was frozen, a living statue with a rigid face.

“Old man? Oi, old man?”

Limon waved his hand in his face. Wondering if he’d really turned senile, he turned around—only to be further bewildered seeing the others.

It wasn’t the children with their mouths open, nor was it Shia with an inexplicable expression on her face. Li Chingwei stared blankly at him.

The tear rolling down her face was what took Limon by surprise.

“Princess… Why are you crying?”

“…Am I?”

“Yeah.”

Li Chingwei patted her cheeks with one hand. She stared at her wet fingers, and nodded.

“You’re right, I did cry.”

She seemed shocked. She sounded like she had a screw loose, unlike her usual calm demeanor. In a way, she was the most out of it among everyone else in the room.

“Are you okay?” Limon asked reluctantly.

“Yes, I think I was just a bit moved by your grace’s majestic performance.”

Limon's expression turned more inexplicable than before her calm answer. The only thing calm about her was her tone of voice.

Addressing him that way, talking about her tears as if it were someone else’s—nothing she said was fine.

“Well, as long as you’re fine.”

But Limon didn’t bother to point it out. He simply nodded and moved on. One would have called it irresponsible, but Li Chingwei seemed rather glad as she smiled.

“……That piece…” The frozen old man finally came back to his senses as he blurted out a question. “That piece you just played. Do you know what it is?”

“The name of the piece?”

Limon tilted his head.

All he’d done was play the melody in his head as the curse led him. He didn’t actually know what song it was. But his long years of life hadn’t been for nothing.

After a while of thinking, he’d remembered a piece he’d heard in the corner of a run down warehouse.

“I dunno… I think there was something similar played by Papago, or whatever their name was. It was called ‘Caps’ or something.”

“The 24 Caprices for Solo Violin, OP. 1 by Paganini.”

“Ah yeah, that.”

It was far from ‘that’, but Limon nodded unyieldingly.

Being bold and unyielding was something he had acquired over his long life.

But the old man did not fault him. He just looked uneasy.

“It’s an odd piece… Only Paganini himself was able to play it properly.”

Niccolo Paganini. A violinist who made musical history in the 19th century. It is said there has not been a single being who has perfectly presented all of Paganini’s compositions.

Born with abnormally long and flexible fingers, he created a piece that only he could play with his innate genius. It was a hellish song that took techniques beyond human skill.

Countless musicians had tried to play his piece, but it was nothing more than a technical imitation. And so,he was coined as the ‘Devil’s Violinist’. The prodigy of the 19th century who created a legend for the violin. There were even tales that he’d sold his soul to the devil for his music.

“But now, I know.”

“Know what?”

 

***

Reaper Scans

Translator - woni

Proofreader - sharlottle

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***



“Paganini didn’t compose the 24 Caprices solely to show off his techniques.”

The old man simpered, laughing at himself for just now realizing this. He looked at Limon.

“And that playing a divine melody doesn’t take a divine being, but the Devil’s gift.”

Perhaps it was pure awe. Envy towards his talent and youth. Or regret that it had taken this long to meet Limon. The old man’s eyes had various layers of emotion.

Limon scoffed.

“Devil’s gift? My ass. All I did was play as the curse told me.”

“Indeed, that is a performance that would take more than a century of practice to play without the magical violin.”

“…Aren’t you accepting that a little too fast?”

“But it’s the truth, isn’t it?”

Is there a problem? The old man seemed to ask back. 

Limon clicked his tongue but did not argue back. The performance was made possible because of the Abyssal Black Violin. It was a heavenly melody because it directed the most ideal musical techniques, from the subtle angles of the bow to his detailed finger positions—notwithstanding the fact the curse in itself was impossible to endure for a normal human being.

But Limon wasn’t aware of that. Any swordsmanship came naturally to the body of a swordmaster, and this was something he could easily take on.

It wasn’t difficult at all for him.

“You can keep it.”

“What?”

That was why Limon was dumbstruck when the old man slid the box with the Abyssal Black Violin towards him.

“Keep it? Me?”

“Yeah.”

“……Why?”

“It’s become a cursed violin thanks to you.”

The old man smiled bitterly. He was just a keeper in an old, ruined amusement park now, but he too had stepped foot into the world of magic in a previous life.

He knew instinctively that the Abyssal Black Violin was now unusable. 

It would have been different if it had stayed unaware—like a gourmand never going back to fast food after a taste of the finest foods, the violin who now found a holder capable of enduring it could never accept just any good musician ever again.

“I don’t need a cursed instrument.”

“I’m just telling you to take it. If you really can’t, just think of it as a prize for a great performance.”

The old man did not falter at Limon’s rejection. He simply held up two fingers.

“But promise me two things.”

“…Why are there terms for a prize?”

“There’s no free prize without some conditions.”

It’s common knowledge these days: they only say it’s free, but really, there are terms like sharing private information and new subscriptions.

The old man spoke carefreely, but he went back to being serious in an instant.

“The first is to never give that violin to anyone else. If there really isn’t any use for it, seal it at a temple, or burn and destroy it.”

“Well isn’t that a damn proper fuckin’ method to get rid of a cursed item.”

“The proper way is proven to be the most effective, ya know.”

The old man no longer denied that it was cursed. Furrowing his brows at his brazen attitude, Limon asked in a tired voice.

“What’s the other one?”

“Oh, that one’s easy.”

The old man’s lips curved into a smile, and tapped the box with his fingers.

“It doesn’t matter how long it takes. When you can perform a proper piece, I’d like you to come here again and play this violin.”

“Was this one not enough for you?”

“It was enough for me. You didn’t look very happy, though.”

“I didn’t look happy?”

“Were you?”

“……”

Limon did not answer the old man with a purposeful smile. Instead, his eyes bore into the box.

Whether it was a cursed or magical instrument, it was nothing more than junk to him. 

Limon was a swordmaster. He wasn’t all that interested in anything besides swords, and he was a swordsman who had never felt bad about that. But a certain sensation of something dissolving deep inside of his body the instant he played the violin, together with the faint stimulus that lingered for a brief moment made Limon give an unexpected answer.

“I can’t promise I’ll come back before you bite the dust.”

“That’s why I asked you to play in the amusement park.”

“What if this place goes down and out?”

“Well, what can ya do. I’ll just have to accept that fate.”

“Fate, you say…”

Limon snickered and picked up the box containing the Abyssal Black Violin. He handed the plastic umbrellas to the children, still in a trance from the performance.

“Don’t wait for me, old man. I don’t care about music, fate— or whatever it is —really don’t go well together with me.”

“Aight, then. Catch ya next time.”

Limon left the museum of magic without a definite promise.

The old man watched his figure fade amidst the pouring rain. He smiled deviously.

‘I really gotta live long.’

The old man remembered. He remembered Limon saying this was his first time holding an instrument. He remembered him looking discontent after giving goosebumps to everyone listening with the swooning performance.

Could a human being, discontent after playing a piece that shocked even the sun and moon when it was his first time even holding an instrument, really just store that violin away?

What kind of performance would Limon put on once he was satisfied with himself? 

With the heart of a little girl in love for the first time, the old man dug into his silk hat. Taking out an old coin, he cleaned it with his sleeve and flipped it after a short spell.

“Muhama la Rodon sibaLa Un Maktoob.”

Ting—

Immediately after, a hairy black hand came out of the shadows and snared the coin.

As if stained with ink, the remains of the jet black hand completely wiped away all traces of the rain and footprints Limon and the children left behind.

It was while the old man was nonchalantly straightening his silk hat as he looked at the instantly clean floor.

“Hm?”

He blinked. He stood up from his seat and peaked his head out of the museum of magic. Looking at the now-clear skies, he looked perplexed.

“What? It already stopped?”

Once the rain started pouring, it lasted a minimum of a quarter to half of a day. 

But this time, it stopped in less than an hour. Taken aback, the old man’s face filled with suspicion.

There was no memorial ceremony, nor had an elementalist come. He couldn’t see the reason the weather suddenly calmed down.

“Did that stubborn mule finally come to their senses? Or……?”

 

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