V2 Chapter 102: Reunion (Part 1)

The brilliant crimson mane flowed with the wind, as the spiritual beast galloped through the wilderness.

It headed westward, toward Mount Taikouzan. The red-maned creature, known as “Enku”, bore five passengers atop it. Despite the journey, it showed no signs of fatigue.

The passengers were familiar faces from their visit to the western capital—myself, Claira, Ursula, Doga, and one other.

“It’s been years since I’ve ridden a chariot across these plains. It reminds me of the days when I served the late king as his charioteer in the battlefield,” said a nostalgic voice.

The voice belonged to a man of the Kijin race, distinguished by the single horn protruding from his forehead. His face was sharp and reminiscent of a scholar. At first glance, he appeared frail, but his physique was that of a lean, trained warrior. His hair was completely white, and his limbs were slender yet knotted. His appearance overall was reminiscent of a crane.

He continued with a chuckle, “Young master, your driving skills have improved considerably. There’s nothing left for this old servant to teach.”

“You may still outperform me with your acclaimed technique of navigating swamps as if they were plains,” Doga replied. “But, Sozai, stop calling me ‘young master’. It’s hardly fitting for someone nearing their thirties.”

“Oh, my apologies. I’ve been around since the days of changing the diapers of His Majesty and Lord Doga. I sometimes can’t help but treat you all like children. Please forgive me.”

Sozai, the Kijin in question, made a graceful bow despite the chariot’s movement. His subsequent hearty laughter made it clear that this was a jest between old acquaintances.

Doga, with a slightly troubled expression, merely scratched his cheek and said nothing more. It seems that even the most formidable warrior of the Kijin clan can’t stand up to someone who once changed his diapers.

In any case, this elderly Kijin named Sozai was the fifth companion. Sozai was one of the chief physicians of Nakayama, essentially a court doctor. He had originally served the late king of Nakayama and, along with Azuma and Doga, had been a key pillar supporting the declining Nakayama. Doga mentioned that Sozai, with his achievements, could have held positions like prime minister or general if he wished. However, when all four brothers of the deceased king came of age and began to show their own capabilities, Sozai believed his role was over and stepped back from politics and military affairs. Initially, Sozai had been a physician to the king, so in a way, he had returned to his original duty.

Upon Kagari’s request form Taikouzan Mountain for the “best doctor in the western capital,” Azuma decided to send Sozai, accompanied by Doga and us. That’s how we reached the present situation.

While I was casually listening to the conversation between the Kijin, I turned my gaze to Claira sitting next to me.

Claira was intently gazing westward, seemingly unaware of my stare. It was clear she was deeply worried about Klimt, who had been grievously injured.

I contemplated speaking to her to ease the tension, but it seemed that any words would just pass right through her now.

The fact that Ursula hadn’t spoken for a while likely stemmed from the same concerns.

For a time, we all continued to gaze silently to the west. The silence was finally broken when we spotted a thick cloud of sand in our path.

Squinting to discern the source, we noticed several massive figures clashing violently behind the sand cloud.

It appeared two types of monsters – one type crawling on the ground and another flying in the air – were forming groups and attacking each other. The sand cloud must have been a result of their fierce battle.

From the ground-based creatures, eight legs protruded, and their screams tore through the air, echoing “Kyoooo! Kyoooo! Kyoooo!”

Recognizing that distinct cry, I muttered, “Are those earth spider?”

It was the name of the creature I had faced during the trial ritual. Its unmistakable silhouette resembled a gigantic spider, and it had a distinct cry. I was certain of its identity.

Earth spider, possessing power akin to the King of Flies or the Basilisk King, would surely create chaos if they appeared near Ishka. However, they posed no significant threat to me now. The same likely applied for Claira, Ursula, and Doga.

From what I could see, there were about five Earth spiders, which wasn’t a major issue. Each of the five of us in the chariot could handle one, or I could even take them all out myself.

The concerning part wasn’t the strength or number of the earth spiders. The issue was that despite there being five of these king-class creatures, they were utterly outmatched by their “enemy.” In essence, the earth spiders were losing – or rather, being hunted – by armored insect-like creatures with crystal-like wings resembling bees.

The white-haired Kijin, Sozai, frowned, remarking, “Hmm, Dark bees, it seems. I’ve heard they reside around here, but it looks like they’ve migrated from some frontier.”

Doga grimaced in agreement, “Judging by them attacking that many earth spiders, they must be gathering food for nesting. We must dispatch soldiers to inspect the nearby mountains. We have to destroy their nest quickly; otherwise, they might attack any Kijin passing by this area.”

“Indeed,” Sozai responded. “Had it not been for Lord Kagari’s request, I’d have stayed here to address this.”

“Even if Lord Kagari hadn’t asked, I couldn’t let you, an elder, engage in soldier-like duties. I’ll handle it when the time comes.”

Doga sighed in apparent annoyance. “I’d like to wipe them out right here and now… Be it the earth spider or the Dark bees, they put up a last-ditch resistance when they’re about to die. Especially with the Dark bees; if you get their scent on you, their allies from all directions come swarming in retaliation. We can’t possibly lead a horde of monsters to where there are injured.”

Sozai nodded in agreement. “Indeed. I am unsure of Lady Kagari’s intentions in wanting to treat the gatekeeper, but he surely didn’t request a physician from His Majesty out of mere caprice. As you’ve said, Doga, it would be wise to avoid combat until we ascertain the situation.”

Their conversation was likely for our benefit. As for us, we didn’t have a strong inclination to fight the monsters either – well, personally, I very much wanted to, but my hunger for soul consumption wasn’t so dire as to prioritize it in this situation, so I raised no objections to Doga’s decision to circumvent them.

Both the earth spider and the Dark bees were too busy battling each other to pay us any attention. Fortuitously, Doga steered the chariot away from the danger zone.

As I glanced back with a hint of regret, I saw one of the bee monsters, with its large, pot-like abdomen, about to plunge its venomous stinger into a earth spider.

Without any significant issues, we eventually arrived at Mount Taikouzan. To be precise, we did encounter a few monsters along the way, but none could keep up with the full-speed gallop of the Kirin.

Upon our arrival, hundreds of Nakayama troops were stationed and appeared on guard as a cloud of dust was raised by our approaching chariot. However, their caution dissipated once they recognized the red-haired Kirin leading our vehicle.

News of our arrival seemed to have reached the general promptly, for almost immediately upon entering their encampment, a familiar young boy appeared.

“Ah, Brother Doga! I expected Sozai, but why are you here, Doga? Weren’t you headed to the gate? And who are these people with you?”

The grayish, tousled-haired boy looked at us quizzically. His gaze first settled on Ursula, then shifted to Claira, and finally stopped squarely on me, his face breaking into an amused grin.

“I’m surprised. The biggest surprise is that you, who despises humans, Doga, have brought one with you on your chariot. And of all people, Sora. I always thought that if you and Sora ever met, you’d try to kill each other. What on earth happened?”

Doga replied calmly, “Well, let’s just say a lot has happened. To be brief, these individuals have been granted permission by my elder brother to stay in Nakayama. They’re searching for someone, and they believe that the gatekeeper, whom you informed us about, might be that person.”

Kagari quickly understood, glancing briefly at Claira’s white hair. He then decisively nodded. “If that’s the case, there’s no point in being secretive. We’ll postpone the explanations, and I’ll take you to your companion straight away.”

With that, Kagari turned on his heel and began walking, gesturing for us to follow.

As we started following him, Kagari spoke up again, “I should warn you now. He’s in terrible shape, having had his right arm cut off and being exposed to the miasma of the demon realm. Brace yourselves.”

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