V2 Chapter 127: The Secret Sword

“Tremor Style – Thunderclap.”

I knew of this formidable technique the Pope had just uttered. It was a secret of the Phantom Blade Style I had seen when I fought Gozu Seema in Titis Forest.

Why the Pope used the same technique as Gozu, I couldn’t say. But two things were clear: First, the composition of the Pope’s technique was identical to Gozu’s—no, it was exactly the same. Second, the power of her technique was orders of magnitude greater than Gozu’s.

Thanks to hastily raising my Soul Equipment, some of the force was absorbed by the Soul Eater, but the pressure from the unleashed attack was still tremendous.

An impact like being struck by actual lightning shot through my head, and I was violently smashed into the ground.

“Guh… gah…!”

A mix of agony, screams, and shock spilled from my mouth.

The impact was dizzying. It felt as if my skull was crushed, my joints shattered, and every bone in my body broken. Of course, I probably hadn’t actually sustained such severe injuries. Even with the regenerative ability of the Soul Eater, I wouldn’t be alive if I had suffered that much damage. The pain coursing through my body was proof of my survival.

But to the one experiencing it, it felt as though my entire body had been shattered.

Well, I had experienced similar pain during my three-day and three-night death battle with Dooga, so in a way, I was accustomed to it. But familiarity didn’t lessen the pain. Painful things remained painful.

While contemplating this, I looked up into the sky.

Above, the Pope hovered with her four black wings fluttering, staring down at me intently. Her slender eyes, alight with a fierce will to fight, raised her scythe high.

Seeing her assume a stance different yet reminiscent of Thunderclap, an alarm rang in my mind.

As I tried to rise, ignoring the pain, the Pope’s voice seemed to sound clearly next to my ear, even though she was far above.

“Phantom Burial Blade Style, Separation Style – Wrathful Flames.”

The technique unleashed by the Pope transformed into swirling flames, rushing towards me. The intense blue flames, indicating their extreme heat, left no room for evasion.

The blue fire engulfed me in an instant, then with a thunderous explosion, it burst mightily. The expanding blast rolled upwards, fiercely scorching the sky of the demon realm.

The searing heat generated by the technique turned into invisible flames, scorching the surroundings. The air became so hot that breathing felt like burning my lungs. The intense heat partially melted the ground’s gravel, and the burnt stench assaulted my nostrils.

If I were a mere mortal, the Pope’s technique would have incinerated me completely, leaving not a drop of blood or a fragment of bone. In the blink of an eye, her technique had transformed the surroundings into a blazing inferno.

With just three attacks, the Pope had created a tornado, summoned lightning, and produced scorched earth.

Yet, the Pope still did not cease her assault.

“Dry, Lake, Separation, Tremor, Wind, Water Pit, Mountain, Earth. These are the eight forms that represent the principles of heaven, earth, and nature. They are the Eight Trigrams.”

Her words flowed smoothly, like a prayer offered to the gods or a chant for casting magic, vibrating in my ears.

“Dry and Lake combine to form the Sun, Separation and Tremor become the Lesser Yin, Wind and Water Pit form the Lesser Yang, and Mountain and Earth become the Greater Yin. These are the four images that represent the principles of heaven, earth, and nature. They are the Four Symbols.”

Flapping her wings vigorously, the Pope ascended rapidly to a certain height, then suddenly flipped and dived down precipitously.

Plowing through the fierce heat and blue flames she had created, she descended straight toward me, her form reminiscent of a meteor piercing the earth.

“Phantom Burial Blade Style, Lesser Yin Form – The White Blade.”

The scythe in the Pope’s hand gleamed brilliantly, transforming into a dazzling silver flash as it descended.

In the next moment, the slash unleashed tremendous power, shaking the very axis of the earth and sending the land of the demon realm into a tumultuous quake.

After a moment…

“How did you find my secret sword, perfected after mastering the Three Forms and One Image?” the Pope asked, smiling as if the recent unleashing of her divine strike was nothing significant.

Gasping for breath, I couldn’t immediately respond. My arms, numbed from receiving her strike, wouldn’t move, and I could barely feel the Soul Equipment in my hands. In fact, I had almost lost sensation in the rest of my body too.

Honestly, I was in a precarious situation. A follow-up attack now would be devastating. However, for some reason, the Pope didn’t pursue the attack.

Interpreting her willingness to talk as an opportunity to recover, I managed to respond dryly to her question.

“It was incredibly painful.”

“To think that my swordsmanship, honed at the risk of my life, is simply described as painful. The founders of the Mitsurugi family who instructed me might scold me for that.”

The Pope shrugged playfully, then continued in a light tone, expanding on the words she had spoken earlier.

“The Sun and Lesser Yin combine to form Yang, and the Lesser Yang and Greater Yin combine to form Yin. These represent the two rituals of the natural principles of heaven and earth, known as the Liangyi. And when Yang and Yin combine, they form the Taiji, representing the natural principle of heaven and earth. In total, mastery of the fifteen forms, four images, two rituals, and one pole is considered the complete transmission of the Phantom Burial Blade Style.”

“Fifteen forms… The Three Forms and One Image you mentioned earlier, does that mean mastery of four of those forms?”

“Yes. That was the limit for someone like me, who is not primarily a swordsman.”

At that moment, the ground trembled. The dragon towering behind the Pope shook its body in displeasure.

Simultaneously, the dragon’s hateful gaze swept over the ground. Although currently sealed, a mere glance from this creature, once poised to destroy the world, became an invisible hammer striking down upon me – not only me but the Pope as well.

It seemed that the dragon was displeased with the Pope merely talking while I was still alive.

But the Pope ignored the dragon’s intimidating gaze as if it were a gentle breeze and continued speaking to me.

“Only three people have ever mastered the Phantom Burial Blade Style. Among the warriors of the Phantom Funeral, there were many exceptional swordsmen, but even they could not reach the complete transmission. The blade to slay the dragon was too lofty for humans. The Phantom Blade Style transmitted by the Mitsurugi family today was developed to somewhat smooth the arduous path to complete transmission.”

“Smooth the arduous path? So, both styles…”

“Yes. The requirement of mastering fifteen forms for complete transmission is the same in both styles.”

The Pope’s words provided an answer to my earlier question—why both Gozu and the Pope could use the same powerful techniques.

The three who had mastered the Phantom Burial Blade Style were likely Mitsurugi Jin, Mitsurugi Kazuma, and the Kijin Atori.

And if, as the Pope said, Kazuma Mitsurugi founded the Phantom Blade Style to produce more grandmasters of the Phantom Burial Blade Style, it explains why both schools share the same ultimate techniques.

However, this raised a question: why did Kazuma Mitsurugi feel the need to change the name of the style? Perhaps he felt his swordsmanship was merely imitating his brother’s.

It’s possible that within the Mitsurugi family, only those who have mastered the Phantom Blade Style are allowed to claim mastery of the Phantom Burial Blade Style.

As I pondered this, the Pope continued.

“The key to reaching full mastery lies in the harmony between the sword and Kei. No matter how precisely you wield the sword, without the necessary Kei, you cannot execute the forms. And vice versa: even with sufficient Kei, without the skill of a swordsman, you cannot perform them. If you seek greater strength, you must focus on this harmony. Especially for you, your reliance on Kei is too great. One who is dragged along by their Anima, can never reach the pinnacle.”

I remained silent in response to the Pope’s advice.

It wasn’t that I doubted her words. In fact, many parts resonated with me.

That’s precisely why I felt “something’s wrong.” Up until now, I had been playing along with her to gain time for recovery, but receiving a lesson in secret techniques from her was suspicious. The Pope’s actions weren’t just giving an enemy a helping hand; they were something else entirely.

Cautiously observing her, I spoke up.

“It’s kind of you to offer advice, but is this really okay? The dragon behind you seems quite angry.”

“These are just parting words from a senior disciple to a junior. The dragon will overlook this much. Besides, its eyes have long been clouded, so there’s no problem.”

“What do you mean by that?”

Suddenly, the Pope’s words took on a slippery tone, or so it seemed to me.

Feeling a chill down my spine, I asked with furrowed brows. The Pope replied in the same unaltered tone.

“A phrase has been echoing in my head since earlier. ‘Kill, kill, kill the abominable dragon,’ the words of the dragon. And this is a testament to the dragon’s blindness.”

Hearing this did not dispel my doubts. In fact, it deepened them.

It’s natural for the Pope, who had invoked Call of Divinity, God, to hear the dragon’s words. And the “abominable dragon” the dragon referred to was undoubtedly the Soul Eater.

The Soul Eater, having slain a dragon during the era of the Golden Empire Imperium a thousand years ago, and likely having resided within Mitsurugi Jin three hundred years ago to contribute to the sealing, is indeed the sworn enemy of the dragon. Thus, it’s natural for the dragon to perceive the Soul Eater as a threat and for the Pope to be commanded to eliminate it.

Noticing my doubt, or perhaps not, the Pope calmly continued.

“Despite your presence, it sees only the dragon. That alone makes it clear that the dragon is blinded, Mitsurugi Sora.”

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