Chapter 14: The Two Best

In the west of Shuuto, a fierce battle was taking place between the monsters that rushed towards the collapsed city wall and the Green Woods warriors who met them.

The power of the monsters of Demon Island, enhanced by the magic that leaked from the demon gate, was incomparable to the species that inhabited the continent. The monsters came in a huge swarm like clouds and mist, and if they collided head-on, even the regular army of Adoastera would be swept away.

The one who took this onslaught head-on was the Eighth Banner, which had the most recruits among the Green Woods Eight Banners.

The banner general of the Eighth Banner, who led a large number of recruits, was a cautious person. Normally, he would have chosen a tactic of reducing the number of monsters by firing magic and kei techniques from the top of the city wall, and then pushing forward the soul equipment users to scatter the enemy in close combat. By leaving the missed shots to the recruits, he could minimize the damage.

But now that the city wall had been badly damaged, there was a high risk of allowing the monsters to infiltrate the city. In Shuuto, which was protected by the Green Woods Eight Banners, it was unacceptable for even one in ten thousand people to be harmed by monsters.

Therefore, the Eighth Banner laid a defensive line outside the city wall, without relying on it, and faced the horde of monsters.

Of course, they placed the top banner warriors, who were soul equipment users, in the front line, and reduced the burden on the recruits as much as possible, but the enemy was a large crowd. Moreover, they came out from above the sky and below the ground. It didn’t take long for the inexperienced recruits to be swallowed up by the fierce battle.

“Soul equipment activation – hang and kill, Hanging Woman”

There was a sound of a neck bone breaking.

One of the banner warriors wearing a blue haori of the Green Woods Eight Banners fell to the ground, spitting blood from his mouth. He was a young banner warrior who was probably not yet twenty years old.

The one who trampled on his back with muddy shoes was a thin kijin with horns on his forehead. His name was Kifu. He was a warrior who was listed among the Ganzan Sixteen Spears along with Isagi.

In his hand was a black string that had just crushed the neck bone of a banner warrior, and it was shining like it was wet.

“This makes ten. This is the result of just a quarter of an hour, hehehe, lukewarm, lukewarm. At this rate, most of the banner warriors on this side have not mastered soul equipment. I can hang them as much as I want.”

He said that and snickered in a low voice, and started to move as if to hide in the shadows of the monsters that were jumping around.

It’s not that the monsters judged Kifu as an ally. They just couldn’t perceive him.

Hanging Woman, also known as Hanging Demon. Using the nature of an evil demon that induces others’ thoughts and drives them to suicide, Kifu placed himself outside the perception of the monsters.

The Hanging Demon not only incites suicide, but sometimes strangles the target with its own hands. The black string in Kifu’s hand was a soul equipment for assassination – a hidden weapon.

Kifu swam through the sea of monsters, sneaking up behind the fighting banner warriors and strangling them one after another.

His way of fighting was not that of a warrior, but of an assassin, and it was a despised tactic among the kijin, who valued a fair and square fight. He was looked down upon by not only the enemy, but also his allies, and no matter how much martial prowess he achieved, he was not praised or recognized. On the contrary, he was often criticized for his cowardly way of fighting, which tarnished the pride of the kijin and demeaned the soul equipment, which was the blessing of the demon gods.

The only person who recognized Kifu was Gien, the king of Ganzan.

“Our kijin’s anima are all connected to the demon gods. And isn’t Chiyou the god of warriors who developed all kinds of weapons? In other words, your soul equipment also shows one aspect of the demon gods. What do you have to be ashamed of? Walk with your chest out!”

In the past, Gien stopped Kifu, who was walking with his back bent in the palace of Ganzan, and after half-forcing him to listen to his troubles, he said that and slapped his subordinate’s back.

“Soldiers are cunning. Let those who complain about cowardice and treachery say what they want! They are just jealous of your martial prowess. However, it is my fault that I let such twisted people run rampant. I owe you an apology. I must put a stop to this trend of disgruntled people trying to make up for their lack of martial skills with their mouths.”

Gien said that and did as he said, immediately promoting Kifu to one of the Sixteen Spears, and instructed the whole army that the right way was not a tool to belittle others.

It was a precious memory that Kifu could never forget in his life. He fought, fought, and fought to make Gien, who owed him a debt, the ruler of the five mountains – but in the end, he failed.

When he learned that the future he had hoped for had disappeared forever with his lord’s death, Kifu immediately thought of following him in death. He changed his mind only to take Kagari, who had killed his lord, with him.

But when he heard from Isagi, his fellow Sixteen Spears, about Gien’s last moments, he changed his mind again. Gien had entrusted his successor to Kagari and the others of Nakayama. He would not be pleased if Kifu took Kagari with him on his way to death. It was Isagi who stopped Kifu, who was about to follow him in death this time.

If I’m going to die anyway, why don’t I take revenge on the traitors first – he took up the invitation and came to Demon Island. He didn’t hope for survival at all. He didn’t care that they were treated as disposable pawns. He killed as many banner warriors as he could, and made them offerings for Gien in the underworld. That was all Kifu wanted.

“But I didn’t expect the humans to be so fragile. At this rate, I might kill them all before my life runs out.”

He snickered in a low voice and looked around the enemy camp. Kifu could manipulate not only the monsters’ thoughts, but also the humans’. Rather, humans were much easier to deal with than monsters whose intelligence was uncertain.

So Kifu sneaked up to the Eighth Banner’s camp while blending in with the monsters.

It goes without saying that killing the enemy general directly by hanging him would contribute more to the situation than crushing each of the foot soldiers one by one. Kifu looked around for his next target.

His gaze swept over the enemy camp on the ground, and then casually turned to the top of the broken city wall, at that moment.

――Our eyes met.

He stood on the high wall, looking down arrogantly at the people and monsters fighting below, and our eyes met.

A face that was white and beautiful like a doll. Long black hair like a woman. His appearance, which could be described as weak if only by appearance, made me bristle for some reason.

His gaze, which accurately captured Kifu moving hidden by the monsters, was sharp like a needle, and the pressure he exerted was like having an elephant on his shoulders. Even though the distance between us was supposed to be far apart, he felt like he had a blade pressed against his throat, and Kifu shuddered.

This is bad, Kifu sensed. He threw away his composure until a moment ago and ran.

That’s bad. That man is bad. He sensed that.

He didn’t hope for survival. He wasn’t afraid of death in battle. He would rather die at the hands of a strong enemy.

But he hated being trampled on. He didn’t want to be crushed like a bug. If he fought him, he would be killed along with the monsters. He was that kind of existence.

Kifu’s intuition was right. Kifu’s reaction was quick.

But they had no effect on the outcome. Even if Kifu had noticed the man’s presence sooner and acted sooner, the result would not have changed.

The moment the man came out to the battlefield, all factors lost their meaning, and only the result of slaughter was determined.

The man – Dialt Berch was that kind of force.

“Soul equipment activation – spin, coarse silk”

The tip of the pure white sword that manifested in Dialt’s hand unraveled. It unraveled into a thin, long thread. As if the soul equipment itself was a piece of fabric.

The ultra-fine thread, which was beautiful like silk and tough like spider web, spread in the air and branched out countless times, covering the sky of the battlefield.

It took a blink of an eye or two for the thread to cover the entire battlefield.

Without a word, Dialt spread his palm wide and lightly clenched his fist.

――With that alone, the battlefield exploded.

Dialt’s vision captured every monster being bisected vertically. They were divided into upper and lower halves. Diagonally cut.

In the blink of an eye, bodies that were split into eight pieces were further cut into small segments. They were sheared, severed, and sliced. The steel-like hard scales and thick muscles could not hinder Dialt’s thread. Flesh, blood, skin, and bones were all cut without discrimination. They were carved up. What was once part of the body turned into mere chunks of flesh.

Even those chunks of flesh were torn into multiple layers, rapidly reducing their volume. A fist-sized lump became the size of a fingertip in the next moment. It was beyond the level of being split into eight pieces. Dialt relentlessly and almost neurotically cut the monsters to pieces.

Was it to atone for the sins committed against Shuuto, or to punish the insolence of those who bared their fangs at the Mitsurugi family?

Regardless, Dialt showed no mercy to the enemies below him.

Of course, this applied to the Kijin, the root cause of it all, as well.

“Guh… Impossible!”

Kifu tried to escape from Dialt using countless monsters as a shield. However, now that all the monsters meant to be his shield had been completely killed, there was no way to escape Dialt’s gaze.

Noticing the nearly invisible thin thread trying to coil around his neck, Kifu quickly protected it with his own Soul Equipment, a black cord. The Soul Equipment, which materializes the strength of a woman’s hair, could even break the Soul Equipment of his peers among the Sixteen Spears. “Unparalleled in resilience,” were the words of the late King Gien.

So, no matter how sharp the enemy’s Soul Equipment was, Kifu believed he could defend against it.

With that belief, his neck was severed, along with his Soul Equipment.

Kifu’s face, sent flying into the air, split vertically, horizontally, and diagonally, being torn to pieces in the blink of an eye. Similarly, the body that had lost its head was crushed to dust and scattered on the ground.

Amidst all this, the only thing that remained was the horn of the Kijin. Dialt used a thread to pull Kifu’s horn towards him and stared at it intently. And then…


He crushed it nonchalantly in his hand. Tossing the shattered pieces of the horn down below the castle wall, he took out a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his hand repeatedly, as if wiping off something dirty.

On this day, the massive swarm of monsters that had pressed against the western castle wall was reduced to less than a tenth by the commander of the First Banner, and the remaining monsters were annihilated by the Eighth Banner.

The number of monsters that breached the riddled castle wall and infiltrated Shuuto, the capital city, was zero.

Although there were some casualties among the personnel of the Eight Banners, it could be said that their objective of protecting Shuuto was perfectly accomplished.

It wasn’t just the west. At the same time, equally impressive results were achieved in the north and the east as well.


“Soul equipment activation――Come forth, Shadow Queen”

Shukuya Kumon, the vice-commander of the First Banner of the Green Woods, wielded a spear as his soul equipment. The blade, handle, and metal butt were all dyed in an ink-like black color.

The spear’s high performance as a weapon goes without saying, and when combined with Shukuya’s excellent spear techniques, even Warrior-class Banner commanders cannot approach him.

Furthermore, when the drawn Shadow Queen pierces an opponent’s shadow, the point of contact becomes a wound on the opponent. If the shadow’s chest is pierced, the real heart is pierced as well.

An opponent fighting Shukuya must not only be cautious of their own body but also be mindful of their shadow, putting them at a disadvantage.

In addition, the attacks of the Shadow Queen are laced with a deadly poison that rapidly dissolves the wound, hindering healing. Of course, the power of the poison that seeps into the body is also immense; if an arm is pierced, the arm must be amputated immediately, and if a leg is pierced, the leg must be amputated. Otherwise, there’s little to no chance of survival.

Due to this dangerous ability, Shukuya rarely used his soul equipment. As a result, there were no few warriors who speculated that Shukuya’s strength might surpass Dialt’s in a one-on-one full-power battle.

This theory both highly praised Shukuya’s abilities and underestimated them at the same time.

By adding the condition “if it’s one-on-one,” it implies that Shukuya’s power is most effective in one-on-one situations and does not match Dialt’s ability when facing an army.

Dialt, who specialized in battling armies, and Shukuya, who specialized in one-on-one combat – those who viewed their relationship as a pair of equal forces had the opportunity to rethink their understanding during this attack.

This is because the horde of monsters that rushed to the northern wall was almost entirely wiped out by Shukuya Kumon alone.

“Every once in a while, I have to let her run wild, or the Shadow Queen will whisper complaints to me every night.”

With a nonchalant expression, Shukuya, who had pierced the hearts of countless monsters with a single throw, said as much.

At his feet, a Kijin with horns sprouting from his forehead was lying dead, his face filled with astonishment.

“The other day, our lord said there were signs of chaos in the Demon Gate. It’s clear that this attack was orchestrated by the Kijin, but they couldn’t have thought that Shuuto would fall to this extent. There’s no trace of a Kei user who broke the city walls. Now, where is the Kijin’s aim? I’m also curious about how they managed to sneak through the Demon Gate.”

Shukuya voiced one question after another, but he had no intention of solving them himself.

To be precise, he was willing to, but his lord had stopped him.

“You should only focus on the monsters outside. Do not concern yourselves with what happens within.”

The instructions given by their lord before the battle were orders for Dialt, Shukuya, and Gozu. They were strictly commanded not to interfere with whatever happened inside Shuuto.

Given that, Shukuya could only dutifully follow his lord’s instructions.

Dialt, who had slaughtered monsters in the west, and Gozu, who had scattered a large horde of monsters in the east, were thinking the same thing as Shukuya.

It was then that a loud roar shook their ears. The roar that thundered from within Shuuto was like a dragon’s roar, stirring the hearts of those who heard it intensely.

Unintentionally, the gazes of all three simultaneously turned towards Shuuto.

A swelling demonic aura rose high into the sky, forming a sharp spire that pierced the heavens. The ground shook with a sound, as if it could not withstand the immense pressure.

The three of them were familiar with this overwhelming pressure, as if the world itself was trembling.

It wasn’t just the three of them. All the high-ranking warriors with combat experience within the Demon Gate knew this presence. And they were certain.

At this very moment, a Mythical Creature had descended upon Shuuto.

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