Chapter 2: Encounter

Shuuto was somewhat similar to Ishka.

That thought crossed my mind as I walked along the road leading to the Mitsurugi mansion.

Both Shuuto and Ishka were fortress cities surrounded by walls, so it was natural for them to share a similar city atmosphere, but that wasn’t the only similarity.

Despite the fact that there were ferocious monsters roaming outside the walls, there was no trace of fear on the faces of the people walking on the streets. Everyone walked firmly. That scene was what was similar.

The people’s absolute trust in the soldiers who protected the city, and their pride in being the ones who supported those soldiers. Those two things gave the people of Shuuto calmness and peace.

The founder of Adoastera once said, “The way is to make the people have the same mind as the ruler.” Roughly translated, it means “The unity of the ruler and the ruled is important.” In that sense, the unity within Shuuto was among the strongest on the continent.

Ishka’s unity was greatly damaged by the mythical creature Hydra and the monster Stampede, but Shuuto’s unity appeared even stronger than it was five years ago. The scenes that looked normal five years ago were quite interesting to me now.

“The rule of Mitsurugi is unshakable, huh. That’s impressive.”

I smiled sarcastically. I’m sure that my exile as the heir was nothing but a trivial matter for the Mitsurugi family and the people of Shuuto.

Gozu or Cecil would have said something back if they were next to me, but they were walking away from me, so my sarcasm dissolved in the air without reaching anyone’s ears.

I kept them at a distance because Gozu, conspicuously wearing the Green Woods Eight Flags coat, and Cecil, in her fine kimono, would draw unnecessary attention if they were close to me.

Gozu, the head of the Sima family and third in rank of the First Flag, along with Cecil, the lord’s concubine.. These siblings of the Sima family were naturally famous in Shuuto. I didn’t want to be questioned about who I was, the bad-looking young man walking with them.

I walked slowly, taking in the streets lined with Eastern-style houses. It was my hometown where I spent thirteen years since I was born. I couldn’t say that I barely remembered it like when I was on the Imperial Road.

I felt the remnants of memories here and there in my sight. I remembered that there was a sweet shop around that corner, and I used to go there often with Cecil and Ayaka.

Maybe I should stop by for a dumpling once I’ve finished all my business. Maybe then, some nostalgia would fill this heart that was dry like the Catalan desert.

――As I was thinking that, a figure appeared from behind the corner I was looking at.

A boy with gray messy hair and copper-colored skin. He had wrapped several layers of cloth around his head like a turban. He seemed to have just stopped by the sweet shop I was thinking of, as he had ten skewers of dumplings in his hands.

That was too much, I thought, but the boy ate the dumplings boldly and quickly swallowed them. By the time he passed me, the ten dumplings were gone and only the skewers were left.

The boy’s action of licking the bean paste and black syrup from his fingers was bad manners, but strangely, I didn’t get a vulgar impression. I felt his wildness and vitality that suited his age, and I smiled naturally.

He was probably one or two years younger than me. Judging by the scars on his face and arms, he was most likely one of the Green Woods warriors. And a pretty good one at that.

――That meant, he might be someone I would have to fight.

I narrowed my eyes and stared at the boy. The same eye of observation that I used on Gozu and Cecil, to measure the opponent’s strength.

Then, suddenly, the boy’s eyes turned sharply to me. His gaze, which had been curiously looking around, fixed on me. It was a piercing gaze, if there ever was one. I felt a gust of wind blowing with his fighting spirit, as if it was an illusion.

“If you’re looking for a fight, I’ll take you on.”

The boy said that with a hint of enjoyment. There was no anger in his eyes, only pure desire to fight a strong opponent.

To such a boy, I obediently admitted my fault and bowed my head.

“No, I didn’t mean to. I apologize for my rudeness.”

My sincere apology seemed to surprise him, as he made a disappointed face.

“What a shame, I thought you were a decent opponent. Well, if you’re not interested, I can’t help it. Just don’t go around looking at people like that.”

“I’ll take your advice to heart. I’m sorry.”

“I’ve already accepted your apology. I don’t need two. See you later–huh!?”

As he waved his hand and tried to pass by me, a strange voice escaped from his mouth. He frowned and stared at me–or rather, at the bracelet on my left wrist.

“Hey, you. Where did you get that bracelet?”

“This? It was a gift from a friend when I left on my journey.”

“A friend, huh. By the way, did your friend say anything about the benefits of that bracelet?”

“I think she said it was for praying for good health and safety.”

As I tilted my head, wondering what he was getting at, the boy crossed his arms and looked at me intently, like a scholar tackling a difficult problem. His gaze was sharper and deeper than before, as if he had a much higher insight than me.

“What’s your name? I’m Kagari.”

“I’m Sora.”

“I see. Then Sora, cherish that friend of yours. And since you said it was a gift when you left on your journey, you’re not from this island, are you?”

“Then you’d better get out of this island as soon as possible. Unless you want to get involved in trouble.”

Saying that, the boy–Kagari quickly turned on his heels and walked away briskly. Southward, towards the port where I came from.

I watched his back for a while, but soon I also turned around and started walking. Northward, towards the place I once called home.


I arrived at the Mitsurugi residence without being stopped at the gate, and was led to one of the guest rooms by the Sima siblings. They told me that they would inform the head of the house of my arrival, and then I would have an audience with him in the grand hall. They asked me to wait in this room until then.

I didn’t care much about the arrangements, but I was displeased that they refused to let me visit my mother’s grave first.

According to Gozu, the audience would take place soon—in other words, he didn’t want to keep my father waiting, so he suggested I pay my respects to Shizuya-sama after the reunion.

It seemed that the former steward still believed that once I faced my father, I would let go of the past grudges and fight under the Mitsurugi banner again. Or maybe he simply wished for it to be so. Either way, it was extremely annoying.

I was tempted to ignore any restraint and quickly go to my mother’s grave, talk to her for the past five years, eat some dumplings and then leave the island. However, that would only accomplish one of the purposes I came to Demon Island for.

This time, I had three objectives for coming to Demon Island. The first was to visit my mother’s grave, the second was to dispel the hostility of the Mitsurugi family towards Suzume the Kijin, and the third was what I did to Gozu, Cecil and that boy named Kagari after arriving on the island.

In other words, it was to observe.

Five years ago, for me, all the people around me were like invisible peaks that I could not reach. They were too high to distinguish, and everyone looked the same. My classmates, the ordinary warriors, the higher-ranked warriors, the Twin Peaks and even the Sword Saint looked the same.

I knew they were stronger than me. But I couldn’t measure how strong they were exactly. That’s why I felt no difference between fearing my father and fearing Ragna. They were both absolute strongmen to me.

I had already grasped my approximate strength by fighting Gozu, Klimt, Claira and others in Canaria Kingdom before. I was undoubtedly one of the strongest on Demon Island, having defeated Gozu of the First Banner Third Rank, who had activated his Void Armor.

But even with that fact, I couldn’t completely erase the fear that was engraved in my heart. No matter how strong I became, even if I had repelled Gozu and the others, there was still a voice that whispered to me that I couldn’t match the people of Demon Island.

That was surely the residue of my heart from five years ago.

The inferiority complex that had taken deep, deep roots in my heart. The bottomless resignation that I couldn’t become anything.

The curse that declared that the weak were unnecessary.

It covered my feelings of believing in myself.

This curse could only be exorcised by confronting it directly. That’s why I came here like this. To observe everything with my own eyes.

“――Sora-dono. The lord is calling for you. Please change your clothes and come to the great hall.”

I slowly got up in response to Gozu’s voice that came from outside the sliding door.

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