V2 Chapter 85: Kijin, The Strongest

With a resolute stance as unshakable as the castle walls, the gallant warrior’s valor seemed to clear the surrounding atmosphere.

The fierce look in his eyes, filled with vehement determination, conveyed his intent to crush the enemies that stood in his way, without uttering a word.

A feeling of pressure as though being pricked by countless needles. Just facing him made sweat trickle down my forehead, strength gathering in the hand that gripped the hilt of my Soul Equipment.

The royal brother called Dogā, from the Nakayama region, was an impressive man who exuded overwhelming dignity. The term “War God” naturally came to mind.

The royal brother named Kagari, whom I had met before, was also a formidable fighter, but I could feel a power from Dogā that was greater than that boy’s.

Before I knew it, I was clenching my back teeth tightly. An unconscious action to resist being intimidated, but the fact that I was trying not to be intimidated meant that I was, to some extent, already intimidated.

In reality, I did feel that this opponent was strong. More precisely, I felt afraid.

I didn’t think I was inferior in terms of ability. In simple terms of Kei, I was superior. I had drawn my Soul Equipment, while he had not, so it was only natural. Even if he drew his Soul Equipment, I was confident that I could match him or better.

However, the reason I found this opponent frightening was in Dogā’s Kei, which was too quiet.

If my Kei was a raging flood, Dogā’s was a great river flowing leisurely through mountains and fields.

Sharpened, refined, and polished to the extreme, it continued to circulate through Dogā’s body quietly, without raging or agitating. I felt a chilling force in his Kei, which was like a gentle stream.

I had an unpleasantly familiar sensation. The image that came to mind was that of my father, the Sword Saint.

Now, the enemy standing before me was stronger than any I had fought in the past. I would not say he was on par with the Sword Saint, but he was likely a wielder of a power approaching that level.

At that moment of realization, I unconsciously raised the corners of my mouth.

Since mastering Soul Equipment, I had fought and defeated many enemies, whether human or mythical creatures. And those victories were due to the power of Anima, the Soul Eater.

Expressed differently, it was the Soul Eater that won, not me.

Not that I felt inferior because of it. Controlling Anima is part of one’s abilities, and I would continue to wield my Soul Equipment to defeat enemies without hesitation.

However, I had concerns.

If I continued to rely on the Soul Eater’s power in this way, my growth would eventually stagnate in the not-so-distant future.

In reality, consuming the souls of anything other than mythical creatures no longer contributes much to leveling up. The necessary amount of souls is too vast; no matter how many are consumed, it’s never enough. Although there’s a saying that little things add up to a big thing, I intend to continue consuming souls, but I shouldn’t expect the growth rate to be as it has been before.

What should be sought next, then, is strength beyond levels.

One reason for repeatedly practicing against Claira, whom I had taken hostage, and refining my techniques, was this. Since Claira left, I’ve also sought equal sparring partners and helped Wisteria.

Yet my concern does not clear.

Wisteria, who has yet to master soul equipment, and Claira, a soldier of Green Woods, were both too weak to be my full-power opponents.

For that reason, I adjusted by sealing soul equipment and Kei techniques during practice – but to be frank, I always felt something was lacking.

The power of the Anima, a coexisting existence, is equal or greater to the Soul Eater. The martial prowess exceeds mine. These were the opponents I desired more than anything. By clashing with such opponents, I hoped to hone a skill that didn’t rely on levels.

— That opponent is right in front of me.

I can’t help but feel a smile pulling at the corners of my mouth. I even think that just meeting this opponent justifies coming to the demon realm. Something I could never say to Claira, who is worried about Klimt.

Noticing my expression, Douga narrows his eyes in suspicion at me. Perhaps he thinks I’m a rude person who doesn’t respond to the battle cry.

I realize too late that I’ve been ignoring my opponent’s question.

I don’t mind being hated as an enemy, but being scorned as a rude person is not good. Inwardly panicking, I open my mouth.

“My name is Sora. Is this the fellow’s bracelet you’re talking about?”

I lightly touch the reed bracelet I got from Suzume, and Douga nods gracefully.

“Indeed. It is a traditional item passed down by the Kijin tribe. A prayer bracelet, given to wish happiness to the recipient.”

Douga says this, then stares intently at my face.

“The black-haired warrior who wielded sword techniques against the gatekeepers, wearing a fellow’s bracelet, named Sora. I heard about you from Kagari — I see why he was so concerned about you. You’re as fierce as a storm and as ominous as a heavenly demon. What kind of Anima do you harbor that you can emit such ferocious energy with a human body?”

His words were laced with strong caution towards me. Just as I felt fear towards Douga, it seems Douga may also be fearing me.

Douga and I, our gazes collide in mid-air, scattering invisible sparks.

My intentions were clear when I approached the battlefield with soul equipment. Moreover, Douga should know from Kagari’s report that I had slain the Ouken and the demon god.

I am nothing but an enemy to Nakayama. I thought Doga would attack me as soon as he realized this, but the king’s brother of Nakayama did not move at this point.

The reason for that, Doga explained in his own words.

“Sora, under normal circumstances, once you approached our forces with a blade, there would be no option for us but to fight. However, out of respect for the courtesy you showed the Kijin and my wish for your safety, I will listen to you just once. What is your purpose? At first, I thought you were a spearhead of the gatekeepers, but there’s no movement at the fort now. I see that you have a different purpose than the gatekeepers.”

“Indeed, I’m acting on my own. My goal is to capture the Kijin commander who attacked the gate.”


With wide eyes, Doga stared at me.

“That means you want to capture me, but that won’t be the end of it. What will you do after that?”

“I will use the prisoner as a foothold to meet the Kijin king called Azuma and ask him if someone I know is not there.”

“So searching for someone is your purpose. Saying that an ordinary person crossed the gate and came to the demon world is unlikely. I presume that a gatekeeper with some sort of mission sneaked into Nakayama and lost contact, so you came looking.”

Contrary to his appearance as a powerful warrior, Doga was quite clever. It wasn’t a problem that he saw through me, and anyone could think of it if they pondered a bit, but arriving at the truth with almost no time after hearing my story isn’t something anyone could do.

I continued without affirming or denying his speculation.

“That’s my purpose. Do you know such a person?”

“I don’t know. Even if I did, I wouldn’t tell you.”

Doga replied flatly.

His tone began to mix with something that hadn’t been there before.

“I don’t know what that person’s mission was. But the gatekeepers’ aim can’t possibly benefit Nakayama. We’ll only kill the rat thieves that harm our country on sight. The same goes for those who help and try to let the rat thieves escape.”

Immediately after, a loud thud resonated as Doga took a massive step forward.

The fighting spirit hit my face like a gust of wind. I sensed Claira and Ursula readying their swords behind me.

I quickly swung my left hand, signaling to the two of them not to interfere. I wanted to fight this opponent one-on-one, but at the same time, I felt that letting the two of them take on this royal brother would be unwise.

Unperturbed by my movement, Doga, filled with a conquering spirit, announced the beginning of the battle.

“I will hold nothing back against you. I’ll use my full power—Soul Equipment Activation!”

With a roar-like cry, Dōga’s Kei explosively expands.

A suffocating sense of oppression. My trembling body doesn’t know if it’s out of fear before a formidable enemy or out of joy, and I don’t really understand myself.

Not understanding, I grip the hilt of my Soul Equipment more and more tightly. Into my ears booms Dōga’s voice, calling the name of his Anima.

“—Trample over both good and evil, Kyūki”.

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