V2 Chapter 96: Meeting with Azuma

—What’s happening?

Without any warning, my vision is enveloped in darkness, and silence falls around me. Even the question I tried to voice is swallowed by the darkness before me.

I cast a wary glance around, but I can’t see anything. I can’t hear anything. I can’t even feel the touch of the Soul Eater in my hand.

This is an anomaly I’ve never encountered before. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever felt. This can’t be a natural occurrence. It’s either some sort of spell or a Kei technique; either way, it’s man-made. Thinking that, I tried to harness my Kei to counter the opponent’s technique.

However, I couldn’t do that either. With a furrowed brow—or at least attempting to, as I couldn’t even feel that sensation—I tentatively tried to discern the nature of this anomaly.

I wondered if this might be similar to the Void Armor technique Gozu used before. But if he had a technique like this, he would’ve used it much earlier. More importantly, if this were the work of Doga, whom I was just fighting, I wouldn’t have had the luxury of time to contemplate all of this. By now, he would’ve shattered me to pieces, and I should be dead.

Thus, I conclude that this isn’t Doga’s doing.

It’s possible I’m already dead, and this place is the afterlife. That would explain why I can’t see, hear, touch, or speak.

However, deep down, I was certain that wasn’t the case. While I lost all five senses, the feeling of being alive remained strong. If anything, with all other distractions stripped away, I felt more in tune with myself than ever.

—A pitch-black dragon floats in the void, growling in discontent.

Its frustration stems from the abrupt interruption of a promising battle. At the same time, it’s dissatisfied with itself for not being able to dominate an opponent, especially one that hadn’t even activated the Void Armor.

This isn’t good. This isn’t right.

I must fight more. I must consume more. Otherwise, I’ll never be able to set foot atop that snow-capped peak…!

A mixture of impatience and yearning dominates my thoughts, but they don’t belong to the Soul Eater, my Anima. They are mine, those of Mitsurugi Sora.

The moment I realize that, a fierce battle spirit surges from deep within me.

I can’t waste time here, whether this is a spell or a Kei technique. I shouldn’t just be taking hits.

A Sword Saint would undoubtedly cut through something like this effortlessly. In the first place, they probably wouldn’t even get caught in such a technique.

Compared to that, I’m so naive. The path to the peak is still far away.

However, this realization doesn’t dampen my newfound determination. On the contrary, it fuels my battle spirit even more fiercely.

If someone incapable of overcoming a challenge like this on their own is to face a Sword Saint, what chance do they have? Driven by this realization, I was about to unleash my Kei at full strength when…


Suddenly, my vision blazed with light, and color returned to my surroundings. Before I knew it, I found myself in a barren wasteland where not a single blade of grass grew.

There were signs of explosions everywhere, as if something had torn the ground apart. It seemed to be an area inhabited by particularly dangerous magical beasts. As this realization blurred into my consciousness, my knees suddenly gave out.

I tried to brace myself in a hurry, but my legs wouldn’t respond. My hands wouldn’t move either. As a result, I ended up face-first on the ground, kissing the gravelly wasteland below.

Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, the pain and shock jolted my consciousness clear. I remembered fighting with Doga and tried to get up immediately.

However, I still couldn’t muster any strength in my body. Neither my hands, feet, nor even a single finger moved as I willed. I tried to cry out, but all that escaped my mouth was a small gasp and drool. It seemed the exhaustion from overexerting myself for so long had finally caught up with me.

Recognizing this, the backlash hit me. The pain was so intense that it felt like every muscle and organ in my body was being wrung out like a wet cloth. Had I been able to scream, I would have let out a loud one. The pain was that intense.

“…! …!”

I couldn’t scream to distract from the pain, nor could I move to disperse it.

Just when I was worrying that I couldn’t even defend myself against a single soldier, let alone Doga, I heard a voice calling my name with a resonant echo.

“Sora-sama! Are you alright!?”

There was the sound of footsteps rapidly kicking up dust, and Claira Berch appeared beside me, using a high-speed movement technique.

While I couldn’t respond to her query, a look at my face seemed to tell Claira the urgency of the situation. With a grave expression, she reached into her pocket and pulled out the Blood Spraying Sword’s healing potion I had given her for emergencies.

Taking a swig of the potion, Claira, without hesitation, bent down and pressed her lips to mine.

—A warmth, yet with a certain coolness, enveloped my lips. Shortly after, a lukewarm liquid filled my mouth.

I’d taken the healing potion several times before, but this one tasted strangely sweeter.

However, because I couldn’t move my mouth, I wasn’t able to swallow the potion properly. It began to spill out from the corners of my lips.

Sensing this, Claira pressed her lips more firmly against mine to prevent the potion from spilling out. With her right hand cradling my head and her left supporting my back, she lifted my upper body into a position that would make swallowing easier.

Holding me in that position, she slowly and gently poured the healing potion down my throat.

The potency of the Blood Spraying Sword’s healing potion is attributed to the dragon’s blood I had provided. While it isn’t particularly effective on me, the original properties of the potion certainly work.

Having made sure I consumed all of the potion, Claira pulled away. With my now slightly responsive mouth, I thanked her.

“Whew… Thank you. You saved me.”

Under normal circumstances, we would’ve addressed the intimacy of what just transpired, but now wasn’t the time.

With my still sluggish limbs, I tried my best to rise. Seeing this, Claira immediately assisted me, her face filled with concern.

“Are you alright?”

“Not exactly. But I can’t afford to lie here any longer.”

I turned my gaze to see Doga standing in the distance. Supporting him was a tall Kijin, a face unfamiliar to me.

The robust figure beneath the long coat, combined with his composed demeanor, gave an impression of an individual not to be trifled with.

It seems Doga, like me, was considerably exhausted, relying on this new Kijin for support. Judging by the fact he didn’t attack immediately, it wasn’t a mere act.

However, this newly appeared Kijin was undeniably unharmed, and I could also spot a few other Kijin who appeared to be warriors.

For now, Ursula was holding off the Kijin. Yet, if that Kijin in the long coat gave the command, I was certain they would all attack in unison. While Ursula and Claira might manage to escape, I doubted I could, especially in my current state. And asking Claira to carry me during combat was out of the question.

Perhaps we should retreat?

That was my thought, but moving recklessly might provoke them to attack. This fear made me hesitate.

Our current standoff was likely because the Kijin were wary of us. They might be anticipating reinforcements from the fortress.

Being unaware of my ties with the Mitsurugi family, such misunderstandings are plausible. Retreating now might only serve to reveal the fallacy of their assumptions.

“Sora, what do we do? If needed, I can stir them up on my own.”

Ursula, standing in front of Claira and me, casually made the offer. The fact that she didn’t suggest outright defeating them probably took into account the power disparity.

On the other hand, it meant that Ursula believed she could singlehandedly disrupt the enemy, buying enough time for Claira and me to retreat.

As I was about to respond, the Kijin made their move. The Kijin in the long coat stepped forward, unarmed.

Seeing him, Claira issued a sharp, concise warning.

“Lord Sora, be careful. That Kijin is the one responsible for the anomaly we just experienced.”

Caught up in the heat of battle with Doga, I hadn’t noticed. Reflecting on my oversight and becoming too engrossed in the fight, I slightly raised my right eyebrow.

From her words, it seemed Claira too had been affected by the same anomaly.

“Were you affected too? If so, why are we still alive… Ah, he can’t choose his targets, can he?”

If that Kijin had the ability to intentionally rob his opponents of their senses, we should have been killed by now. The fact that he didn’t indicates his technique indiscriminately affected everything around him.

In other words, the Kijin, too, must have been affected by the anomaly earlier. Most likely, the individual who initiated the technique wasn’t an exception either. If he had been immune, then we certainly should have been slain.

With this understanding, it seemed the sensory deprivation wasn’t an offensive tactic but rather a means to force a stalemate. The Kijin in the long coat likely wanted to halt the battle between Doga and me, seeking a fresh start.

But why would he want that? As curiosity and suspicion filled my gaze, the Kijin in the long coat slowly opened his mouth.

“My name is Azuma, the king of Nakayama. Lord Sora, I would like to speak with you.”

Liked it? Take a second to support WordyCrown on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!