V2 Chapter 97: To the Western Capital

“Would you like to talk for a moment?”

When asked by the Kijin who introduced himself as King Azuma of Nakayama, Sora made his decision to agree without much hesitation.

From the beginning, Sora’s aim was to talk to the king of the Kijin. For that purpose, he initially tried to capture the Kijin general, which led to the battle with Doga.

That fight was unexpectedly fun and he got a bit carried away. However, since he was able to draw out Azuma in the end, he considered it a good outcome. It was clear that Azuma wasn’t a mere decoy from the reactions of the surroundings and Doga. And also, the ability to deprive senses that was just demonstrated.

The problem was the fatigue from his battle with Doga. It was heavily lingering, and in his current state, a meaningful conversation seemed impossible. Depending on the conversation, it might also lead to another battle. Ideally, Sora wanted some time to recover.

Perhaps sensing Sora’s thoughts, although not directly, Azuma continued with a gentle tone.

“However, in this wilderness, it’s hard for us both to settle down and talk. Therefore, I would like to invite you to the capital of Nakayama.”


“Yes. The capital is called Western Capital. Of course, I guarantee your safety within the territory on my honor as the king of Nakayama. What do you say?”

Sora, listening to his words, contemplated deeply. Azuma’s proposal meant diving into the heart of enemy territory, which was undoubtedly risky.

However, he had already factored in such dangers from the beginning. There was no option to decline such an invitation out of fear now.

Underlying his judgment was the thought that even if they ambushed him, he didn’t mind. To Sora, more enemies meant more prey. He doubted all of Nakayama’s soldiers would be as resilient against soul-eaters as Doga. With that in mind, Sora intended to accept Azuma’s invitation.

He glanced at his two companions. Since Azuma addressed them with a term of respect, he assumed that Claira and Ursula were also included in the invitation.

For Claira, it’s a golden opportunity to find clues about Klimt, so she wouldn’t object. Ursula, who agreed to the initial hostage plan, probably wouldn’t mind a bit of danger either.

As Sora expected, neither Claira nor Ursula seemed opposed. After confirming, Sora turned back to Azuma.

“I accept. I’ll respond to your invitation.”

“I’m honored. We’ll prepare the carriage, so please wait here for a moment.”

With that, Azuma turned on his heel and returned to where the Doga were.

Doga, who had released his soul equipment and reverted to his Kijin form, spoke to his elder brother. Even though he was barely standing after his intense battle with Sora, his current concern was more about Azuma’s actions than his own fatigue.

“Brother, do you truly intend to bring that person to Western Capital?”

Frowning with a hint of disagreement in his eyes, Doga posed the question. In response, Azuma, with a seemingly amused expression, answered.

“Yes. I’ve wanted to speak with him from the beginning. Meeting him here might be some kind of fate.”

“Brother, he is of the same ilk as the gatekeepers. While he may differ slightly, it’s uncertain when he might turn into an assassin. If you intend to so casually welcome him into your midst, as your servant, I cannot help but oppose.”

“He certainly is a dangerous young man. After all, he fought against you, Nakayama’s strongest, for three days and nights. In the vast world of Kijin, perhaps only Kagari can do the same.”

Expressing his admiration for Sora, Azuma grinned at Doga.

“That’s exactly why I want to have an honest conversation with him. And you also understand that he’s not an assassin, right? If he were, he’d prioritize concealing his identity. He wouldn’t have engaged in a conspicuous battle with you. It’s like loudly declaring himself a threat.”

“True, I do agree with your sentiments, Brother, but…”

“I’m also concerned about the movements of the gatekeepers.”

“What do you mean?”

In response, Azuma directed his gaze to the Mitsurugi family’s fortress in the distance.

Having been stationed in Western Capital as a backup for his siblings, Azuma rushed to the scene upon hearing the report of Doga’s battle with Sora. His concern was for Doga’s wellbeing.

Regardless of the opponent, Doga would never lose in a one-on-one battle. That’s what Azuma believed and had faith in. This trust wouldn’t waver even if the opponent was the leader of the gatekeepers—the Swordmaster. With his full strength, including his Void Armor, Doga had reached that level.

However, it wasn’t certain whether he could always exhibit such power.

Powerful soul equipment takes a toll on its user. The Void Armor was even more so. The Kijin, who connect with the demon gods through their horns, suffer more strain than the gatekeepers when exerting such power. Those who manifest their Anima in their bodies, like cherished children, are particularly prone to this.

Of course, Doga was no exception.

By the time Azuma received the report, Doga had already been in an all-out battle for two full days. If the situation persisted, Doga might have resorted to using his Void Armor. While this would undoubtedly result in Doga’s victory, it could also deplete all his strength.

For the gatekeepers, it would be an excellent opportunity to defeat the prince of Nakayama. Azuma believed that the gatekeepers, who harbored strong animosity towards Kijin, would not pass up this opportunity, which is why he hurriedly left Western Capital.

However, in hindsight, Azuma’s worries were unfounded. The gatekeepers neither interfered during the battle nor afterward.

Even now, there was no movement in the fortress within Azuma’s sight. While they might be wary of Azuma’s capabilities, not sending any reinforcements for Sora, who had been fighting a hostile general for more than three days, was excessively callous.

Azuma glanced back to ensure the bracelet on Sora’s wrist before facing the inquisitive Doga again.

“Yes, Sora wears a Kijin bracelet, which implies he has forged a bond with our brethren outside. I suspect this might be causing a rift between Sora and the other gatekeepers.”

This could explain the gatekeepers’ continued inactivity. And if true, it provides an opportunity to bring Sora to the Kijin side.

Doga grunted in agreement but voiced a warning, “An enemy’s enemy isn’t always a friend. Even if Sora has a bond with our brethren, it doesn’t ensure an alliance with us.”

“True, but we shouldn’t miss this opportunity. Trust my judgment on this, Doga.”

With a stern look, Doga exhaled and relented, “As you wish, Brother.”

Though agreeing, Doga added a stipulation, “However, they won’t ride on your chariot. I’ll have them on mine.”

Azuma frowned, “I intended to talk with him on the journey to Western Capital.”

“That won’t happen. While Sora might be fine, the two accompanying him still have fight left. There’s a chance the women could be assassins. We can’t risk them being on your chariot.”

In Nakayama, chariots were four-wheeled vehicles pulled by magical beasts. Depending on one’s status, the type of beast and size of the chariot varied. Typically, a charioteer, archer, and spearman rode together.

Naturally, space was limited to three to four people, five at most. With Sora and his companions, Azuma’s chariot would be cramped, leaving little room for guards.

While Azuma intended to show trust in Sora, Doga’s reservations differed.

Not wanting to compromise further, Doga stared intently at his brother, who sighed and nodded in agreement.

“Very well. Let’s prepare the chariot — Shouko!”

At his call, a chariot, kicking up dust, approached. The silhouette of the magical beast resembled a deer on four legs with a dragon-like face. With majestic horns on its forehead, its hooves kicked up the ground as it ran, a sight unique to Kijin territory.

For good reason, this magical beast — the Kirin — was native only to the Kijin region.

Even though it’s referred to as a magical beast, it doesn’t actively attack other creatures. Its nature is remarkably gentle. The number of these creatures is limited, and the instances where they become tamed to humans are even rarer. Consequently, they are often referred to as sacred or spiritual beasts.

Azuma’s approaching Kirin affectionately rubbed its head against him, showing a bond between the two.

Following his elder brother, Doga called out, “Enku!” and another Kirin, pulling a cart, swiftly galloped toward him. Unlike the one that approached Azuma, this one showed no signs of affection. Instead, it stomped its hooves on the ground as if searching for an adversary, a wild temperament that perhaps reflected its owner’s character.

Doga, having taken his place in the driver’s seat, urged Enku closer to Sora and the others. On seeing the redhead Kirin up close, Sora, seemingly forgetting his earlier exhaustion, expressed his admiration.

To Sora’s understanding, the stature of the Kirin was larger than a horse but smaller than a Wyvern. While it appeared docile, its aura suggested that in battle, it might not be inferior even to the top-tier magical beasts.

“Wow, what’s this cool creature? A kin of the dragons?”

Its chimeric appearance, blending features from multiple beasts, might be seen as eerie to some. But to Sora’s eyes, it looked both magnificent and beautiful.

Watching his recent adversary, who he’d engaged in a fierce battle with just moments ago, now staring at the Kirin with childlike wonder, Dogah’s hostility drained away. Speaking without any malice in his voice, he said to Sora, “It will take us to the Western Capital. Board it.”

Heeding the words, Sora climbed onto Doga’s chariot, followed by Claira and Ursula.

Confirming everyone was aboard, Doga lightly flicked the reins, and the redhead Kirin, as if it had been eagerly awaiting the signal, set off in a cloud of dust toward the Western Capital.

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