V2 Chapter 98: The Capital of the Kijin

The kirin galloping through the wilderness seemed to move with the speed of flight, the surrounding scenery swiftly passing by as if we were traveling downstream.

It should be thrilling, but there’s a drawback to such speed: the more the vehicle shook, the worse the ride became. In simpler words, the ride was extremely uncomfortable.

While normally this wouldn’t bother me, having already expended so much energy made the journey rather taxing. I secretly wondered if this was a form of torment concocted by Doga, but the Kijin seated at the reins showed no such malicious intent.

I resolved to endure the discomfort until we reached this western capital, as there was no way I could ask them to slow down under these circumstances.

At that moment, Claira, who was sitting next to me, spoke up.

“Sora-sama, if you’re uncomfortable, would you like to lie down?”

Saying this, Claira gently patted her own lap. The seating was rather tight, with little space left when Claira, Ursula, and I sat down. There wasn’t much room for me to lie down, but if I rested my head on Claira’s lap, it might just work.

In essence, Claira was offering a lap pillow.

“Just closing your eyes and lying down can be quite relieving,” she added.

There was no hint of embarrassment on Claira’s face, nor did she seem to be joking. She appeared genuinely concerned for my well-being.

Such an offer made me wonder if I looked that exhausted. Given the relentless battles I had just been through, it wouldn’t be surprising.

“That sounds good… Thank you!”

Without much hesitation, I rested my head on Claira’s scarlet hakama.

It was still a long way to the western capital, so taking breaks when possible was crucial. Also, if I spent too much time looking at the scenery, they might suspect I was trying to memorize the route. By resting on Claira’s lap, I could avoid such misunderstandings.

Though, since they hadn’t blindfolded me, I assumed the Kijin were already accounting for the possibility that I would know the way. Still, it’s always better to be cautious.

As I settled into the lap pillow, Claira gave a soft chuckle, gently combing through my hair with her slender fingers.

Claira’s fingers were rugged, befitting a swordsman, but compared to mine, they were quite delicate. Her strokes were comforting. With my fatigue already pushing the limits, I couldn’t resist the allure of sleep.

The constant shaking no longer bothered me. Instead of merely drifting off to sleep, it felt more like I was losing consciousness.

When we finally arrived in the Western Capital, an entire day had passed.

During that time, Azuma and Doga hadn’t driven the chariot non-stop. We had taken several breaks, had meals, and occasionally dealt with monsters blocking our path, but nothing particularly noteworthy happened.

If anything, I learned that Claira’s lap pillow had an unexpectedly high healing effect.

Upon witnessing my newfound appreciation for the lap pillow, Ursula and Doga wore overtly exasperated expressions. Claira, on the other hand, simply laughed with amusement. I believe there was no issue… probably.

After such a (trivial) episode, we made it to the Western Capital.

Truth be told, I had certain expectations— or rather, hopes for the Kijin capital.

It was the main stronghold of the Kijin, who had battled the Mitsurugi family for three centuries. I anticipated a grand and magnificent city that would exude a rich history.

However, the reality of the Western Capital was… modest, to put it mildly. If I were to speak plainly, it looked rather shabby.

Yes, the city was vast, and its city walls were reasonably impressive.

Yet, when compared to the Imperial City of Adoastera, Inishium, which we visited en route to Demon Island, the Western Capital seemed rather ordinary.

Even as we entered the city gates and ventured further inside, my initial impression remained unchanged.

Many homes and buildings lined the streets, but most were made of wood and thatched roofs. There were even shanties constructed from deadwood and old fabric. Should a fire break out, it would spread quickly throughout the city.

There seemed to be no measures in place to prevent such a disaster, like creating spaces between houses or strategically placing wells. Simply put, there was no discernible city planning.

I surmised that the Western Capital didn’t grow based on a detailed urban design like the Canaria Kingdom’s capital, Horus. Instead, it expanded haphazardly over time.

Such a design inherently limited potential growth. For the capital of a nation, it was indeed rather lackluster.

Given the state of the capital, one could only imagine the condition of the outlying towns and villages.

Previously, I believed the Mitsurugi family refrained from expanding into the Kijin territory due to the draining nature of the environment, consuming one’s Kei. But now, I wondered if there was simply no merit in expanding their territory in the first place.

Lost in these thoughts, we soon arrived at the royal palace— more aptly termed the royal mansion. We were then escorted to what seemed like a guest chamber, where we once again engaged in conversation with Azuma.

Notably, only Doga was present alongside him. There were no other dignitaries, no handmaidens, and no guards.

Reflecting on our arrival, ever since we set foot in the Western Capital, Azuma had Doga cover the chariot with a protective curtain to shield us from public view. He likely didn’t want to make it known that humans had been invited to the capital.

Azuma was either concerned about the disturbance among his subjects or worried about the possibility of his Kijin subordinates attacking me, a human, against his orders.

Regardless, the fact that Azuma had taken such precautions to invite me to the capital meant he had significant reasons for doing so. Naturally, I was eager to know what he wanted to discuss.

However, before addressing that, I decided to settle the matter regarding Klimt. While Claira didn’t express her impatience, I was certain she was deeply worried about her younger brother.

Depending on the outcome of our conversation with Azuma, there was a possibility of a conflict arising. Therefore, it felt prudent to first ascertain Klimt’s safety. With that in mind, I spoke up.

“…Oh? The young man who came to the Kijin realm to target me?”

After hearing the circumstances, Azuma, with a hint of a wry smile, responded without any hesitation.

“To cut to the chase, there has been no report of an attempt on my life by a human assassin in the past month. Furthermore, we haven’t captured any humans. Thus, there’s a possibility that the young man is still alive.”

Upon hearing this, I silently breathed a sigh of relief. While Azuma’s words did not guarantee Klimt’s safety, at least they didn’t confirm his death.

My relief was not for Klimt’s sake but rather out of concern for Claira, his sister.

Continuing the conversation, Azuma added, “However, I cannot confirm that he is safe. The Kijin realm is a cursed land full of venomous snakes. Most of the region is enveloped in a thick miasma, making it hard for even the Kijin, who receive the protection of the Demon Gods, to move alone for extended periods. For a human without such protection, it’s even more challenging. Whether a lone young man could survive in the Kijin realm without any aid is uncertain.”

From his expression, it was clear that Azuma believed the chances of Klimt being alive were slim.

Standing beside his brother, Doga interjected with a huff, “There are monsters in this land that even skilled Soul Equipment users struggle with. I wouldn’t be too hopeful. Needless to say, if he indeed is alive and raises a blade against my brother, I will not hesitate to kill him. You should be aware of this.”

Doga glared at me with a challenging gaze.

I shrugged, responding, “Understood. I’ll do my best to ensure that doesn’t happen. I’d like to request permission to search the Nakayama territory for Klimt. Of course, I will conceal my human identity and promise not to cause any disturbance.”

Doga made a displeased face and looked at his brother, obviously wanting to decline my request. His expression hinted that he recognized he might not get his way in this matter.

Indeed, without a moment’s hesitation, Azuma accepted my proposal.

“I see no issue. In fact, your request aligns perfectly with my intentions.”

“What do you mean by ‘aligns with your intentions’?”

“It’s related to the matter I wish to discuss with you, Lord Sora. I — or rather, Nakayama — wish to form an alliance with you. That’s the reason I invited you to the Western Capital.”

Hearing Azuma’s words, I blinked and tilted my head in confusion.

To be frank, I couldn’t grasp what the King of Nakayama was getting at.

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