Interlude: Atori

The griffon, having its wings severed by Jin, lost its posture midair and crashed to the ground with all its momentum.

The Boss, who had not noticed the presence of the magical beast, was surprised to see the griffon crash down so close, exclaiming in shock.

Jin called out sharply to the Boss.

“Boss, get away from it!”

What Jin had cut were only the wings.

Jin currently didn’t possess the strength to cleave the griffon in two, so the magical beast was still very much alive.

“O-Okay, understood!”

Hearing Jin’s voice, the Boss snapped back to reality and hurriedly distanced himself from the griffon.

Right after, the wingless griffon, stained red with blood flowing from its wounds, raised itself in a furious roar. Its eyes were blazing as it glared at Jin, the enemy who had robbed it of its wings.

It was clear from the griffon’s fierce stance that it had not lost the will to fight.

Even without its means of flight, the griffon’s claws and fangs could easily tear a human apart. Jin had just witnessed this with his own eyes. Furthermore, other griffons that might swoop down at any moment were flying overhead.

Jin was not reckless enough to consider defeating the wounded griffon in this situation.

Fortunately, the enemy’s movements were sluggish, having just lost its wings. Jin thought it best to draw the griffon’s attention and use the opportunity to help the Boss escape. Just as he was about to put his plan into action…

“Burn, Kato!”


Along with a rough battle cry, a whirl of flames emitted from the side engulfed the griffon. The magical beast, wrapped in flames, let out a high-pitched scream, writhing as if resisting the fierce fire.

However, the struggle did not last long. The blazing fire crushed the magical beast’s resistance, along with its cries, burning it to ash, reducing it to char.

Witnessing the sight of a king-class magical beast being felled by a single attack, Jin instinctively turned his eyes toward the direction from which the flames had come.

At the end of his gaze was a Kijin, who appeared to be about twenty years older than Jin.

“Hmph, how trivial! A griffon is no different from a mere chicken to someone like me!”

Jin recognized the face that boasted with a sneer, one of the three Soul equipment users backed by the Satsuki clan.

It seemed he had been sleeping until moments before, with his hair sticking up and his clothes in disarray. Looking past him, there were two women with similarly disheveled attire, cautiously observing their surroundings.

Apparently, they had been attacked during their intimate moments and had come outside in a rush, half-armed.

In a situation where they could be attacked by Mythical Creatures at any moment, the heart of the squad indulging in the pleasures of the flesh was a sight that made Jin frown, though he kept his thoughts to himself.

Regardless of the other’s intentions, the fact that Jin and his Boss were aided was undeniable. He also felt somewhat overwhelmed by the martial valor of the man who had easily repelled the griffon.

“Hey, you two!”

The man called out upon noticing Jin and his Boss.

Jin quickly responded, addressing the man before his Boss could, with an ulterior motive to maintain a connection with the Soul equipment user for their future activities as warriors of the Phantom Blade Style.

“Yes, what is it?”

“I’m about to go subdue some magic beasts. You guys let the women escape. If you so much as scratch them, you will not be forgiven!”

Despite the man’s brusque manner, Jin respectfully nodded in agreement.

His ulterior motives aside, their objectives aligned in terms of aiding those who had been left behind. The Boss seemed to agree, nodding emphatically.

After confirming his Boss’s agreement, Jin looked up at the sky before heading east towards the forest.

It wasn’t that he felt something specific; it was almost an unconscious action. However, the next moment, Jin was rooted to the spot, feeling a pressure so immense it felt as if his throat had dried up.

—And there it was, as if it had always been there.

The massive shadow dancing high in the sky was undoubtedly a griffon. But at the same time, it was not just any griffon.

It wasn’t that it had four wings or eight legs. It had the head and wings of an eagle and the body and claws of a lion – the usual features of a griffon.

But this creature possessed three distinct characteristics that set it apart from other griffons.

One was its color. Bathed in the sunlight from the east, its fur shone with a blackness like lacquer.

Another was its size. Even from a distance, it was clear that its massive body was twice, if not three times, the size of other griffons.

The last feature had already been mentioned: the overwhelming pressure. Despite flying high above, the pressure reached Jin below, the malice bursting forth from the sky was more than enough to annihilate all the warriors on the ground.

Even for a griffon, a king-class magic beast, it was uncommon to exert such an intimidating presence. What Jin was witnessing now was a natural disaster born to hunt humans, something his instincts could understand—were forced to understand.

To Jin’s knowledge, there was only one such existence.

“A Mythical Species…!”

A groan escaped his lips, and as if hearing Jin’s words, the jet-black griffon moved.

It flapped its wings grandly and began a rapid descent toward the target below. Without a roar, it approached the ground with the speed and force of a shooting star.

The target was a Soul equipment user. Realizing this, Jin tried to impede the creature’s movement but couldn’t unleash the same gale as before. The speed of the Mythical Species was divine, beyond the reach of Jin’s abilities.


He couldn’t even complete the four-letter warning of danger. In Jin’s vision, a black shadow, like the night itself taking form, covered the upper body of the Soul equipment user.

The Soul equipment user seemed to have noticed the presence from above and raised his spear-shaped Soul equipment in an attempt to intercept. But the shadow engulfed both the user and his Soul equipment.

The next moment, the shadow ascended back into the sky, leaving only the Soul equipment user behind.

—Only the lower half of the Soul equipment user remained, his upper body torn away.

After a brief pause, a woman’s scream, sharp as tearing silk, echoed through the area. Perhaps stimulated by the scream, the movements of the griffons in the sky became even more violent.

For Jin and his companions, a time of great tribulation was about to begin.


At the same time.

“Princess, did you call for me?”

One of the factions of the Phantom Blade Style warriors, the Kamuna clan, was being addressed by an elderly kijin with white hair and a white beard at their main camp.

The woman with black hair reaching down to her waist turned in response to the old man’s voice. Like the old man, she too was of the kijin race, complete with horns protruding from her forehead.

As one could tell from the address of ‘Princess’, she held a noble position within the Kamuna clan and was also distinguished in bravery. The sword at her waist was a blade meant for real combat, and the de facto commander of this unit was this woman—Atori.

“Old man, we will start the march one hour earlier. Please hurry and prepare everyone for departure.”

At Atori’s abrupt words, the old man raised his right eyebrow slightly. The Kamuna clan had been in continuous fierce battles recently, including the fight against the Mythical Species, and the warriors were accumulating fatigue. Advancing the march by even one hour would only add to their weariness, and there might be those who would criticize Atori for her decision. The old man was concerned about this.

However, the old man, who had served as a guardian and mentor to Atori since her childhood, knew that the woman before him would not change plans without basis. Therefore, without raising any objections, he complied with Atori’s command.

“Understood. I will immediately pass on the message—Did you sense something?”


Atori nodded with her black hair swaying, a shadow crossing her face.

“Just now, I sensed an evil aura rising in the east. It is likely an Apostle of the Serpent—Mythical Species. If the Satsuki clan is being attacked, we must assist them; if not, we need to quickly rendezvous and prepare for the enemy.”

Hearing this, the old man’s expression grew stern. Although he did not feel the ‘evil aura’ Atori referred to, he did not doubt her words.

Atori came from a family lineage of priestesses who oversee the Serpent Subjugation rituals. The old man, her guardian, knew of her rare talent better than anyone.

“This is a grave matter. I will execute the orders immediately.”

“Thank you.”

The old man was about to leave when he suddenly stopped, as if he had just thought of something.

Atori looked at him quizzically, tilting her head. Without turning around, the old man addressed her.

“Princess. Just as a precaution, I must say, please do not leave a note saying ‘I leave the rest to you, old man,’ and head east alone.”

Hearing this, Atori stiffened, and the old man, without needing to see her reaction, turned and left.

Left alone, Atori puffed her cheeks like a child for a moment.

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