Interlude: On Demon Island ②

“Truly, I am utterly disgusted and at a loss for words, Minister of War Gozu!”

With those words, Gillmore Berch, one of the Four Ministers who support the Mitsurugi family in matters of culture and education, slammed his fist onto the tatami mat.

In recent years, Gillmore had become the head of the flourishing Berch family on Demon Island, and as a minister, he was responsible for overseeing the Mitsurugi family’s personnel and finances. He was also Klimt’s adoptive father, who was currently prostrating behind Gozu.

Despite Klimt’s presence, Gillmore fixed his gaze solely on Gozu.

He continued speaking without interruption.

“Let’s set aside the matter of my daughter, Claira, for now, as this is a public place. But what does it mean for a warrior of the Green Woods, especially one who holds the position of Shiba, to be defeated and run away from an outsider? And to top it off, to utter frivolous remarks to the lord of the mansion to cover up your blunder? That’s outrageous!”

“This is true.”

In response to Gillmore’s angry voice, Gozu calmly replied with his own words.

“I admit that I was defeated and ran away, and I make no excuses for it. However, I have no memory of making frivolous remarks to the lord of the mansion.”

“Silence. It’s hard to believe that someone who was expelled from the island five years ago for failing the trial, deemed useless, could defeat three Green Woods warriors simultaneously and claim to have single-handedly killed a mythical creature. What do you call this if not nonsense!?”

“It’s not nonsense, it’s the truth.”

Gozu’s words and attitude were calm and indifferent. But in reality, his inner feelings were not as peaceful as his appearance.

After being defeated by Sora in the Canaria Kingdom, he had rushed back to report to the lord as soon as possible, sparing no time for treatment, and traveling day and night. He had looked forward to this moment. To be honest, he wanted to lie down and sleep as soon as possible.

But he couldn’t afford to show a disgraceful figure in front of someone who tried to act as a prime minister and run the Mitsurugi family. He secretly clenched his teeth and pretended to be calm.

Perhaps sensing Gozu’s thoughts, Gilmore’s eyes glinted with a fierce light.

“Gozu Sima, I presume you intend to use false merits to lift the disinheritance of that incompetent. Then you plan to reinstate him as the rightful heir, and yourself as his second-in-command. That explains your absurd remarks!”

Upon hearing this, Gozu scowled and retorted, “Hold on, Minister of Education. That’s slander. Besides, even if I used some trickery to bring back the inexperienced Lord Sora, it would all be exposed in a trial. I would never resort to such transparent deception.”

“Indeed, a sane person wouldn’t stoop to such antics. But are you really in your right mind? A person who couldn’t even hold his own against a dragon tooth warrior suddenly gains enough strength to defeat you, the third-ranking member of the First Flag, and two other Green Woods warriors in just five years. And he claims to have done it while wearing a Void Armor. Not to mention slaying the king of Mythical creatures, a dragon, and all that. It’s a poorly constructed tale, even for a child’s fantasy. I can hardly believe it’s the words of a rational person.”

“If you wish, I can put this to a vote right here,” Gilmore bluffed.

Currently, in this place, starting with the head of the family Mitsurugi Shikibu, there are the four senior officers: Minister of Education, Minister of Public Work, Minister of Justice, and Minister of War, along with eight flag commanders who lead the Green Woods Eight Banners and their eight deputy commanders.

Gilmore suggested questioning whether Gozu Shima was sane or not in front of these important figures. He was confident in proposing such a thing because he believed that Gozu’s report was unbelievable and unacceptable.

For Gilmore, this was a chance to take Shiba’s position from Gozu and push his own clan into the vacant seat. The Berch family already held two of the four minister positions, Minister of Education and Minister of Justice. If they could also take the position of Minister of War, the Berch family’s power and influence on Demon Island would become unshakable. Naturally, he would quickly disparage Gozu.

While Gozu and Gilmore exchanged words, the others around them remained neutral.

Many people resented Gilmore’s strong desire for power and authority, and his use of the head’s influence to control family affairs. However, They were hesitant to support Gozu’s absurd report, and their faces showed their reluctance to take sides.

Naturally, the audience’s eyes were focused on the family head, Shikibu Mitsurugi, who sat in the upper seat.

Only the lord or the four ministers of equal rank can stop the dispute between Minister of Education and Minister of War.

Whether he sensed the gazes of his vassals, or whether he intended to let the two of them say what they wanted to say before taking over the conversation, the sword saint of this generation quietly opened his mouth.

“Gozu, I have a question for you.”

As soon as Shikibu spoke, Gozu and Gilmore straightened their postures and bowed their heads at the spot.

“Yes, anything.”

“Did you fight seriously in the battle at Canaria?”

‘Of course, I fought seriously’—Gozu was about to respond, but he hesitated.

After a breath, Gozu opened his mouth while picturing the battle at that time in his mind.

“I fought to bring Sora-dono to your presence, Lord. Therefore, I cannot say that I fought Sora-dono as if he were a demon of the demon gate.”

I did not intend to take his life. I could not see him as an enemy in my mind.

He was someone I had taken care of since he was a baby, as his attendant. There was no way I could direct serious hostility or killing intent at him.

――But still, that did not mean I fought him half-heartedly.

“And I must tell you, Lord, I fought Sora-dono seriously and was defeated.”

“…I see.”

Shikibu nodded once at Gozu’s reply and closed his eyes.

Sora had made a demand to the Mitsurugi family――that the Mitsurugi family should never touch Suzume again. He was probably thinking about how to respond to that demand, Gozu thought.

Gozu respectfully waited for his lord’s answer.

Gozu did not know what kind of answer Shikibu would give. Since it involved the demon people, he would not simply agree to Sora’s demand. But if he wanted to eliminate Suzume, he would have to fight Sora.

If he wanted to defeat Sora now, he would have to allocate a considerable amount of military force from the island. For the Mitsurugi family, who had been confronting the threat of the demon gate, that was a situation they wanted to avoid as much as possible. Even if they defeated Sora, the military gain they would get was only one demon girl, which is not worth the risk.

There was no need to hunt down the demon Suzume at the risk of jeopardizing the defense of the demon island――Gozu hoped that Shikibu would come to that conclusion.

The reunion with Sora in the Canaria Kingdom had left behind a lot of trouble, but if they gave it some time, they might be able to talk differently. That was what he was thinking. He also had the confidence that even if Suzume was possessed by a demon god, Sora would be able to deal with it without any problem.

However, there was one concern for Gozu. He knew of a way to minimize the deployment of forces to take down Sora.

Namely, the solo subjugation of Sora.

There are at least three users in the current Mitsurugi family who can make this possible.

Gozu glanced briefly at the front. In his line of sight were the head of the family, Mitsurugi Shikibu, and two swordsmen sitting on either side to protect him.

The person sitting on the right had white skin that seemed to glow and long black hair that could be mistaken for a woman’s.

The person sitting on the left had a light brownish skin and hair as dark as iron.

Both had exceptional swordsmanship that was unparalleled. Even in this place where the elite of the Green Woods Eight Banners were gathered, this description did not waver.

It is said that if they were not born in the same era as Mitsurugi Shikibu, a rare and divine genius, both of them would have certainly reached the seat of the sword saint.

The lord, Shikibu, and the two who are praised as the twin jewels under his command. With these three, they could single-handedly defeat Sora. With all their might, it would take no more than three days to journey to the Canaria Kingdom, defeat Sora, and return to Demon Island.

That was the source of Gozu’s anxiety.

Of course, it was unlikely that the lord, Shikibu, would leave Demon Island, and the two twin jewels also had the duty of being the flag general and the vice general of the first flag, so it was hard to imagine that they would leave the island for the sake of a single demon girl.

However, only Shikibu knew how he saw the growth of his disowned son (Sora), and how he felt about his son’s request, which could be taken as insolent.

Gozu, Gilmore, and the other vassals held their breath and waited for Shikibu’s instructions.

But there was one person who moved without waiting for the lord’s instructions. It was Klimt, who was standing behind Gozu.

Apart from the lord, only the four ministers, along with the flag generals and vice generals of the Green Woods Eight Flags, had the right to speak here. The others were allowed to listen, but not to express their own opinions.

This was not an exception even for the heir of the main family, and Mitsurugi Ragna had been gritting his teeth and tightly gripping his hakama, holding back his words.1

In such a meeting place, Klimt raised his voice desperately toward the lord.

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  1. Hakama are a type of traditional Japanese clothing that look like skirt-like pants. They are worn over a kimono and are tied at the waist. They have pleats and fall to the ankles. They were historically worn by samurai and are now worn in some Japanese sports and ceremonies