Interlude ???

The battle was reaching its climax.

Under the red-rusted sky, an army clad in black armor faced an enemy clad in red armor. Their momentum was tremendous, and it was impossible for the red army to turn the tide.

However, the defeated red army did not run away disgracefully, but fought hard to make the enemy bleed even in their disadvantage.

If they fled here, their homeland would be trampled by the enemy. That fear gave the red soldiers the will to resist.

The black army also suffered significant damage. Realizing that, the young commander who led the black army clicked his tongue sharply.

“Tch, as expected of Ganzan’s elite. They’re stubborn.”

With grayish thistle-like hair and reddish-brown skin, and a single sharp horn jutting out from his forehead, the young Kijin radiated youth and vigor from his face. He discarded his battle robe and stripped down to his bare skin, revealing his upper body that had been honed like steel, as well as countless scars on his chest. Conversely, he had not a single scratch on his back, not even a strand of hair.

The young demon warrior who bared the physique of a seasoned fighter searched for the enemy commander. The soldiers in red would not stop fighting until they received their commander’s orders and would eventually be wiped out. It was necessary to make the enemy commander admit defeat as soon as possible.

In truth, the young man did not feel any impatience to “end the battle quickly!” nor did he feel any pain in killing the soldiers in red.

If he loses, he dies. That’s the harsh reality of war: hometowns burned, families killed. In fact, the young man’s father had been defeated by the Red Army, losing both his life and his territory. At that time, the young man himself was teetering on the brink of life and death.

For the young man, this battle was the final step in his revenge. As he thought that his revenge was finally coming to fruition, his lips naturally curled into a smile.


“My brother always says, ‘That won’t do.’”

Invading and being invaded, taking and being taken, killing and being killed. The more demon warriors fought each other like that, the more humans were pleased.

The young man surveyed the battlefield, which had become a wasteland of rubble.

Not a single blade of grass grew, not a single brook flowed, only a barren land of stones and dirt.”

The rain that falls from the rust-colored sky always carries the scent of iron, bringing stagnation instead of blessings to the land.

In this soil, not even wheat, let alone buckwheat, can grow. And this infertility was not limited to the area where the boy was fighting.

In this world, arable land is very scarce, and the crops harvested from it are far from enough to feed the entire Kijin population. Naturally, Kijin formed groups and began to fight over the limited farmland. They had no choice but to do so in order to survive and provide for their families and comrades.

Sometimes, individuals hailed as heroes would appear, rallying the Kijin in attempts to break out to the ‘outside.’

However, such schemes were inevitably crushed by the gatekeepers of the “Gate.” These despicable traitors who once trapped the Kijin and bound them to this barren world, were undoubtedly powerful, and continue to trample on the Kijin’s aspirations for liberation from this doomed world.

Thinking about it, the boy’s fists trembled instinctively. Was it out of frustration? Of course, that was part of it. However, most of the power imbued in the boy’s fists was directed towards the future, not the past. It was the determination to shatter the 300-year purgatory with their own hands that caused the boy’s fists to tremble.

The boy, after firmly planting his foot on the ground, ran towards a group of red soldiers who were still maintaining a certain level of order despite being in a losing battle. In the middle of the enemy army, the boy leaped and used his signature Kei technique, a bare-handed fighting style using the power of Kei to scatter the red soldiers and loudly proclaimed his name.

“I am the one whom Azuma, the king of Nakayama, refers to as his younger brother Kagari! I have no use for foot soldiers! I seek only fearless warriors who are unafraid of my name!”

“So, you are the youngest of the Nakayama Four Brothers! You are too hasty because of your youth! I am Isagi, one of the sixteen spears of the Ganzan! Now, let’s fight fairly!”

Before Kagari stood a warrior dressed in luxurious armor, who seemed to be a commander, as he brandished his spear. Compared to the bear-like enemy, Kagari was rather small, and unarmed against the spear. It appeared to be an uphill battle for him. However… “What?!” At the start of the battle, Kagari quickly darted into his opponent’s opening and landed a powerful punch on the commander’s face. The enhanced strength from his kei made it impossible for the enemy to keep up with Kagari’s agility. The commander fell to the ground, spilling blood from his nose. Although Kagari could have easily taken his life with a swift strike, he chose not to. Having been violently shaken, the commander was unlikely to regain consciousness anytime soon.

The battle was quickly won, but the enemy commander, who called himself Isagi, was apparently a renowned warrior, causing astonishment to run through the ranks of the Ganzan soldiers.

“Isagi-sama did it in just one strike!?”

“You, ‘Black Wolf’ Kagari… how dare you!”

The Ganzan soldiers moved as one, some to aid their allies and others to avenge Kagari. However, at that moment, a deep voice that seemed to have the power to control both sides resounded in the area.


Saying that, a massive figure appeared by breaking through the ranks of the Ganzan soldiers, so large that Isagi looked small in comparison.

Kagari knew the name of the giant man clad in battered armor before him. It was Gien, the King of Ganzan, their arch-nemesis who had killed Kagari’s father.

“So, you’re the young boy from Nakayama. My, how you’ve grown,” said Gien.

“You, on the other hand, seem to have aged considerably, King of Ganzan,” replied Kagari.

“Hmph, when children grow, adults grow old. It’s the natural order,” said Gien.

Gien extended his right hand, and one of his seasoned subordinates placed a massive battle-axe in it.

“Not killing you and your brothers along with your father is my life’s greatest regret. Let me ease it by slaying you here and now,” said Gien.

“…That’s what we’re hoping for too. But can you even fight with that body?” Kagari asked.

Gien was covered in wounds, and there wasn’t a spot on his armor or clothing that wasn’t damaged. He had been cut multiple times, and three arrows were still embedded in his shoulder.

His arms and legs were wrapped in multiple layers of bandages, all of which had turned a dark black color. Frankly, it was impressive that he could even stand.

With his injuries, he wouldn’t be able to handle the soul equipment, thought Kagari. However, King Ganzan paid no attention and laughed heartily, his stomach shaking.

“It’ll be a good handicap to face a greenhorn like you–let’s go!”

King Ganzan kicked the ground and, with a roaring sound, he attacked Kagari.

Kagari dodged the fierce blow with a somersault and immediately counterattacked as soon as he landed on the ground.

Despite being a small fry, Kagari’s creed was to confront head-on and face challenges without backing down. He engaged in an intense battle with King Ganzan, a large warrior who never gave an inch and didn’t let Kagari catch his breath.

However, as expected, King Ganzan’s movements became sluggish due to his severe injuries, and he gradually began to be pushed back by Kagari.

And then–


Finally, Kagari’s fist caught King Ganzan’s shoulder. Kagari’s Kei technique allowed him to penetrate the attack’s power into the opponent’s body. Even through armor, the attack’s power didn’t diminish, and King Ganzan’s shoulder was shattered in an instant.

As King Ganzan’s face twisted in agony, Kagari delivered a roundhouse kick to his chest.

King Ganzan was sent flying without a sound. At this moment, Kagari could have pursued him with another attack, but he didn’t. He decided it wasn’t necessary.

“…Hahaha! Impressive. At your age, to have such martial prowess is remarkable. You’ve already surpassed your father in battle.”

Despite the pain etched on his face, King Ganzan praised Kagari with a smile.

Seeing Kagari’s silence, a look of genuine curiosity crossed the Emperor’s face

“I do not understand. Why do you and your brothers obediently follow Azuma, despite having such skills? You all could easily dominate one of the five mountains if you wanted to.”

“Hmph. It’s true that if Azuma and I were to fight, I would win 90 out of 100 times. As for Doga, he’d win 100 out of 100. But that’s all we could do. We couldn’t revive Nakayama, the weakest of the five mountains, on our own. And we couldn’t have taken over the other three mountains or defeat you.”

“I don’t understand… The strong always rule over the weak. Isn’t that everything in this land?”

“That’s right. That’s why Azuma is the king of Nakayama. My strength and yours, King, are different from Azuma’s.”

“Hmph, I still don’t understand. But a loss is a loss. Now go and slaughter us, the people of Mount Ganzan, and achieve the unification of the five mountains, the prince of Nakayama. And then, destroy that cursed gate and take back our homeland from the traitors.”

“It is the duty of those who remain victorious,” King Ganzan laughed with a pained expression.

Kagari nodded with pursed lips.

“It goes without saying. We will definitely reclaim our homeland.”

“Good response. Perhaps, you resemble your father the most,” King Ganzan said, gripping his own horn.

The surrounding soldiers of Ganzan let out cries that resembled screams upon seeing it, but when King Ganzan gave them a glance, they all understood and bowed their heads at once.

Then, in the next moment –


King Ganzan tore off his own horn with a shout of determination. The fragments of the horn sparkled like crystals as they danced in the air.

After a moment, blood gushed from the wound as if overflowing.

For the Kijin, their horns are not only the source of their magical power but also their life force. To break them off with one’s own hands is synonymous with committing seppuku on Demon Island.1

The light in Ganzan’s eyes faded like the ebbing tide. Perhaps thinking that the light would not disappear, Ganzan spoke in a hoarse voice.

“I pray… that my soldiers… and my people… receive mercy…”

“We won’t harm those who surrender. That’s the Nakayama army’s rule.”

“Hmph… I see…”

Ganzan slowly held out his own horn to Kagari.

When Kagari received it, the light in the eyes of the King of Ganzan disappeared completely and his hand fell to the ground.

The surrounding soldiers of Ganzan who witnessed this let out a cry of mourning for their lord’s death and the downfall of Ganzan. This cry was also the birth cry of the newly established Unified Kijin Dynasty, which had not been heard for fifty years.

With the victory in this battle, the Nakayama Army, who had annexed Ganzan, began its long-cherished goal of capturing the “Nine Gates” with the momentum of unification.

Awaiting them was a history of three hundred years of impregnability.

The next battle was already approaching.

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  1. Seppuku is a form of ritual suicide by disembowelment, traditionally practiced by Japanese samurai.