Gozu vs Sora (⅓)


  Claira readied her soul equipment with determination.


  An alarm was actively ringing in her head.
Her instinct that felt Sora’s true power is desperately telling her to run away.


  She suppressed those cries of her instinct with her willpower. 


  If she were to run away from where she is, Sora’s attack is going to hit her brother who is behind her.
She has to stop it somehow.
In the worst case, she will use herself as a shield for her brother――Claira is prepared for that much.


  Even if that’s what Sora wants her to do, she did not have another choice.


  ――At that moment, a mountain-like figure appeared before her.


  His skilled movements made it look like he teleported there.
Even though he had taken a direct hit from Sora’s fire magic just now, not only his body, even his clothes didn’t have a single burn mark on them. 


  From movements to defense, the skillfulness of his advanced kei techniques far exceeds the disciples of the phantom blade style.


  A fierce warrior who’s crowned third in the first flag of green woods, the elite unit that is directly under the family head’s command.  


  The level 『81』――Gozu Cima stood before Sora, blocking his way.


  「――Shinsou reiki」


  A low and heavy voice came from Gozu’s mouth.


  What manifested in response was an ordinary-looking plain sword.


  It didn’t show any special ability characteristics like the flames of Kurikara or the wind of Kusanagi, but that being said, it wasn’t releasing a bottomless intimidating pressure like soul eater either.


  The only special feature it has is there is a string of beads wrapped around the sword guard.
That is Gozu Cima’s soul equipment. 


  Nonetheless, a soul equipment’s appearance is not what determines how strong it is.


  As if he was going to prove that, Gozu pulled his soul equipment out on the spot.


  「Suppress, Juzumaru」


  Gozu drew his sword at the same time Sora unleashed his flying slash.


  Sora’s “gale” was a powerful attack that combined the strength of his soul equipment and his kei.
Its destructive power is not comparable to other soul equipment users’ gale.


  It was not by chance that he broke through the magic of the 8th realm and defeated Jijinbou in the capital, Horus.


  It’s exactly because Claira understood that she was ready to give her life to defend against that attack.


  Even Gozu wouldn’t be unscathed if he was hit directly by it――That’s how it should have been.


  However, the supposedly powerful flash did not reach Gozu’s body and dispersed.


  Like a light snowfall in spring, the gale that Sora released melted away in the air without a sound.


  After confirming that, Gozu spoke to Claira who was behind him in an indifferent tone,


  「I’ll take it from here.
Go give Klimt a hand」


  「……Understood, Shiba」


  Claira was going to say something, but she immediately swallowed those words down and lowered her head.


  After a glance at Sora, she turned around and headed outside the gate.


  Thus, Gozu and Sora confronted each other head-on.




  「That one attack you welcomed us with was a splendid one, young master――no, Mr.Sora」


  「But seeing how you canceled it out so easily, I could only see that as sarcasm or mockery, Gozu――or Mr.Cima」


  Gozu was silent as if he was at a loss for what to say when Sora imitated the way he had a slip of tongue.


  He gazed at Sora’s appearance without lowering his guard.


  Sora is well aware of the soul equipment of his former mentor.
Gozu’s soul equipment, Juzumaru, has the ability to “cancel out” the abilities of the enemy’s soul equipment ――in other words, nullification.


  What happened to Sora’s attack just now was due to the power of Juzumaru suppressing Soul eater.


  Of course, It’s not like Juzumaru has the omnipotent power to cancel out anything.
Its power won’t work on opponents who are stronger than its user.


  However, Gozu, who is one of the four ministers of the Mitsurugi family, has strength that rivals the other people of the eight flags who are in the captain class.
There are only a few people who can use their soul equipment freely with Gozu as their opponent.


  Even Sora is no exception.
When Juzumaru canceled his power, the power disparity between them became apparent.
So he wondered why having his attack praised as “splendid” in this situation brought him joy.


  Towards Sora who was having such thoughts, Gozu repeated his words with a serious expression.


  「I had no such intention.
It was a strike that was filled with power and dignity.
I am truly impressed that in only a bit more than 5 years’ time you managed to get to a level that doesn’t pale in comparison to the upper seats of the Eight Flags of Green Woods」


  After he said that, Gozu slightly furrowed his brows.


  「That’s why I have to say it.
Sora, why do you have to use dirty tricks when you have this much power? The current you could best the Berch siblings fair and square, so I didn’t think that you would use a hostage to take her by surprise……」


  「So what?」


  Sora flatly rejected Gozu’s honest advice.


  He doesn’t know what it looks like from an onlooker’s point of view, but the battle to him so far was a walk on thin ice.


  His opponents were his former mentor and two people of the golden generation.
Considering the power disparity, he had no chance in a 1v3.
That’s why he had to turn it into 1v1 fights.


  At the same time, he has to create a situation where the other two people wouldn’t be able to go after Suzume while he’s fighting one of them.


  The strategy he used was the most suitable strategy to accomplish that.
He had no regrets nor does he feel any pain from his conscience.


  The only concern he had was about Gozu from the very beginning.


  That’s because Gozu would probably see through his capability the moment he takes out his soul equipment.
He should even realize that there’s a chance for the Berch siblings to lose.
The chance of Gozu taking action from the beginning was not low.


  However, Sora knew about the personality of his former mentor.
Even if he sees the Berch siblings at a disadvantage, he would choose to watch from the sideline for a while because he thinks that “to know defeat is also something the strong needs”.


  That’s why the result turned out exactly how he expected.
He doesn’t need to care about anything Gozu says at this point.


  Seeing how nonchalant Sora is, Gozu was feeling bitter inside.


  Thinking about their conversation up to this point, he understood that none of his words have reached Sora at all.


  He had never felt so distanced from Sora when they were back on Demon Island.
It made Gozu uneasy.


  Sora was probably angry that the kijin he’s protecting and his other companions were hurt.


  However, the uneasiness that Gozu felt from Sora’s behavior was not something that was caused by temporary emotions.
It was deeper than that, a part of his nature as a human had changed――That’s how Gozu felt.


  Something that the Sora from the past had but not the Sora now.


  Something that Sora felt in the past that the Sora now doesn’t feel.


  Just what is it?


  Gozu slowly opened his mouth.


Sora, you have definitely become strong.
So strong that you can’t be compared to yourself from five years ago.
But at the same time, you have lost something important that the old you had」


And what would that be?」


  「The desire to protect your country and its citizens.
In other words, the pride to protect and save」




  「A sword without pride will only make you fall into an empty hole.
Both master Mitsurugi and lady Shizuya would not wish for you to be lost in that darkness.
So please――」


  「Shut up」


  He talked over Gozu with a voice that’s colder than water from a well in winter.


  His eyes which are dark like the night stared at Gozu with a piercing gaze.


  「It’s been 5 years since I was chased out of the island.
I crawled to get to where I am now.
It’s true that I didn’t become what I once desired to be.
My mother might be disappointed in me.
However, you guys are in no place to tell me this.
You all gave up on me five years ago」


As the Mitsurugi family’s Shiba, and a senior of the phantom blade style school as well, I have the duty to punish soul equipment users who do not follow the will of the Mitsurugi family.
If you aren’t going to listen…then it can’t be helped.
From here on I will not be using words, but my sword to stop you from going astray」


  「That’s just what I want.
We’ll see if you can, Gozu Cima!」


  Sora yelled.
As if it was responding to its user’s anger, a black flame rose up from his soul equipment.

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