Gozu vs Sora (3/3)


  The blade of Juzumaru, no, not just the blade, but both the sword guard and the hilt also, everything started bursting into countless bubbles.


  The iron-colored bubbles did not scatter to the ground, as every single one of them attached themselves to Gozu’s body as if they had a will of their own.


  From the top of his head to his toes, it only took a slight moment until Gozu’s entire body was completely enveloped by the bubbles. 


  Gozu was originally a really tall man, and his limbs are as robust as a bear’s.


  The bubbles that enveloped that massive physique increased in volume rapidly, making Gozu’s body even bigger.


  After a little while, the bubbles finished expanding and began to contract.


  They weren’t just becoming smaller; the bubbles started to shape with a clear will.


  They took on the form of a set of eastern-style armor that covered Gozu’s entire body. 


  It was no ordinary armor.
The gaps that should normally exist in the joint areas of the armor weren’t there at all.


  No matter how well crafted the armor is, it has to have some gaps so that its user can move their neck and limbs.
If the gauntlets are sticking to the armholes, the user wouldn’t be able to bend their arms, and if the greaves are sticking to the leg armor, then it would be hard for the user to even walk.


  However, Gozu’s armor did not have such gaps at all.
Even though every part was connected tightly, his movements weren’t hindered in the slightest.


  With the shining black armor wrapped around his whole body and a helmet that’s shaped like the head of an ox covering his entire face, he is now able to defend against all kinds of attacks.


  Of course, it wasn’t just his defense.
The massive Green Dragon Crescent Blade he held in his right hand is a celestial weapon that was inlaid with the seven stars.


  Instead of an armored soldier, it was more like the Ox king had descended on this world.




  Gozu’s voice came out of the ox face.
His voice alone sent out an overwhelming fighting aura, making Sora clench his teeth to withstand the pressure.


  Because of his helmet, Gozu’s eyes, nose, mouth, and ears are all covered up right now.
But Sora could still feel Gozu’s gaze properly as if none of his five senses were affected at all.


  「This is how I look after reaching void.
And the other name of my anima, Juzumaru, is the Ox king.
He was one of the seven heavenly beings who once conquered the heavenly realm.
After that, he turned over a new leaf after his defeat, re-swore his allegiance to the heavenly realm as the Ox martial god……Let’s just say he’s an anima that’s similar to me who served the Mitsurugi family after challenging Master Mitsurugi and losing」


  After he said that, Gozu stabbed the halberd that was in his hand upside down into the ground.


  Since it looked like Gozu had let go of his weapon, Sora looked at him with annoyance.


  He felt like Gozu was telling him that he won’t even use his weapon.
And then, his guess was proven correct.


  「I’ll fight you unarmed from here on.
Please don’t think that I’m slacking off.
My goal is to set you straight, so I’m choosing the best method to do so」


  「Do what you want」


And one more thing, your soul equipment――Soulrueta or whatever, you can freely use its power now.
So come at me with all you got」




  「Juzumaru’s suppression ability is originally there to seal its own power that’s way too strong.
It just happens to suppress the powers of other soul equipment when it’s out.
I have to break the chains in order to bring out its full power, so once the chains are broken, it has no control over other soul equipment.
That’s why you can use your weapon’s abilities now」


  Sora knitted his brows and thought about the meaning of Gozu’s words.


  The ability of Gozu’s soul equipment is to bind itself, and the power to cancel out other soul equipment is just a by-effect. 


  Sora couldn’t figure out why he was keeping his anima under control with its own power, but it made sense once he thought of that power as something that’s similar to a berserking one.
Even if it’s going to make Gozu weaker, he has to suppress its power to control it.


  The story of his anima betraying the heavenly realm gives a vicious feeling to its power as well.


  So, Sora predicts that Gozu won’t be able to use its full power for a long duration of time.


  That’s because when it comes to things like berserking powers, they are the same everywhere――


  Then, the ox face helmet shook up and down as if Gozu had read Sora’s thoughts.


  「It seems you have realized it.
Indeed, there’s a time limit for how long I can use the void gear.
I’m sure a battle to stall for time would be a way for you to win」


  Gozu then said “But” and continued,


  「That’s only if you can hold out」


  Then, he kneeled down into a stance as if he was saying the conversation is over.


  In response, Sora readied Soul Eater and faced him.




  Gozu, who was currently clad in the ox-head armor had become well over 2 meters tall, and his limbs were as thick as logs.
It was as if he had literally become a giant.


  When that massive body disappeared from Sora’s view, Sora tried to retreat immediately.


  However, Gozu’s fist that was covered by the black armor had already sunk into Sora’s abdomen.


  Sora’s body was easily blown backward into the stone pavement.  




  After forcefully swallowing his overflowing cries and stomach fluid back down, Sora tried to get back up right away. 


  However, Gozu was already on his left.
Expecting an incoming kick, Sora protected his side with his left elbow out of reflex. 


  Gozu then kicked his opponent’s body up straight through his elbow.


  Sora’s body was sent in the air as if it was as light as a ball.
It went way past Gozu’s head up to a height that’s about as high as a building’s third floor.
That leg power was not human. 


  Next, Gozu kicked the stone pavement and went up into the air.
When he reached Sora who was in the air in a split second, he combined both of his hands into an improvised weapon and――





  He raised his hands high and slammed Sora’s body with them without a hint of hesitation.


  Sora did not even have the time to squeal.
He was smashed into the ground in an instant, cracking the stone pavement with a big bang as the strong tremor shook the ground.
Unable to stand back up, Sora squirmed there in agony.


  After Gozu landed without making a sound, he looked at Sora in silence.


  Despite being in pain, Sora had yet to let go of the soul equipment in his hand.
While Gozu praised him in his mind, he slowly opened his mouth,


  「Let go of your soul equipment if you can’t fight anymore.
I will see it as your surrender」


  Gozu’s calm declaration was filled with unshakable confidence.


  He didn’t say anything else.
However, his attitude was speaking for him eloquently.


  It was saying something like it doesn’t matter whether he has a time limit or whether Sora has the power of his soul equipment, Mitsurugi Sora cannot beat Gozu Cima.


  Once they fight, the strong one will definitely be him, and the weak one will be Sora――Gozu was certain that he was above Sora as though it was the truth of the world.


  And that confidence was something that was based on facts.
No matter how much someone hates losing, they would have to admit that they lost when they are sent crawling on the ground quickly like that.


  Sora also acknowledged that he lost.


  Slowly, the red-colored stomach fluid dripped down from his mouth.


  He struggled to get up as he coughed intensely.
When he shot a glare at Gozu, his eyes met with Gozu’s who was looking down at him.
He saw a look that was far from a hostile one; it was a look of pity.


  ――It was extremely infuriating.


  It refreshed the memories from the days he was on Demon Island.


  Every time someone made the assumption that he was weak.


  To Sora, being scolded maliciously was still fine.
It was the fuel that gave him the motivation to get back at them someday.


  However, when he was pitied with goodwill, he did not know how to wipe away the misery that was in his heart.


  And the first person to pity him with goodwill was his former mentor before his eyes.


  That’s what shackles are.
Without being able to even rebel, it was engraved in his heart that he was weak.


  And once again today, Gozu Cima was forcefully engraving the same message on him.


  ――It was extremely infuriating.


  What should he do then? He asked himself.


  He has no chance to win in a fight.
Gozu hasn’t even used half, or maybe not even 1/10th of his full power.
To think that there’d be such a big difference between them.
If Gozu were to go after Suzume now, he would have nothing to stop him with.


  He can’t fight, and he can’t protect.


  What can someone like him do?


 ――The answer was obvious.
He just has to devour him.


  Mitsurugi Sora is a person who can do that.
No, that’s wrong.
It’s the only thing that Mitsurugi Sora can do.


 Wasn’t that the only valuable truth that he learned in the last five years? 


  「…………Ahh, yes.
That’s right」




  「……Things like fighting against you three…protecting Suzume and everyone else…Now that I think about it, there was no way it was going to go well.
I…should have just thought about how to eat you all」




  Gozu looked at the soul equipment that was in Sora’s hands with a dubious look.


  Its user, Sora, is in a state where he’s constantly gasping for air.
He didn’t even have the time to apply kei on it.


  But despite that, the blade of his soul equipment was covering itself with kei.


  ――No, that is not kei.
That’s not Od that comes from a human’s body, but it’s also different from mana that comes from the world.
It’s a power that’s denser, and more primordial; it’s a power on the level that can be called divine energy or aether. 


  With a rumbling sound, the power covered the entire soul equipment.
That wasn’t all.
The torrent of power started to flow into Sora as well……


  The next moment, Gozu quickly took a leap back.
Right after he did that, a streak of flashing light cleanly swept across where he was standing.


  Sora had swung his soul equipment while he was still down on the ground.
It was a slash attack that was sharper than all the slashes that were ever unleashed against him.


  Then, Sora slowly stood back up.


  He didn’t look like he was in pain anymore.
After he wiped the stomach fluid that was sticking to his mouth with his sleeve, he opened his mouth with joy,


I’m going to devour you」


  He broke into a smile.


  That expression sent a cold chill through Gozu’s entire body.
Despite being in his void gear and having an impregnable defense, he was shaken by the sinister energy that was coming from Sora’s eyes as Sora stared at him.


  He instantly reached out for the halberd that he stabbed into the ground.
His instinct was telling him that it would be dangerous to fight the current Sora barehanded.




  Sora rushed at Gozu with explosive momentum.
There was not a single hint of him being affected by his injuries.
In fact, he was as fast as Gozu from just earlier.


  The healing of his injuries was no doubt the power of his soul equipment.
Then, are these movements due to the aid of his soul equipment too? Or did he see the way I was moving earlier and learned my advanced martial movements in that short amount of time?


  No matter the case, it’s dangerous to treat the Sora now the same as the Sora from earlier, Gozu thought.


  He wanted to make his opponent surrender, but Gozu judged that it was no longer a good idea.


  It would be pointless if Sora’s just going to get healed by his soul equipment every time he is beaten down.
There might be a limit to how many times he can be healed, but Gozu doesn’t have time to test that out.
He should decide the fight right away.


  Sora was closing in on him even when he was having such thoughts.
The Soul Eater he held in his hand was full of fury as if it was letting out Sora’s pent-up resentment, giving Sora’s physique a colossal pressure despite the fact that Sora’s physique is by no means huge. 


  As he carefully watched Sora’s soul equipment when Sora raised and swung it down, Gozu swung his halberd himself.  


  「Phantom blade style chudan――Flash!」


  It was a slash of light combining sword technique and kei technique.
With this masterful strike that was unleashed with the blade of his void gear, he will knock the soul equipment out of Sora’s hand.
That was what Gozu was aiming for.


  Meanwhile, the slash that Sora unleashed did not have the essence of the phantom blade style.
It was just a simple attack that he put all his strength into.


  The two blades clashed with each other.


  The next moment, Gozu’s glowing halberd shined intensely――and was severed with a high-pitched sound.




  A voice of shock leaked out of the ox-faced helmet.


  It was a strike he was confident in.
It was a slash attack that he used his full strength on.
Since it was literally severed by Sora, it made Gozu go blank for a second.


  And in that second, Sora’s slash attack did not stop.


  Keeping the momentum that severed Gozu’s halberd, Sora’s attack hit the armor that protected Gozu.


  Then, Sora’s strike that he put his whole body into broke through the void gear’s fortification.
After cutting through the armor on Gozu’s left shoulder, Soul Eater shattered his collar bone and reached straight to his chest area. 


  After a beat, blood burst out of Gozu’s shoulder like a broken dam.

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