“What’s with these numbers?”
Shin had parted ways with Schnee and headed towards Fuji, but the formation of demon foxes he found around the mountain made him raise a brow. Almost all units were around level 700, with 6 or 7 tails. For Shin it was nothing special, but for this world it was close to a natural disaster.
Such monsters were now surrounding Mt. Fuji. They were also clearly expressing hostile intentions.
“Kuu!! Tamamo, not here!!”
“That’s true, I can’t pick up any presence that could be hers. What’s this about, anyway? There are the 8-headed Orochi and Munechika on top of Fuji. No matter how many boss-level monsters you gather, with their fighting power they’re just going to get annihilated.”
The gap between the level 900 Munechika and the level 700 demon foxes was just too large. That’s what their difference in fighting power meant.
Because of the demon foxes’ large numbers, Munechika could maybe suffer some injuries, but if they fought they would be surely exterminated.
Despite that, the demon foxes were unmistakably heading towards the mists covering the mountain.
Among the demon foxes climbing up Mt. Fuji, Shin detected a small presence moving up as well.
It was not being attacked despite being right next to the demon foxes, so it was likely to be an ally.
Shin thought it could be Tamamo, and asked Yuzuha for confirmation, but she denied that possibility.
“Yuzuha, I’m going to see this sneaky one before dealing with them. What are you going to do?”
“….I feel a bad presence from there. Yuzuha, go there. Shin, go to Fuji.”
After a short pause, Yuzuha turned to a direction different than the mountain.
“Will you be fine by yourself?”
“Leave it to Yuzuha!!”
Yuzuha hopped down from Shin’s shoulder, transformed into little girl mode, and puffed up her chest.
Shin would have been worried until a while ago, but her level was now higher and her control over her powers were much better.
Shin looked at Yuzuha, who was looking back at him with straight and honest eyes, and nodded.
“—-got it. Take these with you, just in case.”
Shin took an accessory that would take damage instead of the user and items to heal status ailments from the item box.
Yuzuha took them, put them in her robes, then ran off in fox form.
“OK, time to do my part.”
After whispering to himself, Shin went on his way.
While concealing his presence with 【Hiding】, Shin drew closer to the dot moving among the demon foxes.
When he came close enough to see, he spotted a man clad in black ninja wear head to toe.
The name displayed via 【Analyze】 was Rokuhara Kai, the man who was with Juugo.
Shin jumped in front of Kai and deactivated 【Hiding】.
“!?! You are the man from that time…!?”
Kai reacted to Shin’s sudden appearance by drawing his ninja blade. He was clearly wary of Shin after recognizing him.
“Do you mean, the time at Aokigahara?”
“Who can say!”
Before even an attempt to conversation was made, Kai casted a magic spell towards Shin.
What flew towards Shin was the flame-type magic skill 【Fireball】. It was a basic offensive magic, widely used by beginners and experts alike.
However, magic used by a ninja like Kai, whose job leaned more towards physical attacks, could not work on Shin.
The 【Fireball】 flying towards Shin vanished into nothingness just before hitting him.
“If possible, I’d like to know why you are doing this.”
“….to once again spread the flames of war in Hinomoto.”
“—-I’m surprised to receive an answer. But why? I hear that there is much to lose in the flames of war. What would you gain in doing this?”
Shin did not expect any answers, but as he received one instead, he expressed another doubt.
“…..Hinomoto has had continuous conflicts, all within this small island country. One needed to be strong, lest everything be taken away from them. Because of that, in those times everyone was strong. But now the people forgot those times of war, and became weak. The Brave Ten as well, none of them can even match sir Kankurou now, they are just brats with nothing more than their Returned Ancestor status going for them. If peace continues on like this, Hinomoto will eventually grow weak.”
“As someone who saw the continent’s adventurers and soldiers, I can tell you that Hinomoto soldiers are clearly stronger than them.”
Shin said what he honestly thought. Even in Balmel, a city exposed to the dangers of the Flood’s monster hordes, the soldiers’ quality was lower than Hinomoto.
“It is not enough for soldiers to be strong. The lords governing its domains, the soldiers serving under them, the people inhabiting its lands…all of them need to be strong, or a small country like Hinomoto has no future.”
“Even so, is setting monsters on the people an acceptable way? It would just cause a burden on those precious soldiers and citizens.”
“If they fall because of something like that, it means that they were worth that much in the first place. This was one of the truths in the era of wars.”
“You speak as if you saw it with your own eyes.”
Based on his experiences until now, Shin thought that Kai’s race was Human.
Humans have short life spans. No one from this race could have witnessed the age of wars and still be alive.
“Because they showed it to me.”
“They “showed” it?”
“The one who controls these beasts did. They seem to have different goals, but no matter if we are being used or not, our wish will be fulfilled.”
Kai spoke while pointing at a Blue Tail among the demon foxes surrounding them.
Shin never heard of abilities allowing the user to see the past, but before that, he could not know if the past Kai saw was the truth or not.
“I will not accept a unification scared of sacrifices. Hinomoto will become a strong country only if the truly strong rule over it.”
“The man called Ichinose Juugo is already dead. Even so, do you continue?”
“Do you think I would stop now?”
“I suppose not.”
Kai’s killing intent grew more intense. In response, Shin’s hand reaches to the katana 『Moonless』 at his waist.
“…..I did not think it would be possible to talk like this. Are you sure it was fine to leak all that information?”
“It makes no difference. Dead men tell no tales.”
“That man might be you though, you know?”
“That is fine too. The strong live, the weak perish. That is all.”
Even his own death was an acceptable outcome. Kai’s eyes as he said so were straight and true, despite the haziness within them.
“…were the days of peace so painful?”
Shin’s last words were the only ones Kai did not reply to.
Wielding his ninja blade, Kai disappeared into the shadow of a Red Tail.
The monsters surrounding Shin were 3 Red Tails and 3 White Tails. The former were around level 600, the latter level 700: all boss-class monsters.
There were also other monsters of the demon fox species, but except those heading towards Shin, they were all proceeding towards the peak.
“That’s a shame.”
Shin spoke in response to Kai’s silence. The echo of these words was so cold, it would have ran chills down the spines of whoever heard them.
Shin then unsheathed 『Moonless』 while shifting his line of sight to the right.
As he drew a silver arc in the air with the blade, a sound of clashing metal followed and 3 kunai fell on the ground, split clean in half.
Even if he had concealed himself, Kai’s 【Hiding】 was inferior to Shin’s perception abilities.
“Did you think you were hiding?”
Shin’s line of sight uncovered Kai’s position.
Because Kai felt a chill down the back of his spine he turned towards the origin of this savage thirst for blood. Even though his facial expression became stiff, it also changed into a smile.
“What I sensed that time was no lie, I see.”
Even if he had accepted death as positive, some things could not be overcome.
The stench of blood Kai had sensed from Shin was not something that would emanate from someone who only battled against monsters.
It was proof that his hands were stained with the blood of countless people.
Kai looked downward towards the rattling sound that had reached his ears. He found his right arm, the one holding his blade, shaking.
The demon foxes around Shin too, intimidated by his killing intent, could not move.
Even the other demon foxes heading towards the peak turned towards Shin, their bodies trembling.
“Heh, this is how true war must be.”
Kai pulled out a round pill from his robe and swallowed it, then charged towards Shin.
Kai’s after-images split and attacked Shin.
It was a technique combining high-speed movement and illusions, by using the skills 【Ground Shrink】 and 【Mirage Dance】. The round pill allowed Kai to move at a speed easily surpassing the average Chosen One.
This combination, which Schnee often uses too, served to enhance all of Kai’s techniques, also taking advantage of his boosted physical abilities.
“A ninja should never attack from the front, come on.”
Before Shin’s 『Moonless』, it was all meaningless.
No matter how deftly Kai hid within the illusions, Shin’s eyes could see through them. Attacking him from the front was a poor strategy, no matter how boosted Kai was by the round pill.
In the blink of an eye, Shin closed in on one of Kai’s copies: it was the real one.
Even if wide-eyed in surprise, Kai tried to dodge with all his might. Maybe because of his long experience in battle, his body moved before he could think.
Thanks to this, the air-rending slash performed by 『Moonless』 stopped at slicing the ninja’s left arm off.
“I alone am no match, I see. —-Attack!!”
After Kai’s order, the demon foxes, frozen still because of Shin’s killing intent, started moving. They targeted Shin with fangs and claws, taking advantage of their large bodies.
They had already understood, from watching the exchange between Kai and Shin, that magic would not work.
“You’re in the way.”
The White tail and Red Tail’s claws were approaching Shin from both the left and right side. Shin responded indifferently by swinging 『Moonless』.
Two silver flashes run through the air. As they disappeared, the HP of two demon foxes reached zero.
Their heads and front legs fell to the ground seconds later.
Katana-type martial skill 【Beast Hunt】.
Thanks to the skill’s increased damage against animal-type monsters such as the demon foxes, two units fell with ridiculous ease.
Shin lightly swung 『Moonless』, still not stained with a single drop of blood, and spoke.
“I will cut down everything. Give up.”
In the space of one single breath, Shin slayed the White Tail approaching from behind. He then took the killing intent he had been focusing on his surroundings to intimidate the monsters and released it to the fullest, without limiting it.
His opponent being shifted from humans to monsters, his intent also shifted from defeating to killing.
Differently from a bandit or ruffian, in Shin’s eyes Kai was acting with a clear objective.
He seemed to have been influenced by something, but as also displayed by 【Analyze】, he was not under complete manipulation.
He did not know what the reason was, but Shin felt that for both Kai and Juugo, deep down their own will was behind their actions. After his conversation with Kai, Shin’s supposition turned into certainty.
If their will desired war and killing though, for Shin there was no other choice.
Excluding the monster’s involvement, a commotion like this would have happened sooner or later.
For the present Hinomoto, their position was that of heretics. Their ways and thoughts would never be understood.
Even if in a contorted form, their love for their country was at the heart of it all.
That too was a way of thinking. But no matter what their reasons were, Shin would not accept Juugo and Kai’s way of doing things.
And thus, he cuts.
The killing intent emanating from his body, as chilling as a deathly cold breeze, spoke to those facing Shin, telling them to prepare to die.
“After a life spent in the darkness, for my last opponent to be someone of such might…I am thankful.”
A smile widening on his lips, Kai leapt and ran through Shin’s killing intent.
Normally he could have closed the distance in an instant. However Kai’s body, although boosted by the round pill, could not keep up with his mind.
Shin was looking in Kai’s direction, but did not move a step.
He held 『Moonless』 straight in front, its tip pointed forward, quietly staring at Kai. There were no openings in his stance.
As he was running towards Shin, Kai’s legs creaked. His long battle experience told him that something was wrong with his bones. Then, as if provoked by that, his legs and arms produced strange noises.
“I see the recoil has come.”
Shin said while looking at Kai.
After looking at Kai’s status display, Shin had guessed what the pill Kai swallowed had to be.
Shin’s decision of cutting down Kai was out of compassion: having him destroy himself would have been too pitiful of an ending.
“It’s been awhile since I last saw someone use a forbidden drug.”
“But even if I did, look at me now.”
What Shin called forbidden drug was actually an item with the official name of “Miracle Drug of Blinking Life”.
Using it would instantly raise all stats by several stages, but in exchange HP would decrease at a fixed rate, the player dying after a few minutes.
In addition, recovering lost HP or reviving right after dying was not possible: as penalty for dying, the player would also be forcefully transported to their hometown.
In the game, it was an item used only in battles between players.
Even if one defeated a boss using it, the system would prevent any EXP or loot gain, so the players that just enjoyed adventuring did not even know of its existence.
“This is the end.”
Kai’s HP was already close to zero. Even in such a state, the techniques he unleashed were not weakened in the least.
The ninja blade’s attacks continued. Kai’s katana, painted black to be used in stealth missions, was met by Shin’s 『Moonless』.
The platinum and gleaming black weapons crossed paths. Shin and Kai stopped moving, their backs to each other.
After this one last word, Kai fell. The katana he still held in his right hand had its blade cut in half.
“…can’t say this feels right.”
When Shin turned around, Kai had already drawn his last breath.
Looking at his somehow pleased-looking expression, Shin scratched his head, perplexed.
Possibly finding an opening in his now relaxed guard, Shin was attacked by a mass of flame and ice. However, it was enough to attract his attention. The attack was canceled by his magic resistance.
“So it’s not like he was in command, huh. You should at least know that laying a hand on me or Fuji would be the end of you though.”
As he finished talking, at Shin’s feet lied the corpses of 1 Red Tail and 1 Blue Tail. His opponents were now only monsters, so he swung his sword without the slightest hesitation.
Shin directed his perception towards Fuji and noticed a dot of light moving rapidly around the demon foxes. It was Munechika.
As the small dot came closer, the big ones would disappear. The speed at which they were annihilated was overwhelming: the 8-headed Orochi did not even move from the peak.
“There are still plenty of them; guess I’ll lend a hand.”
Shin started hunting down the demon foxes from the direction opposite to the dot he thought to be Munechika.
After less than an hour, most of the demon foxes that had gathered on Fuji had been exterminated.
As Shin took down the last unit, the sparkle of platinum armor appeared before him.
“So it was you, Shin.”
What appeared was the katana and person carrying the name of One of the Five Supreme Blades – Mikazuki Munechika. As she was battling, she was wearing her helmet, but not her flowing black hair nor her armor were stained by enemy blood.
“I see you did not have trouble either.”
“Monsters of that level are nothing to me. Curious to see you appear at the same time as the monsters’ assault though. Do you know something?”
“I don’t know much in detail, but I’ll tell you all I can.”
Shin briefly explained about Juugo, Kai, Tamamo and the plan they had put into action.
After he finished talking, Munechika thought for a while, holding her fingers to her lips, then she looked towards the peak of Fuji.
“The demon foxes’ goal for attacking was probably what we are protecting on top of the mountain. Not only the demon foxes, but many of Hinomoto’s monsters with a certain degree of intellect came to attack Fuji.”
“Is there something of much importance there? I did think it was strange that the mountain’s master Kagutsuchi wasn’t there, but…no, I do not mean to pry. You don’t need to answer.”
“Heh, I know that. I suppose I could tell you. Because your partner, the Element Tail, probably noticed already.”
“Eh? You knew Yuzuha was an Element Tail?”.
Shin was also surprised that Yuzuha apparently knew the reason behind Kagutsuchi’s absence, but Munechika’s knowledge of Yuzuha’s species was even more astonishing to him.
“The energy of the Ley lines has a peculiar aura. I heard from Kagutsuchi that Element Tails have the ability of influencing Ley lines, as well.”
Judging from Munechika’s words, it didn’t look like Kagutsuchi had been slain.
Just like Yuzuha, it was apparently possible to communicate with it. During the game the battle would always start without any actual conversation, so Shin found it a bit surprising.
“Well, this is not the time to stand around chatting. Go to your partner. And one more thing, you haven’t forgotten the promise to return to me, have you? I cannot claim to be patient, I will wait for only 10 years at most.”
“I will go now then. Rest assured, I have no intention of making you wait that long.”
Shin replied thinking that for an impatient person, that was a pretty long time span.
Strictly speaking, Munechika was like a spirit hosted within a sword, so there was no concept of lifespan for her, or so Shin reflected.
“I am looking forward to it then.”
Shin thanked Munechika, who told him the direction Yuzuha was in, and headed off.