Kaze no Stigma:Volume1 Chapter4
 Chapter Four - Returning to Visit, and Then――
Just as he came within ten meters of the front door...
With displeasure, Kazuma glared at the guardsman who was screaming in shock.
He mumbled in his heart.
Even though they're on high alert, they only now realized that I arrived? They're beyond useless.
However, the speedy reaction of the other party was worthier of praise! Upon hearing the guardsman's shout, every practitioner that was spread out across the area rushed over one by one.
Within seconds, at least ten Enjutsu practitioners surrounded Kazuma.
“Let me meet the Suzerain.”
Kazuma arrogantly commanded, completely ignoring the killing intent coming from all directions.
“We've already come out to get the door. You should be grateful.”
(Looks like these guys want to pick a fight with me.)
Even though Kazuma knew that the other party was taunting him, he did not want to bear with it at all. He became furious.
Ever since he came back to Japan, he came across a series of unhappy events. First of all, he was dragged into the fight between the Kannagi clan and the mystery man, then he fell into the mystery man's trap and watched helplessly as Ren was abducted. Faced with the task of reporting Ren's abduction, he had no choice but to force himself to come to the Kannagi household, which he had sworn never to come close to ever again.
All of this had stressed Kazuma's nerves, and it showed on his face as extreme annoyance. He just wanted to find someone to beat up, no matter who it was.
And now, it just so happened that there were a bunch of idiots conveniently waiting in rows as if saying “Please punch me”. There was no reason to give up the opportunity.
One of the idiots stood out to break the stalemate. He might have been someone that Kazuma used to know, but at the moment, Kazuma had no intention of identifying any of them.
“At a time like this, you think you can stand in front of us and beg for mercy?!”
As he spoke, it seemed like he was trying to control his fury with all his might.
Hoping to save even a bit of time, Kazuma slowly opened his mouth and said,
“I said to summon the Suzerain... But is anyone listening to me?”
The shouting practitioner began angrily throwing fireballs, but at that instant, Kazuma attacked him like a giant using an uppercut punch, making a sound like a blunt object striking a wall. Kazuma's attacker flew into the air, his chin shattering into pieces. He lost the strength to even open his mouth, only being able to spit out blood mixed with broken teeth.
None of the other Enjutsu practitioners had seen Kazuma's attack. They began to retreat in disbelief, instinctively fearful of this attack method that they had never seen before. However, even as they realized this, the battle had already begun, so they started to collect their fighting spirit.
Of course, Kazuma had not intended to fight. It just seemed that someone inside him was repeatedly saying that the world would be better off if all those idiots died. Kazuma allowed that voice to persuade him, forgetting the purpose of his visit in the process.
"Fist of Air" ...Blocks of air that are highly compressed and sent forth at the speed of sound. The instant before contact, the wind compresses almost hundredfold and, after pointing to a certain direction, instantaneously expands to its original state like a spring, hitting the target with unbelievable strength that easily surpasses a professional boxer's finishing blow.
The Enjutsu practitioners were helpless as one after another was knocked down.
Kazuma threw out a string of continuing combos, throwing air bombs without regards to accuracy as long as they flew in the general direction of his targets. They even ended up unearthing the surface and fracturing the wall. The people that had been standing were completely knocked down and left helpless on the ground.
Kazuma's hands were still resting in the pockets of his leather jacket. People that were able to stand up against him were nowhere to be found.
The practitioners were spread out across the ground. Some had broken lower jaws, some had sunken noses that continuously spewed out blood, and some were moaning about with serious internal damage. They laid around in various positions, none able to continue fighting.
Even though Kazuma didn't even need 30 seconds to take out the practitioners, he did not show an ounce of arrogance. He simply accepted the landslide difference in strength, passing off his victory as a logical certainty.
However, his expression unexpectedly became pensive.
Unable to find even a single unharmed victim, Kazuma realized that he had committed a deadly mistake.
“I thought carefully and spoke clearly to these people so that something like this wouldn't happen...”
A phone call ahead of time would have probably accomplished his goal. Also, there was no need to talk directly with the Suzerain. Even if they had suddenly met, Kazuma wouldn't have been able to find anything to say. This time, it was only because Ren had been captured in front of his own eyes, clouding his judgment. And also...
“Also, I wanted to come back after all, huh?”
This place was what I called home in the past. I thought I had already abandoned this place, and yet here I am.
Kazuma shook his head, interrupting his thought pattern fearing that pondering any deeper would unearth quite an unhappy answer.
“Hey, wake up. Don’t fall asleep on me!”
Kazuma yelled and kicked an inexperienced practitioner, attempting to distract his mood. However, the practitioner weakly opened his eyes, slowly closing them as he became conscious of the pain coming from his injuries. He simply allowed Kazuma to do as he liked.
Kazuma abhorrently threw away his victim. He then went straight for the door without caring whether he stepped on the ground or a practitioner.
The door was already open, since the people that came out through it had already been defeated. And beyond the door was an area where twice as many Enjutsu practitioners were waiting. The moment Kazuma walked through the door, he was met with almost thirty lines of fire.
The enormous heat transformed into plasma and completely surrounded Kazuma, emitted enough light to burn even the eyes. The attacking practitioners had their moment of glory.
(We killed him!)
(If we did this much and he’s still not dead...)
(...No human could survive that!)
Suddenly, in the dissipating fire, they saw something they couldn't believe.
Kazuma was standing safely inside the white flames that were tinted with blue and green.
Kazuma lazily waved his hand, extinguishing the collected strength of thirty flames. Not even a hair on Kazuma's head was harmed.
“Impossible... Is that guy a youma god...?”
The practitioners were so shocked that they apparently even forgot how to breathe. If they had looked calmly, they might have been able to see the thin layer of air that separated Kazuma and the flames.
High-level practitioners could even surpass the laws of physics. Whether it was an Enjutsu or a Fuujutsu practitioner, igniting a fire without using oxygen or blocking the heat transferred in the air was most certainly possible.
Kazuma had complete control of the air inside this space. His will was stronger than the laws of physics so, no matter how large the amount of heat there was, it could not be transferred into Kazuma’s body.
The requirements to become a first rate practitioner was not the strength of their spells, nor knowledge, nor technique, but willpower. The willpower to deny the present reality and construct his own fantasy world.
Jutsu, or magic, is based on mixing willpower into "Initial Principle" and creating new laws to control the effects. The constructed system of the world is rewritten, and the new laws are changed into reality.
In other words, in order to make the flames reach Kazuma, the Enjutsu practitioner would need a stronger will than what Kazuma employed to deny the laws of physics. Basically, what is needed is to use an even stronger will to deny his fabricated laws. Nothing will be achieved if the practitioner does not have enough determination of burning Kazuma to surpass Kazuma's refusal of being burned.
Since nothing was achieved in this case, Kazuma’s will was most likely stronger than the combined will of the thirty practitioners.
The practitioners mumbled, staring with shock.
It ought to be said that they can only mumble.
They understood the reasons for their ineffective spell. In fact, they understood it very well, the same way they understood things such as arms and legs.
Of course, they did not consider Kazuma’s existence as something beyond common sense. They only considered him as a first-class Fuujutsu practitioner, and consequently, believed that Kazuma simply commanded a huge wind spirit.
Kazuma’s strength had already surpassed what they previously considered, completely achieving another dimension. The difference was clear.
Kazuma didn’t counterattack these practitioners, though. It was obviously not to forgive them, but simply that, from the start, he wanted to ignore the practitioners from the branch families.
Because of the practitioners, Kazuma began to recall the eighteen years he spent in this mansion. They were memories of a home that contained almost no happiness. No matter who it was, everyone disregarded him almost to the point of ignoring his existence. Inside such an excessive clan, there was hardly anyone who kindly accepted him.
But no matter what kind of persecution Kazuma received, he still began to feel homesickness. After all, it was the place of his roots.
(That’s right... I came back here...)
Kazuma could only admit this thought. Even though he was looked down upon and bullied, he was still protected here. He was shielded from society and from the responsibilities of living alone.
However, yearning for someone to protect him was weakness, escapism, and, to put it simply, running away from reality.
Even though Kazuma admitted that his weakness, which he should have had already abandoned four years ago, still lingered within him, this was something that made him depressed.
(In the end, I can't allow this home to continue existing...)
Kazuma was assaulted by large amounts of unhappiness, and stubbornly began blaming the roots of his evils on the Kannagi main family. He came to the decision of crushing it with his own hands.
Hearing Kazuma’s will, an even bigger wind spirit appeared. A wind pressure that could challenge a typhoon began condensing within his palm.
If he released all of it, everything within 200 meters would be destroyed in a blink of an eye. Seeing this, the practitioners already prepared for death.
Kazuma completely forgot about the Kannagi clan or anyone living close by. His only thought was to erase the annoying things right in front of his eyes.
Even Kazuma himself did not notice the large amount of pressure that he accumulated. He was indulged in such self-satisfied thoughts that he was not properly regulating his power.
“What, what is this strength?!”
No matter what they did, the practitioners had no way of understanding Kazuma's thoughts. They stood stupidly in the face of such crushing strength, without even thinking of defending with jutsu.
This was clearly within reason. The wind spirits that Kazuma summoned was enough to eradicate the mansion, whether released as a jutsu or as an out-of-control rampage.
The older practitioners exchanged glances without speaking. They had more experience, so they weren't as stunned. Being exposed to Juugo when he was a young boy, they were already familiar with out-of-control spirits that could be categorized as a natural disaster. Although, at that time, they felt that they would be protected by that extreme strength.
After making an enormous inner determination, they realized that there was only one way to defend against the attack that Kazuma was preparing.
They would gamble their lives to perform a summoning of massive proportions, which could result in a mutual suicide. But they had already prepared for death.
(If only to protect the Suzerain...)
(Before Ayano-sama returns...)
There was no reason for them to gamble their lives other than trying to defeat Kazuma. After all, if Kazuma was standing here, then Genma was probably already defeated.
In that case, only Ayano had the ability to fight on par with Kazuma. With that in mind, the practitioners decided to gamble their lives in order to gain time for Ayano’s return.
“Hold it right there.”
A calm voice detained them just before they attacked. The voice's immense power stopped everyone in their tracks.
Time may have frozen for a moment, since nobody moved for a while. During that time, the only audible sound was the bamboo hitting the stone.
“It's too dangerous! Please withdraw!”
All of the practitioners recommended the Suzerain to withdraw.
Despite everyone having their eyes on him, Juugo walked with ease while continuing to look at Kazuma.
Kazuma also met Juugo’s eyes.
Juugo had always been very gentle with Kazuma, always speaking with feelings of loving concern instead of scolding with strict words. During Kazuma's teenage years when he was surrounded by hostility, only his time with Juugo allowed him relief.
To Kazuma, Juugo was similar to an admirable father, in contrast to Genma who only gave him terror.
A kind of ancient yearning surged forth. However, even if Kazuma wanted to cry, tears would not come out.
Apparently, Juugo completely understood Kazuma's feelings. Speaking as if to a relative he had not seen in a long time, Juugo greeted Kazuma.
“Long time no see, Kazuma. How are you doing?”
Knowing that Juugo still believed in him, Kazuma laughed as if he was being released from confinement.
Juugo laughed energetically as well. Seeing the typhoon in Kazuma's hand, he said,
“If it's like that, then, what's in your hand?”
“Huh? Oh, just trying to surpass the past.”
Kazuma clumsily waved his hand, dismissing all of the accumulated spirits. He even forgot the customary etiquette of saying 'thank you' to all of the spirits.
“Huh? Um, ok... It's hard to talk while standing here, so come in for cup of tea.”
Juugo could not have thoroughly understood what Kazuma had meant, so he merely treated the words as neglected mumblings.
The practitioners stood as if force fed muting pills, simply watching Juugo's light conversation with Kazuma. They probably thought that Kazuma would make a sneak attack with his back turned.
“Su-Suzerain, Kazuma is a traitor!”
Juugo glanced sadly at the still incompetent practitioners. He then slowly turned around to face Kazuma and asked,
“Uh, is it like that?”
Kazuma said with a shrug. The bunch of idiots continued their puzzled stares, unable to speak despite having working mouths.
“So it seems.”
“No, we can't trust him!”
The practitioners shouted with dissatisfaction, believing that Juugo was being deceived.
“Calm down, you idiots!”
Juugo scolded, sighing. He continued,
“If Kazuma was serious, you would all be dead. Now do you understand?”
The practitioners all looked towards Kazuma and his careless appearance. The power that could annihilate them was completely gone. It could not be disputed that this once useless man returned as a superior, first-class practitioner.
“...Say, why did you return? It couldn't have just been for a gathering, right?”
“Ah, that's right. There's something I need to tell you.”
Kazuma finally remembered the reason for his visit, although it was very humiliating to admit to someone else that Ren was captured under his watch.
(Can't be helped, I guess. After all, losing the initiative was my fault.)
“...Ren has been abducted. The culprit was someone who can use the wind, most likely an accomplice of the murderer that killed your comrades.”
“Quit joking! You were the one who killed Shinji and Shingo!”
The Soushu of the Yuuki family came forward, speaking to Kazuma for the first time.
(It doesn't matter who dies as long as it's not your sons?)
For an instant, the man had an urge to say that, but he managed to keep it to himself. After all, he wasn't someone worthy of attention.
“Ren was seized?”
Juugo also ignored Yuuki’s words and questioned Kazuma to know if he was killed.
“That's right. I'm not too sure about the details, but I know that he's still alive. Don't know why, though. I came here to inform you guys, but could it be that you already know who did it?”
“No, not yet. But thank you for the information.”
Juugo seemed to think of something as his face turned bitter. He said something to the man standing at his side. Kazuma tried hard to remember, and recalled that this was a man trusted by Juugo.
That man bowed, and quickly departed from the house.
“Did you see what that person looked like?”
“...Yeah, but I don't think it'll help at all. That thing isn't even human.”
Just thinking about him brought chills to Kazuma, since the irregular youma ki that 'it' possessed could not have been from anything human.
“I see... By the way, what happened to Genma?”
Juugo's question made Kazuma sincerely laugh. Rather than that of a grown man, his laugh was more of a teenage boy's. His grin wasn't something that could be achieved from practicing. It was a mischievous grin that completely covered his face.
Kazuma showed his thumb and turned it down. With his chin moving backwards, he bragged,
“I kicked his ass.”
“Huh, haha, hahahahahahaha! So you kicked his ass, huh?”
Juugo laughed uncontrollably, an unstoppable roaring laughter, at Kazuma's overly energetic and carefree reply.
“Suzerain! This is not a funny matter!”
The practitioners worriedly admonished the Suzerain's unstopping laughter.
“Hmm, I suppose it isn't.”
Juugo pulled his face back to a severe, unyielding and steady stare. He then asked Kazuma,
“Don't tell me you killed him?”
“Nah, I felt like being merciful. I even called an ambulance! Quite kind of me!”
“If that's the case, then it's alright.”
The person interrupting Juugo was like the practitioner from before. He became so angry that he started to stagger as if he was dizzy.
“If you're not feeling well, you can withdraw.”
“My situation is of no importance! If Kazuma knocked out Genma-sama, then it is absolutely certain that he is rebelling!”
“...This is just a father-son argument.”
“This... Something like this is...!”
“Understood. I just went over this. Okay, you can withdraw.”
Juugo disrupted the person's words, gesturing at Kazuma as he left through the door. Kazuma followed suit.
And so, after four years, Kazuma finally returned to the place where he was born.
Kazuma slowly observed the mansion that he had not walked through for four years. Like the exterior, the interior of the mansion did not change at all. It was constructed during the Warring States Period, and a mere four years was not enough for any changes.
Kazuma continued behind Juugo, following without speaking as he was taken to Juugo's private room.
“We can talk normally here. What would you like to drink?”
“It doesn't matter. Besides, I'm not thirsty...”
Listening to Kazuma's casual reply, Juugo stared at Kazuma as if searching for something.
“Hm... Don't you trust me?”
“It's not that I suspect you.”
Suddenly, a discordant atmosphere began to fill the room.
After all, there wasn't a single reason for the Kannagi clan to believe Kazuma. Apart from Juugo, everyone believed him to be the murderer.
It was really unbelievable for Kazuma to appear in the home of the enemies pursuing his life.
“Why did you leave the house?”
Juugo broke the silence. More than anything else, this was what he wanted to hear about the most.
“When I heard that you were disowned, you had already left without a single word. Am I that untrustworthy?”
“Ah... Actually, I didn't think of that. At that time, I just wanted to leave the Kannagi clan without delay. Both Otou-san and Okaa-san said that there was no other choice.”
“What did Miyuki say?”
This was the first time Juugo heard that Kazuma had seen his mother before leaving home.
“Now that I think about it, I was so foolish. Rather than going to you, I was requested by that woman to apologize... To think, I still believed that my parents cared.”
Kazuma crooked his mouth, ridiculing himself of the past.
Rather than hating Miyuki, it was about him being so foolish. He thought that things like ties of blood and motherhood would help him.
“What did Miyuki... say?”
Kazuma was brought back to that day, four years ago. Juugo's voice barely reached Kazuma, as if it was coming from a distant place.
When Kazuma first entered his mother's room, he couldn't calm down, constantly waiting for his mother's reply.
In contrast, Miyuki was sitting opposite Kazuma with a tranquil attitude as if she was completely unaffected. She was showing the same composure that she would when idly chatting.
Although it felt like an eternal silence, in reality, not even a single minute had passed. She finally opened her mouth towards the son that came to her for help.
“Kazuma, your education was very good. Your physical education was also quite above normal. The teacher from the school even praised you!”
Miyuki's words crushed Kazuma's hopes. To think that Genma had requested her to do something like...!
"Such a pity. If only you had the talent for Enjutsu, I could have treated you as a worthy son, with deep love and concern."
To do something like... bidding farewell.
Kazuma realized that Miyuki constantly discussed events as if they were in the past, and that for her, everything was over. She accepted her son being disowned as a reality that could not be changed. She didn't need a useless son, and so she didn't hesitate to abandon him.
Facing her son who was begging for help in a quaking voice, Miyuki smiled and handed him a card.
“There is ten million inside. It's not a lot, but it can still fulfill your life's needs. Don't get sick, and stay alive energetically.”
Those were already words of departure. Kazuma, as if escaping, fled to his room afterwards. The next day, without taking anything, he left home by himself. It seemed like nobody even noticed his departure.
The reason he left Japan was not because of some firm determination to live independently and alone.
He was afraid. Afraid that his parents would become heartless monsters even more terrifying than youma and say "I don't need useless things".
He wanted to hide in a place where they could never find him. Even though he knew that they would not send people after him, his body did not seem to understand, simply running as far as it could.
When he finally arrived at Hong Kong, Kazuma was finally able to unwind for the first time. But back then, he could never had known of the tragedy that was about to take place.
“Ahh, it's probably like that.”
Juugo said nothing, merely burying his head in deep thought.
This woman always did things her own way... But I can't believe she was this cruel......
“Oh well, don't be bothered by it. It's all in the past now.”
“...You've become strong, Kazuma.”
Juugo spoke deeply. To think that a simple youth who was a mere pronoun four years ago became an outstanding man that possessed great power and the mental strength to control that power. Juugo felt very happy.
Though he praised Kazuma from the bottom of his heart for accomplishing this feat, the most important thing right now was to clear Kazuma's name. Everything would begin from now.
“...I can't agree with you.”
“Is it still not enough? Why do you desire power so much?”
Juugo asked, using a somewhat criticizing tone. Contrary to what he had thought, Kazuma did not seem very satisfied with his power.
However, Kazuma had clearly not fallen into some drunken pursuit of power. Instead, he was like a lost and desperate youth trying to find a place to repose.
“Yeah, I did become stronger... and don't cry anymore. But... even if I had to sell my soul to the devil, it wouldn't be a problem, because I absolutely cannot allow myself to remain weak.”
Kazuma said while hiding his head, with two arms encircling his raised knee.
He could still clearly remember that day, when he was crying feebly with his pupils frozen by hopelessness and horror. He would never forget it in all his years.
(I couldn't do anything...)
No matter what kind of crazy, assiduous training he went through, no matter how many times he pushed himself to the brink of death, it was impossible to return to that moment. He couldn't save...... her.
"Why do you desire power so much?"
Kazuma could not answer that question.
Is it so you can prevent such tragedies from happening again?
Is it so you can protect better this time?
Those kinds of ideas could not satisfy him. She could never return... since she was locked in the bottom of hell.
"Why do you desire power so much?"
(I don't know!)
There was no reason, no purpose, that he could give. It was simply because he had the ability to command the wind spirits, an ability that would never blossom within the Kannagi family.
"Why do you desire power so much?"
"...I wanted to protect..."
Kazuma muttered, as if squeezing out toothpaste. In the end, he still could not say anything, because he still could not overcome it. One day, however, he will surely discover the real meaning of power...
Juugo didn't say anything, merely watching Kazuma quietly.
("...I wanted to protect...")
Juugo did not know much about Kazuma's past. All he could do was to imagine what that unfulfilled promise could have meant, and imagine the pain that Kazuma was going through.
“Oh yeah, after this is all over, let's find a day to have a drink together! You can choose the place.”
Even so, Juugo could at least be a listener to his complaints! If Kazuma could spit out all of the unhappiness accumulated within his heart, he just might be able to gain some tranquility. Juugo hoped that he could help his "son" as a "father", even if the result turns out to be insignificant.
Kazuma hid the scar that was bleeding to this day and gave a gentle smile.
“Suzerain, I have the information you wanted.”
A voice suddenly came in from the other side of the pull door. Juugo immediately gave him permission to enter.
The person who entered was the man that was previously commanded by Juugo to go do something. He had a folder in his hand.
“It's this one.”
Juugo accepted the file and slowly opened it. He passed the information onto Kazuma.
“I only have a 10 year old picture... But is this person the culprit?”
“...Yeah, that's right.”
Kazuma replied immediately after seeing the photo accompanying the information. This shounen, over ten years, had added the ki of a youma to himself and turned into a monster whose mere presence could send shivers down the back.
(Wait. In other words, that thing used to be human?)
“Is that so? Go detain all the Fuuga clan members, quickly!”
Juugo eyed Kazuma while he was still looking at the photo, then gave commands to the assistant. The assistant's entire being immediately disappeared, simply vanishing without a trace.
“That person... Just what kind of person is he?”
Kazuma looked at the spot where Juugo's assistant was standing just a moment ago. How the person moved was a mystery to him.
“My attendant, didn't you know?”
“No... uh... I guess it doesn't really matter.”
Juugo quietly smiled to himself at being able to surprise Kazuma. Kazuma decided to give up on the matter.
Kazuma moved his eyes back onto the file and discovered that there was one name written it: Kazamaki Ryuuya.
That was the last name of the Fuuga captain.
"This thing is Hyoue's son. Around ten years ago he fell ill. During his recovery, I have not seen him even once."
“So that's how it is? Rebellion? Gah, you tormented them too much.”
Based on Kazuma's knowledge, although the Fuuga clan was described as a subordinate organization of the Kannagi clan, they were really no different from slaves. That was the most likely reason for the rebellion.
“Maybe it is like that.”
Juugo’s voice became very grave. Such things as rebellions were much more problematic compared to attacks from exterior enemies. Unfortunately, as a suzerain, having such a headache was part of the job.
On another note, for Kazuma, this was completely someone else's problem. No matter what the problem was, there is no connection with him. The first and only thing that came to his mind was how to rescue Ren. Whether or not the Kannagi clan survived did not concern him.
“Then, why did the Fuuga clan kidnap Ren? As a hostage, his value is quite insignificant.”
Although Ren was from the main family of the Kannagi clan, his existence was not irreplaceable. Arguably, if it was Ayano, the successor of the Enraiha, it would be another story, but using Ren as a hostage wouldn't force the Kannagi clan to move carelessly nor act rashly.
“He is not being held as a hostage... but as a living sacrifice!”
“...A living sacrifice!?”
Kazuma's face became red with rage as old scars were suddenly torn anew.
...Her maroon hair dyed red by fresh blood... Her deep green eyes, which were once overflowing with life, now blurred like old glass marbles... Lips that seem to create songs would never open again...
"You... Can you protect me?"
Kazuma tightly clenched his fists. The pain from forcing his fingernails to break skin pulled him back to reality.
(Forget it! Even if it's just for this moment...!)
Kazuma, whose breath was filled with frustration, punched the floor with his fist, which was dripping blood.
“Sorry, I interrupted you, please continue...”
Suddenly, Kazuma stopped talking and looked through the window towards the outside. Juugo also turned to look in the same direction, though his reaction was late by a couple of seconds. They noticed the ki of fire spirits that were increasing explosively.
After walking close to the window and seeing Kazuma’s form, Ayano’s posture instantly changed as she jumped directly in through the window while holding onto Enraiha with one hand.
After visually confirming Kazuma’s position, Ayano shouted and raised the Enraiha to the Jodan no Kamae position.
Without any doubts or hesitation, she swung downwards without paying any attention to the surrounding environment. This kind of quick and decisive decision making is worthy of praise!
Kazuma, surprised by this sneak attack, reacted a couple of seconds late. But that was already a deadly delay. Even though he instantly constructed a kekkai, for it to receive a plasma attack surpassing a thousand degrees...
(Damn, not enough!)
The number of wind spirits was absolutely inadequate.
When interfering with "Initial Principle", practitioners are to use the spirits within their control to alter the environment.
In order to do that, a large number of spirits or spirits with enough strength must be gathered. If the accumulated spirits do not have enough power, then no matter how strong one's will is, it is still impossible to realize the desired defense.
No matter how strong the will, it can not transform into real power if there are no spirits, as the spirits are a medium to transmit their will to the world. No matter how much a person will try to curse another, it is impossible to kill that person merely by thinking bad ills upon them. It can only be done by accumulating enough spirits to produce an effect.
The scorching plasma instantly severed the kekkai. The branch families could not even compare to this power that came like the arrival of the sun. No matter how fast Kazuma could summon, there was no way he could create a strong enough kekkai in such a short time.
The kekkai that appeared outside the room was instantly destroyed, allowing the plasma to come in contact with the glass of the window. Unable to withstand getting sandwiched between two powerful attacks of wind and fire, the window frame, and even the wall surrounding it, began to weather down and collapse.
(Shit! I'm going to get stabbed!)
Just when Kazuma thought he was about to die...
A fierce ki emerged, extinguishing the plasma about to vaporize Kazuma and erasing it without leaving a trace, as if it were only a dream.
Kazuma quietly praised Juugo. After all, Juugo not only seized the spirits under Ayano's control, he even completely sent them away with his powerful ki.
It really was willpower beyond that of a normal person. Although he had already retired from the front line, the power that had been proclaimed as the strongest in history had not diminished in the slightest.
She didn't know exactly why, but Ayano sensed that Juugo wasn't very happy with her actions. As if searching for an opportunity to flee, she bent back while retreating.
Unfortunately, that chance never came.
Juugo's roar had the potential to punch through a body.
Ayano fearfully rolled into a ball like a little child.
Juugo's roar proved to have impossibly massive power. It was so loud that it shook the walls that survived Ayano's first attack and shattered any remaining glass.
“You idiot daughter! How many times have I told you not to swing that sword around without thinking?! Why can't you understand that the one who holds the Enraiha should not casually and carelessly use strength?! At least have some intellect to accompany that strength! Idiot!”
Ayano couldn't continue standing. Faced with the heartless reproach from her father, who was almost always very gentle and kind, she was so shocked that she fell towards the garden with her butt on the ground. Her eyes began to grow moist as if about to cry.
Juugo faced Kazuma again, apologizing for his daughter's reckless behavior,
“Sorry, my daughter did something disrespectful, very sorry... hmm?” Kazuma, who was standing there just a moment ago, was not found. Noticing something, Juugo looked downwards, seeing Kazuma covering his ears with both hands.
“What are you doing...?”
Juugo asked a surprising question.
Kazuma replyed with a hoarse voice,
“Nothing... Just, next time you roar like that, please warn me. You scared me half to death...”
Ayano, who was several meters away, only felt a loud voice that rattled the bones. However, Kazuma, who was right in front of Juugo, was struck by shockwaves rather than a shout. Although his ear membrane was stunned, his brain was still ringing from the powerful waves that penetrated his entire body.
“...Even my brain feels like its splitting.”
Kazuma stood up shakily. Though his brain was still ringing from the reverberations comparable to a percussion instrument, he ignored it with his willpower.
"Let's continue, please ignore that idiot daughter."
Kazuma said, sitting down at the same spot without moving. Trying to continue standing wasn't very easy as the ossicles in his ears were still numb.
“...No, it's just that Ayano doesn't know what's going on. Let her listen, it will be easier for me.”
After a slight hesitation, Juugo called Ayano over. Ayano gave thanks to Enraiha and hung it in a crevice on the wall. She came closer to Juugo, bowing and lowering her head.
“I'm very sorry.”
Ayano immediately pressed herself onto the ground and bowed. She was not really sure about what was going on, but she preemptively selected this action to apologize.
"...That's enough, in the future, just pay more attention!"
Juugo did not want to repeat this topic as right now was not the time for it.
“Listen closely, Ayano. The guilty one isn't Kazuma. It's the Fuuga clan!”
“Fuuga? What can weak people like them do...?”
Juugo glared at the interrupting Ayano, telling her to be quiet.
“The culprit was Kazamaki Ryuuya, or more accurately, the youma who possesses him.”
“It doesn't matter who or what did it. What's this about Ren becoming a living sacrifice?”
Kazuma hurried the topic. Obviously, Ayano interrupted again.
“What? Ren was captured?”
"You shut up!"
Juugo and Kazuma accidentally but perfectly spoke at the same time. Ayano pouted unhappily, but given her recent disrespectful actions and behavior, her current situation was in a very weak light. Without any better ideas, she decided she could only sit there quietly and listen.
“Then, continuing where we left off: The ancestors of the Fuuga and Kannagi clan started out doing completely different things...”
Kazuma mumbled to himself. Wind and fire had different strengths and characteristics. Since the two were now the same clan, the most likely explanation was that the Kannagi clan ended up absorbing the Fuuga clan.
"Some 300 years ago, the Fuuga clan was proud of themselves for being able to manipulate strong and powerful wind. They created a shadow organization that thrived off of wealth gained from assassinating, cheating, and doing destructive jobs. They would do any job, no matter what it was, but as it turned out, too many of them were evil deeds. Eventually, the Kannagi clan was given a direct order from the Shogunate to eliminate them.
At the final period of the strenuous battle, our ancestors managed to seal Fuuga's source of power, and decided to absorb what was left of the Fuuga clan, who had lost most of their powers, as followers."
“What's the source of their power?”
Although Juugo's reply was quick and simple, the meaning of his words were a bit more complicated.
Kazuma glanced at Ayano, who gasped sharply. Although he himself was also surprised, due to Ayano’s earlier wavering, Kazuma decided to allow the room to return to tranquility before speaking.
“How would we seal something like that?”
Kazuma's question was not without reason. After all, to a human, sealing a god was something pretty much impossible to do.
What was mentioned as God is not the divine creator that religion adheres to - Rather, it is a general term for something or someone that surpasses all existence. Surpassing mankind is the basis of a god's status, and for one to be defeated by mankind would contradict the definition. "A human sealing God" is a contradictory phrase in itself.
"This kind of situation is only passed down through oral stories told throughout the generations. What really happened, I do not know... They probably had to borrow from the King of Spirits, or else such a thing would be impossible."
The King of Spirits is quite simply the king of all spirits: The one who governs the existence of all spirits on this planet. Although it is speculated that there exists a King for earth, water, fire, and wind, no one has been able to determine whether they all exist.
About a thousand years ago, the first suzerain of the Kannagi clan and the King of Fire Spirits were able to achieve a covenant, and the Enraiha was gifted. Then, due to blood relationships, the Kannagi clan received the ability to greatly perceive the power of the fire spirits. Or so the legend goes.
Truly, if you had the power of the King of the Spirits, then it would not be impossible to seal a god...
“But even if the suzerain 300 years ago could make another contract with the King of Spirits, there aren't many humans who can use such power. You can't surpass a god. Couldn't they have directly summoned the King of Spirits?”
“...Something like that is impossible, isn't it?”
Having a king that exists in the upper world descend onto this world can only be described as a miracle that surpasses common sense. Even in theory, it would still be impossible. So, given Ayano's question, Kazuma coldly replied,
“What would happen? It doesn't matter. I can't achieve such a miracle.”
“We already knew that a long time ago!”
“Anyway, so Hyoue's motive is to revive that god?”
Kazuma gritted his teeth and continued to ignore Ayano, hurrying Juugo to continue explaining.
“Most likely, the way of sealing is passed down in secret throughout the generations of suzerains. If they started a rebellion, then that means they probably found the location of the seal, as well as the method to remove it.”
As Juugo said this, he became more impatient. After all, if the sealed god were to be released, then the Fuuga clan would obtain strength comparable to that of the Kannagi clan. Also, it is undeniable that the wrath of the sealed god would descend upon them.
“...So, Ren will become a tribute to revive the god.”
Kazuma was pretty calm given the situation. After all, he did not have any obligations to help in the survival or destruction of the Kannagi clan. If things were to really turn out that way, he could just run away. Running away was something Kazuma had absolute confidence in.
“No, in order to remove the seal, Ren is necessary... Or rather, anyone from the main branch of the Kannagi clan is necessary.”
After stopping Kazuma, Juugo continued to speak,
“Only someone from the main branch can remove the seal, because the seal is inside the Samadhi Flame.”
The Samadhi Flame is the crystallization of an absolutely untainted flame. It is a pure flame that should not even exist in this world. Anything that comes in contact with it will be vaporized without a trace, no matter what it is.
In order to send away such a thing, it is necessary to come in contact with the origin of the seal. Clearly, that is impossible without someone from the main branch.
“But, if the fire is in the way, then can't you just blow it away normally? Even if it is a Samadhi Flame, if I can do it, then that guy probably can too.”
“The seal is inside the flame.”
Juugo repeated what he just said, as if to test Kazuma.
“Then... That means...!”
“That's right, the flame is sealing that god. If it's blown away, then the sealed god's form will also disappear. So, without those protected from fire, removing the seal is impossible.”
The suzerain of that time established several layers of security for the seal. The existence of the seal was shrouded in the highest degree of secrecy, and the process of the absorption of the Fuuga clan into the Kannagi clan was erased from memory. For both the Kannagi and Fuuga, it was as if such matters had never even occurred.
The fact that the seal could not be removed by a member of the Fuuga clan was absolutely certain. Otherwise, the shogunate that desired the destruction of the Fuuga clan probably would not have accepted the results.
“If the first thing the released god sees is the descendant of the one who sealed him... I would fear to think about what would happen to Ren.”
“So that's how it is... Really, if they had just wiped out the Fuuga clan to begin with, we would not have to go through all of this.”
“You... don't you have any compassion for fellow humans?”
Ayano did not hide any of her inner hatred for Kazuma.
“Compassion for fellow humans? You... do you actually think that the Kannagi kindly rescued the Fuuga?”
“Wha-What does that mean?”
“Wind can strengthen fire. Since they're practitioners of lower standards, wouldn't using them as subordinates be more suitable?”
Kazuma's words were obviously directed at Juugo. Since at this point excuses were useless, Juugo decided to tell the truth,
“That's right. Our ancestors used the Fuuga clan as a mere tool... And a very convenient tool at that...”
“Hey, this rebellion is certainly righteous to them, since you guys treat them like slaves. It's justice to get revenge."
“What? Why are you speaking about it as if it was someone else's problem? Ren dying doesn’t matter to you?”
Ayano gritted her teeth as she fumed at Kazuma, who bore a sarcastic and unimpressed expression.
“Ren is also a practitioner of the Kannagi clan. There's no way he would obey Hyoue.”
“That... it is possible.”
Kazuma ignored Ayano, who was ready for a thorough argument, and said to Juugo,
“We haven't passed twelve hours yet so he might be ok, but manipulating him would be quite easy. No matter how talented Ren is, if we let a full day pass, they could probably get him to kill even his own parents.”
His calm and direct statement left the two Kannagi at a loss of words.
There are plenty of ways to brainwash or possess someone. Although the strength of the Kannagi clan resides in its lineage, such attributes are practical only to the body. In other words, even when unconscious or possessed by youma, the spirits would still protect Ren's body.
“...If we don't get to the seal in time, there will be no way back. We have to rescue Ren quickly.”
“Please work hard!”
Kazuma said disinterestedly as if dousing the flames of Juugo's passionate words.
Ayano furrowed her forehead. People like Kazuma, who have no sense of responsibility, are the ones that she truly hates. To her, rather than the people who just don't have enough power, the ones who are strong enough yet are unwilling to do anything, are the ones who are rotten to the core.
“You don't need to remind me! Even without you, I can handle them! I'll show you!”
“...Wait a minute!”
Juugo constrained his daughter, not because he doubted Ayano's strength, but because, since the situation involved the clan’s survival, an abundance of just fighting strength was pointless.
“Kazuma, can you defeat Ryuuya?”
“...Like hell. If I'm lucky, I might last maybe five minutes.”
After a slight pause, Kazuma replied honestly. He frequently used an objective self-evaluation method to assess himself. From experience, he had learned that overconfidence was extremely dangerous.
“Is that so...?”
Juugo mentally compared the abilities of the following people: Ryuuya > Kazuma > Genma > Ayano. In other words, Ayano alone had no possibility of winning.
“Well, wherever they summoned such a high level youma from is beyond me. Hell, even the powerful youma ki of the 3000-year old vampire from the interior of China is nothing compared to that thing.”
“You, you can even beat... something like that...?”
Juugo was probably more confused than astonished.
“Ha, yeah right! There's no way to fight against that either. I just patted my ass and tucked in my tail, then ran like the wind.”
Kazuma mischievously avoided further questioning. Those were memories he did not want to recall, so he diverted the topic back to the original discussion,
“The problem with that guy is that the wind he uses is not normal.”
"...What does that mean?"
“It's so abnormal that I have no clue how nature even developed it. The spirits around that guy are all going crazy. Because of this, I can't interfere with his spells - I can't even sense it. If he chooses to hide himself, I won't be able to sense him until just before he comes at us at point blank range.”
“That's quite... no, that's really bothersome!”
Juugo worriedly mumbled.
Spirits have wisdom and ability, and although it is unknown how to differentiate them, they also have a will. Therefore, they can get agitated just like a human being.
Putting spirits in a situation that conflicts with its own characteristics for a long period of time, such as putting fire spirits in water or sealing wind spirits in the ground, will cause them to go crazy. This is a fact that has already been confirmed.
“How would you control that kind of thing?”
Because they have already lost their consciousness, they certainly would not be able to hear the words of a human... probably.
“Who the hell knows? Nothing like this has ever happened before, so there's nothing to compare this situation with!”
Kazuma replied vaguely, and continued,
“To do that... maybe having Ayano fight would work better than trying to pit wind against wind. Since fire is the main attacking force, if she uses the Enraiha to stab him and burn him from the inside out, he'll die no matter how strong his will is.”
“Then, are you saying that you will not help?”
“I don't like working.”
“I'll pay 100 million!”
“Thanks for the job ♥”
Kazuma instantly agreed to the contract.
This was not because the huge amount of money blurred his vision. As an outsider, he needed a reason, in the form of payment, to be involved. Of course, he would take what was his, but he had already become determined to join the battle.
“You're terrible! Without money, you would have abandoned your own brother?”
Ayano spat. Kazuma simply grinned without replying.
Rather than being considered a “good guy” who acts by his emotions, being known as a miser makes him feel a lot better. Ayano's scorn did not affect him in any way.
“Ah, leave it to me.”
After glancing at Ayano, who looked like she was about to shoot lasers from her eyes, the two men shook hands in agreement.
Juugo certainly understood Kazuma's intentions. In order for him to have a proper reason to fight, he needed compensation in the form of 100 million yen.
(I really can't beat him...)
Juugo really felt that Kazuma's consideration was not the same as before.
“Then, where exactly is this place?”
By now there was no further need for discussion. Juugo simply replied,
The ceremonial mountain of the fire god laid in northwestern Kyoto. It was a sacred place to the Kannagi clan, the contractual place where the earth held the flames of the burning heavens. At this place containing 300 years of gratitude and grudges, the two clans were gambling their existence - The place of the decisive battle was there.
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