K – Return of Kings: Side Stories C6
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“Congratulations, Saruhiko. Now that you have become a J ranker, I shall give you power personally through the installation. Although, considering that you are already a 2 color user, you might not find the occasion anything special.”
Hisui’s body glowed green, entwined in whips of electricity that burst with a crackling sound. The radiance elongated in what almost looked like cords, or maybe vines that a green plant sprouted, that spread wide within a moment and attached themselves to Fus.h.i.+mi’s body. The long thin tendrils of green light clung to Fus.h.i.+mi’s arms, temples, chest, linking him up to Hisui Nagare. The moment a weak electric shock, followed by characteristic numbness, ran across his body, the light disappeared.
Having gone through multiple installations, Fus.h.i.+mi unfailingly found that when it came down to it, it was always over so quick.
Producing a knife he had hidden in his sleeve, he focused his thoughts on the third color now dwelling in his body. Green light engulfed the knife, and an electric current coiled around it. The new power, welling up from deep within his body, was nothing like its borrowed counterpart lent through a PDA.
“A third color, huh…” Fus.h.i.+mi muttered without much emotion behind the words.
“A blessing,” Hisui responded dispa.s.sionately.
Gojou Sukuna, who was watching the scene from a spot next to the Green King, gave a little tongue click.
The Green clan, Jungle, had made an enormous underground facility, construction of which had been abandoned halfway, their headquarters.
It had more than a hundred of small gates that opened up in various parts of the metropolitan area alone, and Mishakuji Yukari and Gojou Sukuna actively used them to move between the surface and the underground when they had missions outside.
This place stayed under the radar for so long probably because of the Green King’s power to control all things digital at will and easily meddle with surveillance cameras, turning them into his eyes, coupled with the power of absolute protection capable of deceiving people’s eyes that the Gray King possessed. Not even the Yuis.h.i.+ki system stood a chance against that combo.
On the deepest level of the grand underground facility, protected by strict security protocols, for some inexplicable reason, there was built a set of a dirty 6 tatami mat living room.
‘What the h.e.l.l.’
When he was escorted there for the first time, Fus.h.i.+mi fought hard to stay silent at the sight, biting back snide remarks.
The 6 tatami mat room - or rather, the set of whereof - found at the end of the pa.s.sage that looked every bit a secret pathway to the hideout of an evil organization had a very lived-in feel about it that clashed violently with the image of a respectable evil gathering.
'Seriously, what the h.e.l.l are these guys even thinking?’
Fus.h.i.+mi, however, hadn’t come there to decipher the thought processes of the Green clan’s leaders. His mission was to infiltrate the Green clan and create a chance for Scepter 4 to recover the Slate.
Fus.h.i.+mi had doubts about whether he should let Scepter 4 know of this place or not. Once they learned the location of the Slate, Scepter 4 would have room to take action. But at the same time, it would probably spell the end for Fus.h.i.+mi’s mission.
He had no doubt that if he tried to get in touch with the outside - especially with Scepter 4, the clan he had supposedly quit - no matter how careful he went about it, Hisui Nagare would know.
Fus.h.i.+mi was aware that most likely, he would get only one chance to make a move that would give Scepter 4 an advantage - would handicap Jungle, in other words. If so, then this wasn’t the right time to use up that precious chance, he concluded.
“Heeey, Saruhiko-kun, gimme a hand here,” Iwafune called from the kitchen.
Pocketing the PDA he was playing with, Fus.h.i.+mi got up reluctantly. Iwafune, in a ridiculous ap.r.o.n with a picture of the Jungle mascot parrot character “Junpy”, seemingly modeled after Kotosaka, printed on the front, smiled at Fus.h.i.+mi while kneading chicken meat packed in a plastic bag.
“Can you cut up those veggies?”
In the direction that Iwafune indicated with his chin, Chinese cabbage, crown daises, onions and whatnot was left under a running tap. Fus.h.i.+mi grimaced at the sight and surveyed the room. Unfortunately for him, all the other members were away at the moment and there was no one he could push this troublesome task onto.
Grasping from Fus.h.i.+mi’s reactions that he didn’t like the request one bit, Iwafune frowned, expression taking on a mean quality.
“Can handle missions flawlessly but hate house ch.o.r.es, huh? How about I give you a point for each cut veggie then?”
Fus.h.i.+mi suppressed a tongue click ready to fall from his lips and, with a completely sour face, replied, “No thanks.”
Iwafune let out a dry laugh. “Oh really. Good to hear, since I’ve no authority to award points anyway, you see~”
As a matter of fact, Iwafune Tenkei stayed at the “hideout” on the premise of being one of the Jungle top clansmen, except in truth he was neither a J ranker nor even a green clansman. That was why it stood to reason that he couldn’t issue missions or award points. It appeared that he did help Hisui Nagare with the missions though, but it was for free and earned him no reward.
“Are you not even registered with Jungle?” Fus.h.i.+mi asked, twirling a kitchen knife in one hand and looking down at the Chinese cabbage, currently sitting on the chopping board, with eyes full of disgust.
“I’m an old man, so I don’t really get what’s so good about those modern games. It’s a mystery for me why Nagare and Sukuna are so crazy about them that they can pip-pip with the game console all day long.”
“Isn’t it sort of unwise to support Hisui Nagare without really understanding what it is that he’s doing?”
Iwafune gave a guttural chuckle, not taking his eyes off what he was doing. Inside the plastic bag, bite-sized pieces of meat changed color with the sauce rubbed onto them. Iwafune put the bag aside for the time being and poured oil onto a saucepan. In between his work, he didn’t forget to take sips from a beer can placed at hand.
“Like I’d told Munakata, I’m just an old man sponging off Jungle who also happens to be something of a father to Hisui Nagare. I’m content to simply watch Nagare do what he wants.”
Fus.h.i.+mi’s brows furrowed slightly at that. Iwafune’s position was way too irresponsible.
“So you approve by default of everything Hisui Nagare does out of what you claim to be something akin to fatherly love, is that it?”
For the first time, Iwafune’s hands froze mid-work, and he s.h.i.+fted his eyes to look at Fus.h.i.+mi. “Are you sounding me out?”
Fus.h.i.+mi felt a cold jolt of dread run through him. His words just now weren’t something that a top clansman of Jungle should be saying, he realized. He may have just screwed up then, but Iwafune’s eyes, fixed on Fus.h.i.+mi, betrayed no signs of anger or particular alertness. If anything, it almost looked like their owner found it all highly amusing.
“Sounding me out won’t give you anything.” Iwafune’s tone was light, and it was unclear if he was joking or being serious.
Fus.h.i.+mi looked away, taking a stab at the cabbage in front of him with the kitchen knife.
“…I didn’t mean to. I apologize for sticking my nose where it doesn’t belong.”
“No need tho’?” Iwafune narrowed his bottomless eyes with a grin. “This place is free. You can act however you like, Saruhiko-kun, and ask whatever you like. I will answer those of your questions I wanna answer, and ignore those that I don’t feel like answering,” Iwafune sing-songed.
Fus.h.i.+mi looked away from him, chopping up the vegetables violently as if in hopes of glossing the incident over. Iwafune opened the plastic bag with the chicken meat, unloading its contents onto a tray and sprinkling them with potato starch, then throwing them into the hot oil. With a satisfying sizzle, the chicken meat plunged into the oil, floating in it. For a while, it was quiet, with only the sounds of cooking breaking the silence occasionally. If Fus.h.i.+mi was to s.p.a.ce out enough, he could almost believe that this wasn’t the dead middle of the enemy territory but a peaceful household.
Piling up the cabbage he chopped up on a plate in a manner that was more appropriate for throwing out garbage, Fus.h.i.+mi asked quietly, “…What do you intent to do with these vegetables?”
“C'mon, with Chinese cabbage, crown daisies and onions? It can only be hotpot! …Oh, and can you handle those with a little more care? You really are no good at domestic ch.o.r.es, huh, Saruhiko-kun.”
“I wouldn’t say that. I just don’t feel like I have any obligation to handle the vegetables I won’t be eating myself with any sort of care.”
“Oh, what is it, what is it? Hating veggies is bad for your health, you know? Our Sukuna loathes bell peppers, and it makes it so troublesome for me. And now we have even more picky eater kids, huh.”
Being lumped together with the youngest of the top Green clansmen in such a natural progression instantly rubbed Fus.h.i.+mi the wrong way, but just then, the door opened, letting in Sukuna and Yukari.
“Oh, what a nice smell.”
“Tonight’s dinner is fried chicken?”
Turning the pieces of chicken meat that had become light brown, with long cooking chopsticks in the quietly sizzling oil, Iwafune smiled at his returning companions.
“Yup, fried chicken and hotpot. We’ll throw some codfish into hotpot, so it will be codfish hotpot that we can eat with ponzu and grated daikon with chili. Saruhiko-kun is handling prep of the veggies as we speak.”
Fus.h.i.+mi glaring at the onions on the chopping board, and Sukuna glaring at Fus.h.i.+mi clicked their tongues at the same time. At the resulting sound of the uncannily coincident double tongue click Fus.h.i.+mi’s expression turned even sourer.
“I imagine even a veggie-hater like you, Saruhiko-kun, and a bell pepper hater like you, Sukuna, would love 'em some fried chicken, right? So show some grat.i.tude to good ol’ Iwa-san for providing you dinner even spoiled kids would be crazy about.”
“Don’t lump me together with him! Besides, I only hate bell peppers and have no problem eating the other veggies in hotpot!”
“That’s not a feat great enough to be boasting about with such pride though,” Yukari remarked with an eye-roll, watching Sukuna.
“Sukunaa, put the gas burner on the tea table, will you?”
“But first, wash your hands.”
“Where is Nagare-chan?”
“With the Slate. So can you go tell him to come eat, too, Yukari-chan?”
Half-listening to what sounded almost like an ordinary family exchange if you didn’t know any better, Fus.h.i.+mi grimaced in silence.
'Doncha dare live a normal human life when you people are trying to destroy the G.o.dd.a.m.n world.’
Feeling a surge of anger demanding to be vented, with a hard whack Fus.h.i.+mi cleaved the onion on the chopping board clean in two.
Fus.h.i.+mi had the gist of the secret base’s layout mostly figured out.
Currently, he was walking through the dimly lit underground cavern alone. His footsteps as he tread the concrete floor was the only sound to be heard in that wast s.p.a.ce.
The Jungle secret base ran 10 underground storeys deep, and the area where the Slate was being kept and the top clansmen lived was on the deepest of them. On the other floors, there were gates leading to various parts of the surface, and paths connecting them, which, altogether, presented a rather complicated layout, but by walking around to every nook and cranny, Fus.h.i.+mi managed to memorize the inner structure. The PDAs of the top Jungle clansmen served as a pa.s.s to lock and unlock the gates leading to the outside, allowing them to open and close the doors as they pleased.
But there was one door, the gigantic Yomito gate, that could only be opened either by Hisui Nagare himself or from the control room of the secret base. That gate wasn’t something that could or would be used in normal circ.u.mstances though. Allegedly, the only time ever it had seen use was when the Slate was being brought in - and even that had been done under the secure camouflage of Iwafune’s absolute protection mist.
If no urgent mission suddenly came up tomorrow, Fus.h.i.+mi was going to take a closer look at the control room. Of course, the question of whether the others would just sit still and let him, a turncoat changing clans at the drop of a hat, get close to the hideout’s core responsible for all the key functions still remained, but Hisui Nagare stressed the importance of fairness in the game. Fus.h.i.+mi had become a J ranker through Jungle’s formal route, and the Green King had made it clear that he fully intended to treat Fus.h.i.+mi as one of his top clansmen right up until the moment Fus.h.i.+mi did something that would unequivocally qualify as betrayal. The others aside, the aforementioned fact made it unlikely that at least Hisui Nagare would try to stop him.
Fus.h.i.+mi kept walking through the underground s.p.a.ce made from inanimate concrete, but, depending on the beholder, the wast cavern could also look like a humungous shrine.
Unlike the normal lighting of the other areas serving to ensure sufficient visibility, the place of Fus.h.i.+mi’s destination was lit with green light.
It was coming from the Dresden Slate. The light was soft, cool and clear and held quiet pressure that sent s.h.i.+vers down Fus.h.i.+mi’s spine when he gazed at it. The Slate was enveloped in that radiance in its entirety, and every now and then the specks of concentrated light separated from it, floating up capriciously, much like bubbles.
The underground s.p.a.ce, dimly illuminated by the Slate’s radiance, bore even more resemblance to a shrine. Even to Fus.h.i.+mi, who considered religion nothing more than the weak’s excuse to stop thinking for themselves, the sight looked sacred.
In front of the Slate, there was a wheelchair, and in it, Hisui sat. The Green King was seated leaning against the backrest of his wheelchair, and his eyes were closed. Was he napping?
Feeling the need to m.u.f.fle the sound of his footsteps for some reason, Fus.h.i.+mi slowly approached him, carefully observing him all the while.
According to Isana Yas.h.i.+ro, Hisui Nagare was dead. The life he had lost 14 years ago was being subst.i.tuted by his superpower.
And at the moment, Hisui, sitting in his wheelchair without a stir, with a white face that was always pale to begin with and eyes shut tightly, really looked like a corpse. He was probably breathing, but the sound of it was too quiet, adding to the impression of a lifeless doll.
Fus.h.i.+mi had to remind himself that the one in front of him right now was neither a doll nor an ordinary corpse but the strongest King, linked to the Slate. The light radiating from the Slate being green was probably the side-effect of the link established between it and Hisui. The Slate had been forced to slumber until now, and this was the man who tried to shake it awake.
Without thinking, Fus.h.i.+mi fingered the knives hidden in his sleeves. He wasn’t going to use them right now, no, the action was simply a pure instinct that made him want to physically confirm that he still had his weapons on him.
“What are you doing?”
The annoyed voice that asked that question so out of the blue was high - a boy’s voice before breaking - but the owner tried to lower it as much as he could.
Fus.h.i.+mi lifted his head, and Gojou Sukuna came in sight. The boy was drawing closer, watching Fus.h.i.+mi with naked wariness plainly showing in his eyes. He came to a stop between Fus.h.i.+mi and Hisui, as if wedging himself in between them to protect Hisui’s back.
And that was true, Fus.h.i.+mi really wasn’t doing anything. Just looking around was the worst of it, really.
Sukuna, though, glared at Fus.h.i.+mi with very hostile eyes. Part of it was probably due to his childish peeve about Fus.h.i.+mi making the highest rank, the J rank, faster than him, but the other part of that hostility stemmed from the boy’s suspicions about Fus.h.i.+mi being a Blues’ spy.
It went without saying that there was no way that Mishakuji Yukari, Iwafune Tenkei and even Hisui Nagare himself didn’t have those same suspicions. The only difference was that Sukuna didn’t bother to hide his.
Fus.h.i.+mi wasn’t sure if Yukari and Iwafune just feigned ignorance, letting him swim for the time being, or if they simply underestimated him and thought that him being a spy for the Blues wouldn’t make any difference on the grand scale anyway. On his part, Fus.h.i.+mi knew perfectly well that he wasn’t trusted. In any case, Hisui chose to prioritize the rules of the game instead of caution and showed Fus.h.i.+mi in this far, so what was left for Fus.h.i.+mi now was only to do his job.
And something as hopelessly reckless as trying to take the head of the sleeping Hisui Nagare wasn’t in that job’s description.
Sukuna, however, as he griped the handle of his scythe tightly and took the position as if fully intending to protect Hisui’s wheelchair with his body, kept glaring daggers at Fus.h.i.+mi.
'Does he think I’m gonna do something to Hisui? What an idiot. If it was possible at all, I’d have done it long ago and been done with this troublesome s.h.i.+t already.’
“You’ve been moving around the secret base a lot today, no?”
“Yeah. I’m new here, after all. Call it learning for the sake of what’s to come.”
“For the sake of what’s to come, huh.”
The short exchange between Fus.h.i.+mi and Sukuna was loaded with implications and thorns on both sides.
“Did you learn anything worthwhile?” a flat, almost monotone voice that didn’t belong to Fus.h.i.+mi or Sukuna asked suddenly.
Sukuna whirled around to look behind him. “Nagare! If you’re gonna sleep, do it in the room!”
“I was not sleeping, just thinking with my eyes closed.” Giving Suk.u.ma a childish excuse like that, Hisui s.h.i.+fted his gaze to Fus.h.i.+mi.
That direct gaze, betraying no emotions whatsoever, made Fus.h.i.+mi flinch inwardly, but outwardly, keeping up his composed facade, he replied casually, “Yes, I did. I mostly figured out the layout of the secret base. I believe it will save me a good amount of time come the next mission.”
Fus.h.i.+mi never had any idea what Hisui was thinking. He tried to grasp the thoughts behind that always flat expression but never could.
“What do you think of the Slate?”
“What, huh… Nothing much.” Fus.h.i.+mi couldn’t provide much of an answer to Hisui’s abrupt and vague inquiry.
Only his right eye visible, Hisui gazed at Fus.h.i.+mi from beneath his white hair that almost seemed to glow. Back when Hisui was a presence lurking on the other side of the internet and Fus.h.i.+mi didn’t know what he looked like, he tended to imagine the Green King as having a villainous air about him, but after he had met him in person, “childish” had became the descriptor also coming to mind.
Fus.h.i.+mi looked away, pus.h.i.+ng up at the bridge of his gla.s.ses. “…When I first stepped to "this side”, I felt that the Slate might be the power that could change the world, but now I don’t have any particularly strong feelings towards it. If anything, it seems to me from time to time that all of you kings are being manipulated by the Slate one way or another.“
With each next word coming out of Fus.h.i.+mi’s mouth, the sharp glint in Sukuna’s eyes was becoming more p.r.o.nounced.
a.s.suming that Hisui would see through him if he tried to flatter him, Fus.h.i.+mi gave his honest answer.
Hisui’s expression didn’t change, still making it impossible to grasp what he was thinking.
"The Slate’s power lies in the wide variety of possibilities,” Hisui said. “Making use of those possibilities is up to each person. If someone looks like they are being manipulated by the Slate, it likely means that they do not make proper use of their possibilities. Being controlled by one’s dream is a rather common occurrence. Whether they can reach the endresult they desire after being manipulated and controlled by it or not is also up to each person.”
Not moving his head an inch, Hisui was seizing up the Slate and Fus.h.i.+mi in turns with his gaze only. Appearance-wise, he belonged to the category of people that could be described as good-looking, but the unnatural paleness of his skin and his quirk of staring right at people with unblinking eyes for prolonged periods of time brought out the creepiness factor which ended up eclipsing everything else.
“Countless possibilities exist at any given time. Life itself is but a series of choices. Depending on the option chosen, the endresult that can be reached also varies greatly. —Saruhiko, I am looking forward to your choice.”
Hisui’s dispa.s.sionate voice sent a s.h.i.+ver down Fus.h.i.+mi’s spine, and all of the hair on Fus.h.i.+mi’s body stood on end.
Fus.h.i.+mi couldn’t tell how much of what was to come Hisui could foresee to have the base for making such statements, but at that moment Fus.h.i.+mi felt like the fact that, depending on his “choice”, not only the future within the reach would change greatly, but his future itself may very well disappear, tangibly brushed against the nape of his neck.
The liberation of the Slate was close.
It appeared that with no one around to maintain the seals placed on it, the Slate’s primary function, that is, bestowing supernatural abilities upon every living person on the planet as the “humanity evolution device”, started manifesting without restrain. The light it radiated was getting stronger by the day, so the time of its full awakening was, no doubt, nearing.
Aware of the pressing circ.u.mstances, Fus.h.i.+mi turned his back to the Slate, leaning against one of the concrete pillars that lined the s.p.a.ce at regular intervals, and focused on the fight between Yukari and Sukuna.
Yukari’s long-bladed sword sliced through the air. The peculiarly colored light the sword emanated was perhaps due to Yukari blending his colors as a more-than-one color user to produce this mix, or maybe it was simply a special ability he possessed from the start. At the very least, it was a peculiarity that Fus.h.i.+mi, a several color user himself, didn’t have.
Yukari’s glimmering blade glided through the s.p.a.ce, drawing fancy arcs in the air. Without concentrating, it was hard to follow them even with the eyes.
But Sukuna matched Yukari’s attacks blow for blow despite their speed. Yukari moved with fluidity of a dancer; Sukuna’s movements, on the other hand, looked more like those of a small animal jumping about.
Sukuna’s big eyes chased the tip of Yukari’s sword, and his body reacted accordingly, s.h.i.+fting and whirling. With Sukuna being a lightweight, his fighting style, with aerial battle as its forte, was more acrobatics than anything else.
Jumping up high, Sukuna brought down his scythe on the tall Yukari from above. The scythe’s blade, enveloped in green light, clashed with Yukari’s sword, Ayamachi, and got repelled. His attack repulsed, Sukuna spun the handle of the scythe around its midpoint and, after righting his posture in mid-air, kicked the nearby pillar, launching himself at Yukari yet again. Yukari dodged the a.s.sault with ease and with a light step of a dancer, swung his Ayamachi at Sukuna’s back. Sukuna’s head didn’t even turn to look back as he avoided the blade by rolling across the floor; then, as he was getting back up to his feet, he launched another attack, pointing the sharp tip of the scythe’s sickle upward and making a scoop-up motion with it. Not perturbed in the slightest, Yukari calmly blocked Sukuna’s blow with his sword. The heavy and gritty sound of metal on metal resounded in the sprawling underground s.p.a.ce.
Fus.h.i.+mi felt his eyeb.a.l.l.s go dry from how unblinkingly he followed the development of the battle between the two, so he blinked his eyes a few times.
Yukari kept moving like dancing, and Sukuna kept doing his acrobatics.
'What is this, a circus?’ Fus.h.i.+mi commented snidely in his head. But, in contrast to that mocking remark, droplets of unpleasant cold sweat traveled down his spine. 'And in the first place, how come two comrades are using lethal weapons, easily capable of killing the opponent, in a friendly bout?’
In Scepter 4, they used drawn sabers when practicing fixed swordplay kata in a line, but naturally, for combat practice involving exchange of blows, only bamboo swords were used.
That game Yukari and Sukuna played was extremely dangerous, but their moves were sure. To them, it might have been only a warm-up routine rather than a real fight, perhaps.
“That boy is strong, you know? He lacks refined beauty for now, but in raw power he’s equal or even stronger than me. If he challenges you to a fight again, I advice you to decline.”
Fus.h.i.+mi pondered those words that Yukari said to him earlier.
'I would be lucky if the circ.u.mstances would allow me to decline,’ Fus.h.i.+mi thought with a scowl settling over his features.
After getting into a trifle argument with Sukuna (that is to say, Fus.h.i.+mi stooped to the level of the brat, and to him the fact was annoying as h.e.l.l) and getting punched by Yukari along with him, Fus.h.i.+mi watched Sukuna ask Yukari, “Yukarii, let’s fight for a bit. Since, the newcomer won’t play with me.” Sukuna made a show of looking in Fus.h.i.+mi’s direction as he said that.
Yukari gave him a wry smile and with a shrug of his shoulders accepted the challenge. “I don’t mind. But we won’t bet any points, got it? I would feel bad extorting points from a child through a bet.”
And it had begun. It took all of Fus.h.i.+mi’s focus just to be able to follow the development of that seemingly mock battle with his eyes, the fact giving him a distinctive sense of unease. And that, perhaps, was one of the goals Yukari hoped to achieve when he had accepted Sukuna’s challenge: that is, showing off the power gap to keep Fus.h.i.+mi in check.
If Fus.h.i.+mi ever dared betray them, these would turn his enemies. Should he choose to stick with the Greens for real though, these would be his allies. So which of the options would be the smart choice—
Yukari’s movements gave his opponent no openings to exploit, and it looked like he still had some leeway left to step up his game should the need be. If Fus.h.i.+mi was honest, he couldn’t imagine himself win against Yukari no matter how he tried.
The same could be said about going up against Sukuna whose movements right now as he fought Yukari were sharper and faster than when he fought Fus.h.i.+mi and Yata. The way he moved around, spinning and jumping all over the place, was the same as back in that fight, but he kicked up his focus and reaction speed a notch, probably because against Yukari any slip, however small, would lead to his instant defeat, even if this was only a mock battle. His eyes tracked Yukari’s fast movements, prompting him to dodge incoming attacks and swing his scythe in a blow exchange.
It appeared that Sukuna made up for his lack of body ma.s.s that would have definitely caused him to be blown away when clas.h.i.+ng with someone like Yukari with the weight of his weapon and through reinforcing his arms with his supernatural ability to rump up the power of his blows. He handled his heavy scythe as part of his body.
There were 3 colors dwelling inside Fus.h.i.+mi now. Even if it wasn’t a dramatic leveling up, he was definitely stronger now than before. And yet, despite the fact, he still couldn’t hope to win against Sukuna.
Little was known about what determined how strong or how weak a clansman’ powers would be, but it looked like Fus.h.i.+mi’s power couldn’t hold a candle to Sukuna’s, much to Fus.h.i.+mi’s dismay.
If, due to circ.u.mstances, he had to fight Sukuna anyway, should he bet on the chance of Sukuna underestimating him as his only hope then…? Although Sukuna’s fighting strength was definitely top-notch, his immaturity made him p.r.o.ne to weird slips and whims. What he said to Fus.h.i.+mi earlier when he tried to pick a fight with him, “I will give you plenty of handicap”, was a statement of someone strong and aware that he had a leeway to spare. If he kept that att.i.tude and underestimated Fus.h.i.+mi further, he might become careless enough to show a c.h.i.n.k in his armor… no, even if he did, beating him still looked impossible to accomplish for Fus.h.i.+mi alone. Alone—
The thought made Fus.h.i.+mi click his tongue.
'I should stop thinking about stupid things. Hoping that I won’t be alone when the time comes is pointless. Better rack my brains over how I can pull through this on my own.’
While Fus.h.i.+mi was being annoyed with himself for the track his thoughts took, the playfight between Sukuna Yukari had reached a conclusion.
Upon blocking a slash from Yukari’s sword with the handle of his scythe, Sukuna was thrown off balance mid-air, resulting for him in a shaky landing and finding the tip of Yukari’s sword right at his throat.
“Looks like it’s over.”
“……Tch.” Sukuna admitted his defeat by lowering his scythe but puffed his cheeks in frustration.
Yukari chuckled quietly and, spinning his beloved sword nimbly, put it back into the sheath on his back. He then turned on his heels and started walking in Fus.h.i.+mi’s direction.
“Did you enjoy spectating our little game?” Yukari asked, throwing a sidelong glance at Fus.h.i.+mi as he pa.s.sed him by. Fus.h.i.+mi didn’t answer right away, and Yukari pa.s.sed him by without stopping, not waiting for a reply.
Awkward silence stretched on between the still squatting Sukuna and the only other person still left on the scene, Fus.h.i.+mi.
“Tch,” Sukuna gave another small tongue click and stood up. Putting the handle of his scythe, with its sickle created by his powers now undone, on his shoulder, Sukuna sported a frown, his att.i.tude losing some of its usual bite, probably because he felt embarra.s.sed about having been seen lose.
Fus.h.i.+mi didn’t handle kids very well in general, and this one in particular. The brat made Fus.h.i.+mi feel restless because, just like with an animal, you never had any idea what to expect next with him.
“I was in my practice mode, got it?! It won’t go like that in a real fight!” Sukuna made nonsensical excuses, pointing at Fus.h.i.+mi with the scythe’s handle.
Fus.h.i.+mi answered nothing, only letting out a big sigh. 'Does this brat even understand that when he loses in that “real fight”, it will be all over?’
Sukuna was still a 13 year old kid. Fus.h.i.+mi had no idea just how much of the current situation, of his own position and of the meaning behind what he partic.i.p.ated in Sukuna actually comprehended. A heavy feeling settled in the pit of Fus.h.i.+mi’s stomach as he thought about Hisui Nagare’s reasons for involving a small brat like that into his s.h.i.+t.
Except it seemed that to Hisui Nagare, there was no difference between kids, flaming gays, birds and kings, all of that being but negligible details to him.
“I wanna know your opinion. What do you think of the Slate that that king of yours plundered and is now trying to activate?”
Sukuna blinked at him and paused for a couple of seconds, thinking. “It’s a tool necessary for Nagare to turn the world into an awesome game setting.”
Fus.h.i.+mi grimaced and turned his head to gaze at the Slate behind him. The radiance coming from it as it tried to divest of the last of the restricting seals was really bright now. So bright that the last restrain could fall off any minute now.
“Reality ain’t no game, you know.”
“No, it’s a game,” Sukuna’s answer to Fus.h.i.+mi’s muttered preachy remark was immediate, as if to cut him off.
Fus.h.i.+mi, wanting to click his tongue badly, s.h.i.+fted his gaze back to the boy. He was expecting Sukuna to be grinning all cheekily at him or something of the sort, but the boy looked deadly serious. The 13 year old brat stared into the darkness of the underground cavern with oddly sober eyes.
“A game where nothing can be undone. No matter how s.h.i.+tty that game is, you’re forced to play it anyway, and your LPs get constantly reduced whether you want it or not. If I have to play it anyway, then I want to at least choose the scenario of the game I’ll be partic.i.p.ating in.”
“…Do you realize how risky the game you’re playing is?”
Sukuna snorted at that. “I bet all my remaining LPs and joined Nagare in his game.”
'd.a.m.n game nut of a brat,’ Fus.h.i.+mi cursed inwardly, gritting his teeth.
What was the worst though was that this brat had made such a choice not because his game-fried brain mixed up reality and virtuality. Which meant, the answer to the question Fus.h.i.+mi asked himself earlier, about whether the brat understood that losing in a “real fight” spelt game over in reality, was a solid yes. Fus.h.i.+mi couldn’t tell the degree of how “real” reality actually felt to Sukuna, but it was clear that he understood what was at stake.
The brat was intent on having fun partic.i.p.ating in Hisui Nagare’s “Let’s remake this world according to my wishes” game despite properly differentiating between reality and virtuality.
Hisui said that life was a series of choices. And Sukuna had chosen Hisui Nagare. His choice was conscious, made with the awareness of the pain and suffering, the hated and resentment borne out of them, and all the other raw and vivid emotions to be found there, and now that he had chosen, he treated reality as a game and tried to play it as one.
For Fus.h.i.+mi, it meant that come the time to fight this brat, he would need to be fully prepared to kill or be killed.
With Fus.h.i.+mi, it was doubtful to begin with if he could even embrace the leniency of going easy on the opponent because they were only a kid and the luxury of the weakness to question himself if he could actually kill or not, and under these circ.u.mstances giving in to these notions would only endanger his life further.
Fus.h.i.+mi’s chest got weighted heavily with this realization, adding to the bitterness already dwelling there.
“You will go that far for Hisui Nagare?” Fus.h.i.+mi blurted out, forgetting his own circ.u.mstances for a moment. “Despite the high probability that all of this, you guys included, is just a game to him and you are his game pieces to be used in it?”
“So what?” Fus.h.i.+mi’s words were designed to shake him, yet Sukuna looked displeased but not shaken in the least.
Fus.h.i.+mi provoked him further, “You do realize that game pieces could be discarded at any moment?”
“If I’m discarded, then such is Nagare’s will and wish,” Sukuna replied with a firm voice. “If Nagare decided that’s what he wanted, I’m fine with. Nagare does what he wants, and I do what I want.”
Fus.h.i.+mi couldn’t help a little chuckle that had escaped him then. It was barely audible, just letting out some air out of his lungs, in understanding - and in resignation.
Now that he thought about it, Iwafune mentioned it, too, didn’t he. That this place was free, and that he could act however he liked.
And he understood now what kind of place this was. A clan where one was responsible only for oneself, making it terribly irresponsible as a group.
There was no need to get along with anyone, even with the people who were technically your comrades. You were only responsible for yourself, and no one else. This, in and of itself, might not have been such a bad thing, actually… but.
But life was a series of choices, and Fus.h.i.+mi had already made his.
It appeared that Sukuna didn’t notice Fus.h.i.+mi’s light chuckle. In a mean-spirited and childish gesture, though appropriate for his age, he stuck out his tongue at Fus.h.i.+mi.
“But I won’t screw up so bad for Nagare to want to abandon me, and I will play this game with Nagare till the end.”
“Is that so,” Fus.h.i.+mi tossed disinterestedly.
At that, Sukuna’s usual antagonistic att.i.tude towards Fus.h.i.+mi made a comeback, and he whispered under his breath, as if to himself, “I won’t let you get in the way.”
Life was a series of choices. Yes, that was right.
But why had he made that kind of choice? And despite having an option that would have guaranteed his life, too. Despite having the easy and safe way out, he had chosen to refuse that so called “new world” these people were trying to create.
Fus.h.i.+mi gazed into the parrot’s eyes, s.h.i.+ning in the dark.
Just as he was about to betray Jungle and open the Yomito game to usher Munakata in, the parrot showed up to talk to him.
“Come to our side for real, Saruhiko. Right now, I am extending my sincere invitation to you. Not Homura, nor Scepter 4, but Jungle, with our respect for free will, is the most suitable clan for a person of your disposition.”
Hisui Nagare was watching him through the borrowed eyes of the parrot and was giving him his last alternatives through the mouth of the bird, yet Fus.h.i.+mi didn’t waver as he gave his reply.
Fus.h.i.+mi had already made his choice about what path to follow a long time ago. And at the very least, the world that would agree with Fus.h.i.+mi was not one by Hisui Nagare’s side.
“That is a pity,” Hisui said.
With these parting words, the parrot, freed from Hisui’s will, returned to being just a normal bird and took off, cackling noisily.
The door of the control room opened, and Gojou Sukuna stepped inside.
Sukuna was smirking boldly. “Now that you’re no longer our comrade, I can kill you, right!”
Getting ready to swing his green-glowing scythe, Sukuna kicked the floor.
Countless possibilities existed at any given time. But well, it was the time to explore those of them, however few, where Fus.h.i.+mi could survive a fight against this brat.
While calmly turning this thought in his head, Fus.h.i.+mi, not about to give up even in the face of the odds as he embraced his budding will to live, took out the knives hidden in his sleeves
K – Return of Kings: Side Stories C6
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K – Return of Kings: Side Stories C6 summary
You're reading K – Return of Kings: Side Stories C6. This novel has been translated by Updating. Author: Azano Kouhei,Furuhashi Hideyuki,Gora,Kabei Yukako,Miyazawa Tatsuki,Raikaku Rei,Suzuki Suzu,Takahashi Yashichirou already has 825 views.
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