Chapter 45: The Man Called Kishin
「 ………A match against Gouki-dono？」
Rio’s words paused for a moment before replying to Homura.
And then, he questioned with a tone full of suspicion.
「You must be surprised when you’re suddenly asked for a match. My apologies」
「Not at all, I just find it a little difficult to find the purpose for that ….. 」
Rio just smiled wryly, and expressed what came to mind, to Homura, who was apologizing to him.
「Words are a little insufficient, huh. I just thought of giving you a little help with that. You need sufficient power to accomplish your revenge, right? 」
Homura continued while looking at Gouki.
「In this kingdom, and not just this kingdom, even in neighbouring kingdoms, Gouki is the strongest samurai with a long military service. I think that you’ll learn something by having a match against him」
An Ikkitousen at war, dubbed as Kishin, an uncountable number of strong people were slaughtered by him in wars.
Homura had full faith in Gouki’s power, which came from his trust and achievements throughout his long years of military service.
Homura was thinking that his grandson would definitely acquire precious experience if he put his grandson under that person.
「Though I really want us to have a long and warm chat, due to the next situation, I’m unable to attend you more than this, today」
Homura made a wry smile and sighed a little.
It was not that easy to just create even a little time for him to meet Rio like that.
If the meeting with Rio was too long, there was some chance that some vassal would question what happened to Homura and Shizuku that were taking so long to appear; meticulous attention was necessary.
All of that was to conceal Rio’s existence, so conspicuous actions were unnecessary.
「I’ll prepare some time for a secret meeting again tomorrow. Though you’ll be staying at Gouki’s home today, how about you see and try to have a match with him in his dojo? 」
「I see. ……」
Rio finally grasped Homura’s intentions.
「In that case, if Gouki-dono is willing to …………… 」
Smiling broadly, Rio was accepting of Homura’s proposal.
It was clear to Gouki that Rio wasn’t an ordinary person.
Though there was no lack of that kind of opponent during Rio’s time in Seirei no Tami village, he was only doing individual training since the start of his journey to Yagumo.
He had wished to have a bout with a strong person for a long time.
As soon as Gouki received his orders.
「I don’t mind. Since I know that Rio-sama is quite powerful too」
Gouki also grinned widely and gave his consent to a match.
Different from Homura, Gouki had already seen through Rio’s power.
Though he refrained himself from personally applying for a match, Homura’s order was, coincidentally, approving his wish.
「Fumu. It’s decided then」
Homura nodded a little, as if satisfied with that.
Just like that, their meeting ended —-.
「Rio, you’ll come here again, right？」
Shizuku asked Rio, just before leaving the room.
Though he was perplexed by that question, Rio answered while approaching Shizuku.
And then, she gently hugged Rio.
「You’re growing up becoming this big alone. All alone till you become this big. Thank you very much」
Shizuku said those words with a muddy voice while covering Rio’s roughly 6 feet of height with her body.
Rio’s body stiffened a little when he was suddenly hugged by Shizuku.
But, his body immediately relaxed when he sensed Shizuku’s warmth.
「It’s nothing, I’m really glad that I’ve given a chance to meet you. Though we can’t freely meet like this in the future, for now, I’m looking forward to meeting you again tomorrow」
His arms moved timidly to embrace Shizuku, it was as if he was trying to give her some relief.
Shizuku was looking at Rio’s face from a point blank range, there was a faint smile on her soon to leave face.
Shizuku’s face, that he was looking at point blank range, wasn’t an expression as royalty; it was the expression of a grandmother who was cherishing her grandson.
Though, his so called grandmother looked a bit too young to be called one.
Homura looked at them with a kind smile on his face.
「Let’s go, Shizuku」
Their position as royalty, which made them unable to meet their beloved grandson as much as they wanted, was truly sad indeed.
Homura called to Shizuku with an expression that was as if he was saying those words.
Shizuku nodded in agreement, transparent tears could be seen streaming on her face.
Just like that, those two left the room.
「Well then, Rio-sama. Let me guide you to my house」
Gouki immediately said that after Homura and Shizuku left that room.
Rio replied with a calm voice.
After that, Rio left the royal castle, following Gouki and Kayoko.
The residence of the Saga family was located in the nearby Samurai district, in the heart of the royal capital.
A tranquil atmosphere filled the Samurai district, without too many people to be seen on the street.
Each of the residences were surrounded by pine-like trees which were planted at calculated distances.
「This way please」
Being guided by Gouki and Kayoko, he entered a gigantic residence which would overpower everyone who saw it.
The Saga house was very conspicuous amongst the other samurai families in the district due to their prominent residence.
The house was made of mortar and wood, and exuded a profound feeling by coating it with a red colored paint.
Rio looked with admiration at that splendid exterior.
When he walked forward and entered the garden, the voice of still young girl resounded.
「Father, mother！ Welcome back! 」
What appeared was a lovely girl who looked like she was not even 10 years old yet.
She was wearing a red hakama and white dougi with a wooden sword in one of her hand.
Her beautiful, jewel-like large eyes, though her face was rather thin, along with her smooth and porcelain like soft skin; every bit of her were the best parts, along with her innocent attitude.
Her silky, long, jet-black hair, which reached down her back, under her neck, as if to make a beautiful sound when it rustled against her garment.
「Ooh, Komomo. We’re back」
Gouki let out a loose smile which was unsuited to his grim face.
Maybe because he could also show that kind of expression, Rio’s eyes opened slightly wide.
「Father, this person is …….. 」
Noticing Rio’s existance, the girl called Komomo asked curiously.
「Sorry for the late introduction, Rio-dono. This child is mine and Kayoko’s child; her name is Komomo. Komomo, please greet Rio-dono」
They had decided that they would mask Rio as one of their guests during his stay in their house.
Though the ones that should be paying attention were Gouki and Kayoko.
Though they seemed a little too polite to the young Rio, that alone was the bottom line for Gouki and Kayoko which they were unwilling to compromise.
「Yes! I’m Saga Komomo-desu! Nice to meet you」
Komomo greeted Rio while showing an innocence smile on her face.
「Nice to meet you. I’m called Rio」
Rio also returning her greeting and nodding his head a little to show his courtesy.
「Well then, we should go to the dojo immediately. Komomo, is Hayate currently in the dojo?」
「Yes! He was training along with me till some time ago」
「I see. I’ll have a match with Rio-dono right now. You may watch it too」
Komomo answered with cheerful voice, as if Rio and Gouki’s match piqued her interest.
Taking along Komomo with them to the dojo, in that place was Hayate, gripping his wooden sword in silence.
「Ah, father, mother, you’ve retur ……….. Rio-dono！」
Hayate smiled happily when he saw Gouki and Kayoko’s figures.
But, he let out scream-like voice when he discovered someone who shouldn’t have been in that place.
「Hello. It’s been a while, Hayate-dono」
Rio greet him when he saw Hayate, while smiling wryly on seeing his reaction.
「Yeah, nice to meet you, it’s been a while. How has Rio-dono come to this place？ Could it be about that man who did that insolence act to Ruri-dono? Though it seems that man should be doing forced labour in some place ……. 」
Hayate was plainly having some kind of misunderstanding about the reason Rio came to his house.
Or a reason for Rio to come to that place might just not have come into his mind.
Nonetheless, it was only natural, since Hayate didn’t know about Rio’s origin.
「Rio-dono will stay in our house as our guest. You too may watch my match with Rio-dono after this」
「Ye-yes ……. 」
Hayate gave his consent despite his surprise.
Though his mind was looking for a reason why Rio was staying in his house, now wasn’t the right time to ask about that.
Hayate was steadily preparing the preparations for the match between Gouki and Rio, while still being perplexed.
With wooden swords in their hands, Gouki and Rio faced each other in the center of the dojo.
Approaching between them was the referee, Kayoko.
「This isn’t a death match. There will be healing with Spirit Arts for wounds, so please fight to your heart’s content」
Kayoko announced the rules of the match with calm voice.
Gouki replied vigorously while Rio replied calmly.
He loosened and tightened the grip of his hands on the wooden sword, as if trying to get used to it and then, took a stance.
Gouki also completed his preparation and took a stance.
The match started with a signal from Kayoko.
In that moment, Gouki’s intimidating aura swelled up.
Though it made anyone want to leave, no one left that place.
Though a bit of cold sweat appeared on Hayate’s forehead, Komomo looked at them with considerably nervous expression.
With the exception of Rio and Gouki, only Kayoko didn’t even sweat a bit.
As for Rio who was being exposed to Gouki intimidation from the front, he calmly took his stance as usual, with a calm face.
One second, two seconds, though it was already one minute since the start of the match, the two of them just silently observed each other.
To the two people who didn’t start moving, no matter how much time passed, Hayate and Komomo were surprised as people who knew Gouki’s habits.
Gouki, who was famous as stalwart slaughterer, would boldly attack his opponents in an instant the battle begin.
That was not something cheap like pride, it came from his own assessment of his overwhelming power and skill; thus he could take such risks.
His nickname “Kishin” came from his Ogre-like prowess, he was the type of military man who would induce his opponents into moving on their own accord, even during a match.
And that Gouki was rooted on the spot, without moving an inch.
Thus it was no exaggeration, even if they were surprised.
Against Rio, Gouki judged that it wasn’t to forcefully closing their gap.
It would be the end for him if he made a bad move.
He could easily measure the extent of Rio’s power with just that.
A ferocious smile appeared on Gouki’s face.
Because facing Rio was more difficult than he expected, he concentrated to an extent that had never happened before.
Negligence by unskillfully hiding his true ability would be fatal.
He quickly abandoned his initial thought of hiding his true ability, after instinctively guessing that.
“ChiriChiri”, Gouki’s pressure gradually swelled up.
Without any tension felt from Gouki’s muscles, he just fired his spirit, as if he wanted to completely drain it.
In a moment, without any pre-movement, without taking a second, Gouki entered Rio’s range.
Borrowing power from the momentum of his movement, Gouki swung his wooden sword, which was easily deflected by Rio.
The high-pitched sound of their wooden swords hitting violently at each other resounded in the dojo.
With their swords locked at each other, their line of sight intersected at point blank range.
Gouki was deeply moved by Rio who easily defended against an attack that came from him which come without showing any pre-movement.
Though he received an order from Homura to give a guidance to Rio if his power is insufficient, it seemed such worries were unnecessary.
「With this kind of skill at this age. You’ve already far exceeded me[washi] and Zen at that age. It gives me a chill just thinking that it’s not even your golden age, with muscles and experience has yet to mature」
「Since I didn’t know how strong father was, I kept training and training」
Somehow being pushed back, Gouki put more power into his arms.
But, Rio warding that Gouki’s power by turning his body around using that power.
Just like that, Rio slashed at Gouki from under his arms and the sound of wooden swords violently clashing at each other resounded inside the dojo.
Gouki barely managed to stop Rio’s attack.
「…… That was close」
Gouki was smiling happily when he received Rio’s merciless attack, which precisely aimed at the gaps in his attack.
「How come I didn’t see that coming？」
Rio calmly pulled back one of his feet while saying those words.
And then shifting his wooden sword and, as if it lengthened, it pierced at Gouki neck.
「Kuh, this kind of fighting isn’t something that can be enjoyed often！ No need to hold back！ 」
Avoiding it by paper-thin margin, loading more power into his grip, Gouki released three stabs which could be said as flash.
But, Rio also brilliantly repelled that.
A dry laugh leaked out from Rio’s lips.
That merciless stab just then was an ability that had been polished to a terrifying degree.
How many years, I wonder; it might have already been dozens of years since I continuously swung my sword.
As he say that with just his skill, Gouki was far above everyone else who fought with Rio up until then.
Though the basics of his physical ability as human race was low, from the fact that he could gain superhuman strength by using Spirit arts, put him as the strongest person who fought Rio up until then, in close combat.
「Though Zen was also genius in martial arts, it seems Rio-sama is even more than that！」
Gouki relentlessly attacked Rio with two stabs, that were even more fierce than the previous three stabs.
Rio flicked that attack by aiming at the handle.
In the gap when Gouki’s sword straying from its path, Rio drove a powerful kick into Gouki’s body.
Though he managed to block that kick with his left arm, Gouki was still vigorously blown away.
Hayate looked in shock at that scene, even Kayoko lost her composure.
Just one person, Komomo, was the only one who was looking at that scene with sparkling eyes.
Utilizing the power of that kick, Gouki widened his distance from Rio.
But, in that instant, Rio drew closer to Gouki with mixture of steps at godspeed, and like an optical illusion shortened their distance in one go.
Gouki was countering instinctively to Rio, who closed their distance in an instant.
Letting out awkward voice, he barely managed to reflect Rio’s sword.
Rio relentlessly rained one attack after another into Gouki.
Dozens of sounds of swords clashing at each other resounded in the dojo in just mere seconds.
Gouki, who was being oppressed, stabbed his sword downward, as if it were following the fleeting gap in Rio’s attack.
The attack that was supposed to hit its target was easily avoided when Rio turned his body.
Though it was immediately followed by Rio’s slashing attack, Gouki stopped that blow immediately.
「Guh, that gap was a trap, huh. Wonderful」
Though he said that in an awkward voice, Gouki’s smile said that he was really happy.
He vaguely sensed that his body was noisy when he caught Rio’s attack by reflex.
「Though I think that defending all of my attacks with just reflex is even more amazing」
「It can’t be helped, I have overwhelming battle experience as a warrior in that regard！」
And numerous slashes were exchanged between them for a second time.
They were not even knowing who was the one who initiating the attacks when their swords violently clashed at each other.
Those two kept attacking at each other till they drained their strength but, with natural sixth sense and experience, handling and twists, they were defending all the attacks that came at them.
Just like that, their swords clashed at each other hundreds of times; Hayate and Komomo were looking at that exchange of offense and defense with dumbfounded expressions.
「Father is being pushed back ….. 」
Though dumbfounded by the situation, Hayate could analyze the progress of the combat.
Gouki, he was famous as the strongest warrior, not to just in the Karasuki kingdom, even in the Yagumo region,.
The name of “Kishin” wasn’t just for show.
And such person was at his wit’s end, he was being overwhelmed by a young boy who’s even younger than himself[Hayate].
Against Gouki, who couldn’t hit Rio even once, Rio was adding more and more to his attack to hit Gouki once or twice.
If they were using real sword, Gouki’s body would be filled with laceration.
Against Gouki’s proper swordsmanship, Rio’s combat style was an irregular mix of taijutsu and kenjutsu.
He was using his sword in one hand, while launching sharp blows, in order to surprise his opponent, with the rest of his arms and legs.
Moreover, one might faint in agony when they receive such an attack, and lose their consciousness.
Gouki, who was unable to predict those attacks when they came, had taken who knows how many of those strikes.
Though he was dissipating their power the moment he guarded against those attacks, by shifting his body, his feet still trembled a little.
But, Gouki’s stance didn’t falter one bit, even with that.
His flesh and blood, as if saying that he wouldn’t easily let go of such emotions while dancing in combat, smiled ferociously, he strengthened his resolve and launched a bold attack at Rio.
「Ha-h, Ha~h, Ha~h. It’s thrilling！」
When he shouted loudly in the middle of combat, Gouki praised Rio without holding back.
Though they were exchanging countless attacks when he said that, he would soon run out of ways to handle Rio’s attacks, thus Gouki widened his distance with Rio.
「D-Don’t tell me, FATHER！ That technique! ？ 」
Seeing Gouki, who’s taking a stance with his wooden sword by opening the distance with his opponent, Hayate raised his voice in surprise.
That was the stance of Gouki when he was about to release a certain technique, which he had seen several times.
The violent pressure, like an avalanche that would swallow everything in its path, was fired in Rio’s direction.
「Saga style, First Ougi* of the Longsword, HEAVEN’S JUDGEMENT！」[TL* : Secret arts] [TL : He’s unexpectedly a closet Chuuni]
Screaming the name of his technique, Gouki swung his sword and released a flashing slash toward Rio’s direction.
That was a vacuum sword created by using spirit arts.
From the fact that spirit arts didn’t need an aria, which made it different from magic, one did not even needed to say the name of their technique.
But, a spirit art’s power was directly connecting to the power of imagination, in addition to magical power manipulation.
Though saying the name of a technique can be seen as futile, it helped the user to strengthening their imagination.
In addition, Gouki was continously and earnestly swinging his sword for a long time.
That kind of man, leading for a long time without any futile actions, was releasing wind spirit arts and swinging his sword, thinking only to cut down the opponent before his eyes.
That power would surely to cut him in two with a single stroke; though the range of attack wasn’t wide, it could easily cut several people in half at once.
Gouki’s vacuum slash arrived in front of Rio in an instant.
After confirming with that sword, due to turbulence of the Odo loaded into that sword, Rio sensed its cutting edge’s sharpness by instinct.
He could be cut in two if he caught that blow with his wooden sword, as it was.
That kind of image appeared inside his head.
He instantly created blade of compressed water with spirit arts, and swung that sword with his left hand towards the vacuum blade.
An explosive sound resounded inside the dojo along with the clash, and a large amount of water scattered inside the room.
「Muh ………. ！？ 」
Gouki groaned due to the reduced field of vision, because of the sprays of water.
At that time, Rio touched the pointed end of his wooden sword at Gouki’s back.
「It’s my loss. Really, to instantly create that amount of water, in a place without any moisture, with spirit arts …… I’m completely defeated」
He released the power from his body and smiled happily, Gouki personally announced his defeat.
The amount of water that flooded the room rained incessantly.
Even if a spirit arts user had some aptitude with the water element, it was not that easy to create that amount of water.
And creating that in an instant, no less to say condensing that amount of water and then altered its shape to form a sword shaped water, within that instant.
It was truly a terrifying spirit arts skill.
While the people inside that room were still dumbfounded, the one who first came back to her senses was Kayoko, who then announced the end of the match with calm voice.
「F-Father！ Why were you going too far with that last attack!?」
Hayate also finally snapped back to his senses.
He rebuked Gouki regarding him using the Ougi in his last attack.
「Because I knew if it’s Rio-dono, he could surely handled that Ougi. Isn’t he practically alright without any scratches right now?」
Smiling wryly, Gouki said that to stop his son’s confusion.
「I-Isn’t that just by your instincts！？ 」
Even when he heard Gouki’s explanation, Hayate still didn’t agree with that.
Though it was okay since he defended against it, Rio’s body would surely have been bisected if he got hit by that attack.
「Hayate. You should know since you watched it, that attack didn’t even touch Rio-dono」
「Certainly, Rio-dono is blessed with an uncommon strength but …..」
Hayate was speechless. Though he couldn’t agree with his father, he couldn’t talk back smoothly.
「Gouki-dono thought of releasing that technique since he judged that I could deal with it」
Then, Rio interrupted between those two.
「Is, that so？」
「Yeah, it’s different if that technique was used as a surprise attack during combat, that kind of way to release a technique is as if saying to deal with this attack fair and square, from the front」
No one could cope with that technique, even if they knew it was coming.
First was, since it was not strange even if Rio’s body was paralyzed and could only catch that blow only with his guts.
Moreover, seeing everything and then coping with that vacuum blade, at least Hayate was surely unable to do that.
Hayate gulped his saliva when he was imagining himself as the one who had to cope with that technique.
「I know your concern Hayate. Well, I thought you were gonna retreat from it ………. 」
Though he said the first half with a satisfied expression, the second half was muttered with almost vanished voice.
Gouki used that Ougi as a show of technique, he fired it with the assumption that Rio was going to avoid it.
Though that attack might have torn the dojo wall if it was avoided, that was just something trivial.
When he sent a fleeting gaze toward Kayoko, Gouki noticed that she was sending a piercing cold glare towards him.
（Muh, I was a little too passionate. She’ll certainly preach at me for this later …….. ）
Though he know that Rio can handle it, it was no different from firing a dangerous technique to show his respect for his opponent, so receiving a rebuking for doing that is inevitable.
Remembering the times when his calm and beloved wife released her freezing scolding made Gouki drenched in cold sweat.
「I shouldn’t have used that kind of dangerous technique. My apologies, Rio-dono」
After his head switched to normal little by little, Gouki bowed his head deeply to Rio.
「No need for that, see I’m still alright. And I got a chance to see such a splendid technique」
As for Rio, since he knew when he saw that technique, he didn’t feel any resentment or anger.
Komomo’s lively voice suddenly resounded in the dojo, the others lines of sight turned towards Komomo.
「Please have a match with me！」
Komomo looked at Rio with her big eyes gleaming brightly.
Rio was speechless to Komomo’s sudden request.
「Fuhahaha, even Komomo is being charmed by his power. You’re itching for it after seeing mine and Rio-dono’s match just now, right」
Gouki explaining the situation to Rio.
「Yes! That was a magnificent battle! You’re the first person who has defeated father! 」
Komomo said that while showing her innocent smile.
Komomo asked with a vigorous voice while saying that.
That earnest wish reached Rio.
「That’s right. If you’re okay with it」
「Thank you, Rio-dono. Komomo. Rio-dono’s skill is far above you. Please take this chance as training with a more skilled opponent」
「Yes! Thank you very much！」
Gouki gives his gratitude to Rio who accepted Komomo’s wish.
Komomo said her gratitude to Rio with a brilliant smile.
「Then, Let’s do something about the water in the room first」
After saying that, Rio made a whirlpool, made of the scattered water in the room.
Then, he made it flow to the outside of the dojo through windows.
During those several seconds, Gouki and the others was watched that spectacle with a dumbfounded look.
「Rio-dono’s spirit arts don’t seem to be half-hearted too ….」
「No, going that far is …… 」
Judging from Gouki and the others reactions, it looked like the way Rio used spirit arts was too difficult for them.
Rio didn’t have a full understanding of how skillful the people of the kingdom were in using spirit arts.
That much was just child’s play for Oufia the high-elf, even the others Seirei no Tami, who excelled, could do it if they were skilled with water spirit arts.
That was why, though he thought that it was okay if it was only that much, Rio was a little nervous that he might be overdoing it.
In that regard, Rio made a mistake in making a comparison by comparing the Seirei no Tami, who had higher aptitude with spirit arts, with humans.
「Well then, Komomo-san. Should we start now」
Rio immediately went towards the center of the dojo before he received further questions.
Komomo chased after him excitedly.
When she stood at the center of the dojo, her spirits calmed down, and she showed a dignified look on her face.
Then, she gripping her wooden sword with both hands and set a middle stance.
Rio looked with admiration to Komomo, whose atmosphere completely changed.
The match begin immediately after that, Rio kept becoming Komomo’s training partner until she was satisfied.
Komomo boldly attacking, and he skillfully handle those by using the gaps to guide her, and lead her to use gap for a big counter.
After exchanging blows for around 10 minutes, being out of breath, with a “plop” sound, Komomo sat on the ground, as if collapsed.
Despite being tired, her expression showed that she was satisfied.
Usually she could only gain experience by sparring against her family, she was extremely satisfied from the bottom of her heart.
I can still move, I can become stronger.
She was looking with admiration, as if being captivated by Rio’s dazzling figure, who was standing in front of her, without showing any sign that he was out of breath, at all.
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