Fighting Spirit Award
While he had succeeded in slaughtering the group of undead, in exchange, Toshizou was covered in filth. His clothes reeked. The stench of the rotting undead was terrible indeed.
“Well, I won’t be meeting with any ladies anyway. More importantly, I’m hungry.”
Said Toshizou, but the old man in the fox mask disagreed.
“I may be old, but stench is stench. Even if we were able to acquire some food, I would lose my appetite with this man sitting next to me.”
Toshizou scratched his cheek uncomfortably, but as I felt the same way, I picked up iron bars that were on the ground and held them with both hands.
“What is that?”
“Dowsing. If you hold it like this while walking, it will show you where the nearest source of water is.”
“We just have to retrace our steps if we want water.”
“Yes, but I thought the old man would like a hot spring as well.”
Upon hearing this, the old man laughed.
“What a kind Demon King you are. If I didn’t have a master already, I would want to serve you.”
“You can still serve two masters.”
Toshizou chided. But he knew that the elder had no intention of doing that. And so the matter was dropped.
“Now, I would like to soak in a hot spring if there is one. I’m very fond of hot springs, you know? Is there really one nearby?”
“That’s what I’m searching for.”
I pointed the iron bars in different directions until they spread out.
“Apparently, there is.”
And so it was with much grinning, that we headed in that direction.
The reason that there was a hot spring in this underground labyrinth, which was also a graveyard, was so that the people who protected this place could bathe. It wasn’t for the common people, but for the shrine maidens who offered prayers. And so we encountered a number of statues that were based on them.
“Well, no one is using it now. So we are not likely to encounter any beautiful women here.”
Toshizou said as if disappointed. And then he took off his clothes and stepped into the water. As there was nothing interesting to look at, I also took off my clothes and entered the hot spring.
“Phew. It feels good.”
I muttered. And Toshizou agreed.
“Hot water is like magic energy. And a hot spring can be more effective than any recovery magic.”
Toshizou said as he started to wash his face. And then he said,
“By the way, you have a surprisingly impressive physique, master.”
Toshizou said as he inspected me.
“Aye. You have more muscle than I thought. Sorcerers tend to be sickly-looking. But you have strong stomach muscles.”
“Well, not as much as you. But I do practice with the sword every day.”
“Now that is a surprise. I thought you spent all your time with your nose in books.”
“I wish that I could, if I’m being honest. But I am a lord. And so training for battle is part of my duty.”
Besides, they did say that a healthy mind resides in a healthy body.
“I see. Other Demon Kings should learn from your example.”
Toshizou sounded impressed. But perhaps he was a little too impressed.
I wondered if Toshizou Hijikata had also been attracted to men.
In the other world where he came from, he had often appeared in such novels. But according to history, he was a womanizer. But there was also a possibility that the world I had been studying was not the same one that Toshizou came from. Besides, he could have changed after coming to this world. It was while I had such thoughts, that the old man interrupted me.
“I shall bathe as well then.”
He said. I turned to him and was shocked.
This was not because he came in while still wearing a mask. It was his body. It was incredibly muscular, and not at all what you would expect from an elder. He was covered in scars, and looked like some heroic warrior.
Toshizou also seemed quite surprised by this.
“You amaze me, old man. You do not look very old.”
“Thank you. I continued to work, even after I aged. It is by necessity that I look like this.”
“Really, who are you? I want to know your identity as soon as possible.”
“Indeed. Why don’t we play a game?”
“Aye. Do you see that table-like boulder over there?’
Toshizou glanced towards it.
“Let us arm wrestle. And if you win, I will take off the mask. How is that?”
“Very interesting. However, I don’t like to torment the elderly. I was raised to treat them with respect.”
“Fool. You should really be thinking about what you’re going to say to save face after you lose to an old man.”
The elder said as he headed to the rock. He then tied a towel around his waist.
Toshizou also moved towards the table.
Then they put their elbows on the flat surface and glared at each other.
“You’re full of fight.”
“Of course, I am. I can’t lose to an old man.”
“That’s the spirit.”
The old man said as he glanced towards me. He wanted me to be the referee and signal for them to start. And so I also wrapped a towel around my waist and got out of the water. I confirmed that their fists were in position and said, ‘get ready!’ And their arms flexed. It was a frightening amount of muscle. And then I swung my hand down and said ‘go!’
And like that, I was suddenly witnessing an arm wrestling match. And the old man was stronger than I was expecting. It wasn’t just appearance, but he had a hidden power within as well.
“A warrior with superhuman strength…”
Is he a descendant of Kintarou or Chinzei Hachirou? Toshizou Hijikata thought of past great men.
Well, it was just a joke. But it was clear that he wasn’t Hajime Saitou. Toshizou had been sure that the old man in the fox mask was from the Shinsengumi, but he could still not guess who it was.
There had been dozens of them. And so it was difficult. However, after talking for some time, it became obvious that he wasn’t Isami Kondo or Souji Okita. They had been his close friends, and he would recognize them even if they had aged. And so Toshizou had guessed that he might be Saitou, but he now knew it was also wrong.
As for why, it was because this man was right handed.
(Hajime Saitou, captain of the Shinsengumi 3rd unit, was left-handed.)
And so this man was not Hajime Saitou.
So, who was he then? He had a similar air to him as the southern country samurai, Kanichirou Yoshimura, but according to the rumors, he had comitted suicide in Kyoto.
There was also the possibility that he was Shinpachi Nagakura, but I wanted to exclude him for personal reasons. Nagakura was not someone you wanted as an enemy. I had been with him back when I was still training, and we had gotten along. He had even saved my life before. So I didn’t want to be enemies.
However, life wasn’t so easy as to be able to avoid things you didn’t want to do. While we were just arm wrestling now, I had a feeling that we would have to fight eventually.
As Toshizou thought this, the old man started pushing harder.
“…You seem to be distracted. That will lead to your defeat.”
He said, and then pushed with even more strength. He was trying to finish it quickly.
“The world will laugh if the demon vice-captain loses to an old man. And so I won’t hold back.
He said, and then used the rest of his strength.
Once most fighters had exerted all of their power, the rock underneath them shattered. And with a loud noise, it broke into two.
If there was no table, then the match would have to be a tie.
The old man panted as he said,
“I feel like I let the enemy leader escape.”
“And I wasn’t able to put an old man in his grave.”
Toshizou muttered. And so it was a draw.
It was a good match, but then the old man with the fox mask said something surprising.
“While you didn’t win, I will still take off the mask.”
Toshizou and the Demon King were surprised.
“Aye, as a fighting spirit award.”
He said. And then he quickly took off the mask.
What they saw was…