"It was really surprising, Nezuko."
Nik stroked the sleeping beauty's hair while his dazed mind still kept replaying the last spar with Sakonji. It was as if Sakonji had decided to go easy on him. After all, Nik's stat hadn't changed a single bit. Of course, he admitted that combined with Korosensei's stretching exercise, his body had 'grown' and developed, but it wasn't to the point where he could take Sakonji head-on.
His palm kept on petting Nezuko's head gently as she softly snored. It had already been a few months in total and yet, Nezuko kept on sleeping without any indications of waking up.
And due to the sudden isolation from any human contact, save for regular spars with Sakonji that would result in his bloody fainting, Nik had no source to vent his troubles. So, he simply started speaking to himself, or rather, he started talking to the unconscious Nezuko to keep himself from losing his edge over time.
"I still don't know if he went easy on me. If he did, then why? Such questions keep on eating at my thought process."
The feel of Nezuko's hair was quite soothing. Although she was claimed to be a demon, Nik had already used his [Life Vision] to ascertain that demon she wasn't.
Her body boasted a perfect balance between the crimson and golden life force signature. Meaning, Nezuko may be the only demon with truly a chance to nullify the effects of Hamon energy, or even sunlight completely.
But he did not need to divulge this fact to others.
"On the other note, I really miss your brother's cooking. He would always say that he learnt his skills from you."
A smile formed on Nik's lips. No matter if Sakonji had gone easy on him or not, the fact remained, his blade struck Sakonji right in his thighs. He had passed the hurdle named Sakonji.
"I really hoped that you would be awake before I went for the final selection. After all, you are the only girl that has accompanied me till now."
Seeing the still unresponsive Nezuko, Nik sighed softly and got up. His long hair had been clipped and his face shaven clean once again. After all, Nik now kept the required modern equipment within his inventory.
"He said that he'll return in a day... Looks like even master can get late."
Nik muttered while standing outside the hut.
"Ah, there you are."
Nik smiled brightly, for the first time in months, and turned back, gazing at two distinct figures making their way through the mist.
Tanjiro and Sakonji.
Just like Nik's previous get-up, Tanjiro's hair had grown longer and a stubble had already covered his chin and jaws. Although, his face still looked a little blue, Nik was happy meeting him nonetheless.
Tanjiro immediately shouted and ran towards Nik before they both locked their arms and smiled at each other.
"Passed?" Nik asked in anticipation as Tanjiro nodded with a happy smile.
"Yeah! What about you, Nik-san?"
Tanjiro asked, causing Nik's vision to drift over to Sakonji before he nodded.
"I passed his exam."
Tanjiro grinned before the light within his eyes went out and his body fell back. Of course, Nik caught him in time and looked over at Sakonji curiously, only for him to shake his head and sigh.
"He is exhausted."
He spoke plainly before taking a deep breath and stating softly.
"You both will leave tomorrow. I have arranged a final selection for you both and some other slayers will be there, too.
Take care of Tanjiro, I am going off for patrolling."
As Sakonji turned his heels, Nik couldn't help but smile. Sakonji's current state already pointed out that he held back in the last sparring match, but not too much. Even then, Nik was still confident in his strength and observation. After all, he could easily observe Sakonji's trembling body as he vanished from his sight before he looked at the unconscious Tanjiro.
"Oh, come on. You aren't Nezuko..."
Nik could bear tending to the unconscious beauty... but he wasn't heartless enough to leave his only 'friend' and possible 'brother-in-law' out cold.
Taking Tanjiro into the hut, Nik prepared the mattress before rolling his unconscious body over to the blanket and finally, sat in front of the fireplace, deep in thoughts.
After thinking for a moment, he decided to send another message to Brian. Although they both had decided to stay in contact with each other, the painful days of training would usually leave Nik little to no time left to chat with his Chairman.
[My final selection is prepared. What about you?]
Nik sent and after a few moments, a reply came back.
[Not now. The Breath of Lightning is tricky. Even you took a lot of time to master it, when you already had the affinity.
Not to mention, the transition between the first form and the rest of the forms is completely astounding, unlike the Breath of Water.]
Seeing Brian's reply, Nik wasn't surprised. Although, the duo had shared the practice method of the breathing technique they practiced in, as they had discussed previously, Nik still held an edge over Brian for he had an affinity with lightning and purity lightning. Of course, this would remain a hidden card and used only in dire situations since Nik wouldn't be able to explain how he managed to train in two breathing techniques.
[Although, it is a pity. If we had the succubus with us, we could get our hands on another breathing technique.] Brian continued while Nik couldn't help but agree. After training in the two techniques, Nik found out that the Breath of Water was one of the gentler techniques and easier to train in.
But then, its disadvantages were obvious, too. It had no specialisation. If Breath of Lightning focused on speed, the Breath of Water was an all-round enhancement technique with no glaring merits or demerits.
The next day, Tanjiro cleaned himself up and finally accompanied Nik to meet up with Sakonji one last time before leaving for the selection. Although he was quite saddened by the fact that he wouldn't be able to take Nezuko with him, Tanjiro still exchanged a short talk with Sakonji before leaving Nik and Sakonji alone to stay by Nezuko side for a little bit longer, but not before receiving a wooden fox mask painted in white and red.
"Well, you definitely are a sensation within the village."
Sakonji opened as he sat on the ground and patted the area beside him to invite Nik for a seat, too.
"More like a controversy."
Nik smirked and took the invitation and sat beside Sakonji. Finally, after a period of brief silence, Sakonji took out a wooden mask, much similar to Tanjiro's and placed it over Nik's thighs before standing up and disappearing once again, only leaving his voice.
Nik's lips twitched as he found Sakonji's shyness extremely off-putting. A man should be able to describe his emotions openly, right? On a side note, Nik also remembered the point to learn the technique that Sakonji used at this moment before he stood up and placed the mask on the side of his head and tied the thin string around his head.
'Oh well, so much for a goodbye...'
Nik shrugged before sitting around with Tanjiro, under Nezuko's holy presence before they both stood up and finally made their way to the foot of the mountain.
"Let's circle around the village."
Nik suddenly spoke, inciting a curious glance from Tanjiro, to which, he shrugged.
"Things are bound to get awkward... for me. And besides, I would rather meet the villagers after we return as a proper demon slayer."
"Oh, I understand. Is it due to Marika-san, Gunyo-san and Jaiki-san's scent on you? They really like you, Nik-san.
They even make tasty food for us..."
Tanjiro smiled as he felt a wave of nostalgia wash over him.
"I really want to meet the villagers and share meals with them."
Tanjiro grinned while tapping on his wooden mask.
"Also, Master, too."
"Yeah." Nik smiled and looked towards the village before changing the routes. As he said, even without proclaiming any commitment, Nik had left without a single goodbye, which was still a d.i.c.k move, so he would definitely return and end things off with a positive note.
The Fujikasane Mountain housed the Final Selection every time due to their unique flora.
The mountain had trees of unending wisteria flowers, that was the only known medicine that is poisonous to the entities titled Demons.
A small dose of Wisteria Flower could paralysis the demons while a serum with higher concentration was definitely lethal. The best part was that the Fujikasane Mountain was just a day's travel away from the Mist Mountain and the duo finally scaled the special, anti-demon mountain filled with trees covered in beautiful violet flowers as the duo finally found an established pavilion in between the only path into the mountain's inner region.
A small shrine with two small figures surrounded by many youths entered Nik's and Tanjiro's vision. The two small figures belonged to two twins, one black-haired and the other one, white-haired.
Of course, due to their age, others wouldn't be able to tell if they were of the same gender or not but Nik could. Of course, nobody was as bored as Nik to actually delve into such a matter seriously.
Aside from many nondescript trainees, there were two or three trainees with distinct features. A golden-haired, terrified boy, a youth who looked as if his woman had been taken away by someone else and a beautiful girl with a single side ponytail and deep purple eyes as a small butterfly fluttered around her body.
As Nik and Tanjiro entered, the black-haired boy out of the twins spoke up, his voice soft and pleasant.
"Welcome, everyone." The cl.u.s.ter of wisteria flower decorating the side of his head rustled softly as he continued, "Thank you for joining the final selection tonight."
"There are a lot of demons held captive on this mountain brought back demon slayers. Right now, they are unable to leave."
It was at this moment, the white-haired female of the two in the similar get-up smiled and continued. her pitch-black eyes resembled a mass of swirling darkness as her equally soft voice reached everybody's ears.
"Because the demon repelling wisteria flowers bloom all year round and cover the region from the foot of the mountain to half-way top."
Then, both of them spoke in perfect synchronisation.
"To become a member of the demon-slaying corps, you have to survive the unblossomed land for seven nights."
Then, the two bowed as the surrounding demon slayer trainees moved out as their voice welcomed the group once again.
"Thank you for participating."
After finally stepping into the area with no wisteria flowers, Nik smiled and immediately patted Tanjiro's back, attracting his attention.
Nik passed a fistful of wisteria flowers to Tanjiro, making his eyes go wide.
"Nik-san, this is"
"Any sensible demon slayer would keep the necessary demon repellent in a demon-infested region. After all, this might just make the lower ants retreat, allowing us to focus on stronger threats."
Nik smiled while Tanjiro fell stunned.
"Why didn't I think of it?" He muttered in disbelief while Nik shrugged.
"There may be a couple of factors, but right now, we should just make the most of it. These flowers are organic items, this means that they will rot and lose their efficiency in a day... or even an hour's time.
So, let's find a secure location."
Tanjiro nodded and the duo finally set out. Of course, Nik was once again surprised by the anomaly that Tanjiro's nose was as he actually 'smelled' the directions and immediately pointed out the east direction.
With their plans set, the duo ran straight towards the pointed direction while finding a clear region that would provide the least shadow for any demon so that the duo could have a moment of respite during the daytime.