Chapter 23 is titled "What Good Will That Do You?!".
After Hachimaru breaks his opponent's Samurai Soul in two with the white Samurai Soul Ann helped manifest, they then decide to drop out of the battle royale. The unnamed Samurai and his Princess offer advice about the Samurai Soul, the importance of safeguarding a Princess and adhering to a Samurai Calling. They then depart to continue their search for a mysterious target. Returning to the fight, Hachimaru uses his instincts as a pro gamer to aid Daruma and Ryu in wiping out the rest of the competition. When only the three of them remain, Hachimaru must once again square off with Ryu for the right to stay in the game.
Hachimaru's Shining Samurai Soul manages to break the opposing Samurai's Soul. Ann is forced to stop praying to address her nosebleed, and the Samurai is baffled by the contradiction between Hachimaru's ordinary swordsmanship ability and his extraordinary ability to anticipate an opponent's moves. He then declares Hachimaru the winner of the duel, shocking his opponent, then noticing that the white shine of his Samurai Soul has faded. While Hachimaru celebrates the win with Ann and Hayataro, the nameless Samurai and his Princess both recognize that Anns prayer is what caused him to win. Kotsuga notices the Samurai's Soul Blade regenerating, and warns that the fight isn't over, but is caught off guard when he officially forfeits and boards his Holder with his Princess. As they take off, the Princess explains that Princesses can empower their Samurai dozens of times over because their prayers purify the Samurai Soul of their fated partner, making it stronger. It is because of this ability that Princesses are targeted by enemies first, so she warns the young duo to be careful of that.
Hachimaru asks about Samurai who lose their Princess. The Samurai explains that a Princess and Samurai are two halves of one body and mind, and such a loss robs a Samurai of their full inner strength, subtly referencing Daruma as an example. Remembering when he asked Daruma about his Princess and Ata's words during their fight, he suspects that his master's Princess is gone. The nameless Samurai warns Hachimaru that Ann will always be endangered when he fights, and the danger will escalate as he grows stronger. He asks if Hachimaru has a calling, and he replies that he does, thinking back to the promise he made at his father's grave. The Samurai then warns that when their kind gives up on their calling, they lose their heroism and die. Hachimaru replies that heroism can only be revealed by demonstrating their calling with action, and that failure to protect what they value is no different from being dead.
Hachimaru then bows in respect and thanks his opponent for the lesson. The Samurai acknowledges Hachimaru's manners, and expresses a desire to meet again as he flies away. Hachimaru then apologizes to Ann again for endangering her, but she holds no ill will, reminding him that she is there to cover for his shortcomings. Kotsuga gets jealous that Ann is bonding with Hachimaru, and Ryu asks if their bond is like that. Hachimaru asks why Ann is nice to him at all, but she says it's a secret, deciding not to tell him about how he connects her to her brother. He then asks Hayataro to stay by Ann to warn of any danger. The Holder is unsure of how to carry out the instructions, then comes up with an idea: he creates a miniature Holder modeled after its original form to stay at Ann's side. As Ryu becomes enamored with the mini Hayataro, Daruma thinks of how Hachimaru has changed, recalling a lecture he once received during a sparring session with his master, Yasha.
Back then, Yasha told him that perfection doesn't exist in the universe, so he should use his mind's eye to find things that are good and appreciate that good. A young Daruma brushes her words off, complaining about her lectures being too long. She tells him that he may need those lessons if he has a student, especially if they turn out to be slow on the draw. He counters that his current student, Ata, is so sharp that he need not waste time with long lectures. Getting serious, Yasha tells him that the keys to Pandora's Box can be identified by their pure white Samurai Souls, but such Souls can only be perceived with the mind's eye. Daruma is unsure how to find the keys quickly that way, worried about the urgency of their situation. She explains that things that are useless at face value can prove useful later in the future. She goes on to say that things that are disconnected at first will eventually form a visible line that will guide him, the way her lectures and training do.
In the present, Daruma realizes that the video game he created is what taught his student how to fight, proving its value and his master's point. He sees that the game imbued Hachimaru with a knack for anticipating enemy moves on par with elite Samurai, so all he needs is enough fighting experience to supplement his instincts. Having settled on a course of action, he then instructs everyone to get back to fighting. Meanwhile, as the unnamed Samu-Hime duo are flying away, the Princess asks if they need to learn more about Hachimaru and Daruma, as they could be who they're looking for. Though they fit the profile of their target, the Samurai sensed something that convinced him that they're looking for a different cat Samurai with a young student. He then points out to her that Hachimaru's blade turned pure white during their duel, proving that he is a "true key".
Meanwhile, Hachimaru is facing a Samurai with a three pronged Samurai Soul and a Holder manifesting two massive swords. Approaching the problem the way he does when gaming, he deduces his opponent's strategy to have the Holder restrict his movements so he can strike with his Samurai Soul. Hachimaru decides the best way to win is by rushing the enemy before they can attack. However, it turns out the Hachimaru's target was visualizing moves to discern how the young Samurai would attack, giving him time to counter by switching up his attack pattern, using an initial thrust attack to win. Despite victory seeming apparent, Hachimaru visualized one step further than his foe, so he outmaneuvers his target and cuts them down. As he, Ryu, and Daruma fight, he thinks of his rivalry with Nanashi, which opens him up to an epiphany. He recognizes that battling in real life is the same as his video game: a mental battle to see who can strategize better and anticipate moves faster, something Nanashi was better at than any of his current opponents.
Hachimaru then flashes back to the day he became the top player of Daruma's video game. That day, his father congratulated him, though he doubted that playing would ever come in handy. With his newfound realization, Hachimaru continues defeating other Samurai, and realizes that while he is a novice Samurai, his skills as a pro gamer have made it impossible for him to lose a battle of anticipation, proving his father wrong about gaming. Eventually, the battle royale reaches the endgame: only Ryu, Daruma, and Hachimaru are left standing. Kotsuga points out the situation, and Hachimaru challenges Ryu to another round of battle. Ryu, who has already forgotten about their first fight, offers to take Hachimaru's head off anyway.
Fights and Events
Characters in Order of Appearance
- Nameless Samurai
- Ann's Brother (Flashback)
- Yasha (Flashback)
- Nanashi (Flashback)
- Furuta (Flashback)