To everyone saying they want to see a more “independent” Kougyoku: here she is. Chapter 267 has established her reason for participating in this war isn’t duty or blind loyalty to Kouen, but rather a promise she made to her friend to fight against the abnormalities of the world. She’s fighting because she wants to protect people, and told Alibaba she’d do so, not simply because she was given an order by Kouen. She may have allies and superiors (just like almost every other character in the series), but that doesn’t negate the fact that she’s doing what she wants because she wants to.
Along this same vein of Kougyoku’s “power” and “independence” (or lack thereof), I thought I’d mention something else I always see brought up in these discussions. People seem to be very familiar with her line about wanting to become “a warrior,” in the Balbadd arc, but not so familiar with the way she talks about that desire in the Second Sindria arc: it’s pretty different. Now that she’s begun thinking for herself and realizes a war with Sindria is wrong, she seems troubled by her past ideal of doing nothing but mindlessly fighting for the Kou Empire. The anime even expands on this train of thought to the point where she says “[Being a warrior of the Kou Empire] isn’t quite right” for her.
Before coming to Sindria, Kougyoku’s only concerns were herself and the people immediately around her: she would become a warrior because it was the only option presented to her by Kouen and Judal. But while she was living in Sindria, her outlook seemed to change quite a bit. She was introduced to new ideas, got to know new people, and she realized the Kou Empire isn’t necessarily right all the time.She hesitates when Judal asks her if she wants to be a warrior for her country (translated here as “soldier,” but the raws use 武人, which is translated as “warrior” everywhere else), and later begs Sinbad not to go to war with the Kou Empire because of what Judal said –a very un-warrior-like request, which even goes against the desire of someone who supposedly outranks her. When she tells Alibaba about how she previously thought she had to live her life, she seems very regretful, and it’s clear she no longer feels her only reason for existing is to fight because her country says so.
Unfortunately, a lot of people seem to think Kougyoku being a “warrior” means she has agency or authority, when the narrative actually points to the opposite. “Being a warrior of the Kou Empire” means Kougyoku isn’t thinking for herself. It means her strength is being used to achieve the goals of the Kou Empire as a political entity. (And it should be noted that Kougyoku has never once expressed or even implied agreement with Kouen’s methods or ideals, unlike Hakuei or her other brothers. In fact, the only time she does mention him in regards to politics is when she tries to tell him the Kou Empire destroying another country is wrong. It’s obvious she cares for Kouen a great deal as a person, but her actions actually point to her disagreeing at least with his methods, if not his whole plan for world domination.) Since canon points to her currently thinking differently from Kouen and her siblings in certain matters, “being a warrior fighting for the Kou Empire” would mean Kougyoku would be fighting for someone else’s ideals under their orders, which is definitely not the “independence” the fandom seems to want her to exhibit.
As it stands, chapter 267 is a huge step forward for Kougyoku as a character. She reveals she’s fighting to keep a promise she made to her (assumedly) dead friend, and showing concern for the people who are alive today rather than worrying solely about future generations, which is more in line with the main characters’ thinking than Kouen’s. I’m really happy with where Kougyoku’s character is headed and super excited to see more of her in the future!!