|Author: Carrot Sauce||Original Source: SFACG||Word Count: 3106 characters|
|Translator: Keissen||English Source: Re:Library||Word Count: 1710 words|
Lily, Shimizu, and Ayaka were at the forefront as they dashed down the hill, their spiritual senses alert to the presence of several Throned Monarch demons in the distance.
“Leave it to me!” Shimizu exclaimed, accelerating her pace.
“What’s going on? Why are there so many Throned Sovereign demons all of a sudden?” Lily questioned, her voice tinged with confusion. Where had all these formidable demons come from?
The area was filled with countless pulses of spirit power, originating from both allies and enemies, as they scanned the surroundings. Shimizu was already engaged in a fierce battle with the Hannya demons ahead, displaying strength far greater than before. Her possession of the complete ancient Jade had elevated her power, making it rival the value of the ancient mirror.
From the side, a giant boar-like demon, covered in brown and inscribed with demonic runes, suddenly charged forward. It appeared incredibly filthy and was identified as another Late Throned Monarch.
“Sister Lily! I’ll handle this guy!” Fuyuki called out, as he and his team, enhanced by Daimon’s talismans, scattered and began to encircle the boar demon.
At that moment, Lily’s intuition sensed chaos erupting across the mountain range. A swish sounded as a massive pitch-black centipede leapt from the forest terrain and lunged towards Lily. Adorned with tattered talismans on each leg, the centipede was identified as a Pinnacle Throned Monarch.
“Out of my way!” Lily commanded, leaping up and crashing her legs down. Her Celestial Maiden sandals erupted with power, and a bang resonated as her stomp shattered the centipede’s sturdy skull, obliterating its Spirit Sea.
Nearby, Shimizu successfully dispatched a small group of Hannyas. “All the demons I slay, their credit is yours,” Shimizu communicated to Lily through a mental connection. The trio had grown so close they were like sisters. Since Lily had provided Shimizu with her weapons and treasures, it only made sense for her to grant Lily the recognition for the kills, helping her advance swiftly towards the status of a Senior Mercenary.
Sternly, Lily warned, “Sister Shimizu, don’t underestimate these demons. Stay cautious.”
The party of seven pressed on, their eyes keenly scanning for demons as they navigated the treacherous terrain. As they engaged in their hunt, some demons launched counterattacks against them. After traversing two mountains, they had vanquished a total of thirty-eight demons, including four that were of the Pinnacle Throned Monarchs rank.
Fuyuki’s team claimed two victories, against a Late Throned Monarch boar and a Throned General. The battle against the boar was fraught with danger, nearly resulting in grave injuries for Fuyuki and Daimon. Ayaka’s timely intervention with her talismans allowed a narrow victory without severe harm.
As they continued, Lily’s senses revealed nearly a hundred Throned Sovereigns! Two overwhelming auras from the mountain ahead signaled the presence of Big Dipper Archdemons.
“Retreat, Sister Shimizu!” Lily’s voice rang clear. Even in combat, she remained keenly aware, pulling back instead of advancing. “Big Dipper Archdemons!” Ayaka echoed.
With a thunderous wham, the mountain peak ahead burst apart in a violent explosion. From the chaos, a tall vagrant with red hair was seen being flung into the air. Tumbling and bouncing down the mountain slope, he eventually landed near Lily.
This was Nendou, the tattooed vagrant who had once pestered Lily about teaming up. Brazen in his approach toward female experts, he had pushed them to join forces with him due to his abilities, holding the esteemed title of Throned Saint. But now, he was a pitiful sight, covered in wounds, missing an arm, half his jaw in ruin, and his face a mask of contusions.
Struggling to open his swollen eyes, Nendou looked at Lily’s team and coughed up blood. In a weak and desperate plea, he extended his only remaining arm and whispered, “Help… Help me…”
“Senior Nendou?” Fuyuki couldn’t help but scream. Who could have harmed Nendou to such a degree? He was surely among the strongest participants in this war.
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Lily’s eyes narrowed, her expression becoming grim as she surveyed the partially destroyed mountain peak. Shimizu and Ayaka stood beside her, all taking in the sight of two imposing figures. One had golden eyes, a face obscured by black fur, amber-like horns, tattered robes, and a bloodied and damaged sword. The other was red-faced, bald, hunched, muscled, with a grotesquely long and thick neck, a weird septum ring, skin dotted with eerie marks, and holding an ancient-looking spear.
Both were massive, standing about three meters tall, and radiating the powerful aura of double-soul Big Dippers.
“Double-soul Big Dipper!” Lily and the others instantly went on alert.
“Why would we encounter two double-soul Big Dippers? This is just a random battle that we joined after stepping foot on Iyo Island.” Lily’s voice was laced with confusion and worry.
Their menacing eyes swept across the mountain slope, surveying everyone present. Although Lily’s group suppressed their auras, the golden-eyed demon’s gaze lingered on Lily. However, it failed to detect her true strength. The red-faced demon’s eyes remained fixed on Lily and her companions, his mouth opening to reveal horribly ruined fangs from which green smoke poured. “Brother Kuki, looks like we’re quite lucky coming to the mortal realm this time around. We ate so many souls of fools who came to die, and we even get to meet women! Look at them, especially the three in front. Where we come from, we won’t even see a single one in a thousand years. They are incredible!” he crooned.
“Hunchback, I’m not interested in women. And don’t forget, we paid a heavy price to come to the surface world this time. We are here to train, not humiliate women. Besides, don’t underestimate humans. They know how to conceal their auras,” Kuki retorted.
Despite his words, the two mighty demons continued their casual conversation atop the mountain, clearly unconcerned with Lily’s group.
“I’ll kill that Throned Saint vagrant first. You can handle the rest and those women,” Kuki declared, transforming into demonic fog as he leaped toward Nendou.
At the same time, the Hunchback jumped and extended his body, revealing his incredibly long legs. If he were to stand up straight, he would dwarf even Kuki! He moved with terrifying speed, so quickly that Fuyuki and the others could barely react.
Before Fuyuki could even process what was happening, Hunchback was already looming over him, spear raised, ready to strike. “Kill the men first!” he roared. The spear was thrust towards the completely bewildered and disoriented Fuyuki.
With a resonating clang, a radiant blade materialized from nowhere, blocking the spear’s deadly descent. “What?” Hunchback exclaimed in shock, his eyes widening to see Lily standing protectively in front of Fuyuki. She had extended one arm and, with her long cursed blade, had deflected Hunchback’s ferocious attack.
Under the current circumstances, Lily was unable to put much force behind her weapon, yet her strength was still sufficient to parry the spear. With a determined stomp on the ground, she swung her arm, creating an unbelievable shockwave with a wham. She actually sent Hunchback flying along with the spear just by pushing with the tip of her blade.
“Hunchback?” Kuki, who was in the process of stabbing into Nendou’s chest to devour his Spirit Sea, was stunned by the sight. He quickly abandoned his victim and charged towards Lily.
A swish marked the appearance of an incredibly tall and brilliant figure intercepting him: Ayaka, her naginata slashing towards the demon. Kuki’s eyes contracted instantly, a feeling of meeting a worthy opponent washing over him.
Meanwhile, Lily sent Hunchback flying into the air and quickly drew her longbow and arrows. Though she was no expert in archery, her skills were more than sufficient to contend with a double-soul Archdemon. With a thump, an arrow shot forth like a comet.
Hunchback quivered at the arrow’s terrible force, quickly summoning a green Ogre-headed shield. The arrow struck the shield with a wham, only slightly cracking it, yet its massive impact sent Hunchback soaring a thousand meters away, to the other side of the mountain.
“A lower spirit artifact shield?” Lily was equally astonished, realizing that this seemingly random demon possessed valuable treasures. She became a flash of red light, pursuing him.
Reaching the mountain’s summit, Lily was met with a horrifying sight. In front of her lay a pitch-black area littered with gore and the corpses of humans and demons. At the center of this charred location stood an ancient bronze gate covered in eerie demonic ruins, emanating a dark and bloody aura that felt strangely familiar, yet terrifying.
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“Underworld aura?” she whispered to herself.
Hunchback stood not far from the bronze gate, and Lily involuntarily took a breath. But her shock was soon replaced by urgency as the bronze gate began to pulse, and several Throned Monarch Hannya demons emerged.
“These demons aren’t dispatched by a nearby Archdemon. Rather, they’ve emerged from this bronze gate, emanating what seems to be the aura of the underworld?” Lily’s breath was heavy, the gate hauntingly reminiscent of Rashōmon.
Could this be a portal that linked the mortal world to Yomi? Lily’s mind raced, rapidly drawing conclusions. She knew Rashōmon served as a connection between Ashihara and Yomi, but it was governed by specific rules: it only functioned at midnight, and the passage was one-way.
Thus, a perplexing question arose: How could one journey from Yomi to Ashihara, the realm of mortals? Lily was aware of only one method, that of traversing the perilous ‘Path of Yomi.’ It was, however, a journey fraught with dangers and almost an impossibility.
Was there an alternative route from Yomi to the mortal world? This was beyond Lily’s knowledge. In her understanding of the Heian Dynasty, no such phenomenon had ever been mentioned. If a sinister bronze gate like this could indeed transport all of Yomi’s demons into the human world, it would have led to an apocalyptic scenario long ago, given the innumerable demon gods that could invade.
Now, however, such a gate stood before her very eyes, possibly linking the mortal realm to Yomi or a similarly cursed dimension. Lily could not fathom how many formidable demons and spirits might emerge from this ominous gateway.
“I must destroy this gate first!” she resolved without hesitation.