|Author: Carrot Sauce||Original Source: SFACG||Word Count: 3145 characters|
|Translator: Yuki||English Source: Re:Library||Word Count: 1767 words|
“Ah… that…” Ayaka purposefully glanced over at Lily several times, causing a stir of frustration in her. “Lily, once you’re rested, join us at the shrine. Kimiko and I have spent the past few days there. It concerns the array. But… there’s no rush.” With that, she exited, closing the door behind her, leaving no room for Lily to interject.
In the aftermath of such a disconcerting wake-up, Lily found herself aimlessly wandering the corridors. “Why did I have such a strange dream?” she wondered aloud. The unsettling thoughts led her to seek solace in the bathhouse, where she indulged in a long, relaxing soak. Being a lover of beauty, she luxuriated in the hot springs the entire morning.
Apart from the enjoyment of beauty, her prolonged bath served a more crucial purpose: recovery. Even though her celestial maiden physique permitted rapid physical recuperation, mental fatigue and stress could only be alleviated through relaxation.
Once refreshed, Lily slipped into a light-colored robe and set off towards the shrine nestled in the back mountains. On her way up the mountain path, she crossed paths with Shimizu.
“Mm? Sister Shimizu…”
For some reason, the sight of Shimizu sent a flush to Lily’s cheeks. As they brushed shoulders on the narrow path, Shimizu spoke, “Lily, Lady Kimiko awaits you.”
“Mm, I understand.”
Their encounter, confined to the narrow path, was surprisingly uneventful. Nothing out of the ordinary happened, and no inappropriate words were exchanged. Lily watched Shimizu’s receding figure, silently musing, “In the dream, you were so assertive…”
“Wait, it’s not fair to blame sister Shimizu… But how could I have dreamt of her in such a manner?”
Upon reaching the shrine, Lily was greeted by the cool mountain breeze. Inside, she found Kimiko and Ayaka beside the Divine Sun Formation. “Lily, finally you’re here. Lady Kimiko and I have completed the adjustments to this formation. It did consume a considerable amount of treasures, but let’s overlook that. To finalize the connections, we’ll need to go back to the Cherry Blossom Valley and cast a few arcane inscriptions to link the spatial channel between the formations. Fortunately, the process will be simpler on the other side. If I take charge, it should take no more than a day.”
“Mm? Return to the Cherry Blossom Valley…?” Lily expressed her concerns about their journey back to the valley. It was nestled within territories under the influence of Minamoto no Yoritomo and the Cloistered Emperor.
“Mm, Lily, I hope you can accompany me. You are the only one familiar with the valley’s location,” Ayaka requested.
“Of course, my concern is only about being detected by Yoritomo. Otherwise, there’s no issue. What if we took Lady Kimiko and a few other sisters, and once the formations are connected, everyone can escape?” Lily proposed.
Kimiko disagreed, “That’s not necessary. Lily, despite my severe injuries, as long as Suno makes preparations, we aren’t helpless. For the time being, neither the villagers of Suno nor I plan to seek refuge in your valley.”
“Lily, with the formation connected, we can travel over at any time. We shouldn’t abandon Suno so hastily. It harbors too many ancient secrets,” Kimiko explained. “Besides, the safety of your Cherry Blossom Valley isn’t absolute. You mentioned that Yoritomo is aware of it yet overlooks it. We must not underestimate his foresight.”
Kimiko added, “If Yoritomo decides to attack Suno and we can’t defend, we can escape to the valley and seal the formation. Then, his army would have to travel thousands of miles to reach the valley. If he attacks the valley first, then Suno can provide reinforcements, aid, and a retreat point1. With a teleportation array, won’t it be beneficial for both sides to support each other?”
Lily considered this and agreed, “That’s true. Then, I will accompany Sister Ayaka back to the Cherry Blossom Valley.”
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“Lily, are you sure you’re ready? Perhaps you need more rest? There might be some danger on this trip.”
“There’s no need. I’ve already slept enough. If we wait any longer, we may miss our opportunity. I’ve fully recovered, so there’s no need to worry,” assured Lily, her youthful vigor evident.
Both Kimiko and Ayaka gave approving looks. With uncertainty looming over when Yoritomo would get the news and act, Lily and Ayaka made haste to leave immediately.
High above, a majestic blue ox pulled a lavish cart across the otherworldly clouds. Surprisingly, this cart outpaced Lily’s great bird in speed.
Both Lily and Ayaka were comfortably seated within the cart, which not only provided a faster journey, but also sheltered them from the elements like wind and rain. Not that they were troubled by such things, but the cart ride added an extra layer of comfort to their travel.
This ‘Cart of the Azure Ox’ was a prized possession that Lily had seized from Shuten. Although Shuten’s treasure collection didn’t quite match up to Kimiko’s collection or the wealth of an entire nation, it was impressive. After all, he had been robbing, stealing, and amassing treasures for over eight hundred years!
The Cart of the Azure Ox was a treasure that Ayaka had heard of before. “This was once the possession of an ancient Heian princess, Tokuma-hime. I can’t believe it eventually fell into the hands of Shuten Doji. The legend goes that Tokuma-hime went out for a ride in this cart and never returned, presumably, she was victimized by Shuten.” Ayaka noted.
Interestingly, due to its feminine design, Shuten did not fancy using the cart. Instead, he kept it as part of his collection. Therefore, Lily and Ayaka were not concerned about being identified through the cart. On the contrary, the cart served to camouflage their identities. Even if someone noticed them, they would merely appear as high-profile travelers. After all, Lily’s usual bird was easily recognizable.
Throughout the journey, Ayaka seemed unsettled. “Lily…” she started several times, only to trail off without completing her thought. Each time Lily questioned, Ayaka hesitated and ended up saying nothing.
Although concerned, Lily chose not to press Ayaka. She understood that Ayaka was an adult and would voice her concerns if she felt it necessary. Consequently, an orderly, yet dull atmosphere lingered between the two, despite being alone in the cart.
Prior to their departure, Lily had divided a portion of Shuten’s treasures among her companions. Shimizu, Rei, Shizuru, and Ijuin had each received their share.
She then offered a portion to Ayaka, “Sister Ayaka, this is part of Shuten’s treasures. I believe they could be of use to you.”
Ayaka, however, declined the offer, “There’s no need. I still have many of the treasures Kimiko lent me. While I’ve returned most of them, I’ve kept the ones most suitable for me. Plus, Kimiko has left me ample materials for crafting artes, medicines, and talismans. It’s more than enough. You should keep those treasures for yourself.”
Lily accepted Ayaka’s decision without argument. She knew that even a small fraction of Kimiko’s treasure would suffice.
Naturally, Kimiko would not simply distribute her treasures. However, under the current circumstances, everyone was in this together. Given Kimiko’s inability to wield her powerful treasures, she opted to ‘lend’ them to Ayaka. This allowed Ayaka to utilize them for the collective protection of all.
As for Lily, the majority of Shuten’s treasures still remained in her possession. At present, she conjectured that aside from Kimiko, Minamoto no Yoritomo, and the Cloistered Emperor, she was likely the individual with the most extensive treasury.
Shuten’s treasury was filled with weapons, relics, rare exotic treasures, precious herbs, materials, ancient formation diagrams, secret techniques, talismans…its diversity and vastness was unmatched!
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Three ‘Blood Spirit Magatamas’ stood out as particularly useful to Lily. Each one could summon a full powered Kagura, which could prove critical in the upcoming battle against Yoritomo. However, she also recognized the limitations of the Blood Spirit Magatama. Their effect was time-bound and they could not rival the ancient Kagura who had followed Suzuhiko-hime.
As per Kagura’s explanation, a single usage of the Blood Spirit Magatama was enough to inflict injury upon a quintuple-soul big dipper. If the adversary happened to be a quadruple-soul big dipper, they could sustain severe injury or even death if caught off guard. Nevertheless, bringing down a quintuple-soul big dipper was extremely challenging. It was surmised that, should three Blood Spirit Magatamas be consecutively used, it would, at the very least, critically injure if not exterminate the enemy.
However, when facing Minamoto no Yoritomo, a sextuple-soul big dipper, a single magatama could only serve to restrain him, while three in succession could, at most, inflict harm.
Of course, these were all theoretical predictions. Combat situations were fluid and outcomes unpredictable. Lily herself was a testament to this unpredictability. Utilizing Yasutsuna’s demon-killing power, combined with opportune moments and the accumulated resentment and wrath of countless female spirits, she had managed to overcome and vanquish Shuten. Despite the odds stacked against her in terms of sheer power, she achieved what appeared to be an impossible victory.
Actual combat outcomes did not solely rely on the absolute strength of the adversaries. Kagura had also cautioned that opponents with quintuple and sextuple soul big dipper status were not to be underestimated. Empowered by a Blood Spirit Magatama or not, Kagura could still sustain injuries from such formidable adversaries. Moreover, if faced with an unknown ancient treasure or trap that she wasn’t aware of, she could be ensnared until the Blood Spirit Magatama’s power was completely drained, which could result in her demise. Yet, fear was not a sentiment Kagura entertained.
One more notable treasure from Shuten’s collection that caught Lily’s attention was his strongest weapon, the machete. Once the resentment residing within the weapon was expelled, its true form was revealed – the long spear Kurokinsui2, a lower-tier spirit artifact.
Additionally, there was a unique blade named Yakumo, forged with naturally occurring black eldritch flames. This was a naturally occurring cursed blade. More precisely, it was the product of a blade maiden’s defeat by Shuten Doji hundreds of years prior. This blade maiden, unwilling to submit as one of Shuten’s playthings, had chosen to end her own life. Her soul fused with her blade, resulting in a truly unique creation – a half-eldritch, half-weapon cursed blade.
Given Shimizu’s lack of a formidable weapon, Lily had decided to bestow this naturally formed cursed blade upon her. The functionality of this blade was virtually identical to the cursed blade she had initially crafted. Moreover, this blade was not only a lower-tier spirit artifact but also highly compatible with a blade maiden.