|Author: Carrot Sauce||Original Source: SFACG||Word Count: 3100 characters|
|Translator: LazyButAmbitious||English Source: Re:Library||Word Count: 1678 words|
Moonlight, heavy with a piercing resonance, delicately wrapped itself around Lily, fusing seamlessly into her essence.
“Ah…” A complicated exclamation escaped Lily, a blend of both pain and ecstasy.
Her joy sprang from the strengthening of her core abilities, fueled by the moonlight integrating into her form. On the other hand, the pain was rooted in a deep, mysterious sorrow that intensified with the assimilation of the second lunar crystal.
“What’s happening?” Princess Asuka was baffled, having never witnessed such an occurrence before.
“Lily…” Ayaka and Shimizu were less concerned about the extra Lunar Crystal Lily had absorbed, focusing solely on her well-being.
Eventually, the luminous moonlight emanating from the lunar crystal entirely fused into Lily’s form.
Lily felt overwhelmed, momentarily incapacitated by the lunar crystal’s potency. Her thoughts clouded over, leaving her to passively experience the dual sensations of physical empowerment and emotional agony. She was unsure why this was occurring.
Now, she sensed a marked increase in her baseline physical strength, although not a doubling as before, given her already robust foundational abilities. Yet, the enhancement brought about by the two lunar crystals appeared equivalent. The recent fusion had amplified Lily’s base physical strength by over 30% relative to her former self.
As a result, she now exceeded the physical strength of an average celestial battle maiden, potentially even ranking among the more robust warriors in that category. But questions lingered.
Lily’s mind buzzed with the lore she had heard about lunar crystals—that only individuals at the Throne Stage could merge with one. Was the legend false? Such a possibility seemed almost absurd. How could the mythos surrounding such a magnificent treasure be anything but accurate?
But then, another thought intruded: perhaps her current strength, already at the advanced quadruple-soul Big Dipper Stage, allowed her to fuse with multiple crystals? For now, this was the only explanation that made any semblance of sense.
Yet, an enigmatic question lingered: why had the lunar crystal autonomously emitted a luminescent glow and sought to become one with her, even though she hadn’t initiated any contact and it was in another’s hand? Such a phenomenon was completely without precedent.
“Lily!” Ayaka urgently clasped Lily’s hand. “Are you alright?”
“Is everything okay, Lily?” Shimizu echoed, gripping Lily’s other hand without a hint of annoyance that Lily had absorbed the lunar crystal.
“I’m well, but also perplexed. Sister Ayaka, Sister Shimizu, I had no intention of absorbing the lunar crystal. Yet the moment it emerged, it transformed into streams of moonlight that automatically flew toward me.”
Princess Asuka was visibly confused. “Miss Lily speaks the truth. I sensed no active power on her part. The lunar crystal autonomously floated to her. That’s truly extraordinary. Normally, fusing with lunar crystals requires an ancient esoteric technique and a considerable amount of time. An involuntary fusion is inconceivable.”
“Lily?” Feeling the new surge of energy emanating from Lily, Ayaka’s eyes lit up. “You’ve gained even more strength! Was this power boost caused by the lunar crystal?”
Looking a touch guilty, Lily nodded. “Yes. My apologies, I initially wanted both of you to have the crystal.”
Ayaka offered a comforting smile. “You needn’t worry, Lily. Our happiness lies in your growing strength. If you become potent enough to protect me one day, I would willingly relinquish my power to you.”
As Ayaka spoke, her cheeks flushed a soft pink. Princess Asuka blinked in confusion, not fully grasping the conversation.
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“Don’t fret, Lily,” Shimizu reassured. “If I had known you could merge with more, I never would have taken it. We’re all on the same page here.”
Lily felt a wave of emotion wash over her. “Thank you both. Now that the fusion is complete, I’ll consider it a blessing.”
Her thoughts then spiraled to the limitations of lunar crystal fusion. If one’s capacity for fusion truly depended on their actual strength level, could she potentially merge with yet another crystal? Sadly, no kingdom shares remained to test the theory.
At that moment, Lily began to regain her composure, feeling an invigorating sense of strength. Despite this, a residue of unexplained sorrow clouded her thoughts— an emotion she found difficult to articulate even to her closest confidantes. She had never heard of anyone experiencing such a melancholy during lunar crystal fusion.
“Do you wish to exchange any more treasures?” Princess Asuka inquired.
With few kingdom shares remaining, Lily mulled over her future strategy. She planned to use any large accumulation of shares she might collect to exchange for more lunar crystals.
“Princess Asuka, do you have additional lunar crystals available?” Lily inquired.
Asuka responded with an enigmatic smile, nodding. “In that case, we’ll forgo any further exchanges for now,” said Lily. She and her sisters were well-equipped with treasures, thanks to Shuten Doji’s accumulated wealth.
“Actually, Princess,” Lily paused, a thought crossing her mind, “there’s something I’d like to show you.”
Asuka’s eyes narrowed, sensing something extraordinary based on Lily’s earnest expression. Lily stepped back and waved her hand. Fragments of an ancient brass gate materialized, floating in the air. Etched onto these fragments were enigmatic patterns and demonic carvings, which exuded an aura resembling the depths of the underworld.
“The Gate of Yomi?!” Princess Asuka recoiled, taking two involuntary steps back.
“You’re familiar with it?” Lily queried.
“This is indeed the Gate of Yomi, and it appears to be of a notably high tier,” said Princess Asuka.
“I shattered this gate in a recent battle,” Lily revealed. “I was there to see numerous formidable demons coming through it into our world.”
“Ah, so it was during that event?” Princess Asuka suddenly understood. “That explains the surge of demons we experienced, including a Big Dipper Stage archdemon. Based on the mystical patterns etched onto this gate, its capabilities are highly potent. It’s engineered to maintain a stable conduit between Yomi and our world, even allowing the passage of Big Dipper Stage archdemons. Generally, the more powerful the demon, the more challenging it is for them to traverse spatial portals. A gate lacking in power could lead to the collapse of such a passage.”
Ayaka was incredulous. “The Gate of Yomi is more than just a myth? Its reappearance could spell disaster, not just for Asuka Kingdom but for humanity.”
“Princess Asuka,” Shimizu inquired, “your tone suggests this isn’t the first time the Gate of Yomi has materialized?”
Princess Asuka’s face hardened. “Correct. The inaugural Gate of Yomi manifested three years after the skies turned dark. Ideally, it should’ve only allowed the passage of Throne Stage demons below the sovereign level. Yet, our ignorance of its existence led to catastrophic consequences. A third of the Asuka Kingdom’s populace fell victim to the unending stream of demons. I eventually led my personal guard to vanquish the demon hordes and destroy the gate, but at the cost of nearly losing all of my guards. Only Reika and I returned.”
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She continued, “Since that tragedy, I’ve understood that demons could emerge not just from the continent but from the bowels of Yomi—a realm teeming with indescribably powerful and fearsome demons. Should the gate remain active for an extended period, our kingdom would undoubtedly face extinction.”
“Over the subsequent years, we discovered two more gates. One even permitted double-soul Big Dipper Stage archdemons to traverse. I led a substantial army into battle, paying an exorbitant toll to demolish the gate. Consequently, our military prowess dwindled, allowing the prime minister—who had prudently preserved his forces—to gradually consolidate power.”
The mood among Lily, Ayaka, and Shimizu turned grim. “It’s disconcerting to think that the Gate of Yomi has materialized thrice already. Who knows if there are others yet to be discovered?” Lily voiced her concerns.
“All we can do is hope there aren’t,” Princess Asuka replied, her eyes clouding over. “What terrifies me most is the potential emergence of gates capable of allowing even more potent demons from Yomi.”
It was now clear why Princess Asuka had been so insistent on eradicating the demons on Iyo Island. If she failed to exert full control over the island and a more potent Gate of Yomi manifested, the future of the kingdom would be bleak. The suffering of one would be the suffering of all. If Iyo Island became a conduit for the demons of Yomi to infiltrate the Asuka Kingdom, there was no telling when these dreadful entities might cross the sea.
Lily couldn’t help but internally reflect, Minamoto no Yoritomo, you focus on persecuting Ayaka, Kimiko, and myself, while oblivious to the greater threats at hand. Shouldn’t someone with global ambitions be concerned about the demons from Yomi? It’s not just Yoritomo; even here, Princess Asuka is willing to risk her life against these demons, and yet she faces only ingratitude from the king and mounting pressure from the prime minister. It’s a road to ruin, truly.
Lily was at her wits’ end. If she had the power, she would undoubtedly assist Princess Asuka, reward be damned.
“Miss Lily,” said Asuka, “it’s a monumental feat to destroy a Gate of Yomi, one that under our laws merits 1,500 kingdom shares.”
“Really? That many?”
“Indeed. The threat it poses is far greater than one or two isolated Big Dipper Stage archdemons.”
Weighing this, Lily realized that while 1,500 shares were impressive, they were insufficient to secure a lunar crystal. “I understand. Thank you, Princess.”
“You’ve been through a lot, with the battles and festivities,” Asuka observed.
With that, Lily and the rest withdrew, leaving Princess Asuka to her solitude in the top level of Tenshu Castle.
“What can I possibly say to those mercenaries?” she mused, feeling a deep humiliation at the prospect of an arranged marriage. Tsukuba Naoya, despite being the son of the prime minister and reputedly the strongest man alive, had a sinister and unsettling aura that made her skin crawl.
She sighed, resigned and defeated.
“Your Highness,” a voice softly broke her reverie.
Princess Asuka turned to find Reika, attired in her scanty blue ninja garb, materializing from a darkened corner of Tenshu Castle.
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“Reika, at last, you’ve returned.”