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Chapter 38 – Iwaya City

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Author: Carrot Sauce Original Source: SFACG Word Count: 3213 characters
Translator: Yuki English Source: Re:Library Word Count: 1509 words
Editor(s): Robinxen

After two days of travel, Princess Asuka’s entourage finally arrived at Iwaya City.
“I assumed the fog was limited to the woods. Yet, it envelops the city as well,” Asuka commented, her gaze fixed on the city’s entrance and the fog-shrouded silhouette of a distant castle.

“State your identity!” The gate guards demanded.

Stepping forth, Reika announced, “Princess Asuka is here. Open the gates immediately!” Recognizing Asuka’s banners in the torchlight, the soldiers complied.

The princess and her procession made their way into the city. Given that the festival was the next day, the kunoichis hadn’t prearranged their attire.

Lily’s carriage trailed the princess’ group, and since they entered collectively, no one questioned or checked her.

Gazing out of her window, Lily observed the regal city’s panorama. Nestled within a valley and encircled by mountains, the city sparkled under countless lights, reminiscent of a starry night. However, the streets seemed eerily deserted.

Once inside, it was expected that the princess would have her private residence. The group’s first stop was the princess’ hillside mansion near the city gate, guarded by several shinobis. Their elation at the princess’ return was palpable, but it was tinged with a touch of sadness.

“Where is Lord Kiryu?” Reika inquired of the lead shinobi.

“After meeting with the king last month, Lord Kiryu began departing without notice. Ten days back, he left and hasn’t returned since.”

“Not returned?” Asuka’s face darkened. “Didn’t the king assign him any tasks?”

“We’re unaware. Lord Kiryu didn’t share details.” The chief shinobi explained that her primary duty was guarding the mansion. Given the princess’ two-year absence, there was no reason to inform her of the king’s orders.

“We must contact Kiryu. He’s in the city, after all,” Asuka insisted.

However, Reika countered, “I’ve tried reaching him since we entered, without success.”

Asuka’s apprehension grew. Her reservations about the upcoming jubilee deepened, especially with Kiryu, the most informed, missing.

“The city too is veiled by this fog,” noted Ayaka as she approached. “Let me enhance the transmission orb using a formation. Perhaps that will help.” Despite setting up the formations in the mansion’s vacant room, her attempts to reach Kiryu failed.

“Could it be that Kiryu left the city on the king’s orders? With this encompassing fog, it’s plausible the voice transmission orb would be obstructed,” speculated Reika.

“Princess Asuka, maybe you could attempt to reach Himeji using this formation.”

Despite her efforts, Asuka couldn’t make contact.

Ayaka sighed deeply, “This fog is indeed formidable. If even my formations cannot breach it, it’s quite likely that Lord Kiryu has ventured far from here.”

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Having settled in Iwaya, Reika inquired, “Princess, why might the king have dispatched Kiryu? Perhaps you could inquire with his majesty?”

After a pause, Asuka responded, “It’s late, and his majesty would be resting. It wouldn’t be right to disturb him at this hour, nor would it be polite to press him on this matter. Tomorrow, during the celebrations, I’ll seek my answers.”

Subsequently, Reika ensured everyone had rooms to rest in. The facilities in the princess’ mansion surpassed those in Himeji. After all, the princess had invested most of her energy and resources in the city’s defenses.

Night had fallen. Post her bath, Lily, adorned in a blue yukata, decided to stroll in the courtyard. During her walk, she came upon the princess, who stood solitary on the porch, eyes clouded with melancholy as she gazed up.

“Princess,” greeted Lily, stepping closer with a nod.

“You seem weighed down by thoughts of tomorrow’s jubilee,” Lily remarked gently.

“Miss Lily, regardless of whether there’s a conspiracy at play, tomorrow’s jubilee promises to be a significant event,” the princess responded with a touch of anxiety in her voice.

Lily smiled faintly, “A celebration of such grandeur; I am eager to witness its splendor.”

The princess hesitated before confessing, “Lately, I’ve been overwhelmed by a sense of unease, more so than when facing formidable adversaries. I’ve always tried to control circumstances, but perhaps my true strengths lie only in combat and craftsmanship.” She seemed genuinely troubled.

“Princess, since we’re here, let’s witness together the spectacle that unfolds tomorrow,” said Lily.

“But how do you remain so composed?” the princess asked.

Lily offered a reassuring smile. “I’m not in your shoes, Princess. Were I in your position, amidst this turmoil, I doubt I’d manage as gracefully as you have.”

“Lily… I fear what tomorrow may bring. A foreboding gnaws at me, suggesting my apprehensions might be realized.”

“Some things are inevitable,” Lily murmured, “But know this: come what may, I’ll stand by your side.”

These words seemed to bring some solace to the princess.

“On another note, I’ve heard of your unparalleled skills in both literature and the martial arts. More intriguingly, that you’re an exceptional swordsmith. Might I have the honor of witnessing your creations?”

The princess released a subtle sigh. “Within the Asuka Kingdom, many master swordsmiths exist; I’m not alone. There are several who can craft low-ranked spirit treasure weapons.”

“Indeed, Your Highness, as the princess, tasks like sword forging might be considered unbecoming of your noble stature. I apologize for my oversight.”

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“Lily, you’ve misunderstood.” Asuka turned, swiftly capturing Lily’s hand. “My Asuka lineage is famed for our sword crafting. Legends claim we rose to power because we forged divine swords for Takamagahara, earning blessings from the gods. For the royal Asuka family, sword-crafting is our proudest tradition. If you perceive it as mere labor, it would hurt my pride.”

“I didn’t mean that. I spoke without fully understanding the traditions of the Asuka Kingdom. My apologies.”

Lily held the princess’ hand more securely, their proximity increasing. Their lips came achingly close, the space between them nearly nonexistent. For a moment, they simply regarded one another. Asuka’s gaze on Lily’s lips and clear eyes evoked a palpable heartbeat within her.

“No.” Asuka pulled back slightly, embarrassment evident in her eyes. She maintained a modest distance, studying Lily. “Miss Lily, why this kindness? You defend me but shoulder the blame yourself. Surely a samurai of your stature holds the art of sword-making above the views of mere nobility.”

“That you understand me warms my heart, Princess. For a samurai, blades and swords are life, akin to lovers.”

“Lovers?” Asuka’s cheeks reddened. “You see your blade as your lover?”

Realizing the depth of Lily’s bond with her sword, she pondered, “Is the sword truly a lover to you?” Asuka’s heart seemed to skip a beat, her eyes fixed on Lily.

“Princess, are you alright?”

“It’s nothing… Miss Lily, with the jubilee tomorrow, we should rest.”

“Yes, Princess. Whatever transpires tomorrow, know that I stand with you1.”

Heartened by Lily’s words, Asuka relaxed.


The Asuka Royal City, dormant for so long, now buzzed with festivity. Lights adorned every corner, and the pathway to the castle shimmered like a nocturnal gala. Citizens, though worn, ventured out, seeking fleeting moments of joy. It felt like ages since they had genuinely celebrated.

Asuka, atop her horse, led her convoy of birthday gifts. The kunoichi guards had traded their combat attire for elegant court dresses, forming an impressive entourage on either side. Although treasures could easily be stored away, displaying them added to the grandeur.

Today, Asuka’s attire consisted of a dusky rose velvet kimono top with a high slit skirt, still retaining elements of her ninja heritage. Trailing behind was another cart.

The castle’s grand gates stood invitingly open. Strings of radiant lanterns hung aloft, illuminating the city like a constellation.

The prime minister, clad in ornate blue hunting robes and a tall black hat, awaited guests alongside some of the kingdom’s prominent ministers, an expression of respect to the king.

“Lord Prime Minister!” An overweight minister approached, his visage reminiscent of a Tosa dog.

“Ah, Lord Shisa! Welcome.”

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The minister chuckled, “You’ve forgotten me, Prime Minister. I am Otomo Inutai.”

Laughing it off, the prime minister responded, “Ah, forgive my memory. I’ll drink a penalty wine later as amends.”

“No need for that, Prime Minister. In gratitude for all you do for our kingdom, I’ve brought medicinal materials from Shisa. I’ll send them to your residence.”

“Ahaha, Lord Otomo, you’re too kind. While it is His Majesty’s jubilee, I’m merely playing the part of a receptionist today. Please, come in.”

A group of distinguished monks swiftly entered the gates, their presence commanding as they moved into the courtyard.

Approaching them, an official inquired, “Might you be…?”

“We represent the Myojin Temple, here to honor His Majesty’s fiftieth jubilee.” The lead monk, donning a white robe and bamboo hat, presented an invitation.

“Ah! From the renowned Myojin Temple, home to the world’s most formidable warrior monks. Please, make yourselves at home,” the official greeted with evident respect.

Spotting the monks, the esteemed expert of Iyo Island, Tsukuba Naoya, made his way over. “Are you Brother Sonosuke from the Myojin Temple?”

The leading monk removed his bamboo hat, passing it to a fellow monk, revealing himself as Sonosuke. “Brother Tsukuba,” he greeted, stepping forward with a courteous nod and a warm smile.



 

Footnotes:

  1. Yuki: Sigh Lily really makes these statements…
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