|Author: Carrot Sauce
|Original Source: SFACG
|Word Count: 3143 characters
|English Source: Re:Library
|Word Count: 1766 words
Lily’s innate physical prowess wasn’t just beyond that of the average human; it also surpassed many demons and evil spirits. With each step, she charged ahead, paving the way. Ayaka and Shimizu followed closely, offering their aid whenever possible. Before long, the trio emerged from the confines of the first ancient formation.
Despite the occasional encounter with spirits stronger than Lily, their sheer size without the support of spiritual energy hampered their agility. Their reduced speed not only amplified Lily’s nimbleness but also made these adversaries easier to vanquish.
“We’re approaching the second ancient formation,” Ayaka alerted.
Lily, curious, queried, “And what does this formation entail?”
Ayaka paused momentarily, scanning the environment. “The second formation is cunningly designed.”
Lily’s curiosity peaked. “How so?”
“This isn’t just a defensive mechanism; it’s a trial formation. It’s said to be the progenitor of many trial formations used in our Heian Dynasty. It’s baffling how Baku got his hands on it. Once activated, it allows only a single person at a time. Another can follow only after the first clears the path. If two attempt simultaneous entry, they’re assaulted with an overwhelming force. Aside from you, Lily, none of us can withstand that. Luckily, Baku couldn’t modify this formation to his advantage,” Ayaka elucidated.
“What defends the inside of this formation?” Lily inquired.
“The way things are, the Iyo demon realm’s demons must be the ones safeguarding inside,” Ayaka articulated. “Given this, Lily shouldn’t have any problem getting through this formation. I should be fine too. However, Shimizu might find herself in danger. Perhaps it would be best if she remained here.”
Lily countered with palpable worry, “But if we leave Sister Shimizu here by herself, it might be perilous for her.”
Shimizu chuckled lightly, “Why so protective? If I always take cover behind Lily, evading danger, how could I proudly call myself her elder sister? I’m determined to tread this path on my own! Trust me, I’ve evolved. I’m not the vulnerable girl you once knew.” As she spoke, her fingers brushed the ancient jade pendant she wore as a testament to her resilience.
Her intent was clear: she was here not to be sheltered, but to join the fray alongside them. Her status as a female samurai, and more importantly, Lily’s elder sister, came with a certain pride and commitment.
Understanding her sentiment, Lily asserted, “Alright, I’ll lead the way, and Sister Shimizu can follow closely. This way, if anything unforeseen arises, we have each other covered.”
With an affirmative nod, Shimizu replied, “Sounds like a plan1!”
“Let’s get to it, then.” Without any further delay, Lily faced the formation and darted into its misty embrace.
Beyond the dense fog, the formation’s underlying mechanics remained hidden, eluding Lily’s gaze. Such extensive formations were intricate by design, extending over the entire mountain’s expanse. Ayaka was probably the only one capable of deciphering it, but even she was handicapped without the requisite tools and materials for a swift dismantling. Even if she had access to all her erstwhile treasures, this ancient formation would still pose a formidable challenge.
Within the encompassing mist, Lily advanced swiftly on the mountain path. The protection of the ancient formation ensured the path remained unambiguous and devoid of deceptive junctions. But then, for someone of Lily’s unparalleled prowess, such misleading paths would hardly present any obstacle.
Arrows laced with demonic power emerged abruptly from the mist, their lethal potency enough to gravely wound those of Throned Sovereign status and decimate those below the Permanence Stage. However, for Lily, these arrows were as inconsequential as a gentle rain. Even if struck, the impact would barely register as a minor discomfort.
Thanks to her swift agility, the prospect of the arrows finding their mark, even if their quantity were multiplied by ten, was almost nil. Activating her domain, Lily felt a palpable pushback from the mist. Despite this resistance, the sheer might of her domain enveloped a radius of approximately 10,000 meters. Within this expanse, any adversary, save for those concealed by particular formations, was exposed.
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With a battle cry of “Die!”, Lily, while capable of effortlessly navigating through, opted to obliterate as many defensive structures on the mountain path and eradicate all foes. This strategic assault would ensure a safer passage for Shimizu later. Alas, some adversaries from beyond and a few concealed threats remained elusive.
Her cherry blossom blades soared, taking down adversaries below the Throned Saint level on sight. A few demons, in a bid to stave off her assault, employed ancient formations and archery towers. Undeterred, Lily charged head-on to dismantle these defenses.
Lily’s venture wasn’t merely to cross the formation; she bore through it like the unrelenting gusts of autumn, sweeping away every defensive mechanism and demon in her way.
A reproachful voice rang out, “Human woman! You’ve overstepped your bounds!”
A defiant “Die!” echoed back as two formidable auras approached. The first was a massive black catfish, its six-legged form spanning over ten meters. It had whiskers, tinged with an eerie electric charge, and its movement on land was eerily graceful, reminiscent of flying. This behemoth was of the double-soul Big Dipper Stage.
Its counterpart was a haggard eagle, also of the double-soul Big Dipper Stage. This aging raptor boasted a wingspan of thirty meters. Grounded by its inability to fly and marked by its bald and deeply wrinkled head, it cut an unattractive figure. Its unkempt feathers added to its bedraggled appearance. Despite its size, the eagle was nimble, often running on the ground and occasionally skimming the surface, toppling trees and boulders in its wake.
Scoffing at their display of might, Lily declared, “A mere weakling at the double-soul Big Dipper Stage, don’t waste my time!” Drawing Crescent Moon, she shimmered, phantom-like, charging at the eagle.
The eagle’s massive beak, emanating a primitive energy, lunged at Lily. The ground shook violently under the force of its strike, gouging a sizable pit. Nimbly sidestepping, Lily slashed, scattering a flurry of black feathers as she cleaved one of the eagle’s wings.
The catfish, sensing an opening, vaulted into the air, poised to strike at Lily. An electrifying aura enveloped the vicinity, scorching the surrounding mountain walls to a charred black.
As the air crackled with energy, Lily countered, launching herself towards the catfish, her foot connecting with its slick body. However, the creature’s unique mucus-laden skin made it incredibly slippery, thwarting Lily’s attack and leaving her momentarily off-guard.
Seizing this opportunity, the catfish swiftly encircled Lily, channeling a potent electric current through its body. The ensuing bolts of lightning caused the surrounding mist to erupt in a tumultuous storm of energy. Even Ayaka and Shimizu, stationed miles away from the fray, were consumed by trepidation.
Though Lily’s attire bore the brunt of the electric onslaught, her robust physique rendered the shocks inconsequential. To her chagrin, the catfish’s slime proved particularly resilient, rendering her blade, Crescent Moon, ineffective. It became evident that this wasn’t just ordinary mucus; it was potentially a valuable substance.
Seeking to escape the creature’s grasp, Lily soared into the air, summoning her trusty weapon, Dojigiri-Yasutsuna. With a swift downward stroke, the blade cleaved the catfish cleanly in two. Wasting no time, Lily delivered a series of rapid slashes, reducing the creature to shreds and obliterating its origin soul.
Now, only the maimed eagle posed a threat. Gliding close to the ground, it bore down on Lily, who, with a decisive strike of Dojigiri-Yasutsuna, split the eagle’s skull, starting from its beak. A subsequent blow targeted its spirit core, a location Lily had discerned using her heightened senses.
Having dispatched two formidable adversaries of the Big Dipper Stage, Lily felt a momentary respite. Keen to eradicate potential threats within the formation, she continued her onslaught. However, her actions didn’t go unnoticed. The mountain itself seemed to reverberate with anger as a voice boomed, “Impudent human, you dare harm my pets?!”
Responding to the unseen entity, Lily queried, “Who are you?” A formidable presence permeated the air.
Emerging from the mist was a gargantuan statue, worn by time, proclaiming itself the ‘Djinn’ of the mountain.
“I am the guardian of this mountain! You’ve slain my pets; now you will pay with your life!” The statue emanated an aura of the triple-soul Big Dipper Stage. The sheer weight of its presence suggested it was at the zenith of the triple-soul echelon.
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“A statue?” Lily tried to discern the being’s essence but found no origin soul. Instead, deep within its form was a core radiating immense power.
While this entity projected an aura similar to those of the triple-soul Big Dipper Stage, it was clearly not a living creature. Its makeup was unlike any Big Dipper Stage being she had known.
She had never faced such an enigma.
“Why, as a manifestation of a mountain deity, are you aligned with a fiend like Baku?” Lily demanded.
“Fiend? In my eyes, you are the true demon!” Retorting, the Djinn brandished a gleaming black rock spear. With a swift motion, the spear lunged at Lily. Concurrently, a barrage of large stone missiles manifested, hurtling towards her.
“It’s formidable.” Dodging nimbly, Lily soared, evading the barrage before positioning herself beside the Djinn. With a fierce swipe of Dojigiri-Yasutsuna, she aimed for a decisive blow. The impact was jarring, causing even Dojigiri-Yasutsuna to quiver. While she succeeded in dismembering one of its arms, the force numbed her hands.
To her astonishment, a myriad of arms sprouted from the statue’s back. They swiftly ensnared Lily, grasping her waist and leg. Despite her enhanced defenses, the raw power of the statue’s grip was agonizing, drawing a cry of pain from her. In retaliation, she slashed through the encroaching limbs with Dojigiri-Yasutsuna. Yet, more arms, armed with stone weaponry, lunged at her.
Positioning herself, she faced the behemoth and released her “Thousand Sakura Linger.” Myriads of luminescent strands ensnared the statue, unbalancing it and causing a thunderous collapse. Seizing the moment, Lily sprang onto the statue’s back, aiming for its core with a powerful downward thrust. A shockwave ensued, cracking the statue wide open and dislodging a vast portion of the mountain’s slope. Yet, to her amazement, Dojigiri-Yasutsuna failed to penetrate the core.
“Inconceivable!” In her astonishment, Lily prepared to retreat, anticipating a counterattack. But the Djinn remained inert. Though her blade had extinguished the spirit within the statue, the core remained unscathed.
Retrieving her blade, Lily peered into the shattered remnants. Amidst the rubble lay a crystal. Once radiant with a golden hue, it was now devoid of light, revealing a pristine, moonlit crystal.
“A Lunar Crystal2?!”