|Author: Carrot Sauce||Original Source: SFACG||Word Count: 3467 characters|
|Translator: Aoi||English Source: Re:Library||Word Count: 2543 words|
The disciples appeared from within the mist in succession and gathered at the leveled spot beside the mountain trail while Instructor Tanaka’s motionless body laid aside with the blood already dry.
The disciples began to panic and looked at each other apprehensively and though they were at a complete loss about what action to take next, they had subconsciously formed groups with their dojo mates.
All of them had their gazes fixed on Itamoto Yashiro since he possessed a taller height and thus exuded a sense of security along with a leaderlike aura.
“Oh, Honored One… Oh, Righteous One…” The gloomy martial monk seemed to have initiated the ceremony to transcend Instructor Tanaka’s soul.
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Shimizu and the others also gathered over.
“Instructor Tanaka…” Shimizu also felt a bit saddened by this loss of life.
“What do we do now?” A female disciple asked worriedly, “Instructor Tanaka is already dead, so what should we do next?”
“Since even Instructor Tanaka is dead, what can we even do? Let’s return!” A male disciple screamed.
“Stop kidding me!” Itamoto Yashiro raised his voice suddenly, “Instructor Tanaka was killed by something and his body hasn’t even gone cold yet, but you’re already thinking of fleeing? Do you not feel ashamed for having such thoughts as samurai of the East?!”
“Say what you want, but how do we proceed with the training when even the instructor is dead? We can’t follow the original plan as this matter has become such a huge mess. Furthermore, how do we even deal with something that can kill the instructor with so much ease?” Another male disciple questioned.
The vast majority of the disciples were perplexed about what to do next.
“Hmph! Leave if you wish to, cowards! If you aren’t afraid of us samurai of the East becoming the laughingstock, that is!” Although a rare occurrence, even Shota held the same opinion as Itamoto Yashiro on this occasion.
Lily added coldly, “Although we’re bound to face danger if we advance forward, it might not be safe to turn back and return.”
The male disciples who were making a racket about returning turned silent after hearing her words. As Lily had stated, there was indeed no guarantee that they would face danger only if they advanced ahead.
“Even so, we’re just a few kilometers into the mountain right now and will have to return later on after advancing deeper. At least, we’ll face less danger if we return now.”
“But I’m afraid we will become the laughingstock of our dojo mates and the world if we return like this…”
The samurai always placed righteousness and glory above their lives, so they were forced to ponder over this issue seriously in this crisis.
Shimizu, who rarely spoke, provided her opinion at this moment, “What’s there to argue over? Those who fear death can return while those willing to forge ahead will continue moving forward. As the adage goes—to each his own—is there a need to make things so complicated?”
Itamoto Yashiro was feeling empowered right now and felt that the female disciples present here were all members of his harem. As such, he chided Shimizu right away, “You stupid woman! That will split our strength and provide opportunities to the enemy to attack us! This proposition is no good. We must remain united and move together!”
Shimizu smiled helplessly and stopped speaking since she didn’t wish to argue any further.
The ponytailed disciple also forced a smile and said, “Uhm. Although I may be lacking in strength and unqualified to speak in this situation, my proposition is that… if splitting up isn’t good and so is advancing forward and retreating back, why don’t we decide it with a vote and have the minority comply with the majority’s opinion?”
“Everyone gets to have their own say regarding their fates and won’t have any complaints this way!”
“Indeed, the minority shall follow the majority’s opinion. Vote now so there’s no room for regrets later!”
“Vote now so there’s no room for regrets later!”
The disciples spoke up in agreement one after the other. After all, this would ensure a higher degree of safety and also enable them to defend their honor as samurai. A good number of the common disciples were willing to bet their lives determinedly for the sake of righteousness when faced with such a peril. However, some people were different and actually wavered as they found it hard to make a choice.
“Mhm…” Itamoto Yashiro directed a satisfied look towards the ponytailed disciple, “Your words are quite insightful, girl. Could you tell me your beautiful name? What do you think about following at my side from now on?”
From his tone, it seemed as if he were granting her his favor.
“Eh. There’s no need for that. Also, my name isn’t worth mentioning at all.”
“All right. Let’s seize the moment and decide it with a vote as soon as possible while the skies haven’t darkened completely yet!” One of the disciples stated.
“Fine! Those who wish to return, raise your hands!” The male disciple who made a racket about returning previously announced while raising his hand.
A few others also raised their hands while the others looked at each other nervously as most were unwilling to become the first to raise their hands and get treated as cowards.
In the end, only six female disciples and nine male disciples raised their hands, who totaled up to less than 30% of the total members.
“The answer is pretty obvious! We shall forge ahead so that Instructor Tanaka’s sacrifice isn’t wasted and live up to the fame of the East’s samurai!” Itamoto Yashiro stated spiritedly.
“Brother Itamoto…” The girl who fawned on Instructor Tanaka previously seemed to have become mesmerized by Itamoto Yashiro’s charm now.
All samurai were raised up to follow the path of righteousness right from their childhood. As such, even though a few of them felt dissatisfied with the outcome, none of them had the courage to go back on their promise. If not, they would truly become shunned by the people of the world.
“Lil’ Sis, is this fine?” Shimizu inquired in a low voice.
“If we really return like this, the upper echelon of the major dojos, Lord Kamakura and the others who insisted on conducting this training excursion will lose all face and it also goes against Instructor Sakiko’s aspirations. As such, I also believe the decision to continue is the right one,” Lily stated.
Lily hadn’t lowered her voice meticulously, so the nearby samurai also heard this. Shota didn’t miss the chance to praise her and applauded immediately, “Miss Kagami’s is right. We are the future hope of the East, so how could we disappoint Lord Kamakura and the other masters? In my opinion, having such a temperament that enabled you to discern the intricacies of this matter makes you the most optimal candidate to act as our leader! How about we all follow the orders of Queen Kaga… Ahem, Miss Kagami?”
“What?!” Yashiro’s brows locked up, following which he glared at Lily in anger. It wasn’t proper for him to veto this suggestion because of his position, so he tried to intimidate Lily into declining this offer.
On the other hand, Lily simply didn’t care about this senseless intimidation and thus responded with the following words, “I’m fine with just covering everyone’s backs and am not interested in leading the group.”
Yashiro felt elated when he saw Lily refuse and nodded towards her in a seemingly appreciative manner. However, Lily didn’t feel like responding to him.
Itamoto Yashiro turned around to look at everyone and said, “Let’s bury Instructor Tanaka at once and look for a relatively safer location before it turns dark.”
Kujou and two other male disciples buried Instructor Tanaka and stuck a branch into the mound to mark his grave. His katana, however, was to be brought back to the dojo for the management to handle.
The group advanced forward after Instructor Tanaka was buried.
However, the mountain trail was rugged, and the dense mist remained all the same no matter how deep they advanced. As such, they found it difficult to find a place for resting.
Lily and the other three girls were planning to walk at the back, but Yashiro resisted this idea and insisted on having Kujou and two other male disciples guard their backs. Thus, Lily relented and walked behind the other girls who were in a relatively safer position at the center of the group.
The dim light of the night crept up gradually, so a few people carried torches in their hands in intervals of twos and threes to light up the path ahead. After all, this wasn’t one of Lily’s solo adventures and neither did they possess the ability to deploy a spiritual probe.
The ponytailed disciple also walked in front of Lily and the others with a torch in hand.
A chilly wind accompanied the roiling mist and howls were audible from time to time that seemed like the sound of the wind yet also seemed like the howl of some monster. This scared Nanako a little and made her latch onto Lily’s arm subconsciously.
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Shimizu just smiled when she saw this. She knew the relationship between Lily and Nanako and it was more than enough for her to at least know Lily’s intentions. She knew Lily preferred mature elder sister-like women, so Shimizu only thought of Nanako as a brat and didn’t mind her intimacy with Lily.
This dense mist and the mountain winds weren’t normal sights, so they actually had a strong debilitative effect on the weak. Even Nanako and the ponytailed disciple had begun to feel tired after walking in the dead of the night.
The condition of the other disciples was just as bad, and their speed dropped by the minute. There were even some disciples who had fallen behind and were taking rough breaths while supporting their bodies by placing their palms on their thighs.
“Hurry up, everyone! We won’t be able to find a place to rest unless we move ahead. It’s too dangerous for us to set up camp on top of this mountain trail!” Yashiro urged from the front.
Naturally, Lily and Shimizu were completely fine.
Shimizu hadn’t coughed even once over the past two days. This wasn’t because her illness had improved but rather because she had taken the grade 6 medicine that Lord Kamakura had bestowed her prior to the excursion. That medicine was obviously effective and allowed Shimizu to maintain her most optimal state for a while, but it came with some side effects. Once the effect ended, it would bring some additional detriments to the body and make it even weaker. Naturally, this side effect was also temporary.
Finally, the group arrived at a recession in the mountain that was formed by two steep rock walls conjoining with each other. This acted as the protective screen from behind while an open space laid ahead of it. Thus, even if something emerged from the woods to attack them suddenly, it would have to first pass through the ten-meter wide expanse of land before reaching them and this raised the safety of the location by a lot compared to before.
“This place is suitable for setting up camp and resting!” Itamoto Yashiro proclaimed while pointing at the surroundings.
Lily observed the location and nodded silently. It seems like this Itamoto isn’t an utter fool.
The disciples were all feeling cold, tired and afraid, just an inch away from reaching their limits. Thus, they accepted the proposition gladly and gathered in the open space and sat down in groups with their backs against the wall.
A few male disciples brought some stones and started a bonfire.
A handsome male disciple even took out a flute and began playing it, its melodious sound resounding through the mountain.
Meanwhile, the female disciples began heating water for cooking. The camp had thus become lively and somewhat cozy for a while.
Lily wished to stand guard at the outer perimeter but Itamoto insisted on having them remain close to the walls together with the other girls, which was the safest spot. As such, Lily and the others didn’t reject his proposition.
“Kujou, stand guard here with the others. Don’t make such a face now, I’ll find a girl to keep you company later at night! Since we are protecting them right now, someone would definitely be willing to do it,” Yashiro patted Kujou’s shoulder.
“G-Girl. O-Okay! I-I’ll stand guard, d-definitely!” Kujou giggled dim-wittedly.
Meanwhile, Yashiro returned beside the bonfire and drank to his fill.
Lily and the others were seated at the innermost location and observed the gentle and quiet behavior of the girls as well as the bold and unrestrained behavior of the boys. The autumn wind brought some leaves occasionally that issued a crackling sound when they fell into the bonfire and emitted the burnt scent of withered leaves. The light of this bonfire seemed to portray a romantic scene amidst this training excursion and even Lily had become influenced by this mood for a moment.
“Sister Shimizu, Nanako, Senior, do you want to dance?”
They were naturally unable to suppress Lily’s terpsichorean nature.
Thus, the girl in red began dancing lightly and gracefully under the illumination of the bonfire’s light.
Shimizu also picked a leaf and played a melodious and mellow tune accompanied with spiritual fluctuations.
The ponytailed disciple also played the small drum she possessed. As it was a training excursion, they were a few who carried musical instruments on them.
Nanako, on the other hand, stood upright and sang a classical poem—Senjoutsuki.
The cheerful performance of these singing and dancing girls attracted everyone’s attention momentarily.
Even crude people like Yashiro and Shota acted with tact and didn’t cause a commotion by messing with the dancing beauty and instead appreciated it from the sidelines. After all, although they possessed crude personalities, they were still progeny of samurai families and not bandits or brigands.
Lily had also become drenched in sweat after finishing this dance and this emphasized her glamorous beauty under the illumination of the bonfire. As for whether this dance of hers hadn’t evoked the lust for this woman in the spectators, that was naturally untrue.
However, Lily hadn’t performed because of that and only danced because she felt like doing so, allowing herself to blossom in this world.
All of a sudden, she sensed a sharp gaze fall on her back and turned around as a result, which brought the roughly breathing Kujou who was staring at her from a few meters with a fixed gaze into her view.
A swift and cold blade suddenly streaked across Kujou’s neck from the darkness behind him and that huge head of his which had an infatuated expression on its face flew off into the sky followed by a line of blood appearing on his neck1.
The silhouette of a creature with the upper body of a woman with a stone-cold expression and ash-colored long hair and the lower body of a snake with lustrous cyan scales emerged from darkness behind Kujou’s2 body while wielding two crescent-moon-like sickles that were as tall as humans.