|Author: Carrot Sauce||Original Source: SFACG||Word Count: 2275 characters|
|Translator: Aoi||English Source: Re:Library||Word Count: 1602 words|
The houses of the gigantic and densely-packed Tsutsujigasaki Castle were all built in between huge boulders and trees. The dirt trail going uphill towards it was a bumpy one and the autumn wind flowing across the hill caused the withered leaves and hay to flutter about, depicting a very desolate scene.
The flames within the earthen forges constructed on the hill had died out for the most part, but a few of them were still ignited and the intermittent sounds of metalworking were audible from them.
As Lily walked through the streets along with Shiu, she got a feeling that this city was in the middle of losing its vigor.
There weren’t any passersby present on the streets and even if someone saw the duo coincidentally, it was only through the gaps of the doors and windows, after which they would shut them close in caution.
The city was desolate to such an extent during the night.
A troop of black-armored Takeda soldiers escorting an ore cart down the hill also showed the same caution a soldier traversing through the supply line in a battlefield would show when entering their own city.
“Just what happened in this city?” Lily’s heart filled with doubts.
She wanted to look for someone and ask them a few questions, yet she couldn’t find a single person.
Thus, she decided she might as well question those soldiers and walked over towards them.
“Who are you?”
The alert soldiers prepared to draw their weapons towards Lily at any moment.
Lily tried to show that she wasn’t hostile as much as possible and said, “Brothers, my little sister and I are from Kamakura and are on our way to Echigo. We wish to lodge here for the night, but I don’t know if there are any lodges open at this time. I was wondering why the houses and shops I passed by until now were all closed. After all, although it’s still night, it’s pretty close to daytime right now.”
However, the soldiers remained cautious all the same, and their leader, who wore a helmet adorned with a horn, unlike the other soldiers, stated the following, “It’s pretty suspicious that two women donned in such glamorous dresses have come to this land so ostentatiously during an extended night! Hmph! You must be monsters, right?!”
The troop of soldiers drew out their katanas and spears towards Lily and Shiu.
“This is my samurai permit,” Lily fished out the lowest-ranked samurai permit that she had obtained in Takeshita Town in the past. Although Lily’s strength had climbed by a lot, she never went to obtain a higher-ranked permit. She then became a liege lord, so she didn’t need this thing anymore. As for her official seal, it wasn’t ready yet, but she wouldn’t have brought it along to this location even if it were ready as the investigation needed to be conducted secretively.
If she got into a fight with these soldiers, it would draw needless attention as well.
“So, you are wandering samurai women?” the leader asked.
“Yes. My sister and I are in the middle of a training journey across the Land of East and are on our way to Echigo next,” Shiu answered.
Although the leader still held doubts, he advised them promptly, “If you really aren’t monsters, you should heed my words. Unless you hold utter confidence in your strength or are fearless of death, you better leave this place as soon as possible. There’s no need to look for lodging as sleeping outdoors in the wilderness is much safer than lodging in the city!”
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“Brother, I don’t get what you meant. This city is the castle town of the Takeda clan and the most heavily defended land within Kai Province. We have no intention of violating the laws placed down by the Takeda clan, so why do you say that the city is more dangerous than the wilderness?” Lily inquired.
“Hmph. His Lordship has issued a night curfew right now, so commoners are prohibited from going outside their houses at night. Naturally, an extended night is also considered a night.”
“Huh? Why a curfew though?”
The soldier revealed a deeply frustrated and anxious expression, “Man-eating monsters appear in this city at night and there have already been countless deaths because of them! Unable to continue living here, most of the residents fled from the city one after the other, so you should also leave with haste.”
“Monsters?” Lily pretended to be shocked, “I-Isn’t the city lord one of the Furinkazan, Lord Takeda Tsunenobu? How could the monsters run amuck within the city with Lord Takeda present?”
A young soldier at the back of the troop interjected at this moment, “Sigh. According to the rumors, His Lordship hasn’t made a public appearance in a long time…”
“Shut up!” the leader berated the soldier, “Stop blabbing your mouth!”
Lord Takeda hasn’t made a public appearance in a long time? Is that the reason monsters appear within Tsutsujigasaki Castle once night falls?
Lily had obtained a rough clue regarding the strange occurrence within this city. However, she knew that this was just a superficial clue and that the real issue laid with the Furinkazan member instead of the monsters. Else, there was no reason an apex powerhouse would let monsters wreak havoc in his own home.
“Thank you for the advice, Sirs. My little sister and I shall leave this place as soon as possible.”
“Good! In case you really aren’t monsters, I also don’t want women as pretty as you to end up as food for the monsters. You better leave quickly!” the leader left a final warning and then escorted the mule pulling the empty ore cart away with the troop of soldiers.
The troops all had their own duties and though Lily and Shiu were outsiders who had violated the night curfew, it wasn’t the job of these escort troops to detain them as that would be the same as defying the jurisdiction of the army.
“Sis,” Shiu pulled Lily’s hand while trembling slightly and checked their surroundings which had houses scattered across the dark mountains, giving off an ominous feel.
“Are there really monsters here?”
Lily ran her eyes over each corner of the street cautiously. She was a woman who had slain Genja, a demon chief of the Hundred Demons, and Hojo Dijon, so even if there were monsters in the city, she wasn’t afraid of them.
“In any case, we’re travel-worn and have neither taken a bath nor a meal, so let’s look for a place to rest first. If we keep walking on this street and run into patrols, it will expose us. I wasn’t expecting the city to be under a night curfew,” Lily stated.
“But would there be any lodging open during the curfew?” Shiu asked anxiously.
“Well, let’s go take a look uphill,” Lily went uphill along the street together with Shiu.
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This city was the castle of Takeda Tsunenobu, so Lily didn’t employ a spirit probe carelessly. She had a feeling that something was wrong with Lord Takeda. If not, it didn’t make sense that Lord Kamakura hadn’t directly commanded Lord Takeda, who was one of the Furinkazan, and his men, to resolve his worries about the Takeda clan’s territory.
Lily had a feeling that it was best to not let the Takeda know of her presence on this trip.
Lily’s enhanced sight and hearing allowed her to hear sounds even from a distance, so she and Shiu hid behind a house at the corner of the street immediately. A troop of armored soldiers passed through the street a few moments later, and they seemed to be patrols as they weren’t escorting anything. If the patrols had discovered Lily and Shiu, it would’ve been hard for them to escape the interrogation.
After the patrols passed by, Lily and Shiu decided to avoid walking on the main street and went through the bystreets instead. Lily could sense several pairs of eyes peeking at them through the gaps of the doors and windows, but none of them called out to the duo.
“Sis, look, there’s light ahead of us,” Shiu stated.
The duo walked along the bystreet that ran around the mountain and reached the source of illumination.
The light of this place was distinctly brighter and mesmerizing than the other places.
This place was a wooden house constructed at the hillside and the words ‘Night Lodge’ were written on the lantern outside the doors.
“It’s a lodge,” Lily felt overjoyed as they had finally found an open lodge in this vast city.
Lily and Shiu arrived in front of the entrance and knocked on the door using the wooden doorknocker.
“Is anyone in?” Lily asked.
The door wasn’t closed and just had a dark blue curtain hanging outside them.
“Who’s at the door?”
Almost no footsteps could be heard, and the curtains parted aside a few moments later, followed by a strange old woman poking her head outside. The short woman with time-worn looks and dark skin looked at Lily and Shiu with her wrinkled and slim ashen eyes.
“Well,” Lily continued, “Grandma… are you open? We want to lodge in.”
The woman revealed a faint smile and said, “Come in.”
She then turned back inside with the lamp in her hand and let go of the curtain.
Lily and Shiu stooped forward and followed the old woman inside after pulling the curtain aside. The hallway of this lodge was so low that Shiu’s head almost touched the roof, so Lily had to really stoop over to walk.
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