|Author: Starving Wind||Original Source: Joara||Word Count: 3149 characters|
|Translator: Anonymouss||English Source: Re:Library||Word Count: 1971 words|
Right around when Lily was traversing through the Endless Demon Mountains while aiming for Mt. Fuji, Haihime had just sent off a powerful monster from her temple residence and even though she was used to such situations, it still made her feel somewhat weary.
She sipped some green tea and her heart filled with worry.
Although the Hundred Demons in the Endless Demon Mountains were led by Amanojaku in name, the monsters were in fact divided into two sides.
One side consisted of Great Demons that occupied some location in the Endless Demon Mountains and these Great Demons either operated alone or banded together with a tribe of demons. They had lived in this place ever since they had manifested or hadn’t left this place for centuries after arriving here via the demon parade. Although they had expressed loyalty towards Amanojaku, they were either unable to or quite unwilling to leave their original territories.
These Great Demons refused to obey Amanojaku’s orders unless they were within his territory or nearby to it.
In addition to them, there was yet another smaller side that consisted of tribes like the heavenly evil spirits and cauldron demons. These demons didn’t originate from the land where the Heian Empire existed and were actually monsters from the Land of Ashihara1. According to the legends, they emerged from the depths of Mt. Fuji and weren’t bound to any regions and could go anywhere they wanted. These monsters possessed the greatest threat to the Heian Empire.
A majority of the monsters in the Heian Empire, even an existence like Demon Lord Michizane, could only traverse through Heian via a demon parade, but this so-called demon parade could only be conducted at nighttime, so they were forced to return to their bound land by daytime.
However, since a phenomenon like the extended night had become commonplace now, the monsters that actually stood at the summit of the Heian Empire also became able to go anywhere whenever an extended night approached.
As Amanojaku’s wife, Haihime held a high status among the monsters of the Endless Demon Mountains. However, this wasn’t just because she was Amanojaku’s wife and because she possessed exceptional strength and strategies.
The territories of the monsters among the Hundred Demons in the Endless Demon Mountains overlapped and bordered with each other, so each one of them tried to outwit the other and the blood and scheming involved in it was much harsher than that of humankind. Thus, the whole Land of Hundred Demons consisted of endless darkness that filled it.
The smart monsters used schemes and tricks while the stupid monsters devoured and killed each other. Haihime also sighed in irony with regards to the conflict between samurai similar to how Lily did, but the demons and apparitions were by no means united.
It was just that while humans had mortal constraints, monsters bared their desires further.
However, a lot of monsters were also pretty attached to some kind of emotion, and this related to their life experience prior to becoming a monster.
In the case of Yuki-Onna, she viewed romance as paramount to anything else.
Using the desires, grudges and conflicts of various monsters against each other to attain her objective was how Haihime had established her position in these Endless Demon Mountains.
“Hmph! You are gravely mistaken if you think I am your woman, Amanojaku. You are just an important pawn to me,” A cold yet charming smile crept up on Haihime’s face. Other than the fact that she dealt with monsters, Haihime was no different than the women of the Heian Empire, especially those from Heian-kyo, who engaged in powerplays between the imperial family, nobles and the samurai clans.
The only thing that differed was that the monsters had simpler mindsets and were relatively easier to deal with.
“I’m not a loser, not at all,” Haihime soliloquized like this often whenever she was alone.
A slender figure walked forward from the corner of the temple at this moment.
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The mauve-haired ponytailed woman was donned in purple-colored kunoichi garments paired with a miniskirt.
“Lady Haihime,” Yumi arrived beside Haihime and kneeled down.
Haihime had donned a snug white kimono patterned with yellow maple leaves and colorless land right now, which was one of the casual formalwear for mature women. The visits from monsters and demons had become frequent recently, so Haihime wore relatively conservative clothes in these times and still used a golden sash to tie her kimono. She got up and arrived in front of Yumi after hearing her address.
She observed Yumi’s rushed breathing and flushed face before raising her chin up with her pipe.
“What? Did you not know to come back until you suffered from the medicine’s withdrawal?” Haihime questioned severely.
“Lady Haihime, I need to report something important to you!” Yumi stated with a rushed breath.
“Hmph! There’s no hurry. You can report it later. Let’s first talk about you messing up my plans so many times!”
Yumi was tied up by Haihime skillfully with her hands and feet tied behind her back, disabling her from moving even an inch as she laid weakly on Haihime’s wooden couch.
“Water… Let me drink that water, Lady Haihime…”
Haihime arrived beside Yumi at a relaxed pace and crouched down to lay her face sideways on the couch, allowing her hair to scatter across in the process, and questioned with a charming expression, “Don’t worry. Tell me why Takeda regained his senses and why the mirror girl ended up defeating Tokugawa first.”
Yumi’s eyes flickered, “That’s because…”
Haihime grinned after listening to Yumi, “Oh? So that Lily received an order from Lord Kamakura to investigate the Takeda territory and learned about the secret between Tokugawa and Takeda and suffered an ambush because of that… Hmph. I never expected the mirror girl to be really so formidable.”
“Well, then. Where is Kagami Lily now? The Itsura informed me that she has gone missing and hasn’t returned to Kamakura. You ought to know where she went to, right?”
“Lily… she’s on her way to Mt. Fuji right now,” Yumi answered.
“She’s on her way to Mt. Fuji? Why is she delivering herself to her enemy’s doorsteps?” Haihime felt puzzled.
“She found a hidden scroll that illustrates the crafting method of a famed katana coincidently while investigating the Takeda clan. It seems to require the flames of Mt. Fuji, so she’s probably coming here to get the flames.”
“Hahaha. Isn’t she walking towards her death in that case? Maybe she’ll get bound like how you are right now by the Great Demons and have unspeakable things done to her? Even if she’s matched with Takeda and Tokugawa, none of the old Great Demons that haunt the route to this location are any good to provoke… Hmm? Don’t tell me…” Haihime seemed to recall something while feeling pleased.
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“Lady Haihime. I gave the map marked with the danger zones in Endless Demon Mountains to Lily. Although that map doesn’t contain the shortcut to this location, it should be more than enough for her to avoid the locations occupied by the Great Demons as long as she’s cautious, so it’s just a matter of time before she reaches Mt. Fuji.”
“What?” Haihime was taken aback, “Yumi. This is the first time I’ve failed to see through you a little. Just what are you planning to do by giving her the map but not telling her the shortcut? Are you planning to betray me?”
“O-Of course not! How could I betray you, Lady Haihime?! I did it in order to make Lily fall into the clutches of the Hundred Demons and not any other monster.”
“Ah. How rare it is for you to actually have such a brilliant thought, Yumi. It seems like I really need to reward you properly.”
“My loyalty to you will remain eternal no matter what happens, Lady Haihime!” Yumi gazed at Haihime reverently, “S-So, give me that water quickly. I can’t bear the quench any longer…”
Yumi’s face flushed up entirely and her eyes filled with thirst and angst for that liquid.
A complicated expression flashed across Haihime’s face, “Bring it over.”
A cat-masked woman brought over a bluish-green bowl filled with transparent liquid soon after.
Haihime lifted Yumi’s face and fed half of the liquid within the bowl to Yumi slowly.
“How do you feel?”
Yumi’s deep breaths pacified gradually, “Thank you, Lady Haihime, for giving this month’s portion to me. It tastes really sweet. P-Please allow me to drink the remaining half.”
“Well, then. Are you sober now? Do you feel better?”
“Y-Yes, Lady Haihime.”
Haihime then ordered the cat-masked maid to withdraw and furrowed her brows slightly before splashing the remaining liquid across Yumi’s face suddenly.
The liquid drops slid down Yumi’s hair as she directed a puzzled gaze towards Haihime.
“How long are you going to continue to lie to me, Yumi?!” Haihime unsheathed the nodachi that was ornated behind the wooden couch suddenly and released a shocking amount of eldritch energy, just a mere look at the tachi’s blade invoked a soul-piercing pain in the onlooker.
Haihime grabbed Yumi’s ponytail and pressed the tachi against Yumi’s neck while stating coldly, “Speak! Just what are you scheming by pretending to act such a craving look so realistically? Are you craving for my White Tiger Muramasa to cut your throat apart?”
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“Lady Haihime, I don’t get why you are saying such things so suddenly. I’m ever loyal to you. I handed the map to Lily after she defeated me then enticed her to come here and escaped back by myself later on…”
“Slap!” Haihime released Yumi’s ponytail and slapped her face with the back of her hand in spite of the fact that the sharp blade of White Tiger Muramasa sliced the side of her neck and made blood flow down it.
“You still dare to speak such nonsense! Hmph! Allow me to expose your lie then!” Haihime moistened her finger with one of the droplets on Yumi and sucked her finger with her mouth.
“Lady Haihime?” Yumi was astonished.
“Hmph. Listen well, Yumi. Although the medicine I made you consume makes women experience a fever for a few days each month and causes them to feel a certain craving along with skin getting flushed up, that’s all it does. It is actually a formidable remedy that’s aimed at female practitioners and cannot control your mind at all! The medicinal liquid I made you consume each month in the past did contain ingredients that affected your mind, but since Mizuki Tsue ran into an accident at Tokugawa’s side, I felt that you might actually get harmed by Tokugawa in reverse while handling a man like him if I send you to him with an unstable mind, so I kindly exchanged the medicinal liquid you consume secretly with a remedy that doesn’t have ingredients which affect the mind, but you didn’t know about it at all.”
“Hence, the liquid I made you consume last month was just a common remedy aimed at women. Even though it affects your body similarly to how the previous remedy does, you still possess a clear consciousness and will and only need to find a random man! Oh, yes. You were into women, right? You just needed to ask that Kagami Lily to alleviate the remedy’s effect on your body, and simply didn’t need to return to me from so far away! I bet there’s a lot of lies mixed in among the information you gave me just now, right? Tell me what your objective really is or else a woman like you doesn’t even need to get punished. White Tiger Muramasa or the monsters that have coveted you for a long time, I shall choose a suitable end for you, how about it?”
- Ashihara no Nakatsukuni (葦原の中つ国, transl. The middle country of reed beds) is, in Japanese mythology, the world between Takamagahara (Heaven) and Yomi (Hell). In time, the term became another word for the country or the location of Japan. The term can be used interchangeably with Toyoashihara no Nakatsukuni (豊葦原中国). There is a great dispute among historians about where exactly in Japan the term originally referred to…
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