|Author: Carrot Sauce||Original Source: SFACG||Word Count: 3259 characters|
|Translator: Aoi||English Source: Re:Library||Word Count: 2031 words|
The hilly region leading to Imahama was pretty deserted, but it had a temple that had been abandoned for years in it. The temple had been built beside a mountain trail in the woods and didn’t even have a yard. The tilted Buddha statue in front of the temple’s doors was soaked in rain and looked as if it were crying.
Tamurakonoe was seated inside the dark, dilapidated temple with Kiuchidera Tesshin and a few other Maro swordmasters.
“Judging from the battle at Lake Biwa’s lakebed, we can conclude that Kagami Lily excels in strength and is well-versed in battle arts, so much that Kyūbōzu was forced to flee with his tail tucked between his legs even after using a lifeblood spell. However, she still isn’t my equal,” Tamurakonoe’s voice contained the charisma of a man, yet it also possessed a feminine charm.
A swordmaster asked, “Why haven’t you killed her personally yet, then, Lord Tamurakonoe?”
Tamurakonoe fell into deep silence momentarily before answering the question, “I can defeat her in a duel where we risk our lives, but that doesn’t mean I can kill her for sure.”
“I-I don’t understand, lord.”
“Hmph. Your thoughts are too simple. This isn’t a duel in our Annihilation Dojo. Tell me, what reason does she have to risk her life in a battle with me? I can kill her, but what if she decides to avoid a frontal battle with me? What if she changes routes and flees? The woman possesses a lot of tricks, so even I might fail to kill her if she’s intent on fleeing.”
“Would she really tarnish her reputation as a samurai by fleeing?” A foolish yet powerful swordmaster asked Tamurakonoe.
Tamurakonoe continued, “It’s best if you refrain from trying to predict how she’ll act, Sukemichi. This woman is pretty realistic sometimes and would run the moment she’s in a disadvantageous position, but she shows incredible courage at other times. You can take the battle in Lake Biwa as an example. No one tried to make a move against Kyūbōzu, yet she challenged him recklessly at the opportune moment. This is what makes her most troublesome.”
Kiuchidera Tesshin added, “Lord Tamurakonoe’s right. We can deal with rational and irrational people, but it’s impossible to tell which type she falls under. She acts rationally at times, and irrationally at other times. She’s really unpredictable!”
“Indeed. That’s the reason I haven’t acted personally yet and sent Ui and Tesshin to ambush her instead, all so that it’ll wear her down and make her show an opening. The difficulty of killing her has increased by a level since she possesses that celestial maiden’s chest undergarment now. The journey to Heian-kyo is a long one, so we must seek the best chance to kill her. As long as I don’t act, it’ll burden her mentally, and she’s bound to die the moment I do!” Tamurakonoe revealed a fierce look.
“Lord Tamurakonoe. Ui and I fought her one after the other, but she really has a lot of tricks. I don’t know how exactly she gathered so many treasures. According to Ui, the red parasol she possesses is an unusual item as well. I’m worried that she still has some hidden tricks left. She was this close to dying in Lake Biwa, but Tenba Goro appeared as her brother all of a sudden. I wonder if it was really just a coincidence. Could it not be that she took action because she knew her brother would arrive soon?” Tesshin questioned.
Tamurakonoe shook his head, “That doesn’t seem probable based on her body language back then. I believe she wasn’t certain about it back then, but she still stepped in front. It would’ve taken us longer to realize her identity if she hadn’t done that, so she took a real risk! This woman’s sly and cool-headed usually, but she also takes unexpected actions at key moments, making her truly unpredictable. It might be hard for us to kill her with certainty if we use the usual methods.”
Tamurakonoe looked at Tesshin, “Take a few people along with Ui and keep putting pressure on her with ambushes. However, there’s no need to fight her to the death. The chance to kill her is bound to appear as long as we focus on wearing down her willpower first.”
“You’re so wise, Lord Tamurakonoe!” Some of the samurai praised him.
“That woman’s doomed to die under your scheme, Lord Tamurakonoe!”
It began drizzling again on the next day, but Mizue’s travel speed was pretty fast because she was riding the demon hound.
A child’s cry echoed through the woods at this moment.
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Lily’s group had no intentions of saving the masses, but this monster attack was happening in the direction they were headed.
“Eat me if you’re hungry, monster! Just spare my son,” A middle-aged woman dressed in simple, tattered clothes pleaded while holding on to her eight-year-old child.
The monster was 3m tall and had a 1m wide head that looked like a huge peanut, with a huge eye on it. It was dressed in a kasaya and also had massive prayer beads in its hand, looking the same as Aobōzu, but with red-colored skin instead.
However, the monster was much stronger than Aobōzu and had long attained the middle-stage Spirit Jade level.
The monster approached the woman and the child pair before opening its mouth to exhale a rotten breath and spoke in a deep tone, “I might’ve listened to you if I were planning to eat just one of them, but unfortunately, I plan to eat both of you whole. It’s just a matter of who I eat first.”
“Eat me first! Please eat me first!” The middle-aged woman shouted without hesitation.
Lily felt her heart hurt when she heard this exchange from a distance.
Although she had come to this world alone, she had a mother in her former world, too. Lily had been born in a single-parent family and was brought up by her selfless mother. However, she was far away in an alternate world now and had no means of returning to see her mother again.
The mother was willing to sacrifice her life first just to let her child live a little longer. There was nothing more selfless than this.
This was the greatness of a mother’s love.
“I’m scared, Mom! Sob-Sob!”
“You needn’t fear anything, son. I’ll be going ahead and waiting for you in the underworld. I’ll take care of you over there too, okay?”
The red-skinned monster grabbed the mother’s back with its massive hand and pulled her towards its gaping maw to bite her with its big, yellow teeth.
Lily recalled her mother and home at this moment.
She felt deep sorrow and ran as fast as she could, causing the scenery in her vision to drift back as she dashed all the way in front of the monster who revealed astonishment when it saw her.
Lily slashed down with her blade and sliced through flesh and bone with little to no resistance.
She had severed the monster’s arm, causing the middle-aged woman to land on the ground, as she rolled forward and turned around before stopping in the rain.
“Who are you and how dare you cut my arm?! I’m Akabōzu, the lord of this forest. I can eat anyone I want!” Akabōzu roared and lashed at Lily with its prayer beads while paying no mind to the mother and child.
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Shimizu had arrived behind the monster by now and Lily was just about to witness her end the battle, but a bunch of charms came flying towards Lily suddenly at this moment.
Lily rolled aside to dodge after sensing a powerful killing intent and caused the charms to explode beside her, giving rise to a soaring flame that burned the trees even within the rain.
Although the explosion’s aftershocks attacked Lily, they didn’t hurt her much because of her powerful spirit defense.
However, it was clear that the attack didn’t come from Akabōzu.
Lily sensed a familiar aura once again.
Kiuchidera Tesshin kept attacking Lily with charms and magic balls while maintaining his distance from her and escaped into the forest’s depths when Lily tried to pursue him. Although Lily was a lot faster than him, she didn’t want to separate from Shimizu and Mizue by pursuing him too far. Moreover, Lily had also vaguely sensed that the enemy’s true intentions were to draw her deeper into the forest and not an ambush.
Two Maro swordmasters jumped down from nearby trees at this moment and rushed towards Mizue, who was still riding the demon hound.
“Spurt! Spurt!” Two sakura blades appeared behind them and caught them off guard by injuring their backs.
The two men fell to the ground and the demon hound attacked one of them while the other fled in panic.
Lily had made advance preparations and camouflaged the sakura blades as leaves of the trees in the vicinity just in case someone tried to ambush Mizue from behind.
The first attack had failed, so the enemy didn’t insist on fighting Lily keenly and simply retreated.
On the other hand, Shimizu was battling Akabōzu at this moment. Akabōzu had suffered multiple sword strikes from Shimizu by now and was in a seriously injured state. Lily arrived behind it and slashed down to cut its head without any hesitation.
She then retrieved the spirit jade from its corpse.
The mother and child had fled far by now. The crimson-eyed Lily had a massive dog companion and also had a flaming blade powered by grudge, so they couldn’t tell whether she had come to save them or if it was a clash between monsters.
Lily didn’t care about receiving any thanks from them as the action she had taken was enough to relieve her conscience.
Although Lily had few friends in her former world, she still had a mother and relatives. It made her wonder if she’ll never be able to see them again.
Lily decided not to think about it too much, at least not until she had awakened her senior sister. Moreover, she had even become a girl after crossing worlds. Lily expected even Kagura to find the matter ridiculous if she were to tell her about it and think that she was crazy. The matter was far beyond Lily’s understanding, and she concluded that it would just add to her troubles if she were to think about it.
“Are you alright, Sister Shimizu?” Lily asked.
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Shimizu shook her head, “You didn’t have to help me. I would’ve killed the monster in a few more moves.”
“I’m afraid that the people hunting us have been ambushing us every once and then to wear down our strength by preventing us from getting any rest. They even attacked me from behind despicably while I was saving that mother and child.”
“Why don’t we just pursue and kill them, then?”
Lily shook her head, “I have a feeling that the ambushes are just diversions and that their real aim is to make us pursue them. We’re almost at Imahama, Sister Shimizu. These people shouldn’t be able to come after us once we ride Lord Kato’s ship.”
“But didn’t you see that they had a ship as well back when we were in the village?”
“I know that, but the question remains whether the ship will be able to catch up with us. Moreover, they’ll stand out too much if they come after us with a ship as huge as that, making it easy for us to watch out for them. Let’s hurry to Imahama now.”
Mizue also came over while riding the demon hound, “I’m feeling a lot better now, Lily. Can I come down now?”
Mizue’s injuries had been healed long ago by the life magatama, and she was just weak after that.
“Sure. We cannot enter Imahama with you riding the demon hound anyway,” Lily nodded.
The Maro swordmasters didn’t ambush Lily’s group again for the remainder of their journey.
Lily’s group left the raining forest at nighttime and finally arrived at Port Imahama that lay on Lake Biwa’s shores.