|Author: Carrot Sauce||Original Source: SFACG||Word Count: 3150 characters|
|Translator: Keissen||English Source: Re:Library||Word Count: 1750 words|
Lily stood on the mountain slopes of Suno. The eastern skies were shrouded in an anomalous darkness. Fujiwara no Ayaka was at the epicenter of the darkness. It was as if all those nightmares that plagued Lily had turned into reality.
The unusually cold summer breeze scattered her long hair and red dress. Swoosh! As it swayed, her slender thighs could be seen occasionally. Lily had been standing still like this for the entire night.
She knew half a million soldiers were approaching unimpeded, from Settsu Road to this place. She also knew that Lady Fujiwara no Ayaka’s defensive formation was currently constantly besieged by tens of thousands of soldiers. There were also many shameless traitors who were sabotaging it.
“If I stay here, can I help Lady Kimiko fend off these five hundred thousand soldiers?”
“If I return to Heian-kyo, how likely is it for me to rescue sister Ayaka from a force that has rendered her unconscious?”
In face of such drastic circumstances, the first thing Lily thought of was the Blood Spirit Magatama!
Although it could only restore Kagura’s full power for a short period of time, and she couldn’t instantly kill a powerhouse at this level, it would still be very helpful if she did anyway.
However, Lady Kimiko had no Blood Spirit Magatama. Lily had made sure of that already. Right now, there were no other tricks up her sleeve.
Tamamo-no-Mae and Fujiwara no Ayaka were Lily’s greatest allies in this world. Now that she was facing this crisis, she couldn’t rely on any of them and even had to make a choice!
She knew she couldn’t hesitate…
Both of them were sisters that she treasured greatly, and also mentors that she were deeply indebted to! Her hesitation, weakness, fear of uncertainty, and fear of losing either of them would result in drastic consequences!
That was a price that she couldn’t ever afford.
Although she was a female, at this very moment, she even lost her privilege to show weakness and lament. She couldn’t be a coward!
Lily raised her head and stared at the endless night sky. Now that she was alone in the storm, Lily’s gaze somehow became determined!
Lily breathed deeply. She no longer had the right to be melancholy, and no longer had the right to remain her sisters’ baby girl!
“At this moment, even if I go to Heian-kyo, I’ll be entering a monster’s den. Hmph, I’m not even afraid of barging into hell itself. But I can’t just commit suicide like this.”
The night wind blew around. Yet, Lily’s heart was exceptionally calm.
“In comparison, Suno, although Lady Kimiko is heavily injured, this inconspicuous little village is a home to many powerful hidden demons. Allies like the Mori Clan are also here to help, and Lady Kimiko definitely has a lot of ideas in mind. Although Minamoto no Yoritomo and the Archdemons are approaching, if I stay and defend alongside Lady Kimiko, my chances of securing Suno will be much greater than entering Heian-kyo and rescuing sister Ayaka, which I have no information about and is now the enemy’s center of influence!”
“If I stay and repel the enemies, then reconquer Heian-kyo along with Lady Kimiko, I might still have a slight chance to rescue Sister Ayaka.”
“If I enter Heian-kyo rashly, I’ll probably have no way to rescue Ayaka. Besides, this place will most likely be conquered as well.”
“If I have no certainty of winning, I can only choose the method with the highest chances of success1!”
Lily’s gaze was no longer hesitant. After repeated deliberation and calculation, this was the most optimal decision. However, for some reason, Lily’s tears flowed out uncontrollably.
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She had always been strong. Yet, her body went limp after making the decision and toppled onto the mountain slopes. She trembled and started crying.
“In order to have the greater chance of winning, I have to actually make this so-called reasonable decision… Such a cruel thing. Why, why must I be the one to make such a decision? Why don’t I have the strength to protect both sisters? I’m useless, I’m useless! Sob sob sob…”
Alone, she cried hysterically on the chilling mountain slope. However, no matter how bad it felt, Lily knew this was the only choice. If she submitted to her own emotions and tried to protect both sides, she would end up making it worse for both of them.
“Lily, you must be strong! You must be more… Stronger!”
Lily’s eyes became grim and exhaled deeply. “When it comes to both besieging Ayaka and invading Suno, it must be the same perpetrator who did it! Who? Who is it really?”
Ever since she entered Tanba, and when she got betrayed by the Empire, and when Ayaka lost consciousness due to foul play, and the Empire working with Archdemons to invade Suno, Lily slowly connected the dots. Soon, a massive conspiracy was exposed.
Lily returned to Tamamo-no-Mae’s residence, by the slopes of Suno. By now, Uesugi Rei, who was training outside, was also summoned by Nariaki. The four of them sat in the living room.
“Where have you been, Lily? You were missing for the entire night.” Tamamo asked anxiously.
“I’m sorry, Lady Kimiko.” Lily didn’t wish to elaborate.
“I have bad news for you, Lily. The fox demons tried it just now. They couldn’t activate the Divine Moon Formation inside the temple.” Tamamo-no-Mae spoke.
“Huh? What’s going on?”
“The Divine Moon Formation here is perfectly functional. This can only mean that the one in Kiyoszawa has problems. Since the Empire has sent an army after us, it would be possible for Onmyojis to set up formations around Kiyoszawa and seal the teleportation array.” Tamamo spoke.
Rei said, “Suno is about two thousand miles away from the capital city. There’s also an army approaching along the way. If we return to Heian-kyo, we’ll have to take a long detour.”
Yet, Lily didn’t seem concerned at all as she spoke decisively, “Lady Kimiko, Sister Uesugi, I’ve decided to stay.”
“Huh?” Rei and Tamamo were stunned.
“I’ll stay here and fight the army invading Suno with you, Lady Kimiko.” Lily said without hesitation.
For a moment, the room became silent.
“Cough cough…” Suddenly, Tamamo coughed heavily and Nariaki came to help. Using the handkerchief, the white cloth was stained red again.
“Lady Kimiko!” Lily and Rei were worried.
“Hehe… You don’t have to look at me like this. I’m a nine-tailed fox demon. I have nine lives. I have a different physiology compared to you humans. It’s no big deal to cough out a little blood.” Tamamo smiled while quivering.
‘Nine-tailed fox demons really have nine lives?’ It was Lily’s first time hearing that. Looking at Tamamo’s frail but confident demeanor, Lily only felt bitterness in her heart.
Tamamo leaned against Nariaki and put on a thigh-length jacket, then looked at Lily solemnly. “Have you made up your mind, Lily? Half a million soldiers. Also, Minamoto no Yoritomo, Shuten Doji, and Daitengu, three powerhouses are together here! Although without the teleportation formation, you’ll waste many days returning to Heian-kyo, but Rei and you can choose to flee from the southwest. You don’t have to stay in Suno and face such danger!”
“Lady Kimiko? Are you saying we should leave you behind and escape? Are you insulting me?” Lily knelt down deeply, yet her tone remained firm.
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Rei also turned towards Tamamo. “Lady Kimiko, actually, I never thought about leaving with lil’ sis anyway. You have saved my life. Please give me a chance to repay my debt. A warrior won’t avoid repaying their favors and fleeing from battle.”
Rei was obviously concerned about Lily, but she knew she wouldn’t follow even if Lily returned to Heian-kyo, despite feeling the urge to protect her. Rei understood her own strength. If she entered Heian-kyo with Lily, into the enemy’s headquarters, she wouldn’t get to protect her and would become a burden instead.
By now, Lily could slaughter all Ten Demon Enforcers in a fight. Yet, she could only barely defend herself against the weakest Demon Enforcer. Her going along with Lily would only cause Lily more trouble.
However, Rei would never verbally express such a humiliating idea.
Tamamo leaned on Nariaki’s shoulder, and stared at Rei and Lily solemnly. Then, she chuckled again. “Ah, I understand. Then… Then let us sisters bind our lives together. Half a million troops… Let’s kill them all! Little Natsu, fetch me some wine!”
“Huh?” Nariaki was shocked. “Lady Kimiko, Your injuries are heavy. You can’t drink alcohol!”
“Just do as I say! You won’t obey my orders because I’m injured?” Tamamo grunted coyly.
“Lady Kimiko, let’s replace wine with tea.” Lily stood up and spoke, while taking out her precious teaware.
“Well, that’s fine too.” Tamamo said casually.
Lily solemnly prepared tea for everyone. After all, Lily was still knowledgeable about tea art. Although she hadn’t practiced recently, her advancement in the art of tea had also increased substantially as her Realm improved.
The sisters lifted their teacups and toasted each other, drinking together gracefully. This feeling was more intoxicating than strong alcohol.
“Woah, I feel a little drunk. Why don’t I bring some handsome fox gentlemen to accompany you both?” Tamamo told Rei and Lily with a slightly blushed face.
“No need!” Lily blushed.
“Gentlemen?” Rei was puzzled.
“Ah, forget it. You’re terrible actors. You’re all acting like you’re pure and innocent ladies, so much that I’ll feel embarrassed summoning the boys. So boring. Natsu, take me back to my room. I… Think I drank too much.” Tamamo spoke while swaying around.
“Lady Kimiko, you’re drinking tea! How can you be drunk.” Nariaki complained.
“This, you don’t understand. Lily prepared it personally. How can the tea leaves and teaware her fingers touched not be intoxicating?”
Tamamo spoke in a daze while Nariaki took her to the room. “Come on over, we don’t need fox boys. Lily, you can accompany me~”
“Stop joking, Lady Kimiko!” Lily was still vulnerable to being teased.
In the dark corridor, Tamamo returned to her room with Nariaki’s help.
“You can go and rest. Lil’ Nariaki.”
Tamamo closed the door and leaned against the door… Tilting forward, she fell on the ground. Blood trickled down her lips…
After a long time, Tamamo struggled to lift herself and sat up. She trembled while crawling to the corner of a wall and leaned on it, then circulated demonic energy to suppress her injuries…
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