|Author: Carrot Sauce||Original Source: SFACG||Word Count: 3100 characters|
|Translator: Aoi||English Source: Re:Library||Word Count: 1708 words|
A streak of crimson light cut across the expansive forest’s sky. Without waiting for the massive bird to settle, Lily jumped over the mountains, landing on a barren plain. Another hundred miles away lay the ancient battlefield where half a million soldiers had once fiercely battled, and not far off was Suno.
Ahead, the terrain was flat and open. Taking advantage of this, Lily picked up her speed, running faster than ever before. “Lady Kimiko, Sister Ayaka, everyone. Please wait for me. I’m almost there!” Her strides, enormous and quick, made her even faster on foot than when she was riding the giant bird, as she sprinted across the vast wilderness.
The cruel laughter of Shuten Doji echoed at Suno village’s entrance. Even a fearsome demon like Shuten couldn’t hide his ecstasy. “Hahaha! Hahahahahaha!” He had just acquired Tamamo-no-Mae’s treasure, an accomplishment he deemed more significant than capturing Lily.
“Curses. How did we end up in such a mess…” Rei, Shimizu, and their companions, who were standing their ground against Hagewashi’s minions surrounding them, were gripped by a profound sense of hopelessness. Simultaneously, they grasped the grim reality that this conflict had escalated beyond their ability to intervene.
“Let’s see how many among this bounty, a collection of treasures that rivaled the entire human empire, are ancient artifacts predating my existence…” Shuten’s monstrously large demon hand morphed into a human-like one. His eyelashes flickered in anticipation as he fixed his gaze on it and began to infuse it with his spiritual power1.
Suddenly, an ancient, blood-red lightning bolt erupted from the jade bracelet, engulfing Shuten’s massive frame. The raw power of the rampaging lightning made Shuten cry out in pain2, his fury escalating as the earth trembled beneath him.
“What?! W-What’s going on? Argh—”
“Lord Shuten!” The Big Dipper level demons were utterly shocked.
Had Shuten not promptly used a relic to shield himself, he would’ve been inflicted with significant harm from the relentless thunder strikes. Despite his successful defense with the valuable artifact, the electricity didn’t vanish, instead transmuting into barbed lightning to form a blood-hued cage that ensnared Shuten.
“Crash!” His halberd was firmly lodged in the mountainous stone at this point, yet retrieving it was out of the question given the electric cage that had already captured him. He lashed out against the electrified confinement with his demonic talons, only to be met with a more violent backlash.
“W-What on earth is happening?!?!” Shuten glanced at the defeated Tamamo in frustration, and a sudden realization dawned on him. “How dare you set me up, Tamamo-no-Mae?!”
Though Kimiko was too weak to rise, her face pale and blood trickling down her lips, she couldn’t refrain from mocking Shuten, which only fueled his fury further. This ancient curse was orchestrated by Tamamo and was exceptionally challenging to shatter. Its potency was such that even Shuten couldn’t immediately break free, causing his wrath to intensify. “The real treasure is still with her! Kill her and claim it! It’s a bounty that can rival an entire empire!”
“The treasure is mine! Perish, Nine-Tailed Fox!” Fuma Ryuyaku, who had been lying low until this point, was the quickest to act. He surged forward at an astonishing speed, launching an assault on Tamamo with the two massive, sharp boomerangs in his possession that doubled as melee weapons.
“Lady Kimiko!” Rei and Shimizu desired to interfere, but the adversary was too swift. He was a single-soul Big Dipper demon, and they couldn’t respond promptly enough to deter him.
Before Shimizu and Rei could mobilize their spiritual powers, Ryuyaku had already reached Tamamo, striking her already wounded body with his gigantic boomerang blades.
However, the next moment, a silver ray burst forth from the direction of the landslide. The ray traveled at a breathtaking speed and reached Ryuyaku and Tamamo almost instantaneously.
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The naginata in Ayaka’s grip glowed with a cold sheen, leaving Ryuyaku, poised to attack Tamamo, with only two cleanly cut upper arms, his lower limbs wholly severed from his body.
Above the amputated limbs were two tidy, blood-filled incisions.
Ryuyaku observed as his hands, which were moments away from slaying the millennium-old demon before him, whirled through the air before plummeting to his sides, still clutching the boomerangs.
He pivoted his gaze to Ayaka, her furious stare emanating killing intent3. Her black hair and white robes billowed as she wielded her naginata.
Smack! Smack! Smack!
Ayaka brandished her naginata once more, with each stroke creating a silver arc resembling a galaxy as she carved through Ryuyaku’s chest, thigh, and neck.
The hypnotizing death waltz she had conducted had diced Ryukaku into pieces!
Ayaka’s eyes twinkled with starlight. Though she was yet to fully recuperate, her aura remained commanding, enough to give Shuten Doji pause.
“What? H-How are you still alive?!” Onito cried out in shock.
Shuten’s eyes, however, were fixated on Ayaka’s slender arm which bore a jade bracelet resembling the one on Tamamo-no-Mae.
Having witnessed Ayaka dismember Ryuyaku right before him, there was no doubt in Onito’s mind that Ryuyaku was dead. Both of them were amongst the top demons in the demon world of Iyo, and they shared a profound connection.
“Brother Fuma!” Onito bellowed in rage, “How dare you murder my brother?! I’m going to kill you!”
A cataclysmic force radiated from Onito as he lunged at Ayaka.
“Curse you, Fujiwara no Ayaka!” Hagewashi Tengu, who also originated from Iyo, was equally enraged over Fuma’s death. He conjured talismans in his hands and flung them at Ayaka. The talismans metamorphosed into colossal crows with piercing fangs and wings spanning several dozen meters, which then bared their teeth at Ayaka.
Ayaka’s jade bracelet emitted a faint glow, and a red orb suddenly appeared in her hand. She launched the orb into the sky, where it discharged waves of red light, morphing into a stunning golden phoenix made of fire. Even though the phoenix was small, it radiated a more robust aura than the crows. It swooped towards the crows, combating and pecking them vigorously, shattering their wings and blinding their eyes.
In the meantime, Ayaka concentrated all her energy on engaging the advancing Onito. Her silhouette was elusive, reminiscent of a celestial dancer, as she dodged Onito’s palm strikes and slashed downwards with her blade. The silver blade light left a profound wound on Onito’s body, which was as sturdy as grade nine armor, and dark red blood gushed from his injuries like a fountain.
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“Argh!” Onito, who had been sent sprawling to the ground, retreated in agony after a roll.
Shuten Dojii inspected the artifact that Ayaka had recently unleashed. It was an extraordinary object he had never seen before. He then studied Ayaka’s jade bracelet and narrowed his eyes. “You are such a crafty, contemptible fox demon, Tamamo-no-Mae!”
Tamamo slowly propped herself up with Rei’s help. Although she had lost her fighting capabilities, she refused to bow down to Shuten without a fight.
“Cunning? You’re merely naive. Did you believe you could lay your hands on all my treasures so effortlessly?”
Tamamo had already devised a plan in the brief time she learned that Shuten had arrived at Suno. She had long expected that Shuten would covet her treasures, so she divided them in half, retaining one part with herself while bestowing the other half to Ayaka in a similar jade storage bracelet.
Tamamo had given the ancient artifacts that she couldn’t use with her current strength to Ayaka, including the renowned blade, Fubuki. Shuten knew that Ayaka’s treasures had been confiscated by Minamoto no Yoritomo and the Cloistered Emperor, but he failed to comprehend that Tamamo had actually transferred half of her treasures to Ayaka.
Expecting that Shuten might take her jade storage bracelet, Tamamo tinkered with it before the battle. Although the resulting curse couldn’t harm Shuten’s core, it was sufficient to bind him. After all, he was still a formidable demon of the quintuple-soul Big Dipper stage. There was simply not enough time to set up an untraceable curse that could gravely injure him.
The jade bracelet Shuten obtained also contained numerous treasures, including those that Tamamo could currently use in battle, as well as valuable materials and esoteric arts that were not suited for combat. This was because even Tamamo couldn’t be sure that he would definitely take her jade bracelet.
The more formidable half of the treasures, those that held a significant threat against Shuten and the rest of the mighty demons, rested with Ayaka. She was the sole individual capable of triggering and wielding these assets4.
“Tamamo-no-Mae… As soon as I shatter your curse, I’ll rip you to shreds!” Shuten seethed, deeply agitated by the hefty hit he had received.
This realization led Shuten to conclude that Tamamo’s reliance on such strategies indicated her loss of power. Only under such circumstances would she entrust such critical treasures to a human she barely had a bond with.
“Tamamo-no-Mae is now powerless! Unite and seize Ayaka. Retrieve Tamamo-no-Mae’s treasures from her!” Shuten ordered.
“Of course! We’ll claim her life in her moment of weakness!” Hagewashi Tengu stated sinisterly, “Fujiwara no Ayaka’s current prowess isn’t much of a threat. The three of us will work together to capture her alive!”
“Slay the rest and annihilate this village, my familiars!” Hagewashi commanded.
The phoenix continued its battle with the three giant crows in the sky, already slaying one and gravely wounding another.
Simultaneously, the three Big Dipper archdemons cornered Ayaka.
At the same instance, dozens of Hagewashi’s familiars stormed towards Tamamo and her allies, while others invaded the village and initiated a massacre.
“Do not fret for me. Defend yourselves… Though I’m stripped of my powers, it’s not that easy to kill me…” Tamamo’s vigor remained unyielding, being an ancient divine beast.
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Rei and Shimizu positioned themselves before Tamamo, confronting over a dozen familiars boasting Throne level strength. The two formed a defensive back-to-back formation, their eyes reflecting unwavering resolve.
“I never thought we’d end up fighting together,” Shimizu voiced, maintaining a cold demeanor.
“Heh, I couldn’t care less. Lily’s not back yet, so make sure you hang in there and don’t kick the bucket.” Despite her rapid breathing and heated complexion, Rei managed to flash a nonchalant grin5.