“Miss Kagami, Miss Kagami?”
Lily was suddenly roused from her deep sleep and found that she almost fell from the horse.
Lily grabbed the mane of the horse to maintain her balance. Right now, her hair was a mess, and she was covered in cold sweat.
Moreover, she had a really absent-minded face due to the indescribable shock she just experienced.
That just now… was not a dream.
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She recalled everything, her last memory regarding her original world stopped at the moment when the plane crashed.
When they were falling, senior sister embraced him to lighten his fear. Even if senior sister knew she couldn’t change anything in the end, it was her dearest wish to make him feel a little bit better!
That was because senior sister likes him.
In the last moment of their life, senior sister had confessed to him.
That kind of perfect girl — who was known as the prettiest girl in the school and the goddess — actually confessed to him!
Senior sister, just as he was secretly in love with her, she was… she was also secretly interested in him!
Just what kind of good quality did he possess that could make such a girl be fond of him? To be fond enough to the point of creating an opportunity by herself to travel with him, and even with the intention of giving her first time to him!
He just couldn’t figure out the reason. However, he felt truly moved in his heart, truly moved!1
“But how about me?! I actually had vulgar thoughts about this body… I am really…”
Lily lowered her head to look at her uninjured and spotless body.
“Senior sister, as you wished, I have survived. But how about you? Where did you go?”
As these thoughts crossed her mind, sad tears involuntarily flowed down from Lily’s eyes. If it was not because there was someone beside her, she really would have bawled right there and then! Why?! Why am I the one who survived?! And yet a good girl like the senior sister is…
However, the warmth she felt from senior sister’s body, wasn’t that the proof that senior sister was still with her?
The thing she needed to protect, was her own body!
“Miss Kagami, what happened?” Hojo looked at Lily reservedly as he pulled the horse along. Her appearance now seemed to have confirmed his own speculation.
“Miss Kagami Lily, just how much sorrow are you going through right now…” Hojo’s brow furrowed as he considered his words carefully, but he didn’t continue to press for an answer.
At the moment, the dawn was already approaching. The horse’s sturdy hoofs were treading on the verdant grass field that glittered with dew as they walked up the hillside. In front of them, the light yellow ray of the morning sun was rising from the beautiful purple horizon, mists were drifting in between the green hills, and they could see old wooden houses that were linked together below a distant mountain range.
“Ahead of us is the Matsuda family’s dwelling. This region is the domain of Matsuda Nagahide. Miss Kagami, should we go now, or do you want to wait a moment?” Hojo asked.
“I am fine, please let us go now,” Lily said as she wiped her tears.
This early morning was as beautiful as a picturesque painting, however, why was it that Lily always felt a little cold and dejected when looking at this scene?
“Matsuda Nagahide right? I heard from Mister Hojo that he is a kenjutsu instructor, I wonder if it is possible to seek instruction from him.” Lily looked towards those flat roofs that were gradually getting into view.
For some reason, even though Lily felt that the horse was stepping on solid ground, there’s also the sense of lightness and helplessness. It felt just like that time when senior sister and herself was falling towards the ocean.
O’ senior sister… if that was the end for both of us, if I was to die together with you, I wouldn’t have any regrets. However, is your intention to let me carry on this sorrow, and to continue walking by myself in this other world…
“Keep on living!”
This was the last words senior sister said to her. It was so simple, yet so hard.
“However, senior sister, this is an oath between you and me! I will keep on living! I will live with dignity in this world! If there is a chance that you have also drifted to this world… No, I firmly believe in this point, because I can feel it deep inside of me, that you are definitely alive… living in a certain place that I don’t know about. Even if I have to search every end of the world, I will definitely find you! And then… we will go home together.”
Under the beautiful morning sun, with the hill standing tall behind her, Lily pledged this in her heart.
Hojo pulled the horse and took Lily towards the Matsuda’s residence that was located under the hill. The plain and simple housing area was surrounded by a short wooden fence. Two withered pine trees were growing at both sides of the front gate. There was also a massive boulder covered in green-colored moss near the entrance. It was as though they were standing guard at the widely opened wooden gate.
Lily dismounted from the horse, and when Hojo approached the courtyard, they could hear:
The energetic sound of a few youngsters yelling ‘kill’ could be heard from the inside. It was a little sudden in this environment devoid of entertainment2.
Lily was startled, but that Hojo indicated that it was of no harm as he entered the gate with Lily in tow.
Once they were inside, what appeared before them was an open field with overgrown weeds.
What they saw in the center of the open field was a middle-aged man in his fifties instructing four to five youngsters in kenjutsu. The middle-aged man was wearing traditional clothes, had suntanned skin, and his half-exposed shoulder was muscular.
These youngsters were still wet behind the ears. The youngest one of them was roughly seven to eight years old, and the oldest was fifteen to sixteen years old. Their hair was styled in the traditional topknot haircut for children. Each of them was holding a wooden sword and did practice swings under the instructions of the middle-aged man.
In this Heian Empire, the samurai didn’t seem to pay particular attention to fundamentals and systematic sequence in their swordsmanship. They began by letting the child play with the sword randomly, then they would immediately jump into real combat to practice martial skills!
This was very different from the traditional martial arts of Lily’s motherland in her original world. Although Lily also didn’t know much about the martial arts in her motherland.
Looking at these youngsters practicing the sword, Lily couldn’t help but feel worried. Don’t tell me, a young lady as delicate as a flower like me, will be practicing kenjutsu with these muddy-faced brats?
When the middle-aged man noticed Hojo’s arrival, his attitude became solemn at once. He ran towards the courtyard gate to welcome them, and stepped aside to let Hojo through. The middle-aged man was bowing his head at the side.
Hojo walked straight through the courtyard with Lily. He took off his shoes and walked atop the platform under a roof, then he sat down in a cross-legged position.
And that middle-aged man also followed Hojo’s example, though he sat cross-legged directly on the muddy ground of the courtyard. He bowed respectfully towards Hojo once more, then slowly started to talk, “Young Master.”
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Lily was completely clueless in regards to this kind of Japanese-style etiquette. However, seeing that these men sat cross-legged and didn’t say a word, of course, Lily couldn’t sit cross-legged herself, otherwise, she would be completely exposed! Thus, she took off her shoes and also walked atop the platform. Recalling the sitting posture of those women who wore kimono in dramas, Lily sat in a seiza and placed her hands on the knee.
It seemed like this act was quite successful, as the two samurais didn’t look at her with suspicion.
Hojo went straight to the point, “Nagahide, I met this girl beside me when I was on a night patrol. Because of a great misfortune, this unfortunate girl has lost some of her memories. She comes from the distant Kansai region, and is the young lady of the Ogasawara family3 under the Kagami clan. I want to let her stay at your place for a period of time.”
“From the Kansai region’s Ogasawara clan is it…” Matsuda Nagahide had a thick beard, dark eyebrow, and stalwart features. He took a quick look at Lily, and said while lowering his head, “Yes, your subordinate has received the order. It is merely arranging a place for the girl to stay. Young Master can be at ease.”
It would seem that, this Hojo Ujizane had somewhat of a status. He was actually able to order this middle-aged samurai at will. Lily could finally heave a sigh of relief. Like this, she should be safe for now, right?
“Wakao! This lil-sis is so god damn good-looking!” The tallest one among the youngsters practicing swords in the courtyard walked to the front of the platform. He had small eyes, and looked robust yet plump. The youngster pointed at Lily and spoke rudely, his tone containing strong accent.
“Taro! You must not be rude!” Matsuda Nagahide berated the child.
Lily also looked at the tall fatty. Why was it that in this elegant other world, where even the grasses and trees were emitting elegance, there were also boorish people with a filthy mouth like him?
“Hmph! Even if I said elegant, I bet only people who are used to the modern world will feel this way? I doubt the majority of people who are originally living in this plain and simple world would know how to appreciate all of these.” Lily whispered to herself.
Hojo also had an ugly complexion. He only sized up this rude and uncivilized youngster out of the corner of his eyes as he thought to himself, “The child of the Daidouji4 house I suppose? Hmph! He’s every bit as irritating as that upstart clan of his!”
However, he didn’t say anything else as he stood up, “Then that’ll be all, I have to get back to Kamakura City. I shall report this matter to my uncle. Miss Kagami will be left in your care.”
“Yes—” Matsuda Nagahide answered.
Hojo had a firm and decisive attitude when treating his subordinates. He stepped down from the platform as soon as he finished his words. Though it seemed like he was a little concerned and reluctant to part as he turned around to look at Lily. Then he said, “Miss Kagami, please stay here for several days. I will definitely come back for you as soon as possible.”
Lily felt a little grateful after hearing these. However, she also felt a little uneasy. His gaze seemed to indicate he was a little interested in Lily. She didn’t want to get into that kind of relationship… Fortunately, it seemed like he was an upright samurai.
“I am thankful for the Young Master’s care all along the way.” Lily expressed her thanks towards Hojo very formally. At this kind of time, it should be easier to divide the boundary if you act more polite right?
While trapped in this other world, the beautiful and captivating Lily who had no one to rely on, is finally going to start learning kenjutsu and take her first step in this chaotic Heian Empire.