Book 3: Chapter 29: Gloom
Lily and s.h.i.+u were guided inside one of the lodge’s rooms by the old woman.
“You can lodge into this room. I shall go prepare some food for you.”
The old woman lit the quaint little oil lamp within the room, and its feeble flames lit up the room dimly, bringing the worn-down paper window and the cobwebs at the corners of the room into view faintly. However, the living conditions for a majority of the Heian Empire’s commoners were much worse than this.
Lily and s.h.i.+u observed this gloom-filled little room and had a feeling that the premises were a bit too quiet.
“Grandma, are there other lodgers within this lodge?” Lily enquired.
The old woman was taken aback, but she still replied promptly, “Yes, but they are all asleep.”
Saying so, the old woman left the room.
When Lily and s.h.i.+u sat down in the room, their senses caught a moldy smell in the air.
“Sis, this room stinks a bit,” s.h.i.+u said while frowning.
Lily observed the room and said, “Endure it.”
A few moments later, the old woman brought a wooden table with two bowls of miso soup, tea, and simple dishes arranged on it.
“Most of Tsutsujigasaki Castle’s merchants have left the city in recent times and traveling merchants rarely visit, too. This has led to a lack of variety in food ingredients, but please have as much as you wish, girls,” the old woman stated.
Looking at the food, which consisted of cold miso soup and bad-smelling dishes, Lily and s.h.i.+u really didn’t feel like eating it.
“Grandma,” Lily asked, “Since when did it become like this here?”
“You girls must’ve come from outside. It’s either miners or farm women that reside in the Kai Province, but we don’t have pretty well-bred girls like you here, which is a real pity.”
“Why is it a pity?”
“Hehe. Don’t mind it. I think it was about a year ago. This place was the cornerstone of the entire Kanto region prior to that as a majority of the crude iron was produced within Tsutsujigasaki Castle. Furthermore, as Lord Takeda is the overlord of the region, even though this place wasn’t as prosperous as Kamakura, the residents of Kai Province were full of zest, but with increasing frequency of extended nights… monsters began to appear within the city one day and no matter how many samurai were sent to subjugate them, it produced no results. By the way, why aren’t you eating the food?”
“It’s fine, Grandma. We aren’t feeling that hungry, so we won’t be eating it,” Lily answered.
The old woman didn’t say anything and took the dishes away, leaving behind the following words before she departed, “The bedding is inside the closet, feel free to take it out and use it.”
After leaving the room with the food, the old woman stopped nearby to the corridor.
Lily naturally picked up this abnormality with her acute senses.
“s.h.i.+u, we need to rest,” Lily said.
“Eh? We’re going to rest in such a place, Sis…? I’m fine with it, but I can’t allow your immaculate body to spend the night in such a moldy place.”
“I fear it will be much more difficult to find another lodge that’s open at this time,” Lily opened the closet while saying this.
A pair of large, pale, and gloomy eyes opened within the darkness of the closet suddenly and a foul fishy smell seeped outwards, followed by a sharp claw swooping forwards towards Lily.
Lily was pretty close to the closet, with less a foot between it and her, and she wasn’t on guard, too. If it were a normal samurai instead of her, they would’ve undoubtedly died.
However, Lily’s reaction speed was much faster than ordinary samurai, so she just moved her shoulder aside to dodge the dangerous attack and raised her foot to kick at the darkness of the closet.
The entire closet, along with the wooden wall behind it, were broken into pieces and a 3m tall humanoid lifeform crashed into the room next door, falling within a pile of wooden fragments.
The tall lifeform twitched before turning around and revealed its appearance. It was a bald-headed creature with filthy yellow-green skin and a pair of hideous eyes coupled with a long oversized nose and sharp-fanged teeth. Its tongue was over a foot long and trailed on the floor while its limbs were longer than humans. At this moment, it was crawling on the floor at an abnormally twisted angle and it wore a pair of foot-long steel claws on its hands.
“Hehehehehehe! You reacted pretty quickly, woman! I’ll definitely obtain some of that swiftness if I eat you! Hehehe!”
This was an indescribable humanlike inhuman monster and there was even a possibility that it was a former human that became a monster after going crazy. Furthermore, even though Lily’s kick had broken a good number of its ribs, it acted as if it couldn’t feel any pain at all.
“Kill her!” The old woman standing outside entered the room suddenly and fished out a blowpipe to shoot an unknown projectile towards Lily.
However, the projectile crashed into a luminescent sakura petal inexplicably and fell to the ground, laying its ident.i.ty of a poison dart bare.
“Whoos.h.!.+” s.h.i.+u threw two shuriken towards the old woman who attacked Lily immediately and she collapsed to the ground with a scream.
“Woman! I have never seen a woman as pretty as you! I’m going to eat you!” The monster opened its hands clad in claws and squatted like a frog to muster strength into its thighs before pouncing towards Lily, attacking her with its two claws.
Lily unsheathed Crescent Moon instantly.
“Splat!” A shower of blood spattered across the molted roof in the next moment.
The monster had almost been bisected from the shoulder to the stomach, with only the skin on its back keeping its body joined. Unable to speak any further, the monster coughed out blood and fell to the ground before twitching miserably.
Lily arrived in front of the dying old woman whose forehead and heart had been pierced by the shuriken.
“Hmm?” Lily had a sudden flash of realization, “You are human?”
“Yes,” the old woman replied with a hoa.r.s.e, trembling voice, “Although I’ll be departing to Yomi alone, I am certainly a human.”
“Since you are a human, why did you cooperate with a monster to run this homicidal lodge that harms humans?” Lily questioned.
“Hehehe. If I didn’t cooperate, I would’ve ended up as the monster’s food sooner or later. I’m an old woman with no place to go, so I would’ve just ended up dead from hunger or illness in this place if I didn’t eat anything. My husband and sons all died in the war with the Uesugi clan, and my daughter stopped sending me letters after marrying a samurai from s.h.i.+nano. I heard that she also died in a city-wide ma.s.sacre in a war and as a result, I also remained forgotten in this castle city. I had no food to eat nor money to treat my illness…”
The dying old woman’s eyes mocked the world, “Thus, I joined hands with this monster, Gorou An. My job was to lure the customers inside so that he could kill and eat them while my reward was the belongings of the customers. We lived such a mutually-dependent life for about a year now and killed over a hundred customers, yet the liege lord’s samurai never discovered or tried to subjugate us. It makes me wonder if people in this city can survive by themselves. Hehehe. Don’t you feel it’s pretty ironical, girl?”
“The strife between humans killed my entire family, yet this monster saved my life.”
Saying so, the old woman pa.s.sed away while still wearing that mocking smile.
Lily didn’t wish to remain in such a filthy and gloomy region even a second longer.
“Let’s go,” Lily said. “Yes,” s.h.i.+u followed behind.
After going outside, Lily breathed in a mouthful of relaxing fresh air and looked at the gloomy castle city, “The residents of this city are actually living together with monsters. This is much more terrible than monsters simply attacking humans. Just what is going on in this city?”
Lily turned her head towards the castle tower that towered against the orangish night sky and frowned slightly, “Takeda Tsunen.o.bu, the Tiger of Kai, a heavyweight revered as the Great Scholar of East by the people. Just what exactly happened for your eyes to have been clouded so badly?”
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