Book 3: Chapter 92: State of Selflessness
The demons walked through the mountainous terrain and went along the path at the temple’s backyard under the illumination of the scattered stone lamps to arrive at the vine-covered cave entrance surrounded by boulders.
The lion mist demon was so huge that it could only enter the cave by lowering its body.
The monsters numbered around 200-300 roughly, consisting of all kinds and forms of monsters, but all of them carried a murderous aura.
Yumi had an ominous premonition, so she tailed behind them stealthily and entered the cave as well.
Around the same time, Yoriko had really worn herself out over the past few days while accompanying Lily and went to sleep in spite of the village chief’s orders.
Meanwhile, Lily engaged in meditation within the house where the books and scrolls were stored.
“Miss Lynne,” The village chief arrived inside the house with the help of the cane.
“Grandma Chief,” Lily greeted her with respect.
The old lady sat down slowly and observed Lily’s body, liking it more the longer she looked, “You’re really pretty, Miss Lynne. Although you might find it hard to believe, I was young once too.”
“Haha…” Lily chuckled powerlessly and even though she believed the chief’s words, she really couldn’t imagine it.
“Women experience their prime years only when they’re young. No one appreciates or loves them once they become old. In fact, life becomes dull and tasteless for them, unlike men, who can embrace beauties even if they become old as long as they have money and status. I had a lot of men pursuing me back in my youth when I was the priestess of the mirror girl branch clan, but those opportunities are long gone now…”
It wasn’t that hard for Lily to understand the chief’s regrets as mortals possessed a short lifespan. Lily was on the brink of reaching the Spirit Jade Stage, which would give her a lifespan of several hundred years and allowed her to maintain her youth for over a hundred years. Suzuhiko-hime, for example, maintained her enchanting looks for nearly ten million years, and Takamagahara’s prettiest women, Amaterasu and Tsukuyomi, possessed an eternal beauty. However, very few were able to reach this realm in this world.
Effort, talent, luck and fate… all of them are essential. Lily sympathized with the chief, so she comforted her, “That’s not true, Grandma. You still have the respect and trust of the villagers and I respect you a lot as well. You’ve led an arduous life so far in order to lead the mirror girl clan.”
“No. You’ve praised me wrongly, Miss Lynne. The reason our clan has managed to survive so far is because of Kimiko and her daughter.”
“Kimiko and her daughter? I know that Lady Kimiko sacrificed her life to ensure the safety of the mirror girl branch clan, but didn’t Haihime, her daughter, betray the clansmen?”
“I also thought the same in the beginning, but I realized this was too strange the longer I thought about it. I didn’t tell you this previously since you were an outsider, Miss Lynne, but you have the ability to make people feel close to you, just like Lady Kimiko… Who knows when I might die, so I don’t want to take this secret to my grave.”
“Why did you think it’s strange, Grandma?”
“I personally saw Haihime, that is Keiko of the past, submit to the monster back then. However, I found this to be strange the more I thought about it, wondering why we were able to live here, why the monsters didn’t kill all of us, why Keiko came down to insult us occasionally yet never took any substantial action? If Keiko really just wanted to save her own neck, she could’ve totally fled the mountain alone. Although it was impossible for a huge group like ours to escape, she could’ve escaped easily with her strength and had no reason to return to the village righteously to rescue her mother. This made me wonder whether a woman so determined would really give her body to the monster who killed her mother. I found it harder to make sense of her explanation the longer I thought about it and arrived at a plausible conclusion suddenly on a certain day, that Keiko had perhaps made some kind of deal with the monster to protect us and served the demons for that purpose.”
“…Grandma. Why didn’t you tell the villagers about this?”
“In the first place, this is just conjecture on my side, and there’s no use in telling them this if it’s just my wishful thinking. Also, if this is indeed the case, I even more so can’t tell them this if we take a look at things from Lady Keiko’s perspective.”
Lily’s eyes reflected the light of the oil lamp inside the house silently, “It’s because the clansmen would prefer to sacrifice their lives and go all out against the monsters in order to free Keiko, isn’t it?”
“You’re pretty smart, Miss Lynne. I don’t know the answer to this, but everything makes sense if Keiko really thought that.”
“Grandma. Although I don’t know the truth, I traded blows with Haihime once and sensed a deep sorrow and grudge from her sword intent. It’s impossible for a depraved woman who serves the monsters to preserve her life and satisfy her material desires to possess such a grudge, and even though she dresses so s̲m̲u̲t̲t̲i̲l̲y, I couldn’t sense even a single iota of promiscuousness from her intent and only felt a mountain-shattering sorrow instead,” Lily stated.
“So, Keiko, she really… suffered injustice for our sake and chose to get loathed by her clansmen and the world in order to succeed her mother’s will and protect her clansmen?” The chief’s eyes teared up.
“I don’t know, Grandma, but I believe the truth will come out one day, so all we can do is wait and see until then.”
“Grandma, can you tell me about the mirror girl and Lady Fujiwara no Ayaka?”
“Forgive me, Miss Lynne. Even though I am the clan priestess, I really don’t know the reason for the mirror girl clan’s existence, what secret the mirror holds and why we are hunted. This information was privy only to the holder of the mirror, that is, Lady Kimiko. However, she did tell me once that each real mirror holds a distinct and unfathomable power in it and that each real mirror girl has their own mission. However, she renounced her mission and always considered herself weak because of it.”
“As for Lady Fujiwara no Ayaka, she’s a really elegant woman and there were few women in the capital city of Heian-kyo who could compare to her, whether it be her looks or her strength that matched the prowess of the Four Great Demons! She’s a woman who exudes the scent of blossoms and twinkles by at the distant horizon of your vision. Only someone like that has the courage to face double the danger and enrage both the imperial court and the demons by s.h.i.+elding our mirror girl clan. However, someone like that interacted more with Lady Kimiko while the rest of the clansmen could only watch her from a distance, so we don’t know much about her. Although she wasn’t even twenty back then, Lady Ayako was someone with a lot of influence as she already held the position of Lesser Councilor and also had a high position in the Fujiwara clan in those days.”
Lily wasn’t that astonished by the fact that Ayaka possessed such status and fame, so she questioned further, “Why did Lady Ayaka want to protect the mirror girl?”
“I really don’t know the reason for that. Perhaps it was pity? A sense of justice? Maybe she wanted to protect something? Or perhaps she needed a deeper understanding of the mirror girls to advance further on the path she pursued? Forgive me, but I don’t know much about this. Perhaps only Lady Kimiko knew the real reason behind it.”
Kimiko’s long-dead though, thought Lily. And Haihime, are you really as I’ve made you out to be? Or are you just a power seeker who just cherishes her life?
Lily’s consciousness entered the mirror s.p.a.ce after the chief left, and she had secured the demon hound within the cursed katana this time. Kagura was also asleep while Nanako was busy completing the spell-learning task a.s.signed to her by Kagura. After all, fighting was the only thing that s.h.i.+kigami were capable of and Kagura was also a s.h.i.+kigami proficient in spellcasting in the past.
Yuki-Onna seemed bored within the mirror and leaned against the corner to rest for a bit.
This was also fine since this at least prevented them from seeing Lily’s dress.
Lily was dressed in a white, translucent celestial maiden’s raiment from top to bottom and her skin also seemed to sparkle like moonlight; it really wasn’t the kind of skin a boy is supposed to have.
She entered the room with the three monoliths and began practicing the Tsukuyomi Swordstyle.
She had been influenced by the chief’s regrets and remorse for the bygone days of youth for some reason and this had given her a deeper understanding of life and women’s beauty.
If we were to look back into the river of time, the majority of the beautiful women in the world were all short-lived.
And only the divine possessed the ability to preserve this beauty eternally.
The body that she found embarra.s.sing and rejected was the target of envy of numerous women and the target of desire of numerous men in this world.
The recollection of beauty women possessed back in their youth after they turned old was like a flash of sorrow, just like a falling sakura.
Lily suddenly realized that there was yet another element linking the intent within Tsukuyomi Swordstyle in addition to beauty and etherealness, which was none other than sorrow.
No one understood this sorrow better than Lily, who was so close yet worlds apart from her lover.
Each movement of Lily’s sword carried a faint frost-covered lunar sorrow.
This sorrow acted like a catalyst and progressed Lily’s sword arts to the summit!
Drenched in sweat, Lily’s beauty bloomed in solitude within the hard cave and the sorrowful intent made her forget that she was a boy temporarily, only the solitude, coldness and promise remaining in her memories and made it seem as if she had become one in body and soul with the senior sister sleeping on the other side.
“Whoos.h.!.+” A dark, sorrowful intent ripped the air apart as Lily brandished her sword and her sword arts contained an obsession that could pierce through the fabrications of the world, possessing an impressive sharpness, swiftness and elegance!
She had reached the eighth stage of Tsukuyomi Swordstyle.
However, Lily didn’t stop and continued dancing with graceful steps after realizing that she was progressing smoothly through the aspects that troubled her previously and was flowing with inspiration that prevented her from stopping even if she wanted to.
This was the state of selflessness which could be experienced but not sought!
Lily knew well that she would progress at an incredibly rapid speed in this state of selflessness and even though she didn’t know how long this state would last, it was undoubtedly one of the biggest opportunities in the life of advancement.
Her celestial countenance bloomed in solitude like a lingering fragrance within the dark cave of the mirror s.p.a.ce, forgetting whether she was a boy or a pretty woman as she danced untiredly with swift movements akin to cascading moonlight.
The sorrowful sword intent reflected the emotion contained within the blizzard of sakura at all times.
Sorrow was also a type of beauty and also a type of power.
Lily was destined to seek the happiness that belonged to her while harbouring this sorrowful heart!
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