Book 4: Chapter 25: Biwa Palace
A diminutive construct from where the enormous Lake Biwa was visible rested on a certain secluded cliff.
Although it was only possible to see a section of Lake Biwa from this construct, it actually looked as extensive as a bay.
However, even though Lake Biwa was immense, its waters weren’t as turbulent as the seas and consisted of clear and tranquil waters with mist clouds hovering over it in the early morning.
Sakanoue no Tamurakonoe, a tall yet pretty samurai from Kansai, sat within a room of the wooden construct in the dainty manner of a beauty, and surveyed the vast expanse of whiteness that shrouded the biggest lake in the Heian Empire.
Tamurakonoe fetched the pouch affixed at his waist, which was also embroidered with the ancient p.r.o.noun character Maro (麿).
This pouch was a charm that was rarely found in Heian and actually contained a subs.p.a.ce larger than the capacity of an ox carriage that allowed storage of plentiful items inside it. It was a treasure of absolute rarity even in the incredible Heian-kyo.
Tamurakonoe summoned a hydrangea flower sized orb from the pouch with a thought, making it manifest above his palm baselessly.
He then activated the orb with his spirit power, following which it began floating in the air while emitting a pulsating, deep-purple glow.
The orb had been clear purple initially, but a flux of light began flowing inside it and gradually took the form of a middle-aged man’s countenance.
The man’s countenance was shrouded in darkness and though this made it impossible to see it, its broadness, stalwartness and sharpness made the outlines of the man’s countenance exude an innately oppressive spirit. Yet, the outlines also carried the rustic charisma of a boorish samurai.
“Father. Why did you contact me at such a time?” Sakanoue no Tamurakonoe seemed quite respectful to the man who appeared inside the orb.
“Where are you now, Konoe?”
“I’m on the eastern sh.o.r.e of Lake Biwa, just as you’ve ordered, and plan to kill that mirror girl right away in case she manages to escape into Omi from Kanto’s Mino,” Tamurakonoe answered.
“Where’s the mirror girl now?”
“The mirror girl is deep inside Mino right now as a result of Viper’s and Momiji’s elaborate scheme. I believe it will be quite difficult for her to leave Mino,1” A devilish grin floated upon Tamurakonoe’s pretty lips.
“All right, that’s perfect. I recently received reports that suggest the opening of the palace at Lake Biwa’s lakebed after several decades,” the middle-aged man stated.
“What?! Biwa Palace? It showed no movements for so many years after it sunk down yet it’s actually opening at such a time?” Tamurakonoe was surprised.
“It stirred up most of Kansai’s factions and made them dispatch powerful samurai towards that grudge-filled palace to unravel it. It has even tempted the surrounding archdemons. We mustn’t allow our dojo to miss out on this chance, too. Go there since you’re in the vicinity.”
“There’s no pattern behind Lake Biwa’s opening. It’s a rare opportunity that can’t be sought willingly!” Tamurakonoe’s voice brimmed with desire, “However, Father, we promised Lord Kibu that we’ll deal with that mirror girl. I’m afraid it’ll be difficult for me to go.”
“Rest a.s.sured. If that mirror girl has really fallen into Viper’s and Momiji’s hands as you’ve said, I’m afraid there’s little hope for her to escape from them2. Momiji, that witch, is quite remarkable, and even I’m unwilling to provoke her to be frank.”
“What? Are you afraid of a mere witch like Momiji even though you’re so strong, Father?”
“Haha. You mustn’t look at just the surface for a lot of things. The sword arts of the East’s samurai are barbarous and have fallen behind the times, but do you dare to invade Kamakura?”
“But that’s because of Lord Kamakura…”
“How do you know then that Momiji had no move hidden within her sleeves? Enough of this for now. I’m quite busy. In short, it’s improbable for that mirror girl to leave Mino. Even if she does and you miss running into her, I will dispatch another group from Kansai to stop her en route as a.s.surance. You should focus on arriving at Biwa Palace as soon as possible instead. It’s destiny when such an opportunity manifests itself before you. You mustn’t miss it,” the middle-aged man stated in a calm and deep voice.
“Understood. I’ll aim for the lakebed right away, then. Haha. It’s been a long time since I’ve toured the underwater world. But, Father, I didn’t bring the blue orb that allows us to breathe underwater with me this time when I went out.”
“I’ve already sent a group with some blue orbs towards you. Moreover, we also have an emblem of Biwa Palace which has been pa.s.sed down by our ancestors. I’ve sent it along as well. To be honest, this emblem had been collecting dust in our treasury for a long time now and was won in a duel by my father in the past. I haven’t touched it once until now, but I never thought it would come to use today.”
“It must be Grandfather’s spirit in the Heavens a.s.sisting our Maro clan!”
“Mhm. If you’re able to unravel the Biwa Palace and obtain the treasure in it, it would be of great help to our dojo. As you know, our dojo is in quite the conundrum right now…”
“I know, Father! No one else will obtain it since I’m going!3” A confident and demonic grin floated upon Tamurakonoe’s lips once again.
“Mhm. Having said that, don’t let pride get to you, understood?”
Tamurakonoe got up after finis.h.i.+ng the spatial conversation with his father and flung the sleeves of his lavish and charismatic robe that had a long clothing rod sized nodachi affixed at the back.
He left the room and summoned his subordinates, “Come, Kiuchidera, Ui.”
The two doors in the corridor opened, following which the white-turbaned and masked Kiuchidera as well as the informally dressed Ui exited their rooms and kneeled towards Tamurakonoe.
“Have you received information about that mirror girl, young lord? Hmph. What prettiest woman of the East. I heard that she possesses quite the remarkable body, but in my opinion, all she’s fit to become is a moaning b̲i̲t̲c̲h̲ under my techniques. However, the edict issued by Lord Kamakura in the past prohibits us Kansai samurai from interfering in the matters of the East. The moment that woman leaves Mino is when I turn her into my little b̲i̲t̲c̲h̲,” Ui played with the kendama in her hand while smiling4.
“We’re going to set this matter aside for now, Lil’ Ui,” Tamurakonoe stated.
“Hah?” Ui showed clear disappointment on her face.
“Father ordered us to prepare to descend to Lake Biwa’s lakebed and explore Biwa Palace.”
Kiuchidera Tess.h.i.+n raised his head on the side and a cold gleam flashed through his eyes, “Lord Sakanoue no Tamuramaro’s order, huh…”
“Biwa Palace? Is it opening again?” Ui’s face regained its excitement.
Lily and s.h.i.+mizu traversed through the deep mountain.
“I know our current position roughly,” declared Lily after they had arrived atop a hill from where the distant mountain range was visible.
“Lil’ Lily. Are we not going to avoid the route leading to Omi and detour around it?” s.h.i.+mizu asked worriedly.
“No. The terrain of this land is quite complicated, and the details of this region are also quite crude on the map. It only details a single landmark leading to Omi, so I’m afraid that we’ll get lost in these mountains if we avoid it.”
“But won’t the pursuers from Mino attempt to block us on this route?” s.h.i.+mizu asked.
“My condition has recovered already, Sis, so we’ll be fine as long as Momiji isn’t among the pursuers. If she does come, it gives me the chance to avenge the humiliation I went through on that night! An archdemon at the Permanence Stage is no big deal if I were to use all the means available to me. Hmph!” Lily stated confidently and they were no empty words.
If she were to release the drawing of the Four-Tailed Monster Cat from the Record of One Hundred Demons by using her magatama, which was one of Lily’s failsafe moves, its fearsome late-stage Permanence-level eldritch strength was more than enough to deal with Momiji.
Lily believed that she wouldn’t have suffered that much humiliation if it weren’t for her bewildered state preventing her from summoning the items inside the mirror.
Lily didn’t fear the Mino Triumvirate at all with the strength she possessed, but she lost out big time on this occasion because of her lacking wisdom and carelessness, which caused her to get caught in Viper’s scheme.
However, Lily was bound to be more cautious about her weaknesses from now on, so this had actually been a silver lining to the humiliation she had suffered.
Although she had suffered a loss this time, she had also obtained the old map that detailed the positions of Tsukuyomi Swordstyle’s monoliths, which was a windfall so huge that she would’ve suffered such a loss tens and hundreds of times delightfully in exchange for the map.
There was also the other ancient mirror.
Lily had almost forgotten about it after fleeing so far last night.
She took out the ancient mirror she obtained from Viper and handed it to s.h.i.+mizu with a smile, “Here, Sis.”
“This ancient mirror…” A dark light flashed through s.h.i.+mizu’s eyes, but she smiled wryly in the end, “Thank you, Lil’ Sis, but it’s something that had chained me gravely in the past. I was only able to get a new lease on life because my ancient mirror shattered. Therefore, I don’t want to see this item anymore. I hate it for causing the misunderstanding between us! Moreover, the ancient mirror is useless to me right now.”
s.h.i.+mizu pushed the ancient mirror back to Lily.
Lily and s.h.i.+mizu walked until noon and rested under the shade of the trees.
As s.h.i.+mizu didn’t want it, Lily decided to study the ancient mirror instead.
“I wonder if this real mirror also has a s.p.a.ce inside it.”
Lily injected spirit power into it and tried to establish a connection with the mirror. It didn’t pose her much of a problem to do this as she had sensed the mirror’s fluctuations soon.
An ancient will filled Lily’s mind in the next moment.
“Mutsu. You must go to Mutsu’s Mt. Takadate in order to accomplish the mirror girl’s mission, child.”
“I’ll also be imparting a set of ten-staged Celestial Maiden Swordstyle to you. As you’re a real mirror girl chosen by providence, it will allow you to travel Heian carefreely with the unequaled tenfold power boost it gives once perfected successfully!5”
“This is the blessing given to the maidens chosen by the Heavens, but it is also a terrible and tribulating ordeal given to them, child…”
A set of Celestial Maiden Swordstyle similar to the one that she had seen previously transmitted to Lily’s mind sequentially.
“What?! This is…”
“What is it, Lil’ Sis?” s.h.i.+mizu fetched spring water with the bamboo container for Lily to drink after seeing her act restless.
Lily drank the spring water and mumbled confusedly, “Tenfold boost? But isn’t this swordstyle…”
Lily actually didn’t need to learn this set of swordstyle as she already knew it. It was none other than the Celestial Maiden Swordstyle engraved on the monolith within the cave in Mt. Yos.h.i.+no’s deep valley where Minamoto no Yos.h.i.+tsune had dwelled.
It was quite similar to Tsukuyomi Swordstyle’s First Path, but…
“No!” Lily’s heart palpated intensely, “It’s impossible to perfect this swordstyle.”
It didn’t matter whether the possessor was a real mirror girl. The difficulty of perfecting this swordstyle increased along with the pract.i.tioner’s advancement through its stages no matter how talented they were, and the final 10th stage was simply false!
Although there wasn’t much of a side effect to it, it was only possible to train until the 9th-stage for even the swordstyle’s creator, just as how the martial genius Minamoto no Yos.h.i.+tsune had comprehended until the 9th-stage from the monolith.
As the swordstyle had undergone a revision to make it suitable for men by the righteous and manly Yos.h.i.+tsune, its strength had reduced by half, and made it such that the Genji Swordstyle’s 9th-stage paled in strength in comparison to the Celestial Maiden Swordstyle’s 9th-stage!
The 10th-stage wasn’t the original one!
It was falsified.
This set of swordstyle wasn’t meant for ascension and was actually a diversion!
This was a version of the Tsukuyomi Swordstyle’s First Path, the Human Path, with a revised 10th-stage that had been messed with and circulated around the world. It was a fake Celestial Maiden Swordstyle.
The tenfold power boost was just the beginning of the real Celestial Maiden Swordstyle.
The tenfold power boost was given by the First Path of Tsukuyomi Swordstyle’s Six Paths!
It was really quite an enigma what magical abilities the subsequent five paths bestowed once perfected.
Lily’s b.r.e.a.s.t.s heaved up and down intensely.
“Although this mirror might be real, neither does it contain a mystical s.p.a.ce nor the full version of Lunar Blossom or the Tsukuyomi Swordstyle or the Dance of the Bell Maiden. However, the message left behind in this mirror directed me to head towards Mutsu’s Mt. Takadate, which is in the opposite direction of my journey’s course. I’ll just set the matter aside for now and head to Mt. Takadate later on to investigate.”
“Perhaps…” Lily’s eyes narrowed.
Lily had actually ascertained a vague answer to the mirror girls’ real secret in her heart6.
- Robinxen: Ah poor naive villain.
- Robinxen: I repeat.
- Silva: Who wanna bet Lily will be the one going away with the treasure?
- Robinxen: Is everyone in this world sc.u.m?
- Robinxen: Jesus christ this buff stacking is getting a bit insane.
- Robinxen: AUTHOOOOOOOOOOOOOR.