Book 4: Chapter 81: Ryu Island
On the west side of Lake Biwa, there was an inconspicuous island cloaked in the beauty of pale blue mountains and winsome greenery.
The lake rippled with the reflection of the light blue sky, and the s.h.i.+ning sun added a touch of s.h.i.+mmer to the gentle waves. The huge old pines stood tall, their roots laden with many strange rocks. Unlike the magnificent landscapes of the East, the rivers and trees here seemed to contain a primitive, tranquil charm.
In the depths of the island, a faint purple mist pervaded the air, and a pair of small eyes gleamed from the shadows of the surrounding trees. They were looking at the palish sh.o.r.e of the lake with surprise and curiosity.
The many years of sustained silence on the isolated island were disturbed by the arrival of people who roused the island in a lively atmosphere.
s.h.i.+ps from various countries in Kansai traveled between the island and Port Otsu, some anchoring near the sh.o.r.e of the island.
The small demons peeking from the pine forest all lived in seclusion for many generations. Little did they know that, in a few days, a duel will be hosted on their home island.
Regardless of the duel’s outcome, this unknown Ryu Island would be remembered by numerous Kansai samurai.
Although Tamurakonoe had yet to arrive, he had informed the dojo through a jade stone and the news somehow spread. Tamurakonoe was the son of Sakanoue no Tamuramaro, the master of Western swordplay, and he was known as the fastest sword among experts of the same realm. He was regarded as a role model of the younger generation and was admired by many n.o.ble ladies in the Western land. Such a man was going to fight a genius samurai from the East. The news exploded throughout Yamas.h.i.+ro Province, the Land of Yamato, and was gradually spreading to neighboring countries.
At this time, only ten days had pa.s.sed since Tamurakonoe and Lily agreed on the battle.
Tamurakonoe was a man who knew how to use events to gain fame. He may not be the strongest among the younger generation of annihilation dojos, but his reputation was so great that he was considered as a model for the new generation of dojo samurai.
This time, he got rid of the bird demon’s chase and even disregarded finding Ui, instead prioritizing the delivery of the news to the dojo.
In water, the situation was volatile and unfavorable, but on land, he had full a.s.surance in winning against Lily!
If he defeats Kagami Lily, who is known as the number one genius in the East, not only would he be able to take the credit for killing the Mirror Girl, he would also become famous in both Kansai and Kanto! How could Tamurakonoe allow such an opportunity to slip him by? Of course, he was very smart and didn’t reveal much. He only released the news to some people in the dojo, and the rest happened naturally.
For a time, this became a major event that was widely spread among the samurai of Western land.
Currently, a group of samurai, pract.i.tioners, and their entourage, who were dressed in gorgeous, simple, and relatively strange clothes, disembarked from their vessels one after another.
During this period, some onmyojis dressed in high hats and black or white robes also came to spectate the battle. Samurai and omnyoji were distinguishable at a glance. Although some onmyojis were fitted with swords, most of them were tall and elegant with fair skin. Their aloof natures, postures, and mannerisms were telltale signs of their vocation.
Samurai, on the other hand, were mostly rugged, battle-hardened warriors with dark and st.u.r.dy figures. However, they were a bit less candid and more sinister than the Kanto samurai.
On the island, groups of people set up tents and camps under the oddly-shaped pine trees while waiting for the duel to begin.
Some people even went as far as cutting wood to set up a temporary high platform for eminent figures to spectate the battle.
The c.u.mulative noise from all the arriving people scared the small demons into hiding. These demons were fairly weak, so even when they were discovered snooping around, the samurai didn’t mind them too much.
Although this wasn’t a fight between peak experts of the East and West, the battle was seen as a confrontation between the younger generation of the respective regions, thus attracting a lot of attention and interest.
A few samurai garbed in straw raincoats stood in a corner of the island. Their accents revealed their ident.i.ties as southern samurai as they spoke and gestured at the festive camps.
“Do you guys know the opponent that Tamurakonoe will fight against?” “I heard that it’s the number one genius from Eastern land?” “A genius from the East? Not many Eastern warriors come all the way to the West, but each one is tough and brave. They are brutal and cruel people who aren’t afraid of death!” “I wonder who this genius is? What does he look like?” “The genius of Eastern Land must be a champion— he should be a rough and fierce guy with a big black beard!” “Yes, yes, Eastern warriors are rough! It’s said that three Western warriors are not the match of a single Eastern warrior of the same level. It is not a matter of strength; those guys just refuse to give up easily!” “I heard that Eastern samurai have the blood of the demon G.o.d within them! They are extremely bloodthirsty!” “Hey, I think you’re going a bit too far. Although the men of Eastern land are tough and resolute, they are still human like us!” “Let’s make a bet on whether the beard of the Eastern genius is more than a foot long!” “How can we bet on that? Your chance of winning is too big, right?”
Among the crowd of samurai lounging about, a group of samurai wearing red and white dojo uniforms stood out. They were one of the focal points of the upcoming duel— members from Tamurakonoe’s Maro dojo.
Although Tamuramaro himself didn’t come, his dojo was one of the more famous ones in the Sinless Domain. Most people tried to keep their distance and didn’t dare to disturb them.
“There has been some news. The express s.h.i.+p we sent to approach Master Tamurakonoe will arrive tomorrow!” One of the Maro dojo samurai with a crow on his arm informed the group.
“Excellent! After this battle, Tamurakonoe will definitely be able to overpower those few people and become the number one young samurai in our Sinless Domain’s annihilation dojo!” A tall, gray-haired samurai with eagle-like eyes affirmed.
This person was the number two figure among the ranks of the Maro dojo. He was also the uncle of Tamurakonoe, Sakanoue no Tamuramura.
At this moment, another large s.h.i.+p lumbered across the lake not far away. The s.h.i.+p was towering and majestic, with thick and mottled walls. Its st.u.r.dy outer frame was even marred with some menacingly huge claw marks.
“Look, what a big s.h.i.+p! “Ah, this isn’t a s.h.i.+p from Lake Biwa. That must be an a.s.sault wars.h.i.+p coming from the sea!”
A few southern samurai also exclaimed.
The big s.h.i.+p was moored not far away from the island and was unable to dock. Instead, several small boats were lowered, carrying a group of august samurai dressed in blue and white robes to sh.o.r.e.
Each samurai in the group wore grim expressions.
Sakanoue no Tamuramura wrinkled his grey eyebrows, “Unexpectedly, even they have come?”
At present, on the turquoise waters of Lake Biwa, Lily, dressed in a white and red kimono, stood on the bow of the canoe as she sailed westward. Since Lily was unfamiliar with the lake, she didn’t take the usual route. She only focused on adjusting her direction towards the west, inadvertently avoiding any potential obstacles along the way.
From the perspective of those who planned ambushes for Lily, this woman seemed to ‘disappear’ from Lake Biwa.
Water splashed behind the canoe as a few sakura blossoms danced at the stern. Lily used a small extension of her domain to propel the canoe forward so she didn’t have to paddle all the time. Although the speed was slower compared to full-blown paddling, she didn’t have to exert herself too much.
Lily wasn’t in a hurry anyway. Although the promised date was fifteen days later, it wasn’t easy to cross such a long distance, and the journey itself was dangerous. As long as it wasn’t deliberate, a few day’s worths of tardiness shouldn’t be a severe breach of contract.
This was a very common occurrence among battles between vagrants. After all, this era was dangerous and infested with demons so it wasn’t possible for people to be punctual all the time.
The sky soon darkened. It seemed that Lily would spend yet another lonely night on the lake.
Though she was unable to determine her position, Lily’s female intuition hinted that she was getting closer to Kansai.
The blowing wind stirred small waves on the surface of the water and caressed Lily’s long hair, invoking certain emotions in her heart. She developed to the point where she could travel to the Heian Dynasty by herself. From the time when she encountered the Night Parade of One Hundred Demons in Kamakura, to the point where she met Saionji Kotoka and Sakiko early on, her destiny was always aligned with Heian-kyō. Although she considered the East as her home, there wasn’t a way to awaken her senior sister’s soul there. Lily couldn’t help but think that the mission of the mirror girls had some sort of connection to the sleeping soul of her senior sister; this was her only clue.
“Kansai, that incredible place that I once distantly imagined— an incomparably dangerous place that encompa.s.ses thousands of kilometers of desolate land… I’m really about to reach Kansai!” “Senior Sister, Lily found a way to wake you up! I’m finally one step closer to reviving you, aren’t I?”
At this time, rolling thunderclouds eclipsed the sky and the waves grew increasingly turbulent, surging as if to reach the clouds. From time to time, the gloomy clouds roiled with flashes of lightning and growling thunder.
Amidst the raging waters and billowing winds, Lily’s small boat meandered around the cras.h.i.+ng waves and pushed onward.
Lily displayed excellent control as she used her two legs to steer the canoe. She focused on maintaining proper angle and balance in order to surf the waves.
In the distance, a lone samurai on horseback dashed across the lake while accompanied by thunder and lightning.
“Huh?” Lily blinked her eyes. Was it because she was too tired? She concentrated her spiritual vision and looked again…
She wasn’t hallucinating. There was indeed a figure of a samurai not too far away. The samurai sported an exaggerated helmet and rode a horse across the undulating lake as if it was flat ground.
A samurai riding a horse on the lake? What is this?!
Lily was dumbfounded, but the samurai on horseback seemed so real even after using her spiritual vision.
Moreover, the distance wasn’t very far so she obviously didn’t mistake what she saw. When she used her spiritual vision to study more closely, she realized that the samurai’s speed was amazingly fast!
Suddenly, Lily felt the gaze of the distant samurai as if the other party was looking back at her.
For some reason, she felt a chill run up her spine as she s.h.i.+vered involuntarily.
Rumble—! The sound of roaring thunder echoed.
The samurai galloped her horse across the lake and circled in her direction without losing any speed.
The silhouette of the approaching samurai grew bigger and bigger, allowing Lily to see her figure clearly. The closer she got, the more Lily admired the fast speed of the samurai.
Boom! Water splashed high into the air.
Almost instantly, the horse rushed to the front of Lily. Its four legs plowed through the water and it huffed out a soul-stirring neigh.1
- Silva: Why do I get this tingly feeling that it’s Uesugi Rei? I could be wrong but….
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