Book 4: Chapter 84: s.h.i.+mizu And Demon Residence
When s.h.i.+mizu woke up again, she found herself lying in a dim thatched hut. A faint light shone through the broken roof, illuminating dots of soot and flying insects. s.h.i.+mizu felt a bit dazed as she scanned her surroundings. The furnis.h.i.+ngs in the room differed from what she was used to.
The roof was high but relatively simple, supported by crude wooden pillars that were tacked with hanging sh.e.l.ls, feathers, animal skins, and other peculiar decorations— looking rather primitive.
There weren’t any people from the Heian Dynasty who decorate their homes like this.
She shook off the haze clouding her mind and checked her body first. To her relief, her clothes were still intact and there were no signs of any foul actions.
s.h.i.+mizu looked down and saw that she was lying on a shabby bamboo mat. There were also some bottles and jars in the corner of the room.
“This doesn’t look like an ordinary house. Where am I? Is it a nest for demons?”
No sooner than she said those words, a green humanoid tree frog wearing grey cloth walked in.
“You’re awake, woman.”
“Demon!” s.h.i.+mizu leaped up and reflexively reached her hand towards her waist. She didn’t know when, but she seemed to have lost her short sword. Since she was without a weapon, she adopted a martial arts fighting stance.
“Woman, what are you planning? I kindly dragged you back from the forest, but you want to hit me?” The tree frog leaned against the door in fright.
“What are you?” s.h.i.+mizu asked warily.
“You’re asking me? I don’t know what we are. Why did you come here?” The tree frog asked back, his fat white chin bulging between his words.
“I…” s.h.i.+mizu’s thoughts drifted. She followed the enlightenment inscribed in the ancient tomb, activated its mechanism, and entered the water gate to seek her own path. As for what awaited her on the other side, she was completely unaware.
“I was guided by the ancient will,” s.h.i.+mizu said with somewhat empty eyes.
“Hey, you’re not the first girl who came here looking all confused. It’s not a secret here. Just admit that you came looking for the unusual ancient jade, isn’t that right?” The tree frog croaked and sat cross-legged.
s.h.i.+mizu was startled. She re-a.s.sessed the tree frog. He was dressed in a plain grey cloth embroidered with two ancient patterns near the chest area. Overall, he didn’t seem very impressive.
“You know about the ancient jade?”
“Although we are demons, we are not the enemies of you female samurai. Our Tsukutsu clan has existed for generations, dedicated to specifically receiving you female samurai. If you want to know when it all started, then we’ll have to refer to my grandfather’s grandfather’s grandfather’s grandfather…”
“Okay, where exactly is this place?” s.h.i.+mizu interrupted.
“Ribbit, why are you such a rude woman? I dragged you into the village from the forest. There are many nefarious demons who want to nab female samurai, but I found you first— consider it your good luck! Forget it, if our clan didn’t rely on you female samurai for a living, I wouldn’t even bother with you.” The frog snarked.
“What do you mean?” s.h.i.+mizu raised her alert.
“Woman, you don’t have to be surprised, okay? Since you are here, you should put away your arrogance, otherwise, I won’t tell you the secret of this place. Let’s see how you’ll fare when you’re trapped here.” The tree frog puffed his chin.
“Hmph!” s.h.i.+mizu’s figure faded into an afterimage, instantly appearing behind the tree frog. She leaned down and locked his fat neck with her arm, “Answer my questions, or else don’t blame me for being impolite!”
“Agh-ribbit-ribbit-let go, let go of me! I…my neck— I can’t breathe.” The tree frog lurched and struggled against her grip.
s.h.i.+mizu released him after a while, “You better be honest.”
“Ribbit, hoo-hoo–” The frog lowered his head in a fl.u.s.ter and wiggled his webbed hands. His eyes suddenly widened as he stared blankly, “I don’t seem to have a neck?”
“My name is Keihachi. I am the son of the elder of this village. We call this village Chikuhachi. Many years ago, our clan silently awaited the arrival of the female samurai. However, few people came back then, but in recent years, more and more people have arrived. You can have a look if you want.” Keihachi explained.
s.h.i.+mizu got up and dubiously exited the thatched hut. She was slightly surprised by what she saw.
It was completely different from what she had imagined.
The warm sunlight peered through the towering trees, bristling the dark green misty village in beams of golden light, looking strange yet beautiful. The village wasn’t very big and most of its houses consisted of huts sheltered by palm-thatched roofs. In a clearing under the eaves, there was a bustling village market where various female warriors lolled about.
“This…” A mix of surprise and relief brushed s.h.i.+mizu’s face.
“How is it? It’s completely different from what you imagined, right? Although this village is situated in the middle of a forest of giant trees, it’s so lively. Well, it only became this way in the past few years. My grandfather said that he used to wait decades at a time for a single female samurai.” The tree frog babbled on.
“Keihachi, do you know where the Heian Dynasty is located from here?”
“The Heian Dynasty? A lot of women we’ve seen claim to be people from there. I don’t know whether we belong to the Heian Dynasty or not, but no one cares anyway. Even if you ask me, I have no idea what country that is. I’ve never left the forest of giant trees in my life. Grandfather said that this forest spans thousands of kilometers around.” While Keihachi was thinking, his body suddenly twitched and he spat out a long red line towards s.h.i.+mizu’s chest.
“What the h.e.l.l?!” She instinctively sidestepped the s...o...b..ry tongue.
Keihachi’s tongue latched onto a flying insect before rolling back into his mouth. He promptly swallowed and burped, looking wholly satisfied.
The still alarmed s.h.i.+mizu complained in a low voice, “How disgusting.”
Under the eaves not far away, a skimpily dressed female samurai with healthy dark skin walked up to s.h.i.+mizu, her short brown skirt revealing much of her slick thighs. She studied s.h.i.+mizu’s pretty clothes, snowy skin, and elegant air before speaking, “You are a newcomer from the capital, right? Are you here to look for the ancient jade?”
To be honest, s.h.i.+mizu’s burning expectations were doused by a bit of disappointment. She originally thought that she had received the great ancient guidance and embarked on a destined path that was solely her own. After all, the water gate that brought her here was so magical, but…this supposed chance pertaining to the ancient jade was dinner gossip that everyone already knew1.
“And you?” s.h.i.+mizu asked indifferently. She didn’t really like to interact with people.
“Of course I am! I’m from the country of Satsuma. I have been looking for the ancient jade for more than half a year, but unfortunately, I haven’t found it yet. Hahaha, my name is s.h.i.+madzu Inari. By the looks of it, you should be a n.o.ble lady from the capital, right? Hey, y’know, I kind of like your type.” The young woman seemed to have an exuberant personality, and her body exuded an aroma of sea salt2 that had been exposed to the sun for a long time.
s.h.i.+mizu issued a powerless sigh. She didn’t know where this mysterious and remote place was. Even if she revealed her name, no one would recognize her, “My name is Minamoto no s.h.i.+mizu. I’m from Kamakura.”
“Wow, wow! No wonder you’re so good-looking and graceful. You are a woman of the Genji Clan! Y’know, there are several Genji here but they are very arrogant, unlike you. I feel comfortable talking with you. Hey, by the way…where is Kamakura?” s.h.i.+madzu Inari asked, rubbing the back of her head.
s.h.i.+mizu was speechless, “Then let me ask you as well, where is Satsuma?”
Meanwhile, on Ryu Island, the once secluded isle was already booming with people, and the density of gathered samurai far surpa.s.sed those who roamed the streets of Heian-kyō.
Two hours remained before the agreed-upon duel between Lily and Tamurakonoe.
“Look, Sakanoue no Tamurakonoe! He’s coming out!” The surrounding samurai immediately focused their attention on the tall man.
Tamurakonoe was garbed in pure white robes, looking nonchalant. Without trying, his handsome face was enough to garner screams from many women.
He looked at the lake from afar, his fluttering long hair kept in place by his hairpin. The lake was now as tranquil and clear as the surface of a mirror, and all the spectators who should have come had already arrived. However, the other protagonist of their decisive battle, Kagami Lily, had yet to arrive.
There were still two hours left so Tamurakonoe wasn’t anxious.
He came to the place where the duel was scheduled to take place— a long empty sh.o.r.e paralleling the blue lake. All the spectators stood under the towering pine trees, leaving enough s.p.a.ce for the battle.
Tamurakonoe went to one side of the long beach, hugged his long sword to his chest, and sat down cross-legged to meditate. He closed his eyes in a regal manner, relaxing his mind.
“Wow, Lord Tamurakonoe is so handsome! So cool!” “He’s facing a battle to the death, yet he’s not nervous at all!” “What life and death battle? Blah blah blah! My Tamurakonoe will not lose to that bearded brute from the East3! “Your Tamurakonoe? Are you not ashamed?!”
No one knew when it started, but the image of the genius samurai of Eastern land was rumored to be a dark, savage, and bearded man with little graceful qualities. Among the many other versions, most people seemed to believe the current version as it fitted their impression of Eastern samurai the most.
In the crowd, there were two girls who acted slightly differently from the others. They were fair and pet.i.te with quiet expressions. They were dressed in elegant red and white miko outfits. Unlike the other women who practically screamed for Tamurakonoe’s attention, they remained composed.
“Sister Koko, why haven’t the Eastern samurai come yet?” One of the cute, oval-faced girls asked. She had brown twin-tails, and when she asked her question, her innocent eyes s.h.i.+mmered.
“Little Kyori, just watch quietly. This is a contest of strength between two great geniuses of the East and West. There will be a lot of insights worth learning.” The other girl was taller but stood less than 1.6 meters. Her black hair sported a ponytail, and her outfit was plain and more modest.
However, two hours soon pa.s.sed.
The genius samurai of Eastern land still didn’t arrive.
Three hours, four hours…
Many people grew impatient and even began to complain.
“I say, will that bearded man really come?” “He’s not reneging on the challenge because he’s afraid of Lord Tamurakone, right?” “Could he have gotten lost in Lake Biwa or was eaten by a big fish?” “Why isn’t he here yet?!” “It’s already past noon; it’s so hot!”
The spectating crowd began to stir in commotion, but Lake Biwa was still as calm as a mirror. There were no signs hailing the arrival of the Eastern land samurai.
- LazyButAmbitious: Author won’t give s.h.i.+mizu a break, I swear. Thought she would’ve gotten a power-up from way back at the deserted island.
- LazyButAmbitious: I’m not sure if that’s exactly pleasant. I don’t know if it’s the author’s love for sweat s.h.i.+ning through
- LazyButAmbitious: I keep imagining Lily with a beard now. Lol