Volume 10 - Dream Eater: Chapter 19 – Asuka Princess
Lily gazed at the barren crater, a sudden thought striking her. With a graceful wave of her hand, she collected the fragments of the shattered gate within a storage jade. Meanwhile, on the other side of the mountains, Ayaka was readying a powerful defensive great arte, only to stop as she saw Lily approach, striding through the air. The shockwave’s intensity was a clear sign that the explosion was no minor occurrence.
“Lily, are you okay?” Ayaka called out.
“I’m fine,” Lily replied, joining the group. She sent a spirit probe to scan the nearby mountains, detecting battles still raging in some places. However, with the gate’s destruction, no more monster reinforcements would arrive. At present, dozens of throne-realmed demons were still nearby, and only half of the experts remained. Of the seven experts who had reached the mountain’s peak, half had fallen, and they couldn’t help but glance at the crater with anxiety.
“There are still some demons in the mountains; let’s go there,” Lily stated, choosing not to discuss the gate in front of Fuyuki and the others.
As antic.i.p.ated, the enemy numbers stopped increasing. After a short skirmish, no powerful demons were detected within ten miles.
“Lily, all the surrounding demons have been killed. Let’s return,” Ayaka said.
“Mm,” Lily nodded, looking up at the deep and dark night sky.
At the foot of Himeji city, several experts sat, bloodied and battered, awaiting the lift. Even though experts could easily scale the wall, city regulations prohibited such actions unless it was an emergency. So, they waited.
Lily’s eyes scanned the wounded experts, some with lost limbs, their clothes torn and blood-soaked. Hunting demons might have offered the chance to get rich overnight, but it was an opportunity purchased with their lives. For instance, Nendou would never return.
“Ahh! I didn’t think the monsters would be so powerful this time. My entire team didn’t make it,” a one-armed samurai lamented.
“My senior brother, to protect me he… sobs…” a swordswoman cried, collapsing in grief.
Lily and her group waited in respectful silence, allowing the injured to board the lift first.
“Aghh, what’s there to cry about, it’s so annoying!” a vagrant with purple braids snapped, his eyes sparking with lightning. “Hunting is a life-and-death battle! Since you’ve joined, then you should have the resolution!”
“Brother Aida, it seems you’ve achieved quite a bounty on this journey,” remarked a gigantic sumo, stepping forward. His immense respect for the slightly thin and average-sized Aida appeared somewhat odd.
“It was a decent haul,” Aida responded, br.i.m.m.i.n.g with confidence. “I took down a monarch, three sovereigns, and a few inconsequential demons. Unfortunately, a peak monarch escaped my grasp.”
Known as the number one expert of the expedition team, Hakurei Aida was an ultimate throned saint expert, a t.i.tle he wore proudly.
“Wow! Brother Aida, you’ve triumphed once again!” the peak monarch sumo exclaimed. “You defeated so many demons solo, and even made a peak monarch arch-demon flee! You must have clinched the top merit reward, and there might be extras too. How I envy you! I’ve had my eye on a specific palm technique, but it requires kingdom shares, and I just don’t have enough.”
“If kingdom shares are what you need, I can transfer some to you,” Aida offered with a boastful laugh. “I have plenty of merit shares. I’m a Senior, and I’m not interested in attracting disdain by marrying some princess. Money? I have no shortage of it!” He spoke loudly, making sure the wounded experts and beauties nearby could hear his proud proclamation.
The contrast between Aida’s glorious gains and the miserable state of the injured warriors was stark.
“Really? Brother Aida, would you truly transfer some merit shares to me?” the sumo asked.
“Show me what treasures you possess. Money holds no allure for me. Let’s trade shares for goods.”
“Brother Aida, I’ll buy you some beer when we get back to the castle!” the sumo promised, his face beaming.
After patiently waiting their turn, Lily’s group of seven boarded the lift. With s.p.a.ce for seven or eight, the lift provided room for the experts to maintain their dignified appearances.
Some, like the giant sumo, occupied the s.p.a.ce of five to six ordinary people. Many injured had to be carried on, causing Lily’s group to wait for several trips.
Once at the top, Kiryu rushed over, his face filled with relief. “Fuyuki! Thank goodness you’re alive! The reports of unusually powerful enemies and that horrific explosion had me truly worried.”
“Cousin, I owe my life to Sister Lily and these elder sisters. They’re all supreme experts! Without them, I might not have returned today.”
“Really…” Kiryu moved quickly to express his grat.i.tude. “Ladies, I can’t thank you enough. Follow me to your rooms. The celebration banquet is tonight, and Princess Asuka herself will welcome everyone.” His announcement brought elation even to the wounded experts.
“Ohhhh!!! That’s incredible!”
While many of the experts had partaken in the subjugation largely for the rewards, there was a sincere reverence for the princess in their hearts.
“Celebration banquet? Hmph, I’m unsure if I can spare the time to attend,” Aida said with a dismissive air
“Brother Aida, while others may choose to abstain, you must be there! How could it truly be a celebration banquet without your presence?” the sumo remarked, laying on the flattery thickly.
“Ahaha, we’ll see how it goes,” Aida replied nonchalantly.
“Fuyuki, everyone, it’s time for our farewells. The portion of merits we agreed to share will be settled,” Lily interjected.
“No, no, we did nothing to deserve a share of your merits, sister Lily. Merely returning alive is already a monumental favor from you. We will only accept the merits for the demons we slew,” Fuyuki protested.
“Don’t speak like that, Fuyuki. We made a promise, and it will be kept. Your refusal is unnecessary; let’s leave it at that.”
“This, that…” Fuyuki stammered, apparently not having considered just how substantial the merits might be.
Lily and her group were then escorted by Kiryu to a two-story pavilion house, reserved exclusively for female mercenaries. Kiryu led them to the second floor, explaining, “The rooms here are prepared for the ladies, and a bath is available in the backyard.”
Though the interior was kept spotless, it was obvious that the furnis.h.i.+ngs and the overall standards were markedly inferior to Heian-kyo. A vast chasm still separated the Asuka kingdom from the sophistication of the Heian dynasty.
“Please rest yourselves. When it’s time for the banquet, I will send someone to notify you. Oh, and one more thing: do present me with the corresponding proof of the demons hunted so I can record them for the merits to be awarded at the banquet
“Mm,” Lily responded, her acknowledgment accompanied by bursts of white light from the pavilion’s second-floor windows.
After a period of rest, Lily’s group made their way to the baths.
“This bathhouse…” Ayaka observed, looking at the damp floor and the rudimentary wooden cubicles draped with curtains. The absence of a natural hot spring in Himeji city was evident.
Upon choosing their respective cubicles, the women discovered that even a simple shower was an intricate mechanism in the Asuka kingdom. Ayaka had to fiddle with a beast-head spout and wooden handles before water gushed forth.
“This kingdom really loves its mechanisms
3. Who would’ve thought that taking a basic shower could be so complicated?” she grumbled, undressing.
Nevertheless, the shower proved to be a refres.h.i.+ng experience after a grueling battle, with adjustable temperature controls that produced hot or cold water as desired.
“They do have a knack for building mechanisms,” Ayaka conceded, luxuriating under the cascading water.
Refreshed by the bath, they donned yukatas and retired to their rooms, antic.i.p.ating the upcoming banquet. Before long, they were dressed in their usual attire, and a maid arrived to inform them that the festivities were about to begin.
The trio made their way out of the pavilion house, where Kiryu awaited them with a welcoming smile. “Ladies, welcome!” he greeted, leading them across wooden bridges and through winding corridors toward Tenshu Castle. Their destination was the fifth floor of the structure.
Upon arrival, they found the floor far more austere than antic.i.p.ated. Rather than a grand hall, it was a simple s.p.a.ce adorned mostly with weapons, and the occasional screens featured paintings of towering mountains and winding rivers. The decor was incongruous with what one might expect of a princess’ banquet hall. Multiple tables and chairs were already arranged within.
“Ladies, please take your seats,” Kiryu invited.
Without overthinking the matter, Lily and her companions seated themselves as directed, taking the front row on the left-hand side of the princess’ designated seat. The wooden tables were arranged to accommodate a single person at each.
“The banquet will commence shortly. Please remain in your seats while I attend to welcoming the other guests,” Kiryu informed them, bowing before making his exit.
Lily couldn’t help but notice a marked change in Kiryu’s demeanor towards them. Though he had been courteous from the outset, his treatment of them now was akin to that reserved for VIPs.
As the hall began to fill with experts, officials, and warriors from the Asuka kingdom, their eyes were drawn to Lily and her group, prominently seated at the front three chairs.
Hakurei Aida, followed by his sumo companion, made his entrance into the hall. Aida’s eyes narrowed as he spotted a woman in red seated in what he regarded as his usual place, causing him to frown and exclaim, “Hey!”
Lily, just as she was about to enjoy a sip of tea, was suddenly overshadowed by an immense figure. Looking up, she realized that the shadow was cast by the ma.s.sive sumo wrestler, who stood beside Hakurei Aida.
Once he had Lily’s attention, the sumo addressed her, his voice resonant and bold: “Madam, is this your first time attending? This seat has always been reserved for Brother Aida. Might I ask you to move
Robinxen: This guy is an *******… I can’t wait to see his face when he realises he’s been dethroned.
Silva: I’m foreseeing Aida is gonna make a scene when they presented the highest award to Lily later
Robinxen: Personally I prefer technological solutions myself too.
Silva: Yep, this is a direct slap to the face for the proud Aida