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27 February 2012 @ 10:48 pm
Book 17 Chapter 24 永き夜を明けさせるために  
Directly translated from the original Japanese text.

Basics of this chapter: Naoe and Hakkai meet up with the Aso clan; the Shimazu hear of Iehisa's destruction; Mikuriya prepares to defend her city (school) against the Shimazu invasion; Chiaki with the Miike family when the situation takes a turn for the worse


The last flight from Tokyo landed at the Kumamoto airport just a few hours after the arrival of Yuzuru and Nobunaga.

A man reached the arrival hall together with his aides. Shiba had attracted attention for the wrong reasons. This man, however, was conspicuous as he was in a wheelchair, possibly due to illness. He seemed around 30 years of age by appearance. He wore a suit, which looked slightly different from the usual attire for business trips, that perfectly fitted his broad shoulders. Perhaps he was visually impaired as he wore a pair of pale-colored sunglasses.

As he exited with the crowd of other passengers, someone who had just arrived by car to pick him up, hurried towards him breathlessly.

That person was Hakkai. He had rushed to the airport after being notified moments ago.
The man took off his sunglasses and nodded at him.

"This is suicidal," Hakkai said unexpectedly once they got inside the car.

This was a rented vehicle as his car had unfortunately been burned in the recent battle. The man's aides were in another car. Hakkai was angry.

"Coming here in this body was an overly rash course of action to take. Whatever the circumstances may be, this is far too reckless. This is the body you received in Nikkou. Once you head out, there is no guarantee for your life."

"The situation calls for it. Please stop treating me like a sick patient."

"Do you fully comprehend it all? That body of yours is still far from meeting the conditions required to support life."

"Please do not concern yourself with my actions."

"But," Hakkai started to object but was interrupted by the man.

"The military collaboration with the Ootomo is the first important project of the new Uesugi. The 'Sun Power dam' will be the main military task of the Uesugi from now on and its success is essential. If we fail, there will be no future for the Uesugi. I wish to be onsite to give the directions."

"Of course, much more can be done by using your powers instead of a Wave. However if you were to unleash your full powers in your current state, I do not think your physical body can withstand it. To engage in fighting would be absurd."

"It will be fine. It will hold up."

"Impossible. I object to this."

Hakkai was obstinate. The man looked troubled but his resolve did not change.

"Can you tell me what happened after that?"

Hakkai replied through clenched teeth.

Kousaka had just barely managed to repel him. During that fight where both opponents refused to yield an inch, Kousaka had efficiently driven him back before they could come to a decisive finish. After that, Kousaka could not be found thus Hakkai decided to follow Naoe's tracks. In doing so, he finally came to the scene of the battle between Kaizaki and Kotarou though by the time he got there it seemed like everything was already over.

Kotarou was dead. He had been shot in the forehead.

"He died? Who killed him?"

Hakkai replied that he did not know. He suggested that it was perhaps the doing of the Shimazu.

"...Kaizaki Makoto managed to escape death. He is now under intensive care in the hospital."

"I see, " replied the man with a mournful sigh. "We have really done something inexcusable to him."

"Also, Kagetora-sama has...," Hakkai paused for a moment. "He has fallen into the hands of Akechi's company. My subordinates have confirmed this."

"..."

"My apologies."

He thought he would be blamed however the man remained uncommunicative. Although his gaze was sharp, his calm behavior reflected some measure of resolve. Hakkai continued with his report.

"The police are conducting an autopsy on Kotarou's dead vessel. I wonder if he has regained his strength by changing vessels."

"He will revert to Fuuma Kotarou I suppose."

"I expect he will rejoin Kagetora-sama."

"With the intention of taking him back to the Hojo," he added, recalling Kotarou's behavior in the mountains. Something had awakened in the heart of that mechanical doll. He was frightening due to the unpredictability of his actions. He would have exorcised him if it were possible at that time.

Hakkai drove towards the national highway.

"More importantly, we are now heading to Saiganden temple, the Ootomo's headquarters in Aso. Aso Koremitsu-dono and Kai no Souun-dono are both at Saiganden temple. The briefing on the 'Fire Wheel Technique' will be held there. They seem delighted that the general is personally going to see them."

"I see. How is the crater? What of the volcanic activity of Nakadake?"

"Access to the crater is still restricted and the installation of the technique platform is ongoing. According to the Ootomo, the volcanic activity is gradually approaching the conditions ideal for the malediction. The Shimazu's movements have also raised some concerns. It seems that once Sourin-kou has the Golden Snake Head in his possession, the orders are to waste no time in initiating the ceremony."

"Waste no time in initiating..."

"Sourin-kou will depart from Usuki tomorrow."

The so-called meeting would take place on the next day.
The man gazed at the side of Nakadake sunken in darkness with a gloomy expression.

"Also, the Ikkoushuu's retreat has been confirmed. It appears that the incitement at Kaga was successful. With this, we will have no natural enemies. Moving around will be easier."

"Ahh," said the man with a nod. His eyes turned cold.

This is revenge. Ikkoushuu.

While other places were left as they were, he was unrelenting towards Kaga. This decision was made for the sole purpose of retaliation for Shimozura Rairyuu's actions.

Nevertheless, I never imagined a body without freedom of movement would be this irritating.

He did not feel as though this body, with its many drawbacks, was really his. Although he behaved as though everything was fine in front of Hakkai, the truth was that slight movements were enough for him to break out in cold sweat and experience breathing difficulties. He only managed to come this far from sheer willpower alone. Indeed, perhaps it was a mistake to leave Nikkou at this point. ...It might have been safer to just use a Wave.

However, he had to come personally this time.
So as to not leave things as they were until it was too late.

I have to come, with these two legs.

He gave a sidelong glance at the mountainside of Eboushidake where he fought against Kotarou as the car sped along the national highway. They made a right turn in front of the Aso station and continued on to the road entrance of Kusasenri. Their destination of Saiganden temple was there.


This temple was not the only thing deeply associated with Aso.
In ancient times, when Mountain Buddhism flourished, there was an area at the peak of Mt. Aso known as Furubochu where 88 temple buildings had been built as though each had been constructed to compete with its neighbors. But only vast stretches of grassland could be seen if one were to take a walk in this place. Additionally, the sheer number of stone monuments made it difficult for one to imagine the look of this place in the olden days. However, like Mt. Hiei, this place probably saw a period where temples existed in abundance. Many priests and mountaineering ascetics must have worked hard in their daily ascetic training; there was no doubt it had once been an extremely busy place. The main temple building was Saiganden temple. It was said to be old residence of its founder, Saiei Tokushi.

Furubochu was apparently reduced to ashes during the riots of the Warring States era. With the efforts of Katou Kiyomasa, it was reestablished at the bottom of the mountain. This new development came to be known as Fumotobochu. And Saiganden temple was relocated from the top of the mountain to its current location.

The car arrived at Saiganden temple. The desolate main temple building, usually devoid of life, was now swarming with lights, causing one to wonder if there was a festival underway.
After alighting from the car, the welcoming party came out to usher them in. They ascended the flight of stone steps lined with elegant cedar groves to where the main temple building was. The entire building had a black tinge; it was truly a structure of the old ages. It did not look as big when viewed from the front thus its internal length came as a surprise to them. Some sort of Buddhist memorial service was being held inside.

Hakkai pushed the wheelchair past the bonfire, escorted by the retainers who had received them. Then a middle-aged man accompanied by a young man emerged from the interior of the hall.

"My apologies for having kept you waiting."

The older man's name was Kai Souun.
And the young man was Aso Koremitsu. He was the young head of the Aso clan during the Warring States era who had been falsely accused of 'Ikki Sendou' by his old enemies, Sagara's retainers, and had been executed by Hideyoshi. His current physical appearance was probably closely reflective of the age when he died.

"A long journey it must have been. Allow me to extend a most warm welcome. I am Aso Koremitsu."

The young man bowed deeply. The other party also bowed politely in response and said,

"Thank you for receiving us despite the cold weather."

"This is my first time meeting the gentlemen of Echigo. I hear snow accumulates in abundance in Echigo. Although we, too, have snow in Aso, I am curious about the experience of enduring snowfall so heavy that houses become buried. It is an occurrence beyond my imagination."

"It snows a lot less now than in the past, however the heavy snow tempers our legs and loins, granting strength to the warriors of Echigo. Snow ploughing also increases physical power."

The young man smiled innocently.
During his lifetime, he was barely three years old when he became the head of the Aso family. When the age of the riots came, the Aso family probably struggled hard to survive with a three-year-old lord. With all of their holdings taken away, he was the one lord in the history of the 90 generations of the Aso clan to fall into such ruin that he had to be protected by Narimasa and Kiyomasa. Naturally, his retainers could not help but sympathize with his plight.
Koremitsu's suicide by the sword took place at Mt. Hanaoka. A pine tree was planted as a memorial for his death. It was called the Aso Dono Matsu and the tree still stands today.

"This gentleman here is Kai Souun. I wonder if you have heard his name."

Souun lowered his head deeply when he was introduced. Souun was once part of the Aso family, a man renown throughout the entire land of Kyushu. He was the mainstay of the Aso family who offered support when the clan was surrounded by formidable enemies like the Shimazu and Ryuuzouji.

"Souun. I say this with a throbbing in my chest. Never have I imagined a day like this where we convene with the gentlemen affiliated with Uesugi Kenshin. This is amazing, truly amazing."

Koremitsu's cheeks flushed due his excitement. For some reason, the long-serving military warriors gazed at him tenderly. Both men had a favorable impression of him. They even felt a sense of nostalgia at certain points.

”Tomorrow, Sourin-kou will depart from Usuki. I believe he will reach Aso by nightfall. The meeting will be held here at Saiganden temple. Now, please enter. Hereafter, we will explain the details of the 'Fire Wheel Technique.'"

Following Souun's words, the lord and retainer of the Uesugi stepped into the main hall.

***

News of Shimazu Iehisa's defeat in Kumamoto soon reached the rear Shimazu army.
A retainer by the name of Asao, who had been with Iehisa, brought the news to Honmyouji.
The army was gathered in Northern Kumamoto at Uto castle. The general of the army assigned to capture Kumamoto was the military commander Shimazu Toshihisa. He was the third youngest of the four Shimazu brothers, the immediate elder brother of Iehisa.

"Iehisa has..."

Toshihisa stood rooted to the ground, at a loss for words.
The information was also promptly relayed to Yoshihisa, who was in their native land, via Yoshihiro. Among the brothers, Iehisa was the one with the greatest spiritual power. In his lifetime, he was a skilled campaigner, evident by the fact that he had destroyed Ryuuzouji's army of 30,000 men with only 3,000 soldiers, thus his contributions to the Shimazu invasion of Kyushu had been invaluable. After his resurrection, the brothers had high hopes for him. In order to expel the Oda and the Ootomo from Kyushu, Iehisa had personally volunteered to be the advance guard.

"My lord...! Please steady yourself!"

Saruwatari Nobumitsu came to Toshihisa's side to support him, the latter having lost his strength and fallen to his knees. Nobumitsu had once risked his life together with Iehisa in battle during Ryuuzouji's assault and was also a trusted friend.

"Nobumitsu. Iehisa has disappeared from this world."

Toshihisa's shoulder was trembling from fear.

"Reports say that his soul has been shattered."

"W...What!"

Toshihisa struck the floor with his fist, unable to bear it.

"He did not just disappear. His soul has.. his soul...! This must be the doing of the Ootomo at Kojou. Iehisa... Iehisa has vanished from this world, he has vanished from the other world as well!"

"Do you mean that Iehisa-sama can never be reincarnated? He no longer exists..."

Blood sputtered out from his lacerated fist. As Toshihisa's tears of anger streamed down his face, he glared in the direction of Kumamoto with eyes full of hatred.

"Of all things, the Ootomo has...!"

Of course, Nobunaga himself, not the Ootomo, was responsible for Iehisa's defeat. Nobunaga had allowed Asao to live for a reason. He had imprinted a piece of fabricated information in his mind and let him go. In doing so, Toshihisa and his company would not doubt the veracity of the report and believe in it.

Never to be reincarnated again, no longer exists...

Iehisa had hated Ootomo Sourin. Deep in his heart, he always harbored contempt for Sourin who had thrown himself at the mercy of the likes of Hideyoshi. Sourin's submission had given Hideyoshi an excuse to invade Kyushu.

Although his elder brothers endured humiliation when confronted with Hideyoshi's strength by surrendering, Iehisa alone did not bow down to him. Iehisa never withdrew from his desperate resistance thus Hideyoshi had him killed by poisoning. Toshihisa had decided to live up to such mettle shown by his younger brother and thereafter no longer submitted to Hideyoshi's will. Toshihisa's refusal to serve in the Korean expedition ultimately led to his decision to commit suicide. But even now, Toshihisa had no regrets over that incident.

Iehisa had chosen to revolt not only as a demonstration that he depended on his own strength for survival but more importantly, to live up to his pride as a Satsuma warrior. That was the kind of man he was.

--One day, the Satsuma will acquire the power to stir the whole country.

These were Iehisa's words when he wept bitter tears after his brothers decided to surrender to Hideyoshi. True to his words, during the Bakumatsu the Satsuma fiefdom, with Iehisa's descendant at its helm, became instrumental in leading the revolution that changed Japan.

--The power to correct the imbalance of the country will always manifest itself when the nation comes close to an end!

You, of all people, destroyed by the Ootomo...!

"We will take Kumamoto city, Iehisa."

Toshihisa fought back his tears and glared in the direction of Kumamoto.

"As a result of Iehisa's audacious struggle, the kekkai has been removed. This a battle for revenge. We must have recompense for Iehisa's death. Expel the Ootomo from Kyushu. The entire army is to move out towards Kumamoto!"

***

"My apologies, oyakata-sama!"

It was past 8 o'clock at night. The military operations meeting at the Kojou High School Student Association Executives room was in session when Yokoteno Gorou suddenly rushed in with a troubled look.

"Kumamoto's kekkai has vanished!"

"What did you say?"

"According to a spy on location, Katou Kiyomasa appeared at Honmyouji and apparently disabled the kekkai himself. Reports also say that Honmyouji is currently occupied by Kiyomasa. Furthermore, the Shimazu's large army have set out from Uto! It appears that they are marching straight towards the city!"

An uproar erupted among the shocked executive committee members. Only Mikuriya Juri reacted to Gorou's news in a calm manner.

"Silence. ...Silence, everyone!"

The people in her presence instantly quietened down when they heard her sharp, commanding voice. The executive committee members looked at Mikuriya as she slowly stood up.

"What good are commanders who are shaken? Steady your minds. This matter is to be expected. We will ambush the enemy."

Mikuriya sharply indicated on the map hanging on the white board.

"As I explained before, the Shimazu will not be launching any shore attacks because the Ariake sea has been blockaded. The battle strength of our army ground forces will be more than enough to repel the enemy. All of the students, soldiers inside and outside the castle are to be divided into two squadrons. Fortify Utoguchi, engage the enemy near the castle. As for Kiyomasa, dispatch our surveillance squad. He is waiting for an opportunity to sabotage our operations. Put him out of action. Muster all the students in the entire school in one hour. Prepare to sortie."

"Understood!"

"Communications officer, assemble the supervisors of every squad in the emergency meeting room. We will have a briefing on our strategy."

"Understood!"

They immediately headed to their duty stations after receiving their individual instructions from Mikuriya. Before long, the hymn broadcast inside the school was replaced with an instructive announcement to all the squads. Mikuriya entered the president's room, initiating the preparations for battle. From her window, the students outside could be seen busily hurrying about.

Please watch me, my lord. The manner of Julia's warfare.

***

Of late, the number of vehicles on the road would drop substantially inside the city whenever night came.
The National Highway Route 3 heading in the direction of Yatsushiro was no different; the amount of traffic just before nine o'clock was so scarce it might as well have been three o'clock in the morning. Wherever one looked, there was nothing but lines of street lamps along the highway.

"This feels really creepy, it's like we're not supposed to be using these roads."

While stopping at the red traffic light on the empty road, a transport truck driver muttered to the young man seated next to him.

"Not that it's against traffic regulations or anything but I wonder why it's so deserted."

"Doesn't it feel nice though, like the road is all ours? Looking at it reminds me of my younger days."

"Oi oi. Don't drive the truck like we're competing in a Zeroyon drag race."

"Well there're no opponents anyway," said the young man in the passenger seat. He stretched his body out of the window and stared out at the empty road behind him. There was truly not a single vehicle in sight. He found the empty highway reminiscent of a night car-free mall.

"Eh?" he suddenly exclaimed while staring at something.

"What's the matter? Saw a Porsche?"

"T...T-T-That.... aahhh...."

"What is it?"

Letting out a high-pitched shriek, he suddenly clung onto the driver.

"What," uttered the driver as he surveyed the back via the rear mirror. It seemed like a group of people were approaching from a distance.

Is there a demonstration at this hour?

That was not possible. To get a better look, he stuck his head out of the window and, just like the other man, his eyes were transfixed on the strange sight. With a deeply resonant clanging, something was approaching...

A procession of warriors...

All of them were clad in helmets and full armor. They were fully spread out across the road, their footsteps growing more audible as they drew closer. He wondered if this was part of some event however it did not make any sense for them to be parading at this time of the night.

The two of them inside the truck screamed when they saw the warriors' faces. They were skeletons. They were skeletons in armor. But that was not all. Despite their seemingly human form, they were anything but normal-looking. With eyes grotesquely sunken in on a bluish-white face, these blood-stained beings looked like the accursed, clad in tattered armor, staggering forward with swords and arrows sticking out of their bodies. There were headless ones and even lower-ranking soldiers with half of their bodies missing. Those straddled on horses were also armor-clad warriors with faces of the dead.

"Waaaaaa---!"

They were the dead. Onryou warriors...!
The sound of armor pressed nearer like a tsunami and within an instant the truck was swallowed right into the middle of the march. The warriors could be seen on all sides of the truck. A terrible number of onryou were marching towards Kumamoto on the national highway.

"What the hell is this...."

The young man did not even notice that he had wet his pants due to overwhelming fear. The military force of spirits flew their large flag. The flag had the emblem of a cross inside a circle. The driver grew even more terrified.

"S...Satsuma warriors.... they're Shimazu's. ...Eek!"

Suddenly the truck shook. The contingent of warriors were scrambling up and over the vehicle causing it to shake in the process.

"Waaaa---! Please rest in peace! Please don't kill us!"

Their screams were buried in the loud rumble as the truck overturned sideways. With complete disregard for the vehicle, the swarm of warriors continued north. The roads of Kumamoto city were just ahead of them.

The onryou warriors were invading Kumamoto.

***

"Ambush the Shimazu!"

All the students were gathered in the schoolyard at night. Mikuriya Juri stood on the stage often used for morning school assemblies, to make her address.

"The enemy army comprises 12000 men. However, war is not about numbers. Our army consists of a select few and every single one of you possess the power to match a thousand warriors. Be not afraid. You are strong! I have no doubt that you can crush the enemy!"

Mikuriya's long headband fluttered in the wind as she swung her fist with authority.

"Protect this city to the last man for this battle will be pivotal in the establishment of our earthly paradise. Entrust your lives to Julia! Unite your hearts in the fight against the invaders!"

The steady eyes of the 1200 beings in uniform had a singular focus as Mikuriya held her fist to her heart. The silver cross on her chest glittered.

Like an Asian 'Joan of Arc'

Irobe thought. In her lifetime, Julia had also led a personal army to fight for the Ootomo during the clan's decline. She was not to be taken lightly despite being a woman. She was a military commander a cut above the rest.

Irobe looked at the students. Among them was Koganezawa Kyouko. He also saw the faces of Endou and Emi. Not even Takaya would have expected these students to end up like this.

Magnificent leadership.

It was not only because of the jyako.
Julia was capable of commanding a large force even if she was primarily not one to use petty tricks.
She had a wondrous presence during her speech as she led her soldiers to something worth risking their lives for...

Why couldn't she use that power for the early Japanese Christians?

If she had wished to fight against the oppression, she could have succeeded like 'Amakusa Shirou'.

It may be unfair to say that.

The 'Zenibutsu' should still be there, concealed within her clothes.

"Let us fight for the kingdom of heaven! Let us become its foundations!"

The executive committee members stood in a row beside Mikuriya as she raised the morale of the troops. They were the commanders of the teams formed by dividing every squad into two. And there was another. Among those standing in the row, there was one outsider.
Narita Yuzuru.
He looked nervous.

Takaya really isn't here...

Yuzuru thought as he surveyed the students.

I must protect.

His fists balled up tightly as if to confirm the power pervading his body. After that encounter, Yuzuru had accepted Irobe's request for a favor.

--You have powers now. If fighting breaks out, please protect the students.

If Takaya were in his position, he would have done that.

--You can fill in for Kagetora-dono's absence.

Yuzuru felt inclined to so when he was told in this way.

I'll do my best here. Takaya.

"Be not the least bit afraid of the Shimazu! Advance, everybody!"

Mikuriya raised her fist to the top. As if saluting to demonstrate their agreement, the students raised their fists over their heads in unison.

***

The wind howled ominously as though it was throbbing with the roar of the warriors.
Living, flesh and blood soldiers ran out one after another from Kojou High School.

"In no time, the battle has started."

Oda Nobunaga and Katou Kiyomasa were looking down at the situation inside the city from the elevated platform behind Honmyouji.

"The Shimazu army isn't all that big, is it? Is that all the onryou they managed to gather?"

Nobunaga observed the city lights below, his belligerent eyes shining like they were dazzling.

"Don't you feel it, Kiyomasa? The Orochi is getting excited as it can sense the battle atmosphere."

"You mean Kihachi's head?!"

"It's resonating with the grudge of the Shimazu onryou. They are both defeated beings so they have something in common. That is not the only reason though. Ha! Is that Narita Yuzuru?"

Kiyomasa's expression stiffened.

"My Lord. Who is this Narita Yuzuru? He possesses such a unique power."

"Well, just watch, Kiyomasa. Very soon you will understand. Yes, I can see it, I can see it, I can see it. The 'Seed of the Demon King' moving through Kojou. Fufu, seems like he's planning to fight. What a brave guy."

Nobunaga understood it well as if everything was playing right into his hands.
The 'Seed of the Demon King' had thawed completely when he encountered it at Kumamoto airport.

"Now let it begin. Oda Nobunaga and the stage of Kumamoto."

***

Elsewhere, Chiaki together with Hokage and the others had returned to Asara's Miike family. She was then confined inside the Hitakiden under Haruya's instructions. The Hitakiden was a building structure used solely for Hitaki Shinto rituals. Inside, Hokage used the goshinka of the head family to set up a fire to signal the start of the Shinto ritual.

"Ahh!"

The fire she built suddenly blew past her, soaring inside the room like a dragon. The pattering of footsteps could be heard as Haruya rushed over, ducking when he entered to avoid the flying blaze.
The situation had turned dangerous.
Haruya's voice was nervous and shrill as he peered at the blaze.

"Such chaos from Kihachi-sama."

An unbelievable power had evidently gathered beside the shintai. The tremulous presence of Kihachi's power flooded the room like the blaze. Hokage was the shrine maiden for managing the fire. And the fire she built stimulated a response from Kihachi.
No, perhaps Hokage's own body was responsible for this response.

"Hokage. Can you suppress Kihachi-sama?"

"Ahh... Ahh...."

Hokage was in front of the blaze, both hands grasping her cheeks, trembling in fear.

"The blood inside my body... The blood inside me is full of it. Kihachi-sama is calling Asara's blood. Asara is screaming."

Hokage pressed her hands against her head, writhing about painfully.

"Oi, Hokage!"

Hokage hugged her own body, tossing about in agony. In order to suppress Kihachi, her own blood must be brought under control.
Haruya could no longer bear to just watch and held Hokage in his arms.

"I beg you, Hokage! Do not let Asara out. Shut out the other by whatever means necessary. If you suppress Asara, Kihachi-sama will be suppressed! Persevere despite the pain!"

As the force of the blaze increased at intervals, Hokage's struggle grew more desperate. At this rate, Asara would emerge. If Asara were to consume Hokage, Kihachi's onryou would definitely be released.

"Uhhh...Uhh...Uhhh....!"

Writhing in agony, Hokage's body was hot like burning steel.

What should I do...!

Haruya had a pained look on his face.
He was compelled to make a decision.


At that time, Chiaki and Tetsuya were at Shimo shrine waiting for Haruya and his company.
Seated under the light bulb hanging in the shelter, Tetsuya had remained silent for a long time. He fiddled with the pull tab of a can on the ground.

"Ow..."

He grumbled softly. It seemed like he had cut the tip of his finger by accident.

"What happened? You okay?"

Tetsuya stared at the blood seeping out of his fingertip for a brief moment.

"I wonder if my blood is tainted with Asara's grudge as well."

"...Miike."

"I might be carrying Asara's grudge inside me as I live."

"Not only Asara's," Chiaki mumbled while looking up at the moon above the telephone pole. "There are many, the grudges of various other guys are also mixed in."

"Sensei."

Indeed. With the onset of each generation, Asara's blood was progressively diluted. Therefore her grudge was also made weaker through the ages.

Perhaps that person's burden is greater than I expected.

While they were at Takachiho, Haruya had a gloomy face throughout, as though he was brooding over something. He was rather tight-lipped about it too. Chiaki was more concerned about him than Tetsuya and Hokage's unease.

One hour before the appointed time for the hostage exchange, Haruya finally came out of the Hitakiden. Noticing that Haruya was walking over from the opposite side of the dark road, Chiaki and Tetsuya stood up.


"Miike-san. Where is Hokage?"

"My apologies, Chiaki-sensei," Haruya muttered in a dispirited voice. "Circumstances have turned out such that Hokage cannot be taken away."

"What!" yelled Tetsuya. "What are you saying now! Inaba will be killed if Hokage doesn't come along! Do you understand what you're saying!"

Haruya suddenly prostrated himself on the ground. Tetsuya was shocked.

"I beg you. Please think of a way to save the hostage without Hokage. I beg you!"

"Uncle..."

Tetsuya was overcome with surprise. He would never even dream of seeing this uncle of his prostrate himself on the ground.

"U...Uncle, it won't work."

"Still, I beg you. This is the only way."

Chiaki placed his hand on Tetsuya's shoulder. The latter was still rather dumbfounded as he looked up at Chiaki and saw that he was looking at Haruya with a solemn expression. It seemed like he had expected this. He understood Haruya's intentions.

"The man is already begging on his knees. We can't just refuse him."

"..."

"Will you have no regrets? Miike-san. Truly?"

Haruya remained prostrate without lifting his face. Both of his hands were pressed firmly against the ground however Chiaki noticed them shaking a little.

"Let's go, Tetsuya. We'll save Inaba without Hokage."

"That's impossible, we won't be able to do it!"

"Impossible or not, we still have to try. C'mon, you can go in Hokage's stead. You can just wear some girl's clothes or something and pretend to be Hokage since you guys are twins. That's the kind of courage you should have at the very least."

"Sensei!"

Chiaki walked out, dragging along Tetsuya, who continued to protest. When Haruya finally stood up, they had made their way across the road. Haruya bowed at the small figures of them in the distance and returned to the Hitakiden.


Inside the Hitakiden, Hokage had a demonic expression as she grappled with Asara. In just a few hours, Hokage's face had become that of an old woman. Hokage looked up at Haruya in her dazed state.

"Ta...mamo...ri..."

Haruya narrowed his eyes painfully as he stepped beside Hokage.

Princess Asara...

Haruya knew that Asara's blood had already greatly thinned with the passage of time. Compared to the olden days where Asara frequently appeared, the past few generations have seen increasingly fewer occasions of her emergence.
Perhaps this would be her last appearance. Hokage might be the last Asara.

This is the last...

"Why did things have to turn out this way, Hokage..." Haruya uttered in a reflective manner. "Among the Tamamori of the generations, I may be the most unacceptable one. But I choose this."

"..."

"Perhaps Hideya's death at that time was a blessing to him."

Hokage had never seen Haruya with such an expression before. Her uncle, filled with nothing but fear, smiled for the first time. But what she thought was a smile was in fact an expression that masked his strenuous effort to hold back his tears.

"I will have to finish this, the crime of killing one's own child that Hideya did not commit..."

After telling her this, Haruya slowly wrapped his hands around Hokage's small neck.
His strength intensified.
Groaning, Hokage's fingers grasped at thin air. Haruya's hands were full of power as they firmly constricted Hokage's neck. Haruya did not shut his eyes. He would look at Hokage right until the very end. Growing pale, Hokage's lips trembled as if she was trying to say something.

"Uh... Uhhhh....Uh..."

A groan escaped Haruya's lips as he bore the pain in his heart.
Tears slid down his cheeks from the corner of his eyes.


"Miike-san intends to let Hokage die."

"!"

Chiaki mentioned on their way back to the head family. Tetsuya stopped in his tracks in shock.

"Wha....t!"

"If Asara emerges, Kihachi's spirit will no doubt be released. I know very well how terrible an onyrou that has survived the years can be. If released, Kihachi will act violently with reckless abandon and it'll be impossible to recover him. In order to prevent Asara from emerging, letting the host die is the most reliable way."

Tetsuya's face was drained of its color.

"It's possible that all previous instances of Asara's emergence were dealt with in the same way, buried by the hands of the respective Tamamori."

Tetsuya was absolutely speechless.
The Tamamori was always pressed to make a choice whenever Asara was born. If Kihachi were liberated, peace would cease to exist. Everything from the lives of the people to the health of the country would gradually be destroyed.
The Tamamori of the various generations were probably aware of the possibility of such a catastrophe. But as individuals, they might have unconsciously wished for it.

Haruya could not do it.
The Tamamori who could not do it were those who could not kill the girl who became Asara with their own hands. Thus they would be burdened with the crime of disobeying their ancestors. With the passing of each generation, many more perpetrated this crime. And before long, the worship of Kihachi changed into a prayer asking for forgiveness for the accumulated sins of the predecessors.
And the Miike were yet another family that contributed to this pile of sin.

"I... won't allow that."

Tetsuya said in a coarse voice.

"I don't care. I don't care about Asara or whatever! But I won't allow Hokage to die! That's the one thing I won't allow! I will never forgive that!"

"Tetsuya!"

He did not heed Chiaki's words and turned back. Tetsuya ran back to the Hitakiden. Suddenly, together with a thunderous roar, a pillar of fire appeared in the direction of the Hitakiden.

"What!"

Chiaki was startled by it and hurried back as well. A blaze flared up with a terribly violent sound. It was like a gas explosion. The Hitakiden was blown apart.
Then he saw two golden beings flying away from the flames.

That is...

"Miike-san!"

Chiaki dove into the burning ruins of the Hitakiden and found Haruya lying in the center of the dirt floor. He quickly helped him up. As they made their escape, one of the pillars began to fall...!

"Kuoooh!"

Chiaki used his powers to deflect it, successfully making it to the outside with Haruya. Tetsuya immediately ran to his uncle to give him shoulder support.

"Uncle! Hang on, Uncle!"

"Hokage has..."

Injured with burns, Haruya muttered through faint breaths.

"Hokage has... flown away. It's the flying ability of the Kihachi clan. I was too late. Asara's blood... has overpowered... Hokage."

"What?"

Haruya called out to Chiaki painfully.

"I... kept one thing... a secret from you. About the spirit... the sealed head."

"A secret? What is it?"

"Kihachi's spirit... is not the only thing...that was sealed. The people killed by the Yamato race, from the Kihachi clan -- an enormous swarm of onryou of the Himuka people."

"What!"

Haruya looked at Tetsuya with anguish.

"Give chase, Tetsuya... For you, can definitely call back Hokage from... Asara's blood."

Saying that, Haruya handed Chiaki a mirror he had been holding in his arm. The mirror belonged to the kamidana of the head family. On its back was a carving of the Big Dipper constellation.

"Please project... the blaze... Sensei... you should be able to see it..."

"I can see it but what is this?"

"This blaze is... synchronized with... Kihachi-sama. You should be able to see whatever Kihachi-sama sees... Hokage's whereabouts. Is probably... Kojou..."

The mirror glowed blue as the blaze began to form a projection just like he had said. Within the blaze, an image slowly emerged. It was an image of Kojou High. The place where the 'Golden Snake Head', Kihachi's head, was buried. He could clearly see Mikuriya and her company...!

What!

Chiaki was shocked again. He had seen something unbelievable in the mirror's reflection.
Narita Yuzuru. Narita Yuzuru was in the same place as Mikuriya and the others.

Why is Narita in Kumamoto!

"Sensei... I brought this... from Takachiho... the Paulownia box."

"Paulownia box?"

"Give that... to Tetsuya...I am certain... it will be useful."

"That's... What's inside!"

"A katana... from... Takachiho shrine---..."

It seemed like Haruya had exhausted the last of his strength with these words.

"Miike-san!"

"Hurry... please go..." Haruya uttered before losing consciousness. Before long, a fire engine and ambulance arrived. Chiaki and Tetsuya, entrusted with Haruya's request, stood up.

"We'll leave now and you bring that so-called katana. We're heading back to the school."

"The school?"

"Right. Hokage is going to Kojou High. We've to immediately pursue them in order to rescue Inaba. If you understand now, get going!"

With a nod, Tetsuya sprinted into action. Chiaki turned around and dashed towards the car.
 
 
Current Mood: determined
 
 
 
Myra: pic#115999617myra9 on February 27th, 2012 03:06 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for the newest chapter~!
amarissiaamarissia on February 27th, 2012 05:08 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
azu-chanallen93 on February 27th, 2012 06:04 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! XD
lufrolufro on February 27th, 2012 06:14 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much!!!
Yinghua: Ichigooooooprismangel on February 27th, 2012 09:45 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for the chapter <3
Cherub Katancherubkatan on February 27th, 2012 10:00 pm (UTC)
Oh my god I've been enjoying these since I found this. Thank you so much for translating these for us. Thank you very much
meganinhiding on February 28th, 2012 03:41 am (UTC)
Thank you; your translations are a real gift to the fandom.
kaliliankalilian on February 28th, 2012 04:10 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for the chapter! :)
Flaming Bluesarah3161 on February 28th, 2012 11:08 am (UTC)
thank you for sharing the new chapter ^_^
havi1966havi1966 on February 29th, 2012 11:24 am (UTC)
Thank you for translating this new chapter!
(Anonymous) on February 29th, 2012 06:43 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much!
psycho_witch_04psycho_witch_04 on March 2nd, 2012 08:17 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! I really enjoy reading your translations! :)
hpstrangelovehpstrangelove on March 8th, 2012 01:07 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for continuing to do this.
(Anonymous) on March 17th, 2012 08:47 pm (UTC)
THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!! no one else was translating anymore parts for a very long time so I thought it was all over for Mirage/ the fandom!
selvaspeedyselvaspeedy on May 25th, 2012 11:00 pm (UTC)
aww thank you for the translation. You're an awesome person taking from your personal time to translate for all of us. We all appreciate it <33
(Anonymous) on November 30th, 2012 02:40 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much for you work! Russian fans have no any other opportunity to know what are the next events. We want the next chapter very, very strong! Some of us have already lost their hopes to see the end of Naoe and Takaya"s love untill they die, but I still believe in mercy of translators).
fantasygirl49fantasygirl49 on August 29th, 2013 08:36 am (UTC)
great chapter, hopefully u will translate the next part as well, thanks for the translation btw.
(Anonymous) on April 6th, 2015 09:37 pm (UTC)

can't find vol 18 and 19, I really want to know what will happen after... In any case thank you so much , I had fun reading here!!!
I hope someday you can translate more :)
(Anonymous) on May 14th, 2017 08:08 pm (UTC)
Thanks you for the translation
What about the rest of this volume ?
And where are volumes 18 and 19?