Author’s note: I’m sorry, as expected I couldn’t end it in one chapter.
The next chapter will really be the last, so please keep reading for just a bit more!
A black tsunami was overrunning the sea of trees that was sinking into darkness.
What caused such sight was of course
The abyss lord who was laughing loudly for some reason.
A single person who raised thousands of loud laugh. The clones who were dispersing to all directions around the shrine were swallowing everything.
Whether it was the great swarm of “Shiki”, or the apparitions that were going out to the frontline, or the newly summoned ghosts, or the great many curses.
Or whether it was the practitioners of “Shadow Monk”.
Regardless of everything they were clone. It was meaningless no matter what they did, if a clone got dispersed, another clone would instantly pop out a new one.
There were clones who leaped from tree to tree and sticking to the surface like spider, clones who were slithering forward *zozozozo-* underground using earth tonjutsu, and among them there were even devia――clones who moved midair with a pose like a screeching hawk, and there were even deviants who walked like model with speed so fast they looked disgusting.
It would be bad to take on such army head on. In various meanings! Thinking that, some tried to wait for them to pass through while hidden under invisibility to head toward the shrine later on, but……
「「「「「You bastard-, you were looking huh!!」」」」」
They weren’t. Rather, they were averting their gaze from the sight with all their strength.
And yet, they were found. Those who were properly laying out barrier of invisibility using spell or talisman still fared better, but the individual who was in the middle of moving while using invisibility got seen through right away.
The sight of five clones simultaneously turning their gazes at the same spot caused great shivers. If it was an ordinary person who encountered such thing deep inside a forest like this, they would definitely get traumatized――
No, there was no doubt that their SAN value would instantly drop like rock. Perhaps they would fall into madness and wanted to die by smashing their head on the tree root around them.
Of course, the one facing such horror right now was a group with firm resolve from the start. They were people who were already falling into madness from getting affected by the thought of the “Dragon”.
They wouldn’t feel anything like fear. They instinctually drew back at such sight but, they firmly held their ground!
They instantly chanted the mantra of deadly curse. Three people at the same time. It was an overkill just to end the life of one person.
Although, they were slow. Despairingly so.
「――Stylish Palm StrikeAvidya Strike Coming Out of th-」
Three clones properly divided the targets and yelled a meaningless skill name. At the same time they pointlessly synchronized with each other while each landed a palm strike toward the three casters.
*Kahah* The three “Shadow Monks” let out a short gasp as their consciousness was blown away. Their body swayed before falling――before that happened, 「「「FUHAHAHAHAH」」」 the clones laughed loudly and swept away their bodies. They vanished into the darkness of the sea of trees like abyss.
It was a nightmare. A horror. It felt like this would lead to a new urban legend.
What would happen to those kidnapped three? At the very least the practitioners of “Shadow Monk” didn’t know what fate would befall them.
Getting taken prisoner was the greatest taboo of their organization, however, the word retreat didn’t exist in their dictionary right now. Therefore,
『Run――it will be our win if any one of us can arrive at the shrine!!』
The words in main land language welled out. The “Shadow Monks” who had offered their life for the sake of their homeland had easily displayed the involvement of their homeland. However even with such blunder committed, none of them paid any attention to it.
They simply advanced forward regardless of their comrade’s sacrifice or the disadvantage brought to their homeland.
「You won’t pass!!」
「Where are you looking!」
「Rana is looking-」
「The tension is running high huhh-」
It was already unclear who they were talking to. But, one “Shadow Monk” confronted more than ten lord’s clones to hold them back. He allowed his comrades to go ahead while his right hand was drawing out something from his left sleeve.
At the same time, his hand immediately swept out.
One clone’s body was forced to part from his head.
Astonishingly, it seemed to be a kind of sword drawing art. A weapon made from charms that were bundled into the shape of double edged sword was grasped in the practitioner’s hand before anyone knew it.
In the “Shadow Monk”, he was a practitioner who competed for the first or second place for sword skill――Taidao YingGuandao Shadow.
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The charm sword he was using was normally just a talisman, because of that it could be put anywhere. He instantly bundled it into a blade while also activating the charm’s effect――”cutting” and “invisible” at the same time, resulting in an unseen slash.
It was a magnificent attack that took even the lord by surprise.
「Are you alright-, another me!」
「Fuh. This one, is resurrected!!」
「Here is the energetic Abyssgate-chan!」
Taidao Ying thought. I don’t understand what they’re saying but, these guys, they are fucking screwing around-. It was obvious with how they all were making strange poses for every sentence.
And then, even while the clones were doing self-produced birthday party, another clone slipperily appeared behind Taidao Ying.
When the clone’s short sword touched lightly, electric shock flowed. Taidao Ying got shocked *abababa* and fainted with the white of his eyes showing.
「Fuumu, how mysterious. Just what in the world are they thinking.」
One clone lifted Taidao Ying on his shoulder and vanished into darkness.
The lord muttered while seeing that off.
He was defeating the “Shadow Monk” steadily. Several of them had been turned into villagers, and as the result he had also determined their total number.
With this pace, thing would be taken care of in less than a hour.
「Though from the start, Fukube-dono wished for them to “not be killed within limitation”……」
It was a diplomatic matter. Even if the main land abandoned the “Shadow Monk” and insisted that they knew nothing about this, they also wouldn’t be able to pull back as a country if their precious combat force was slaughtered.
It wouldn’t be desirable to leave behind ill feeling in the world where supernatural power would become widely known from here on.
Of course, there was no greater priority than defending the shrine. If necessary he also wouldn’t hesitate to annihilate the enemy. Fukube completely left the decision for that to the lord as the one right in the thick of it.
「It seems that our demon king also thought of the future and chose justice penalty as punishment, and this one too think this is better than being told “Kill them all!” though……」
「This is beyond comprehension.」
Yes, when they judged that there was nothing else they could do, they would try to commit suicide without hesitation. And then it seemed their death became the trigger that immediately turned them into intermediary for curse that polluted the surrounding.
And so, after neutralizing them, the lord immediately restrained them and carried them toward the onmyouji to exorcise them along with the cursed item on their body. That was the optimum solution.
But, that was exactly why this was strange.
This was a suicide attack seeking for honorable defeat. That in itself wasn’t strange considering how the man in black at Tsuchimikado’s main residence and the woman who disguised herself as Tsubaki resolved themselves to become sacrifice.
Regardless of their method, it was already known that they wouldn’t hesitate to risk their life for the sake of their homeland.
But, these people weren’t incompetent by any means.
The man in black and fake Tsubaki, they discarded their life because it was necessary for their mission.
But, what about this charge right now? The difference from the logical attack at the beginning where they heaped cautiousness on top of cautiousness was like heaven and earth. This was like a rampage that was caused by a kid who got into a fit.
「Is this, because of that?」
「The thought of the “Dragon” huh?」
「I have a bad premonition.」
「Well, in any case, there won’t be any problem if they all become swallowed by our abyss though!」
「「「「「Indeed! Indeed! Indeeed!!」」」」」
The lord was getting heated up. But, it was sad. He was talking to himself.
The soliloquizing came to an end and the clones dispersed even further into the sea of trees.
There, the main body shared information.
It seemed there was a group of “Shadow Monk” that astonishingly shook off the pursuit of great amount of clone army and closed the distance until the shrine. They were elites among elites. In other words,
「Hou, so it’s finally the entrance of the boss!」
「To be able to slip through our net, even though they are the enemy I can only say splendid, magnificent!」
「They can’t escape from this one’s eye!」
FUHAHAH, FUHAHAHAHAH!! Lively soliloquizing and loud laugh echoed through the sea of trees at night.
The last battle against “Shadow Monk” had began at the main body’s location.
「――”Disperse the divided bodies and kneel”-」
A piercing cry of fighting spirit reverberated. However that female voice had a trace of youthfulness in it.
It was a fluent Japanese language. But, the one who spoke those words was a genuine “Shadow Monk” with small build――”Ying HuShadow Play”. She was a young Taoist with the best language capability in the organization and specialized in the technique of “words of power” to bind and guide the opponent’s mind.
Although, her opponent was too bad for her.
「If thy wish to rule me!」
「It has to be at the level of “Divine Word” at least!!」
In addition of his natural resistance, artifact for countermeasure against the thought of the “Dragon” ――”Spirit Shell” had been provided to everyone here. It completely blocked the mind attack. And so, there was already nothing that could stand in the way of the lord.
“Ying Hu” crumbled when an elbow blow landed on her solar plexus.
Ignoring that, the spell of “Shadow Monk” that supported the greatest quantity in this place surged.
『Fuu――h, fuu―h. Boundary oracle all cessation of suffering of life and death increase of mind and spirit wound and curse of every demon by the decree of the imperial command!!』
“Ying Cong” tightly grasped a fragment of the “Mirror” while breathing heavily. He thrust out both of his hands that were dyed crimson with flowing blood. Great amount of “Shiki” immediately flooded out.
He had top class amount of mystical force even within the “Shadow Monk”. The number of “Shiki” he could produce in one sitting was beyond normal.
Even so, although he had managed to approach until within the distance of 50 meter from the shrine using invisibility at full force after making all the other most elite members of “Shadow Monk” into bait, he was discovered and after that the number of “Shiki” that had been sent back in less than several minutes was already more than 300.
His skill in replenishing the erased Shiki in great amount from the beginning could only be described as splendid, but even the “Shiki” that numbered more than 200 which he newly created by shaving off his life force were……
「How truly absurd, to challenge this one in the battle of number!」
They were crushed head on by 200 lords. A scorching hot short sword and a short sword clad in wind blade bisected a “Shiki” with a single stroke. The exploding ground and twelve shining kunais that were flying around freely to every direction tore apart the “Shikis” along with the darkness of the night.
A new spell resounded in the attempt to overturn that unfavorable situation.
『This spell call out for the sea of clouds. This sea of clouds is the malice of evil spirits and revengeful ghost. P cloud of calamity, o eight fold clouds of impurity! Stain the life of the livings!』
It was the spell technique of Yun Ying (Cloud Shadow) who controlled the smoke of poisonous gas that violated the person it touched with disease.
The overflowing poisonous smoke covered the surrounding area in the blink of eye――just before that happened,
「――Demonic Wind of Abyss (The breath of darkness blowing)!!」
The lords formed an unnecessary hand seal with both hands and eight of them blew out at the same time. Of course, there was no meaning to that gesture. A gale that originated from wind element magic formed and blew away all the cloud of disease.
The clones closed the distance as though riding on that wind. Without pause they launched flying kick at the “Shadow Monks”.
At the same time, five clones walked backward in high speed with a Moon Walk so smooth it looked disgusting.
「I should have said before that it’s impossible to deceive this one’s eyes!」
Even the elite subordinates were used as bait to advance forward, always forward. One person, the boss of “Shadow Monk” ――”Zhen Ying” tried to break through the lord’s defensive line. The clones caught up toward his left and right with Moon Walk.
With them as bait, a lord assaulted from the blindspot right above with the pose of raging hawk.
It was responded by a quiet voice. But the result from it was terrific.
A newcomer came from further above the flying lord. The newcomer wore black clothes and mask of blood colored pentagram but, it wasn’t a “Shadow Monk”. The lord’s instinct warned him of that.
He immediately produced one more clone while still in the pose of a raging hawk to deal with the enemy above but……
The clone was beaten down by countless pillars of pressure that rained down. It thoroughly included even the clones that were in the middle of moon walking. Impact burst out and three clones were astonishingly erased.
As expected the lord stopped posing like a raging hawk in this situation. The main body used dust as foothold to somersault and let out two consecutive slashes of short sword to tear apart the newcomer that had approached right in front of him. But,
A shock once more. The two slashes that should be swung with inhuman speed were parried by caressing the flat of the blades with bare hands of all things.
Furthermore, without pause an elbow strike was unleashed with a smooth flowing motion.
The lord immediately blocked with his knee, but an impact that was beyond imagination transmitted through his body. Although his eyes snapped wide open in amazement, the lord kicked on dust again to rotate midair like a spinning wheel while taking the higher position.
It was a technique that most human was unable to do. A perfect taking of the blind spot.
But, the newcomer reacted even against that. They similarly somersaulted midair as well as stopping midair before unleashing extremely flowing combo.
「The ability of Feijiang is master level martial art! In addition is its inhuman physical strength!」
「What are you!」
『Just a doddering old man.』
「「「!? IT TAAAAAAAALLKKEEEEEEED!?」」」
The lord produced clones to attack “Zhen Ying” even while yelling. At the same time the main body was getting embroiled into super high speed midair combat against the martial art master before his eyes who could fly freely.
Bluntly speaking, the lord was completely inferior when it came to purely martial art skill.
A heavily profound pressure was pressing down on him, as though the opponent before him had spent several hundreds of years polishing his martial art.
It was no wonder. His true identity was,
He was a high ranked Jiangshi, in other words, Chinese hopping zombie.
Actually Jiangshi was graded from 1 to 8. The standard Jiangshi that often appeared in movie was mostly rank 1 until rank 3 Jiangshi.
Rank 5 Jiangshi that had obtained power of Buddhism and the ability to fly freely, while at the same time retaining their full intelligence when alive, that was Feijiang.
He was an ancestor of “Zhen Ying”, one of the protector of their family lineage. He had continued polishing his martial art for hundreds of years and even obtained powerful power of Buddhism. He was so to speak like what Hinata would call as “Zenki”.
Even though the difference in specs was clear, this was an existence who excelled the most in pure martial art among all the opponents that the lord had faced until now. With his godly skill, he endured the lord’s attacks and barely succeeded in holding back the lord.
And then, even the clones that went to defeat “Zhen Ying” were also waylaid by even more newcomer.
『Shikigami summoning――Luosha Niao (Rakshasa Bird)』
“Zhen Ying” threw a charm that was dyed black with white letters written on it. Right away, that charm shifted and materialized an apparition.
Its Japanese name was “Rasetsu Chou”. It had the form of a crane with grey body, beak that was like a hook, and large white claws. It was a monster that took form from the accumulation of yin aura drifting in graveyard. In legend it was said to like to steal human’s eyeball.
Perhaps because of such origin story, Luosha Niao matched its gaze with a clone and opened its beak. The moment a strange cry came out from there, the clone’s gaze was locked in darkness.
It seemed that it had the ability to rob the opponent’s sight.
Then another clones came from the opposite side and the back in respond but,
『Shikigami summoning――Feng Xi, Yu, Xiang Liu』
Three black charms were scattered to the air. At the same time three apparitions manifested and held back the clones.
「Huge! Hard! Normal slash doesn’t work at it!」
――Apparition Feng Xi
It had the form of a huge boar. It had monstrous strength and normal blade wouldn’t pass its fur. One clone slashed at it but he was unable to cut it. It even got sent flying by its terrifying charging power.
「Hmph, too naiveeeee!?」
A beetle monster that looked like three legged soft-shelled turtle with wings. It was also called with another name of “Shui Nu”. By holding sand in its mouth and shooting it, the opponent that got hit by it would have disease of fever and headache that could kill be planted inside them.
The clone dodged the sands that were scattered like buck shot but one grain grazed him. His consciousness turned hazy from just that. He immediately created another clone while the affected clone dispersed to neutralize the disease, but the disease sands kept being fired in spreading radius. It became a barrage that didn’t allow the clones to approach the apparition.
「Damn youuu! This one object to this nature destruction!!」
「How about I turned those countless necks into reef knot!」
――Apparition Xiang Liu
A large snake monster that had nine human heads. Its ugly faces were cackling nastily. As befitting that ugliness, it was spraying poisonous liquid from its body. The plants of the sea of trees that got touched were immediately polluted and decayed.
Like that, the clones at the left, right, and back got held back although only for a bit of time. With that “Zhen Ying” went even further,
『Haa haa, Shikigami summoning! ――”Gui Da Qiang”!!』
Its nickname was Mohekiki. An apparition that surrounded the opponent with mud wall at four directions to make them unable to move. The apparition with the nature of hindering the path of human was used as barrier at this moment.
Thirty meters remaining.
The apparition mowed down the trees, made the hardened lava ground to bulge up into a tunnel, creating an unobstructed path to run through.
And then, to make doubly sure.
『Jade Emperor’s imperial decree the four cardinal directions of the divine inkstone the five elements the oracle of thunder and storm-』
The recoil from overusing spells came. He got a coughing fit as well as coughing blood at the same time. The inside of his body was terribly painful. At the same time the compensation of manifesting multiple apparitions simultaneously also came attacking.
But, his feet didn’t stop.
Even if his objective and method had been reversed due to the thought of the “Dragon”, that was only the matter of replacing the direction of his “resolve” that he had possessed since the start. Its weight, its solidness wasn’t wavering at the slightest.
(It’s fine even if I don’t go inside the shrine. My curse will reach if I can arrive until several meter in front of the entrance! If I can go until there, I don’t care even if this body rot-!!)
His vast and earnest patriotism was pushing his deathly desperate rush.
Without even noticing how unnatural it was that he could know the required range in case the curse itself mutated,
(Everything is for the sake of the homeland (Dragon)!!)
He simply charged straight forward.
――There was only twenty more meters until the shrine.
「Impressive feat! But, the road is closed from here!」
The left and ride sides of the improvised tunnel were blown away and the lord rushed to block the path.
Of all things to happen, he had to face with such an absurd existence. Such feeling that could be expressed with a bitter smile welled up somewhere inside his heart. Such feeling conversely caused a fearless smile to form behind the mask.
『Light scouring thunderclap lightning inverse by the decree of the imperial edict-!!』
Lightning dyed the field of vision white. A beat later a thunderous sound that tore the eardrums surged out and everything on the tunnel path was erased.
It was the trump card of “Zhen Ying” ――the secret art of lightning summoning.
It was a play for all or nothing. He unleashed the secret art to buy time even if just for a bit. With that his body finally reached the limit.
His consciousness almost flew away. His sight was misty. Strength was leaving his limbs.
But, the remaining distance until his destination was――ten meters.
His field of vision was blocked by the dusts that were floating in the air. Even so, just a bit more. It was really just several more meters.
If he could advance until that far, he could entrust the rest to other.
There was the reserve cursed object that he swallowed before the mission. On top of that there were the many layers of technique that he had accumulated. Even if the princess of Fujiwara tried to use her exorcism technique, she shouldn’t be able to dispel them right away.
Several seconds, if he had that much then it would be possible to pollute the shrine even from outside. If that happened then the resurrection of the “Dragon” would also succeed.
A triumphant smile formed on the lips of “Zhen Ying” ――
『It’s our win――』
「No, it’s our win.」
*Tap* a light touch came from his stomach. 『Ah?』 When he lowered his gaze, there was the lord there having crawling on the ground unnoticed through the dust cloud and thrusting his short sword.
「It’s a bit painful you know? I’m speaking from experience. There is no doubt.」
What are you, without even any time to say that, the lord’s hand plunged in. The foreign item that was inserted into his stomach caused intense pain that assaulted him a moment later. His consciousness that almost flew away came back in a flash, then it almost shut down again. His consciousness flickered on and off.
He couldn’t even move by the intense pain that made him unable to even scream.
「Endure it. It shouldn’t be your wish to end simply as a disposable pawn despite possessing such amount of mettle within you.」
『Higuh, Giiih, yo, you-――』
His body crumbled on its own. What he could do was only glaring.
But, he understood from glaring like that. Just what had been done to him.
The lord’s hand was pulled out. His blood soaked hand was holding a small fang. That thing was pulsing *thump thump* while trickling with muddy black miasma. It was undoubtedly the cursed item that “Zhen Ying” swallowed.
「Doctor Arachne! C’mon-, puhlease!!」(Note: The lord is speaking in Engrish here)
Doctor Arachne leaped and injected regeneration magic to the collapsed “Zhen Ying”.
「Princess! You have recovered haven’t you?」
「There is no problem.」
The dust was swept away by a gale. The wind was caused by Hidzuki’s slap.
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Hinata walked through the area that had been cleared from anything that blocked the view.
「―― Sacred flame pure and clear Sacred water pure and clear Sacred wind pure and clear」
She was speaking the words of power for exorcising malice in Shinto while sweeping with one hand that was forming sword hand seal. In addition, she used several charms that she took out from her breast pocket to envelop the cursed item. With that the abnormal presence became quiet as though it was holding its breath. Although it couldn’t be exorcised immediately, it seemed it was possible to reduce the curse’s power so that it could be sealed later.
The intense pain in his stomach settled down slightly, however his body that was already at the limit couldn’t even move anymore. “Zhen Ying” was grinding his teeth as the lord informed him.
『The last “Shadow Mon” has been neutralized just now.』
“Zhen Ying” jerked a little. He seemed to be surprised by the fluent native language of his homeland that came out from the lord’s mouth. It was only natural because he didn’t know anything about the fantasy power like “Language Comprehension” that removed the language barrier.
Although, even that surprise only lasted a moment. He immediately began to radiate hateful aura and his face moved slightly. He must be confirming the situation through his mask.
The view of the out of place enemy force around the shrine was reflected in his eyes. The personnel from Britain and Vatican who were here for some reason. An unknown cosplay group who came from who knew where. Naturally, that included the great amount of clones.
The onmyouji only numbered ten odd people including Hinata, but even that,
「Your comrades are being secured at some distance away from here. The number of the death is few.」
It must be something like that.
In fact, they had been put inside a cage made from earth tonjutsu that was covered with exorcist’s barrier, and injected with Hauria’s special paralyzing poison that had been improved by Emily-chan. Far from moving, even their mind was in a sluggish state right now.
Even the summoned apparitions had already been dispelled. Only Feijiang was still here because he was an existence made by technique that used actual corpse, but even he was put in restrain.
And most of all, it was clear that he had no more chance of victory anymore.
That was the grave fact.
『This isn’t the end.』
The voice was filled with a terrifying amount of resentment.
『Everything is for the sake of the “Dragon”-』
He still had his flesh body. He also had his life. Then he couldn’t possibly stop. It was impossible for him to give up.
Vigor surged inside him. Rather than persistence, it was already in the territory of madness.
That was why, the lord purposefully said the truth. In order to come to the crux of the present situation of the “Shadow Monk”.
『Listen well, o shadow of great nation. This so called “Dragon” that all of you are trying to revive is not such an adorable existence that can be kept within humanity’s grasp.』
『Shut up. What do you kno ――』
『This “Dragon” is this country Japan itself. It’s an apparition with a gigantic body that is the Japan archipelago. Do you know what does that mean?』
That was a truth that was like a word of power that pierced into the vital spot of them who were like a mass of patriotism.
『If the “Dragon” is resurrected, you won’t have any chance to obtain the sacred land of Japan. In the worst case it will invite a danger of world’s destruction. Naturally, your beloved homeland won’t be an exception.』
He was staking his life with all his strength for the destruction of his homeland.
That implicit statement definitely reached him. The radio contact was turned on, so even the Taoists of “Shadow Monk” who were restrained at other location should also be hearing this.
In the end, how would they accept this? What kind of reaction they would show……
Scornful laughter leaked out from “Zhen Ying” that was previously falling silent.
『I told you everything is for the sake of the “Dragon”! Our homeland exist for the sake of the revival of the “Dragon”. We exist for that! That’s the only thing that will benefit our homeland!』
“Zhen Ying” yelled and laughed like mad. The same mad laughter also resounded from the other side of the radio.
The lord sighed and turned to his comrades with a shrug.
「This is the height of nonsense. It’s settled.」
「As we thought, they are being affected by the thought of the “Dragon” aren’t they?」
「However, according to what his majesty said, shouldn’t it only slightly affect the subconscious mind?」
「It’s getting stronger, is that what this mean?」
The hypothesis that Rana spoke of must be correct. Vanessa’s question and Claudia’s hypothesis must be right on the mark too without a doubt.
「Well, after running wild to this degree in this land of sealing, it’s no wonder that anybody couldst be affected so.」
It would be great if Hidzuki’s optimistic words were correct, but……
For some reason, even though the battle had been won, the alarm bell that was ringing at the depth of his instinct still didn’t stop. The lord grimaced without even screwing around.
Hinata said 「In any case」 as she stepped forward in order to bring an end to the fight for real.
When she looked back across her shoulder toward Taisei and the elderly nobleman, they responded with an understanding nod and contacted using radio toward their clansmen who were guarding the prisoners.
A beat later, Hinata pressed her hands together and took a deep breath.
「如医善 (Nyoizen) 方便(Houben) 為治 (Iji) 狂子故(Houshiko) 顚狂 (Ten’ou) 荒乱 (Kouran) 作大 正念(Sadai Shounen) 妙法蓮 (Myouhouren) 華経(Gekyou) 心遂 (Shintsui) 醒悟(Shougo) 清浄 (Shoujou) ――」
That was the prayer chanting of Nichiren school of Buddhism to return the people who fell into madness back to sanity.
The onmyoujis simultaneously chanted with Hinata at the center. Their chanting became particles of light that rained down toward the “Shadow Monks”.
Then, “Zhen Ying” who was spewing that much scream of fury and hatred gradually showed bewilderment in his expression.
「―― 開仏 (Gaibutsu) 知見 (Chiken) 使得 (Sh*toku) 清浄 (Shoujou) 出現 (Shutsugen) 於世 (Oze)」
The bewilderment strengthened as the prayers were repeated. Before long he shook his head fiercely as though to shake off something……
『How can this be……』
A trembling voice faintly came out.
『Have you returned to your senses?』
The lord crouched as he asked. “Zhen Ying” kept looking down and didn’t reply at all.
There was no need to imagine that at the inside his mind must be in chaos. It was only natural because normally speaking it was hard to believe that Japan itself was an apparition.
Rather than considering that kind of nonsense, these “Shadow Monks” were like a bundle of patriotism. The majority of the feeling “how can this be” that was constricting his chest must be about this situation where they were “neutralized and captured”.
Perhaps this was what the saying of “the schemer is drowning in his own scheme” meant. The plan of reviving the “Dragon” was actually the result of that “Dragon” making them dancing on its own palm. As a practitioner who was employing apparition under his control, it was something that greatly wounded his pride.
This was without a doubt, a blunder. A great one.
『……Let me, kill myself.』
He forced himself to wring out his voice. That was undoubtedly his dearest wish.
Because of the paralyzing poison that Doctor Arachne also injected during the treatment, he could only barely talk but he couldn’t put any strength to bit his tongue.
He was in a state where he had truly ran out of all means. He ended up in the worst development possible as a member of “Shadow Monk”.
Even if he died at this point, he wouldn’t be able to perfectly erase his remaining corpse, so to be honest, he wouldn’t be able to avoid bringing disadvantage for his homeland.
It would be better if at the very least their corpses could be used for their homeland to divert the responsibility to Japan, but he himself was aware that was just a naïve thinking.
But, there was already no other way than that.
He simply, couldn’t think of anything else to do to apologize other than dying as punishment for the great blunder he committed.
『Do you think I’ll allow that? How can you guarantee that your death won’t serve as the trigger that activate even more scheme?』
The lord’s grim point caused the words of “Zhen Ying” to get caught in his throat . He mocked himself.
『……You are perceptive.』
It seemed that there really was more plan than this. In contrast to his despairing attitude, he still acted in the way that couldn’t be underestimated till the end. Taisei, the elderly nobleman, and the onmyoujis who still couldn’t be said as experienced in real battle gulped.
『There is no need to worry. It’s just a plan for stopping pursuer when we retreat. We are hiding cursed item in the escape route.』
It was a sorcery that worked by stuffing the flesh of criminal into a pot. By confining them in prison even after their death, their resentment was fermented.
If the pot was smashed, powerful curse that was like a smoke would instantly spread in a wide range. The consciousness of anybody who touched the smoke would be filled with the resentment of the dead and they would fall unconscious. Naturally, they would lose vitality and died if they came into contact with the smoke too long.
「What an aggressive retreat that is. Not bad――」
「Ranainferna, please be quiet for a bit.」
An unexpected warning from the husband. Rana-san looked down in dejection. Her rabbit ears also drooped down powerlessly. Taisei kept sending glances at that while muttering 「……Why isn’t it horse ears」. A scornful gaze came from the elder. Hinata’s cheeks were also twitching.
『The jar is linked to me and several of my subordinates. The technique will activate if we die and the jar will break. And then it will spread curse that won’t affect us. But, I shall dispel it if you allow me to kill myself. If possible, it will be great if you can erase our corpse without leaving any trace after that though……』
『There should be a limit even in being shameless.』
Zhen Ying smiled bitterly and after that he fell silent completely once more. It seemed he wasn’t taking into account the possibility of living and stepping on the ground of his homeland once more at all. Perhaps that would be something that was even more painful than death for a “Shadow Monk” who had committed a taboo.
“Zhen Ying” who had completely lost his vigor and the other “Shadow Monks” at a separate location who were most likely in the same state.
It didn’t take long for Barnard and his men along with Aziz and others, along with Karm and co to start smiling and began to share happiness in this victory but……
The lord was greatly famed as someone whose soul was made of 80% screwing around, however, he called Fukube with a radio without the slightest smile.
『It’s Koutarou. I’m not a ninja. Also, my callsign is Strike 1 right now.』
『Sorry, Strike 1. Did you listen?』
『Course, I listened. Please turn them into villager right away and ask them where is this jar located. We will watch out for any ambush, so please dispatch the onmyouji to take care of this jar.』
Even when he was about to ask him the opinion for how to deal with the “Shadow Monks” as an agent of the government, he was given such a ruthless suggestion that completely disregarded the enemy. Certainly, that was the rational choice.
「Well, I guess that’s it.」
「Abyssgate? What’s the matter with you since some time ago? Is there something bothering you still?」
Rana worryingly peered at the lord’s face.
The lord looked back at Rana, looked around at his surrounding, and seeing the victory mood was already spreading, he,
「No, I’m just overthinking things.」
Gave a wry smile and shook his head.
Even this long night would start to get brighter in two more hours. What was left was to turn the “Shadow Monks” into villager or justice and drew out information from them. After that they could say that this defensive battle was their complete victory.
He sighed, then looking at his helpers who were waiting impatiently, he opened his mouth to proclaim their victory.
「Ladies and gentlemen! You all have done well! This defensive battle of the sea of trees is our victo――」
『Nn!? Endou-san!? Did the Shadow Monks try something!?』
Suddenly Fukube’s anxious voice rang out.
「Strike 1? What’s wrong?」
『Don’t ask me! Suddenly there is smoke spreading out! The troops that got touched by it collapsed! Nn? Wait for a bit, just now, there is a report from Aegis team……jar!? You found the jar!? A small black snake broke it!? Eei, retreat from there, quick! Don’t touch the smoke no matter what!』
It was clear just from the conversation at the other side of the radio that something happened. The radio that was turned on in an open line further received similar contact from Blitz, Duel, and Buster teams too.
The gazes of the lord and other others moved toward the “Shadow Monks” at the same time.
『What’s the meaning of this? Why did you activate it?』
『? What are you saying?』
『This jar of yours, a snake apparition broke it and activated the curse inside.』
『Ha? Impossible. Are you scheming something? Does this mean that you won’t make a deal?』
Even from the lord’s eyes, “Zhen Ying” didn’t look like he was playing stupid.
「Endou-sama. In any case we have to purify this curse. It’s far away from the shrine so I don’t think that there is any need to panic but, we can’t leave this alone. Besides……」
「I have a bad premonition. Most likely, this is the same premonition like what Endou-sama is feeling……」
It seemed that Hinata was also feeling the same unease in her chest.
Either way, it was the onmyouji who could perform the most effective countermeasure here. He would ask Fukube of the smoke’s location and brought Hinata and others to the location with great speed to purify the place.
When he was about to give such instruction, it was at that moment.
*DON-* An explosive sound that echoed until the bottom of his stomach reverberated.
The ground sprang up before the lord grasped the situation. It wasn’t that strong but, the ground was shaking as though it was rumbling. It was a shaking that felt disgusting, different from quake.
「Oh? Well well, what an outrageous miasma art this.」
The only one imperturbable there, Hidzuki suddenly turned her gaze at the surrounding with realization.
Without anyone noticing, miasma that was like smoke with thick black color was polluting the air. Deep black miasma was gushing out from the ground as far as the eye could see, just like how vapor was rising up here and there in hot spring.
『Endou-san! How is the defense of the shrine!?』
「No problem. ――Emily?」
『Yes, Kousuke. There is nothing going on here you know?』
『Then, why is Mountain Fuji erupting hmm!?』
「What did you sayyy!?」
As expected, even the lord was taken aback by that report. He rushed up the trees in panic and leaped toward the sky of the sea of trees.
And then, he witnessed it.
Although Fukube said eruption, it wasn’t like there was magma bursting out or lava spurting out.
But, certainly the black smoke was gushing out with a vigor that should be called as eruption. The smoke density couldn’t be compared with before when the smoke was only puffing out leisurely.
Far from that, that black smoke was covering the sky.
The moonlight was blocked in the blink of eye. An atmosphere that was too ominous from just dark cloud was emitted from the black cloud that was painting out the sky black.
The air of the whole region of Mountain Fuji was clearly changed.
It was a hard to describe stagnate air that was stifling and made one wanted to vomit.
The polluted air that could also be said as something he was familiar with was none other than curse. But, the scale, the density, and the pressure were all in different dimension.
「Don’t tell me……damn “Dragon”. Is it already reviving to a degree where it can meddle directly with this realm!?」
If the jar’s destruction was done by the “Dragon”?
If without even destroying the last shrine, its awakening could be induced by the curse battle here and the curse of the jar that was fermented as insurance?
*Shudder* A chill ran through his back.
As though being pushed by that fear.
Sounds vanished. There was a thundering shriek that made him hallucinated auditorily like that instead. It wasn’t a physical sound that reverberated through air. It was an aberrant scream that was directly driven into the soul, or perhaps the mind of all living things.
His consciousness was almost blown away just from that.
There were also several people who fainted inside the sea of trees. The mental impact was just that great.
Most likely, this scream had reverberated through the whole Kanto region. Perhaps, it even reverberated through the whole Japan. At the very least, it would be meaningless already to pressure the media to keep quiet about it.
Rain started to fall. Wind also started to blow. The sky was already black as far as his eye could see. Countless lightning flashes ran through the cloud like cracks in the sky. Ootakemaru’s dark clouds invitation was like a child play when looking at the scale of this.
And then, at the interval of the dark clouds above the sky of Mountain Fuji, he could see something gigantic squirming.
It was an unclear silhouette that looked like compressed shadow. What he could understand was only that it was something long and large. Its overwhelming presence was swelling up even right at this moment.
「Tio-dono……it would be great if that’s the case.」
A twitching smile formed in his lips from his own muttering that was mixed with hopeful wish. Cold sweat was also trickling down like waterfall on his body.
「It’s revived……doesn’t look like it. It’s more that it’s sending out a portion of its soul for that I guess.」
Even if that was the case, conversely speaking, just a degraded existence that should be called as the “Dragon’s shadow” managed to cause a cataclysm that affected the whole Japan.
In addition, the violent pressure of the “Dragon’s shadow” was clearly being directed toward the lord and others.
Rana’s strained voice reached him through the clone on the ground.
『Abyssgate! This is bad! This miasma thing is gathering and taking shape!』
He could see that scene through the clone.
As though responding to the roar, the miasma was forming shape. It was making an existence that was giving off a presence like the water pressure of a waterfall. Although the pressure wasn’t as great as the ominous pressure that was descending from the sky, this pressure rivaled, no, it surpassed even Hidzuki or Ootakemaru.
A giant body appeared at the north of the shrine.
Its true form wasn’t clear. Its form looked as though it was modeled after shadow, a vague silhouette that looked exactly like s shadow figure.
But, it could be seen that it was a huge snake dragon with eight heads.
A coiling gigantic snake also manifested at the south of the shrine. As expected this one also looked like a condensed shadow, but there was horn growing from its head part. Inside that shadow, there were dark red eyes that were shining like ruby. The glint stirred the fear inside anyone who saw it something fierce.
In addition, a great number of “shadow snakes” of various sizes were also being created at the east and west too.
「Don’t tell me, all legends of snake and dragons in Japan are being reproduced?」
Hinata’s trembling voice was putting her instinct into words. Names of legends crossed the back of her mind――Yamata no Orochi and Yato no Kami, and other than them, names that appeared in legends about dragon and great snake were pushing her into despair.
『Impossible……the “Dragon”, it really is……we were trying to revive something like this!?』
The one who let out such scream that was oozing with bloody regret was “Zhen Ying”.
He must have felt it as a taoist, and as a human. He must be convinced.
The “Dragon’s shadow” that was squirming at the sky, and the great number of “shadows of snake and dragon legends” that were being created by it. After seeing those, it was clear to see that the “Dragon” was absolutely the mortal enemy of all lives that must never be allowed to wake up.
「Fuh, it looks like the true life or death struggle starts from here――Nagumo, hurry up, seriously」
The lord returned to his plain self a little at the end, even so he yelled.
「Remember what it is that you ought to protect-!!」
A rebuke that was like thunder surged out at the same timing with the clones.
That yell blew away the distinct terror, the despair that anyone here was feeling keenly.
The spirit of determination was conveyed to everyone whether they wanted to or not. It temporarily neutralized the pressure from the “Dragon’s shadow” and burned the soul of his comrades that were almost freezing solid.
「Concentrate our force in front of the shrine! Fortify all four directions! Release the Shadow Monks from their binding and paralyzing!!」
The whole force started moving after getting such clear instruction. They were getting surrounded by the “shadows of snake and dragon legends” as each second passed. This wasn’t the time to keep prisoner at a separate location.
『Roger. We’ll launch pincer attack from outside.』
『I get it! I’m calling demon king-sama! I’ll tell him that the situation has changed!』
Replies came back right away without him needing to explain any further. Even with the position assignment, everyone understood just from getting their name called and they were forming their formation in the blink of eye.
Amidst that, the Taoists of “Shadow Monk” that obtained back their freedom from such unforeseen situation came following behind the onmyoujis. They came running to the side of “Zhen Ying” who was sitting in a daze.
『Zhen Ying-, this is a chance. We should retreat now!』
Zhen Ying didn’t reply back at the words of Ying Cong. He kept sitting flat on the ground in a state that was similar to stupefaction.
「God’s breath is my breath, and so my breath shall be the breath of god. Impurity shall not exist when I blow with this breath. It shall not remain! Aa how relieving! Aa how refreshing!」
A beat passed. *Fuu* Air was breathed out. Immediately a cool and clear gust blew and the miasma at the surrounding area was blown away.
Among the numerous “shadow of snake and dragon legends”, the small ones were scattered away and even the huge ones were temporarily stopped on their track with their existences wavering.
In the battlefield where clear air had returned, the gaze of a small girl caught “Zhen Ying” from across her shoulder. That completely straightforward gaze caused his throat to gulp unaware.
『Please lend us your help, Taoist-dono.』
The princess of the clan that they had thoroughly used and harmed was asking for help from the leader of the people who did the harming.
She didn’t bind them with spell to order them around, but requested them.
That fact made indescribable emotion to well up inside the chest of “Zhen Ying”.
If he had to search for a description that could closely describe it, perhaps it was an emotion of mettle that said “Are you going to lose against this kind of tiny practitioner”. He almost feeling a sense of defeat in their caliber as human. This emotion was for shaking that off.
『You there! You’re a leader of your organization right! Then be stylish!』
Someone had come close without being noticed. Rana grabbed the collar of “Zhen Ying” without giving any time for the other “Shadow Monks” to stop her and she lifted him up.
『Just run away if you want to run! After all there is nothing more annoying in the battlefield than a warrior without guts! But, if you feel responsible of what you guys have done, if you still feel like using that life that you tried to discard for the sake of your precious homeland! Take your weapon! Clench your fist! Roar your heart out!』
It was a paralyzing rebuke that sent shivers to the spine, just like her husband’s.
The subordinates could be seen waiting for his decision.
They should escape if they followed the rule. After all the order to retreat had already been given. Although they were manipulated, they were just following the plan.
In addition, even knowing that this being was a mortal enemy of all living being, there was no proof that Japan itself would turn into apparition. After Japan’s force clashed with the “Dragon” and both sides exhausted each other, they could then called for their strongest force, a master class Taoist from the headquarters and gave their help. Such development would be just as they planned originally.
Such thought crossed through his mind for an instant.
『Informing all hands. Fight together with me if you have the resolve to turn your back on the rule! Anyone who object go home! You won’t be blamed!』
“Zhen Ying” said that before breaking a rule with certainty before his subordinates.
He personally took off the blood colored pentagram mask.
She was a woman who looked to be at the her late twenty with characteristic long black hair that was tied behind her and bound with a jewelry, and long slits eyes. Her slightly too sharp eyes were overbearing, but she had a face that was enough to be called a beauty.
『I’ll take responsibility for everything!! There is no time! Decide right now!!』
Her husky voice echoed clearly along with the vigor that she had regained.
Her exposing her face meant that her life as a “Shadow Monk” had ended either way. With such resolve displayed before their eyes, her subordinates――
Quietly drew out their charms.
Seeing that, “Zhen Ying” smiled just slightly before facing toward Rana and Hinata.
「I won’t ask you to put your trust on us. But, we shall take on that giant horned snake.」
「Fuh, that’s just fine. Theen, can I leave the eight heads that look just as dangerous to Hinata-chan and others?」
「Yes, Rana-sama. We will definitely defeat it.」
With Rana’s command, Hinata and “Zhen Ying” met each other’s gaze for a short time……then they turned their back on each other. They were heading toward their respective battlefield with each of their subordinates behind them.
「Fuh, that was a splendid incitement. As expected from this one’s Ranainferna.」
「Fuh, naturally, my Abyssgate.」
Right after having such exchange, there were another roars bursting up.
The effect of Hinata’s purification had gone. The “shadows of snake and dragon legends” finally started moving.
The “Dragon’s shadow” at the sky also began to descend under the black cloud with its gigantically huge and long body…
「Then, let’s begin!」
The lord’s shout was replied with war cries.
The last life and death battle was starting.
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