11 February 2010 @ 12:40 am
Book 17 Chapter 18 真実への闘争  
Japanese to Chinese translation by Hinako. Chinese to English translation by me.

Basics of this chapter: Naoe and Hakkai battle Kousaka; Kotarou is losing himself

T/N: I'm not sure if I've got the name of Kotarou's weapon right (Arashizanmaru?) so any corrections would be much appreciated.


I have always feared that person.
His words were occasionally cruel in content. I feared his words and felt like evading them. Perhaps this was the reason for the preemptive measures I took to protect myself, at times I even thought of revenge, thought of attacking that delicate timidness of his, which was why I was always growling with a cowardly and superficial front.

400 hundred years ago, despite building our lives on a conscientious master and servant relationship, a dark chasm already existed between us. Part of my heart was rebellious while the other felt fear. The reason being that he had died on the losing side of the Battle of Otate and had turned into an onryou out of his hatred of us. I was one of the commanders of the victorious side and thus felt a sense of guilt as one of his assailants. This also made me fear him.

As expected, he had his criticisms of me. In order to protect myself, I had prepared every single excuse available and even asserted my own brand of righteousness by saying that the war had been necessary, and his death, inevitable. However the more excuses I used, the more I felt that I was at fault. We were the ones who instigated the war. Had there been no other way to settle the dispute without killing him? Weren't we using the chaos of the Warring States era as an excuse because we were too lazy to look for an alternative route? Unknowingly, I began to feel that he had the right to blame me. I believed the malicious words he threw at me every now and then were his retaliations against me. I even felt that he had discovered my guilty conscience, my paralysis.

After several decades, although his grudge and attachment had weakened somewhat, the conscious awareness that I was the assailant remained buried deep in my heart, thus I could not eliminate my sense of caution around him.
This guardedness eventually injured him.

Over time, I gradually understood his personality. He could see through the character of other people. He had the ability to discern the way others protected themselves by cloaking their ego with calculated worldly logic; he could perceive the dark cunning of people's hearts and feelings of shame. I felt delighted whenever he exposed the true nature of other people's words and actions yet apprehensive at the thought that I might also be a target of his scrutiny.

I thought his harsh words were part of his vengeance against me, that despite the passing of many years, he would still continue to threaten me. I still believe this even after realizing that his vengeance was not personally directed at me but a redress against the people.

I felt like my heart had been so thoroughly exposed that several times I was too ashamed to show my face in public. I felt like I was always laid bare for him to laugh at. His poison could not be neutralized with an adult's perspective or a rebuff, one could only endure its intrusion and feverish outcome. There was no immunity to be had, the most I could do was put up a wall. For some reason, his words always seemed infallible. At least to me, his words always sounded logical.

I hated him. At the same time, I was deeply attracted by his way of living.
He was so adept at detecting another's trickery because he was just as cunning himself. He was sarcastic to protect himself.

He was always in fear. In knowing of his earnest attempts to fight against his weaknesses and deceit, I could not leave him. I sympathized with his predicament. Painful as it was, I still regarded his ever-strengthening self as the ideal, while feeling hatred and deep fascination with those eyes which saw through me and threatened me. Despite laughing at me in a sophisticated tone of ridicule, he would on occasion abruptly close his eyes and leaned towards me. How could I resist this cursed infatuation mingled with pain?
If we were to change our positions and standpoints, could we remove this 'fear'? I do not know. Our hostile origin might not disappear.
The root of my suffering was deeply implanted in my being.
Perhaps this was the reason why our relationship had become so twisted.
Perhaps we have to overcome our own natures.

***

Hydrogen sulfide was spurting out of the ground; it was a hellish sight. The fumes had a slight tinge of sulfur-yellow.
The wreckage of uprooted trees and destroyed cabins, which exposed the bare earth, was an appalling scene of devastation. Hot gray mud shot out with gurgling sounds, occasionally swelling into huge bubbles that burst open. The air was reek with the fumes of sulfur such that prolonged inhalation would become dangerous. The poisonous volcanic gas ought to have accumulated to a concentrated degree.

Kaizaki Makoto - no, perhaps he should be referred by the name of the person controlling this body. Naoe Nobutsuna glared at Kousaka standing on the other side of the fumes. The last time they confronted each other in a similar fashion was onboard a ship which was destroyed two years ago in the waters of Hiroshima. In that battle, one party had sustained a near fatal injury while the other was thought to have been purified. Naoe had not been purified. His story had yet to end. At Hagi, Naoe had been rescued by Kenshin. By Kenshin's power, his soul had acquired the strength to remain on this earth.

But his soul was not in Kaizaki Makoto. With his outstanding ability in spiritual examination, Kousaka had discovered that Naoe was using spiritual synchronization to remotely control Kaizaki Makoto. This so-called spiritual synchronization involved harmonizing one's spiritual wavelength with a target object, which in turn allowed the user to comfortably operate the physical body. The relationship between the two sides could be illustrated by the idea of a human robot. Naoe (the operator) accesses the information received via the five senses (tracking device) of Kaizaki (the human robot), makes a decision and sends a command to Kaizaki's motor nerves to make him move. By this method, Naoe could become Kaizaki himself. The only difference was that 'the human robot' was a genuine 'living being' in this case.
The way Takaya controlled the 'Sword Gohou Douji' and the reijuu was based on the same principle. Although these methods required skills of a very high level, it was exceptionally difficult if the target object were human.

"You surprise me. To think that you're using a technique that doesn't suit your character at all. But just who gave you that sort of power?"

Naoe's -- Kaizaki's eyes flitted upwards sharply. But Kousaka persisted with his ridicule, completely unaffected by it.

"Isn't that man a descendant of the Satomi? He's called Kaizaki or something. I heard he was Yoshitaka's favorite. After going through so much trouble with their preparations, those Satomi ended up losing two generations so unexpectedly... Now I understand what happened to them. So the truth was you were stirring up mischief behind their backs."

Naoe tightened his lips, glowering down at Kousaka.

"What business does the Takeda have here?"

"Considering that Awa's Satomi has shown up, is it so unusual for Kai's Takeda to be here as well?"

"Stop playing around. Answer me."

"Seriously, what is going on with the Uesugi? How strange that Kagetora-dono has mistaken another person for his long, trusted confidant while we have Naoe-dono borrowing another man's name and body, sniffing around in this place together with the former Ken En leader thought to have gone missing. What is the Uesugi trying to accomplish by having their honorable staff officers betray their master?"

"That is none of your concern."

"Hmph. I see. Seems like Irobe isn't the only one following Kenshin. I didn't expect it to turn out this way. Interesting. I guess the makeshift stratagem to deceive Kagetora wasn't needed after all."

"Deceive...?" There was anger in Naoe's tone. "What nonsense did you spew to Kagetora-sama!"

"Don't worry, I only told Kagetora in advance that you have betrayed him by becoming Kenshin's direct subordinate and manipulating the Byakuime."

Naoe's expression stiffened. Kousaka laughed.

"Yes, we managed to uncover this information. Someone secretly controlling the Byakuime stationed throughout the country assisted the Ootomo in conquering Kyushu island by assassinating Ryuuzouji. I knew well beforehand that the culprits were the Uesugi."

"!"

Then, the ones who killed the Byakuime were...

The Takeda? Naoe thought, wrinkling his brows. Kousaka and the others had a better grasp on their plans than he expected. The reason the Takeda or the Fuuma were able to detect this before Kagetora did was probably because they had always been monitoring Kenshin. By following the suspicious movements of the Byakuime in various parts of the country, they could surmise that there was another chain of command separate from Kagetora's.

"Where is he?" Naoe asked without answering Kousaka. His sentence ended with a threatening tone. "I can sense the wave motion of the Kiji incantation. This was probably Kiyomasa's doing. Where is Kagetora-sama? I know he was imprisoned here. Where is he now?"

"Oh? So you're here looking for Kagetora?" Kousaka smiled a little and squinted. "And what will you do once you find Kagetora? So you are especially here to save him despite being the cowardly rascal that you are with all this sneaking around? How nice. But you used to support general Kagekatsu, didn't you?"

Naoe's cheeks trembled slightly. Kousaka laughed again upon seeing this.

"But Kagekatsu's personality and memories have already been purified in Narita Yuzuru. He no longer exists. What you guys want is not Kagekatsu but a weapon, right? But then again, be it Kagetora, Kagekatsu, or you people, you are all merely tools to Kenshin. Despite a mouthful of beautiful but empty words on justice and order, and that embellished face of a saintly nobleman, the desire to become the dragon god of this world is probably deeply ingrained in his bones."

"Kenshin-kou is not that kind of a person!" Hakkai shouted in a stern voice. "They are not empty words! Kenshin-kou is someone who understands true justice and order. In fact, all the generals of the Yami Sengoku should follow the noble ideal that Kenshin-kou encourages!"

"Such heartfelt words." Kousaka snorted in laughter. "Ask any retainer of the generals of the Warring States era and you will get the same answer. That my master is the only one most suited to be the supreme ruler. Invading forces and religious sects also say the same, that they are in the right, their principles are gospel, and thus everyone else should obey them. Isn't that the same as what you said? You want everyone else to comply because you think you are the righteous party. Is that Kenshin's rhetoric? Interesting. I understand now."

"You... damn Takeda! Are you asking for trouble!"

"No wonder Kagetora-dono became estranged. He's an intelligent man, he should have long figured out the villains in this situation. Furthermore, he's a descendant of the Hojo. Ujiyasu-kou is still alive thus Kagetora-dono may not necessarily remain loyal to Kenshin to the very end."

Kousaka looked at Naoe sharply.

"Now that you've reduced yourself to Kenshin's running dog, what do you intend to do by going after Kagetora? Naoe-dono."

Naoe clenched his teeth. Behind him, Hakkai fiercely replied.

"To prevent the Takeda or the Hojo from exploiting Kagetora-kou's powers! Step out of the way!"

"I see, so you've come to kill Kagetora before the enemy can exploit him, is that it?"

"!" Hakkai turned to Naoe in shock. Naoe glared at Kousaka.

"Naoe, why don't you say a few words instead of giving me that look? There's no way Kenshin will just ignore such a dangerous object. Instead of letting him go, he might as well finish him off. Isn't that right?"

"That's impossible," Hakkai muttered in doubt and implored Naoe. "Naoe-sama, it can't be... it can't be that you really want to kill..."

Naoe's deep voice forcefully cut off Hakkai's sentence.

"Kousaka, I don't have the time to dally with you here. If you dare hinder us, I will personally strike you down."

"I already know what you're thinking in your heart." Kousaka uttered coldly. "After 400 years of mistreatment at the hands of Kagetora, you've had enough, right? Surely you must have wagged your tail and jumped into Kenshin's proposal wild with joy. So will it be your turn to abuse him now? Do you want revenge? Or do you want Kagetora to kneel before you so that you can order him around like a dog!"

"..."

"That's right. You must have entertained that idea of Kagetora in the beginning. If Kagetora surrenders, are you going to sully him like a woman? In any case, you can't be having any other intention besides this lowly desire. Sadly, this isn't even a case of using powerful connections for intimidation as how a fox may exploit a tiger's might, but a dog leeching off Kenshin's power. How disgusting, Naoe Nobutsuna!"

Suddenly there was a sound of blunt grinding and a fine line of blood appeared on Kousaka's cheek. Naoe was boiling with anger, clenching his trembling fists.

"Even if you do this..."

Kousaka smiled with contempt, wiping away the blood from the cut on his cheek caused by Naoe's incantation.

"Blathering man." Naoe lowered his voice and said. "I have no time for your nonsense. What do you intend to do with him? The ones who rescued him were the disciples of the Fire sect. How is the Fire sect connected to you?"

"Hmph. Flying into rage out of humiliation is proof that what I said was true. The disciples of the Fire sect have joined us in a common effort. In order to expel the Oda and the Ootomo from Kyushu island, they have given us their assistance."

"What did you say...!"

"Kagetora-dono has officially sworn to revert to his identity as Hojo Saburou."

"!"

"I told him that Naoe Nobutsuna had betrayed him to us in order to save himself. Kagetora-dono has had a very bad relationship with 'Fuuma Naoe-dono' so he immediately believed it. He hates you and Kenshin, and has pledged to fight together with us and will no longer return to the Uesugi."

"Is that the truth!"

"Kagetora-dono is our comrade. If you're going to kill him, then I have to use whatever means available to stop you."

Kousaka's fighting spirit swelled in his entire body. His beautiful lips, shaped in a way befitting of a brush painting, warped in all of its slyness.

"I'm sorry to say but your lives will now be forfeit."

"!"

Something spurted out all of a sudden by his feet. There was a boom that sounded like a landmine had exploded; hot mud erupted all over as though it wanted to encircle the two of them.

"Nghahh!"

Their faces were blasted by a direct outburst of hydrogen sulfide. As the hot fumes rapidly obscured their field of vision, their throats were burned by the heat such that they could not even breathe. The eruptions of hot mud set fire to the rubble of the wooden cabins once again. Naoe desperately formed a goshinha but the impact of the explosions was too overwhelming, especially when coupled with Kousaka's incessant rain of incantations.

"What's the matter! Do you want to die here! 'Kaizaki Makoto'!"

"Ngh..!"

Hit by an incantation, the vehicle exploded. A relentless attack. Kousaka had probably set up a kekkai around himself before their arrival as he paid no attention to the erupting gas and continued to attack violently. The goshinha was overpowered. The two of them were forced to physically shield their own bodies but they refused to accept defeat.

"Ohhh--!"

Naoe growled as he launched a retaliatory blast. The ground began to shake. Trails of hot mud ran in bizarre fashion towards Kousaka in his attack. However Kousaka deflected every single one of them. Hot mud scattered everywhere together with the intense sprays. Naoe continued with his offense, using the mud without hesitation. A fierce cross-current of incantations took shape between the two men.

"Ngh... damn it!"

Amidst the turbulence, Hakkai shouted at Naoe.

"I will hold him back..! Please go on and pursue Kagetora-sama!"

"The opponent is too strong! You won't be able to handle it!"

"I didn't come empty-handed! I will cover you, when he falls back please use that opportunity to leave! Ngh!"

A sharp incantation arrow slashed through Hakkai's shoulder. Blood spurted out, staining his coat.

"Hakkai!"

"I am fine! Don't worry about me, hurry!"

Naoe gathered his spiritual energy and using the momentum of the sulfuric gas storming back towards him, he increased the defensive strength of the goshinha to its maximum. At the same time, Hakkai drew a small iron disk from his waist. The disk looked like a flattened cone.

"Naumakusanmada Bayabei Sowaka!"

After the chant, he threw the disk into the air. The iron conical device rotated in the air like a spinning top. With Hakkai's chanting of the Fuuten dharani, it created an astonishingly powerful whirlwind, dispersing the steam of the sulfuric acid.

"Ngh..!"

The fumes of sulfuric acid blew at Kousaka. As he backed away from the intense wind allowing an opening for escape, Naoe immediately charged through the forest.

"Do you think I'll let you escape!"

As Kousaka yelled, a black object elongated in his hand and snapped in the air. The rubber-like tool wrapped around Naoe's neck.

"Ngh!"

Naoe groaned in pain as his neck was strangled. It was no object that wound around him but an unknown black shadow. The chain of what was known as 'Dark Lock' was formed by a spell and allowed the user to control it like a weapon. Kousaka yanked the front end of the Dark Lock, tightening its grip on his prey's neck.

"Let me break off this human puppet's neck!"

"Naoe-sama!"

The iron cone whirred through, severing the chain. The taut 'Dark Lock' snapped, disrupting Kousaka's energy as he lost the order of its features. Hakkai seized this chance to retaliate.

"On Agyanauiei Sowaka!"

As he chanted the Fuuten shingon, the iron cone transformed into blazing disk that reeled towards Kousaka. There was a loud boom in the air, an explosion from the impact of the iron cone on Kousaka's kekkai.

"Damn it, doing that all of a sudden...!"

"I will hold him back! Naoe-sama, please hurry to Kagetora-sama...!"

"I shall leave this to you," Naoe said to Hakkai and followed the water snake hurrying into the depths of the forest. Kousaka wanted to chase after him but was fiercely blocked by Hakkai and could not proceed. It was strange as a kanshousha like Kousaka should not have any problems defeating a mere Ken En. No, it was not that, it was because Hakkai's power had distinctly increased.

"Damn Uesugi...!"

Kousaka grew serious and began to strike back. Hakkai protected his body as he was suppressed. Then he drew his full strength.

If you have made your decision, I can only obey it, Naoe-sama...!

"Ohhhhhh!"

The flames roared as the fumes burst out from the ground more intensely than ever.


***

Fuuma Kotarou was surrounded.
From the depths of the darkness, the group of armored warriors, now armed with blades, that appeared like will-o-wisps had surrounded Kotarou. Where did such an enormous number of spirits previously conceal themselves? They were probably fortress soldiers residing near Takamori castle. Akechi Mitsuhide and the others had anticipated Kotarou's actions.

"Will you please follow me back? Kotarou-dono." Shimazu Toyohisa requested in a low voice. "If you do so, Akechi-dono will forget this and not condemn you. They trust you. Please restore your calm, admit your mistake and return."

Kotarou was still glaring at his opponent with brimming hostility.

"I do not wish to cross blades with you as we are part of the same alliance. I was told you are able to distinguish between right and wrong. Come, please return to Akechi-dono."

"And if I say that I have no desire to return?"

"Then I will use everything in my power to stop you," Toyohisa hissed, drawing his katana. "This is Akechi-dono's order. He wants me to kill your physical body!"

Kill...!

Kotarou's back stiffened.

Planning to kill me?

Of course, this was not wholly unexpected. To purposefully fabricate the idea of 'Naoe leaving Kagetora,' the elimination of this hyouza which Kagetora believed to be Naoe was the most efficient way to accomplish this. If this physical body ceased to exist, it could convey Naoe's absence. Takaya would then believe in 'Naoe's betrayal.' Mitsuhide and the others considered Kagetora an indispensable military asset for the anti-Nobunaga alliance. That was why they were so fervently pushing for Kagetora's return to the Hojo, after all he was the only one who was Nobunaga's equal in terms of power. If Kenshin was going to participate in the Yami Sengoku, it became all the more necessary for them to secure Kagetora. Mitsuhide intended to appease Kagetora as a stopgap measure for his goal. Therefore, Kotarou should not be saving Kagetora. No, Kotarou's desire to rescue Takaya was not a matter of general concern, his identity as 'Naoe' was.

"You want to kill this physical body... you want me to die?" Kotarou muttered as he turned pale. "I... must not die."

"What?"

"I must not change my appearance. This is 'Naoe's' face. If not for this appearance, he will not recognize me as 'Naoe'."

"What did you say?" Toyohisa asked, widening his eyes. Kotarou caressed his own face.

"Only with this face will Saburou-dono... no, Kagetora-sama acknowledge me. He will not accept any other appearance. This face must never change. If it does, I will be rejected by him...!"

"What are you talking about! You have to change your hyouza because you're 'Naoe'."

"I will never betray him because I am 'Naoe'!"

He was completely incapable of a moderate reply; Kotarou had lost his composure.

"This physical body is the only one. It must never change no matter what...!"

Toyohisa stared at him. This was the first time Kotarou demonstrated such a stubborn attachment to a physical body when he used to consider the hyouza as a tool. His attachment stemmed from something other than a simple desire to carry out his orders.

Reject...

Kotarou was absolutely horrified at what he had just said out loud, as though all of the heartache he had sustained in the past two years because of Takaya had broken out in one breath.

--Don't you have something to say right now! Isn't there something you want to do to me!

At that time, he had embarrassed himself as he could not understand his wish. When Takaya condemned him for 'not understanding anything at all,' he felt like he had been banished from the category of a normal human being.

Am I a flawed product?

Takaya's words were like acid rain. The bizarre liquid would eat into Kotarou's being whenever Takaya disapproved of him. His self-esteem collapsed thereafter as the world he had firmly believed in began to disintegrate at its foundation, to the point where Kotarou was now struggling in the ruins of his supports.

Since the day he started playing the part of Naoe, Takaya became the deciding factor for the success of his performance. He had to satisfy Takaya and inadvertently, Takaya became the law. He became the only person who was correct. When Takaya expressed doubt in the beginning, Kotarou had not wavered as much. He had merely surmised that his technique was inadequate. However, as the denunciations accumulated, Kotarou was eventually eroded by the affliction in question. No matter what reply he gave, Takaya did not accept it. His calculations were in chaos.

Did I make a miscalculation somewhere?

Was the formula used to derive the answer wrong?

Was the principle I always relied on wrong?

How have I lived all this while?

Am I inherently wrong?


He was like an actor whose performance had been repeatedly dismissed by the director to the point where he had sunk into mental confusion. He hated Takaya for not accepting him, then questioned his own methods, questioned his abilities while his doubts internalized deeper and deeper until he grew uncertain of the very core of his own existence and character. Takaya's exhaustion became the resident force that criticized Kotarou's manner of living. He had to become the Naoe Takaya yearned for. When that 'infallible person' accepts him as Naoe, his manner of existence would then be acknowledged.

Is this good enough?

Is this correct?


"I must go to him..."

He would not be Naoe if he did not. He would get 'no' as an answer and suffer rejection. Kotarou seemed to be in fear. His eyebrows knitted painfully and he spoke as if revealing all on his mind.

"I need to undo his misunderstanding. I did not betray him. No matter what happens, Naoe will never betray him to anyone. He seeks for this sort of Naoe. I am Naoe, the Naoe. I will never admit to something which I did not do at all."

"Kotarou-dono, what are you talking about?"

Kotarou had to become Naoe. However his 'Naoe' was completely different from the 'true Naoe' and Kotarou had yet to be aware of this. The 'Naoe' Kotarou had set as his target and was striving towards was 'what he believed to be the Naoe Takaya yearned for.' With a desperate expression, Kotarou yelled out.

"Step aside! Do not hinder me, I have no time! He is waiting for Naoe. I must go to him. I must immediately go to him to undo his misunderstanding and tell him that I never betrayed him...!"

Kotarou's sentence broke off. His eyebrows were twisted in pain. Tell him, I am with you. Then please show me that look of relief...

Let me see...

Kotarou appeared startled. What was this strangled feeling in his chest? Whenever Takaya was sure of him, he would always call Kotarou 'Naoe,' and show him a uniquely soft expression which Kotarou had never seen before. Sometimes it would be an unmistakably genuine smile, other times he would close his eyes as though he was tired and lean towards him... Whenever he saw Takaya in that manner, an indescribable feeling would well up from the depths of his chest like fresh water. When Takaya accepted him and was at ease, his expression really satisfied Kotarou.

Please... let me see...

Please let me see that expression of yours again. Kotarou helplessly thought in this way. He could not but accept that he was harboring this hope. Kotarou gazed at his hands as he trembled.

I... am seeking...

He wished for Takaya to call him 'Naoe' in a relieved manner so earnestly for that was the only way he could be sure of himself. That was the moment of Kotarou's absolution. Naoe - that was the promise of deliverance.

I am... seeking the emotion of that moment...

The oil flowing in this human machine had turned to blood.

Affection...

Affection was an initial necessity to make sense of the man 'Naoe'. It was also the very thing he needed to have sympathized with Ujiteru and an emotion he could not lack in order to understand Kagetora's heart.

Saburou-dono...

Suddenly, his entire cardiac atrium was choked by something distinctly different from just reverence. Kotarou clenched his fists, as if to prevent this new-found sensation within himself from escaping. His fists balled tightly.

This man...

Toyohisa looked at Kotarou as some strange artifact and spoke again.

"You are not heeding our warning. Kotarou-dono."

Kotarou came back to his senses. Toyohisa signaled the warriors with his eyes and one by one the departed spirits brandished their naked swords. Toyohisa lifted his sword towards Kotarou with deliberation, aiming the shining tip of the blade at his forehead.

"I will ask you one more time. Is that your answer?"

"..."

"You do not regret this?"

The blade mirrored Kotarou's rebellious expression.

"Then be at peace as I send you to your death!"

"!"

There was a flash in Kotarou's eyes and his fingers moved into action. The soldiers' blades had a spiritual energy that issued a white radiance as it burned up. At the same time, Toyohisa gathered power into his rending technique and stepped towards him.

"Kill him---!"

The crystal between Kotarou's fingers shone with a blinding light. It was labeled with the character of 'Sword.'

"Ohhh!"

Clang!

The piercing sounds filled the district. Toyohisa's stroke was parried by Kotarou at close distance. Kotarou, who should have been unarmed and defenseless, was now holding a short dagger in his hand. That was Arashizanmaru - the divine blade passed down through the generations of leaders of the Fuuma clan. The two weapons, each possessing its own spiritual vigor, released intense sparks that bounced off each other. The armored soldiers came chopping within a hair's breadth but Kotarou disrupted their formation. Countless swords flickered in the darkness...!

I must not be killed!

The muscles in Kotarou's entire body became beast-like. After dodging a set of attacks with his weapon, Kotarou abruptly switched to an offensive focus. There was a cry of pain; the warrior whose skull was split open crumbled to the ground. Kotarou continued to slash at the warriors' torsos with his blade. The beloved dagger he was so accustomed to using hummed like a living creature as it sliced through the enemy.

Slash...!

His hands were quick to deal damage like snapping bamboo. The howls of the warriors shook the forest. Not conceding, Kotarou bellowed.

"Ohhh--!"

It had turned into a chaotic battle. With one short blade, Kotarou struck down the enemy one after another. The Fuuma's original sword technique had no unnecessary moves; only death awaited his prey. But no matter how many of them he beheaded, the enemy still came in droves. There was no time to breathe, the enemy's numbers were too great! At this moment, Toyohisa rushed in...!

"Kill him....!"

The atmosphere was reek of ferocity. Kotarou evaded by reflex action. Blood spurted from his cheek.

"!"

His face was scratched having failed to completely avoid the blow. The astonishing speed of the strike was indeed worthy of its fame as the downward slash technique that replicated the force of great waves. Kotarou redistributed his physical strength. This was to force his opponent to fall back with a sharp offensive in case he could not keep up with dodging and be sliced in two.

Damn it...!

They were using Taisha Ryuu. Their spirit-possessed blades were so mighty it could cut through iron.
Despite his injuries, Kotarou's agility did not diminish. The Shimazu warriors roared wildly, attacking with such unbelievable force that it was hard to believe they were merely spirits. Kotarou gathered his strength, increased his reaction speed and brandished the dagger in his hand with rapt attention.

I cannot die in this place!

He thought in this way from the very bottom of his heart.

"I must not die in this place---!!"

It was a vicious battle to the death. Kotarou's fighting prowess had already surmounted the limits of a human being. The enemy was part of the strongest Shimazu army of the Warring States era and their tenacity was preserved even in death. When ordered to attack, they were like fighting dogs ready to tear their enemy to pieces.

"Kill... Kill---!"

Toyohisa bellowed. It was startling that every single one of the Shimazu soldiers were using Taisha Ryuu. Cowardice was the most shameful act among the warriors of the Satsuma. At the Battle of Sekigahara, Toyohisa himself had went to the extent of letting himself be used as bait and had charged into the enemy ranks in order to let his general, Shimazu Yoshihiro, break away from the battlefield.

The sound of blade slicing through flesh was followed with an outspurt of blood. Kotarou's garment was torn away at the tip of his shoulder and the blood gushing out stained his entire back red. However Kotarou did not drop his weapon. With his dimming vision he fended off the scattered attacks from the departed spirits as he bled.

I must carry on in this body...!

Kotarou's eyes were bloodshot. His physical body was now wholly dependent on his animal-like fighting instincts to move.

--Why didn't you come save me?

As he panted heavily for air, he could hear Kagetora's voice.

--As I expected, you're no good.

--At the very end, you still don't understand.

Saburou-dono!

"Kill him---!"

Sparks burst out as blade met blade. The enemy pressed forward with the arm guard of his sword but Kotarou pushed his opponent aside with all the strength he could muster. His body was already covered in countless sword wounds yet he did not lose his footing. An ordinary person would not have been able to stand. Kotarou wrapped the handle of his dagger, which had grown slippery due to his blood, with a rag very quickly to regain his grip and spurred himself on despite his dizziness from the loss of blood. The enemy showed no mercy. The attacks were still as relentless and never-ending as before. Although his entire body was covered in blood, Kotarou did not let down his guard.

"Ch!"

He continued to slash his way through without stopping. Kotarou evaded the numerous blades that came at murderous speeds with astounding reflexes. Then Toyohisa's sword struck again.

"Go to hell--!"

Kotarou's eyes flickered as he snarled like a lion.

"Ohhh--!"

Part of someone's limb was completely severed, exposing a blunt surface of flesh and a fountain of blood. With a thump, the severed part fell to the ground convulsing. It was the hand holding onto the dagger, Kotarou's right hand. After a split second from the momentary pause between them, Toyohisa, injured in one eye, attacked with a kesagiri...!

"Die---!"

Kotarou immediately ducked to the ground, grabbed the hand still clutching onto the weapon and pounced at Toyohisa's leg. With one slash, the back of Toyohisa's heel was sliced open.

"Ch..Ah!"

Toyohisa toppled over from the injury to his leg. Kotarou immediately held him down and thrust the knife into his throat. A blood-curdling scream came from his open mouth as he neared death. Avoiding the blood that came spraying out, Kotarou rolled over to the side as more warriors came charging from behind. Kotarou pried the dagger from the tight grip of the severed hand and continued to fight back. But his vision was growing muddled from the loss of blood and his movements slowed as he was not used to fighting with his left hand.

How can I die in this place...!

This was the only a thought compelling him to move. Kotarou squeezed every ounce of strength from his body. He cried out,

"How can I die in this place---!!"
 
 
Current Mood: tired
 
 
( Post a new comment )
[identity profile] amarissia.livejournal.com on February 10th, 2010 05:34 pm (UTC)
KOTAROU! Noooo! He only just realized that he has a heart! *refrains from Wizard of Oz joke*

Wow, amazing chapter, amazing insight into Naoe and Kotarou, and I bow to your skill in amazement and appreciate your work so, so much, you have no idea.

Poor Kotarou, another victim lost to Kagetora. :)
(Reply) (Link)
[identity profile] white-poem.livejournal.com on February 10th, 2010 07:05 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much ♥♥♥
(Reply) (Link)
[identity profile] uraniabce.livejournal.com on February 10th, 2010 10:15 pm (UTC)
Thank You So Very Much.
Plus you translated the incantations! Love it.
(Reply) (Link)
[identity profile] prismangel.livejournal.com on February 10th, 2010 11:42 pm (UTC)
Wow. That was intense. I spend nearly every scene with Kotarou in it feeling sorry for him. Takaya unintentionally made him sort of crazy but it's so touching that he wants to live because he seems to have learned how to feel.

Thank you soooo much for translating this, as always. You're a wonderful person ^___^
(Reply) (Link)
[identity profile] uraniabce.livejournal.com on February 11th, 2010 02:09 am (UTC)
Now With More Naoe!
Finally, Naoe is back for real. None of this taking over Kiazaki stuff. Unlike some fans, I'm actually interested in what is happening, not just the Takaya/Naoe angst. Not that I don't enjoy that too. But it helps to put their relationship in context, if the reader actually knows what's going on.
(Reply) (Link)
[identity profile] erah-haruna205.livejournal.com on February 11th, 2010 08:43 am (UTC)
wow, that was intense...=__=
(Reply) (Link)
[identity profile] fantasygirl49.livejournal.com on February 11th, 2010 09:17 am (UTC)
thanks for sharing the new chapter, your translation gotten smoother, i love the beginning explaining naoe impression of kagetora and also i feel so bad for kotarou, since he starting to have feeling i hope he's not going to die.
(Reply) (Link)
[identity profile] balisarde.livejournal.com on February 12th, 2010 09:54 pm (UTC)
thank you so much! But Kousaka is just getting worse with each chapter.
(Reply) (Link)
[identity profile] labingi.livejournal.com on February 13th, 2010 06:19 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for doing this excellent translation! Beautifully worded and very smooth. What fun to see Kousaka, Naoe, and Kotarou all in the same chapter. I'm sure I'm not the only one who thought of Monty Python when Kotarou lost his hand. I'm eager to learn what comes next. Poor Kotarou. And Kousaka is a genius of reverse psychology.
(Reply) (Link)
[identity profile] rose-erato.livejournal.com on February 17th, 2010 04:36 am (UTC)
Poor Kotarou!

You did another amazing job with translating this ^_^ Thanks so much!
(Reply) (Link)
(Anonymous) on March 8th, 2010 06:17 am (UTC)
Thanks sooooo much for translating this I really really appreciate it! I can't wait for the next chapter:) Are you gonna post chapter 19 anytime soon? Thanks again ^_^
(Reply) (Link)