25 November 2010 @ 01:14 pm
Book 17 Chapter 20 裏阿蘇家の宿命  
Japanese to Chinese translation by Hinako. Chinese to English translation by me.

Basics of this chapter: Chiaki investigates the kidnapping of Inaba Akemi and stumbles upon a greater plot (a lot of information on the Miike, Kihachi and Asara)


"Hey, Haruie, what did you say?"

Chiaki Shuuhei thought he had heard the unthinkable and could not help but ask her again.

"Did you say that... Naoe is still alive?"

Backtracking a little, after Miike Tetsuya had promised to assist Chiaki that evening, Chiaki and Ayako made contact, and thus came this mind-blogging information from her lips.

"It was Kaizaki!" On the other end of the line, Ayako was still in a state of confusion. She was discovered by a member of staff after being knocked out by Kaizaki at the hospital and was given some time to recover before she was finally alert enough to call Chiaki.

"It was Kaizaki! He's Naoe! Naoe, I tell you!" Chiaki thought this was impossible and asked Ayako how she knew. Ayako pressed her hand against her temple and took a deep breath, barely suppressing her own wavering heart.

"I don't understand what's going on either. He didn't perform kanshou on Kaizaki neither is he possessing his body. But he's really Naoe...!"

Chiaki did not know what she was talking about at all. Ayako shook her head as she spoke.

"Sorry, I'm a bit confused. But only Naoe would've said such things. I don't have any explanation other than this."

Chiaki was speechless for a moment. He did his best to keep his calm, pressing the earphone closer to his face.

"Are you saying that Kaizaki Makoto is Naoe? Kaizaki is currently allied with the Ootomo. Despite this, do you still believe that he's Naoe?"

Ayako only continued to shake her head and said, "I don't know," as though she could not completely accept the situation. Chiaki nodded several times absent-mindedly in order to maintain his cool.

"Okay... okay. Then what about Kagetora? Can you tell if he's still alive?"

"Kaizaki said he didn't die. He said that he knew his whereabouts and was going to bring him back."

"Kaizaki said he's going to bring Kagetora back?"

"Yeah. I'll be going to the Honmyouji shortly, I can't just leave the kekkai as it is. You contact Yagami."

Ayako's decision was correct. The Shimazu army had arrived therefore their first priority would be to protect the town from the onryou. Kagetora would have done the same.

"I understand. Once I settle this hostage case, I'll rush back to Kumamoto. I'm concerned about the Ootomo's activities in Kojou High. Will you be okay on your own?"

Ayako nodded. Although her heart was still shaken, she had some resolve intact. Chiaki also nodded. After exchanging and verifying a few other pieces of information, he reminded her to keep in contact and hung up his car telephone.
Then he sat listlessly for a while.
Naoe was still alive.
Chiaki pondered over this for a long time. He felt an intense agitation in his chest.

So that guy wasn't purified...

"Impossible..."

They had been unable to find him anywhere despite all of their desperate efforts. But now Ayako was saying that Kaizaki Makoto was Naoe? According to Ayako, Naoe had not possessed the body neither had he performed kanshou the body when logically it should have been either one of these two possibilities. If Naoe had performed kanshou, Chiaki would have noticed it. However, when they had brushed past each other at Kojou High, the one thing that triggered a reaction from Chiaki was that scent. It was truly strange that his scent incited more of a response than his spiritual aura. Even so, why was Haruie so stubborn in her belief that Kaizaki was Naoe? Was it not just a misconception?

Kaizaki Makoto is Naoe...

If so, that would Naoe the one who had secretly manipulated the incidents at Enoshima. If Kaizaki was somehow related to Kagetora being left in the dark about Irobe's operations, then it would explain everything. If Irobe and Hakkai were now directly subordinate to Kenshin and acting in secret, was Naoe also directly under Kenshin?

What's going on here?

Kagetora was not the only one being fooled. They were also hiding this from Chiaki and the rest. Wasn't it strange? Why didn't Naoe contact them if he was still alive? Did Kenshin save Naoe? But if he wasn't a possessor or a kanshousha, what was his existing form?

I don't get it...


He did not die. Naoe is still alive.
He said he will come to my side. He wants me to wait.


Has Kagetora realized this...?
Chiaki looked serious again. He could not figure out which was the truth. Have they carried out their own measures to assist Kagetora? Or was it a matter of convenience? And what about the alliance with Mikuriya and the Ootomo...
Some sort of arrangement must have secured that. But this matter had yet to be verified. Chiaki firmly reminded himself not to lose his composure. Someone called out to him. It was Miike Tetsuya, who had gone to the shop to get some drinks at Chiaki's request.

"Sensei? What's the matter? You look a little pale."

"Ah, hmm. It's nothing."

Tetsuya gave Chiaki a can of coffee as the latter sighed dramatically. The two of them, together with Haruya, then headed to the Aso shrine in order to confirm the location of a "certain object" and spent the entire day investigating. At first, Chiaki had no intention of bringing Tetsuya with them but Tetsuya had so stubbornly insisted on coming along, even if he had to hold on to the back of the car to follow them, that there was no choice but to give in to him. And Haruya had nothing to say about Tetsuya insistence.

The object which Haruya had come to the Aso shrine to verify was the treasure known as the Golden Snake Head.

--That was originally the goshintai of Shimomiya.

The head of the Miike family had explained. In the old days, the artifact was simply known as the goshintai of Shimomiya. But in the 6th year of the Jougan era (864AD), when Mount Aso erupted, it was transferred to the Aso shrine. The Miike archaic papers in which this move was documented were safeguarded by the Miike family as it was classified information forbidden from being published to the outside world. If publicized, these ancient records would most definitely have the same worth as a national treasure. The Miike documents could not be openly read to anyone apart from the reikami of each generation.

This particular record was titled as "Shintai" in the Miike documents. The Shimomiya goshintai's shift to the Aso shrine should be simply recorded as 'a votive offering in the twelfth month of Jougan 6th' in the Aso family's public documents in order to protect the confidentiality of the finer details. After the shift, the Aso clan had decided to name it as the Golden Snake Head to which the Miike family agreed.

However, they now discovered that Haruya - no, the Miike reikami of this generation had been mistaken. The Golden Snake Head was not in the Aso shrine.

--It has been stolen!

Haruya was momentarily pale then immediately understood that this was not the case. As early as 400 years ago, the Golden Snake Head had been moved out of the Aso shrine. And to this day, the Miike family knew very little of this matter.

Interestingly, it was stated in the records that the artifact was offered to the lord of Higo castle 400 years ago, Sasa Narimasa.

This time, Chiaki was startled. He never expected the name Sasa Narimasa to pop up at this juncture. The goshintai of Shimomiya was once in Sasa's possession but after that its whereabouts were unaccounted for. Where was the Golden Snake Head now? They combed through all of the public documents but there was not a single piece of relevant information. In order to determine the whereabouts of the Golden Snake Head, Haruya ultimately decided to meet with the current head of the Aso family.

Apparently, the Miike and the Aso families have had some sort of special and profound affiliation with each other ever since the ancient times.

Haruya only had to inform them that the Miike reikami requested an audience to send members of the Aso family in a flurry to make preparations for the two of them to immediately meet. The current head of the Aso family was also the chief priest of the Aso shrine. The Aso shrine was the first Shinto shrine of Higo and was formerly known as the Kanhei Grand Shrine. The shrine held rituals that honored the legendary 12 gods led by Takeiwatatsu-no-mikoto in exchange for the agricultural prosperity of Aso making it a relatively unique place of worship in the country. The Aso family was held in very high regard, so much that they were once considered as nobility. Despite their high standing, it was interesting that the Aso family had a secret relationship with the Miike family whose members were at most village chiefs.

Apparently, this was to be Haruya's first meeting with the current head of the Aso family. That said, it seemed like it was not uncommon for the two families to not meet for several generations. Apart from matters pertaining to the historical documents, there was scarcely any other kind of communication between them. In other words, the Miike reikami would only request for a direct meeting in times of emergency, clearly demonstrating the type of relationship they had. Should there be an actual meeting, any other person (including family members) were barred from the discussion. Additionally, the request for a meeting from any one of the families must be fulfilled by the other and prioritized over all other matters. This was the regulation preserved for the past 1000 years.

Naturally, Chiaki and Tetsuya were not allowed into the discussion. So they waited outside the door for Haruya to come out.

"You... I mean, do the descendants of the Miike know about the Golden Snake Head?" Chiaki asked Tetsuya. Tetsuya shook his head and said that this was the first time he heard about it.

"We have always believed that the current goshintai is the Shintai. I didn't expect it to be at the Aso shrine."

Shintai...?

Perhaps Tetsuya had unconsciously let slip a confidential piece of information for he immediately grasped his mouth. Did he know something about the goshintai?

After about one hour, the discussion ended and Haruya emerged from the door. He looked serious and said he had to return so the three of them went back to the Miike house. After having a late dinner, Haruya called Chiaki into his room, saying that he already knew where the Golden Snake Head was.

"Did the Aso family know about it?"

The Aso and the Miike families were the same in that they had secret files which were not allowed to be made public. Although the Aso family had certain documents that were openly used for academic research, not all of their documents were publicized. The outside world had no knowledge of the existence of one particular file. Its contents, included everything from personal matters to wartime secrets. Suspecting that it might contain information about the Golden Snake Head, Haruya and the Aso family head had the seal on the documents undone at the former's request. Fortunately, the file had all the details of the matter.

"400 years ago, the Aso family presented the Golden Snake Head to Sasa Narimasa as a physical proof of their allegiance. Apparently, Koremitsu, the Aso head at that time, did not know of the proper bequeathment with regard to the Golden Snake Head."

That was during the era of the chaos of war. At that time, it was more impressive-looking for the Aso family to assume the stand of a military general than that a Shinto priest. The shrine had been neglected and the legacy of the Golden Snake Head disappeared amidst the fierce death battles.

"On the surface, it is said that the Golden Snake Head is really the head of the orochi which dwelled in Mount Aso. Another story that was passed down regards it as a deification of the volcanic lava, as one of the heads of the legendary monster, the Yamanato no Orochi."

"Yamanato no Orochi...?"

"Yes. But these legends were created to conceal the truth about the Golden Snake Head, stories fabricated and disseminated by the Aso and the Miike families. The work of their intelligence units no doubt. Only the head of the family in each generation has to be aware of its true legacy."

In the chaos of the warring era, the traditions surrounding the legendary artifact had disappeared. There was no physical record as this information was preserved by verbal means. In fact, it was quite amazing that the relevant information survived the passage of 1000 years despite the fact that it was verbally passed down through such a scarce number of people through the generations. It was also a marvel that the Miike and the Aso still remained bound by this together.

During the warring states era, on behalf of Koremasa, Aso Koretoyo, the Aso high priest of the grand shrine, acquired the allegiance of a uniquely powerful mastermind by the name of Kai Souun, war veterans from everywhere and strength from the alliance with Ootomo Sourin, all of which enabled him to hold back the Shimazu from the south and the power of Hizen's Ryuuzouji. Souun's bravery and fighting skill at the Battle of Higen in particular gave rise to the remark that "the Aso clan has Souun" which had an impact on all in Kyushu island. However, after the consecutive deaths of Souun and Koremasa, the Aso clan went down a path of rapid decline. As the eldest, Koremitsu inherited the position of high priest of the grand shrine but he was merely a three-year-old child at that point. Not long after that, Hideyoshi began his invasion of Kyushu island and by the time Sasa Narimasa entered Higo to protect the Aso clan, the family seemed impoverished and in dire straits.

The reason Narimasa had protected the Aso clan was to win the support of the countrymen. Narimasa believed that his preferential regard of the Aso shrine's high priest, who was such a distinguished person, was a way to show his good will to the people. It was at this point that Koremitsu presented the Golden Snake Head to Narimasa. Perhaps Koremitsu used it to show his gratitude to Narimasa for restorng the old fief of the Aso clan. The family's documents and treasures, including the Golden Snake Head, were hidden in a place called the Otokonari shrine at that time in order to evade the disaster of war. By then, the information regarding the proper bequeathment of the Golden Snake Head was no longer transmitted thus Koremitsu simply gave Narimasa the head of the legendary Yamanato no Orochi as a rare treasure.

"So where has Narimasa stowed away the Golden Snake Head?"

Chiaki stared at Haruya, prompting him to go on.

"Narimasa was very happy and made it the guardian deity of his castle. As he regarded it as a column god, he buried it beneath Kumamoto castle and built a shrine hall to honor it."

"Beneath the castle...!"

The Kumamoto castle Narimasa governed when he was in the Higo province was in Kojou. In other words, it was where Kojou High was located.

Is the Head of the Orochi that Mikuriya and company are looking for the Golden Snake Head?

The Aso family had no later records of this matter. If nothing happened since then, the Golden Snake Head should still be directly under Kojou High. Indeed, Mikuriya Juri - no, Ootomo Sourin was looking for the Golden Snake Head, the former goshintai of Shimomiya. But for what purpose?

"Miike-san, what exactly is the Golden Snake Head? Just what on earth is the goshintai of Shimomiya? If it's not the Yamanato no Orochi, then what is it?"

Haruya hesitated. It was not surprising. Even in the Aso family, the truth about the Golden Snake Head was a secret to all but the current head. Chiaki supposed that he was not going to so readily reveal information and so he changed his question.

"Why did you feel the need to determine where the Golden Snake Head was? Were you considering the possibility that someone might have extracted it? Does the fact that Princess Asara is being targeted have anything to do with this?"

"If one wanted to use the goshintai of Shimomiya to do evil, Asara is a necessity."

"What do you mean?"

Haruya was silent. After a few minutes, he glared at Chiaki with a rather grudging expression but he ultimately came down to a decision and said with great hesitation.

"It seems like you are the only one who can help me. I guess I have no choice. I also need one who is powerful enough to assist me. You can be trusted."

"Are you willing to tell me now?"

"I hope you listen carefully. This is a great secret that the generations of the Aso clan protect with their lives."

Haruya said with a strict expression.

"Previously, I told you that the goshintai placed as an offering in Shimomiya is the onryou of Kihachi who was beheaded by Takeiwatatsu-no-mikoto. Shimomiya's goshintai is in fact the head of Kihachi."

"The head of Kihachi? You mean the severed head is the goshintai...!"

"Yes. There is also a goshintai in Shimomiya at present but it is counterfeit. The real one, known as the 'true body' or the Shintai, was moved to Aso shrine a few thousand years ago. Due to its excessive grudge, the form of that severed head has changed to something reminiscent of the head of a snake, which is why it was named the Golden Snake Head. And this name inspired our ancestors to create all sorts of legends. The Yamanato no Orochi was one of them."

"...Why did the true body have to be transferred to the Aso shrine?"

"For the purpose of refuge it is said," Haruya replied indifferently. "Because there emerged a group of people who wanted to use Kihachi's head in a curse that would topple the country. To prevent evil doers from securing the severed head, it was transfered to the Aso shrine."

This was what was written in the Miike records. But in reality...

"In reality, the severed head was confiscated from the Miike family by the Aso family."

"Confiscated? Why?"

"The Miike family was under suspicion. In other words, the plot to topple the nation was not designed by an external party but by the members of the Miike family."

In the sixth year of the Jougan era, the year of the great volcanic eruption of Nakadake, the people believed that the natural disaster was caused by Kihachi's grudge. As the descendants of Mikenu-no-Mikoto, the Miike family had been assigned by the Aso family as supervisors for the volcanic crater since the old days. But this eruption incited a rumor claiming that it was a result of members of the Miike family using Kihachi's head. When they heard this rumor, the Aso family suspected the Miike family of plotting a rebellion, punished their reikami and ordered the head of Kihachi be moved out of Shimomiya.

"So which is the truth? Did the Miike family really not do it?"

"I do not know," Haruya replied. "But if it was really used, it would not have ended with just an eruption."

"You sound like you know what would've really happened."

"Kihachi's head can sink the entire island of Kyushu to the bottom of the sea."

Chiaki was taken aback; his back stiffened.

"This is the information passed down in the Miike family. The Aso family's act of confiscating the head of Kihachi was meant to control the Miike family. Regardless of whether there is any truth to the rumor, the Aso family will retaliate if we dare act blindly without thinking - that was the message of the Aso family. As the descendants of Takeiwatatsu-no-Mikoto, the Aso family took away the independence of the Miike family, who are the descendants of Mikenu-no-Mikoto, and put us under their supervision."

"Supervision... Why?"

"Because the Miike family are dangerous people. Not because the Miike family are the descendants of Mikenu-no-Mikoto."

Or rather, because the Miike family are the descendants of Asara.

"...What about this Princess Asara? Is Kihachi's head really so dangerous?"

"Kihachi's soul was sealed inside the Shintai and Asara is necessary to release Kihachi. She is the only person who can communicate with Kihachi and the only person who can set Kihachi free. In other words, Asara is the only key that can resurrect Kihachi's onryou."

Furthermore, Asara herself would definitely be born into the Miike family. It was said that one of the members of the Miike family was the reincarnation of Princess Asara.

Hokage had that ability. The strange occurrences that occurred during the Hi-taki no Shinji further emphasized the connection between Hokage and Kihachi. This proved that she was Asara in her previous life.

"So, if someone wants Asara, that would mean someone wants to use Kihachi's head right? And exploit Kihachi's power..."

"I suppose so. There is no other reason I can think of."

"Miike-san, you..." Chiaki's eyes flickered. "It seems like you have a rough idea of who is targeting Asara. You know of someone who wants to use Kihachi to do evil, which is why you have hidden Hokage, am I right?"

No one but the Miike family knew about Asara and the goshintai of Shimomiya. As for the information that Kihachi's soul was sealed in the Shintai, apart from the reikami and a few attendants, no one else should be aware of this matter. Haruya's attendant had passed away seven years ago so Haruya himself ought to be the only one with this knowledge.

"If information was divulged, who could have done it? And where did he get wind of this?"

"I have a hunch," Haruya answered calmly. "If there was one person besides myself who knew about this, it would be my uncle, Katsuya."

"Katsuya?"

Haruya nodded.

"He was my father's younger brother and the older brother of Tetsuya's foster father, Tatsuya. Over 60 years ago, he severed all ties with the Miike family... He took after his mother's family name, Ikeda."

"Ikeda Katsuya..."

"I was told Uncle had rebelled fiercely against the Miike family when he was young. He opposed everyone, including the reikami, broke off all relations and left home as a result. It seemed like when Uncle was young, he felt restricted by the stringent rules and traditions that have practiced since the ancient times. I heard that at one point, Uncle had even been influenced by the socialist movement and joined an underground communist party of some sort. Then the war broke out and I have no idea what happened during that period. After the war ended, Uncle established his own religion and called it the Fire sect."

"!" Chiaki thought he had heard wrong. "The Fire sect!"

"Yes. A new religion which regards Takeiwatatsu-no-Mikoto as its main deity. But that is just what you see on the surface, the one they worship is... the goshintai of Fire. And that is..." Haruya's eyes grew sharp. "Kihachi-houshi. That is, the one that we, the Miike family, worship as Kihachi-sama."

"What... did you say?"

"But Kihachi is treated as a secret deity so I am not sure how much of the truth has been revealed to the ordinary follower. Perhaps the members of the Fire sect are similar to those underground Catholics in their final years where nearly all of their followers worshipped an idol they never fully understood. But Uncle had one primary ambition, which was his sole motivation for setting up the Fire sect."

"Ambition? What, to use Kihachi to rule the country?"

"The Fire sect could be considered as a branching religious organization of the Miike."

"...."

"But Uncle's motive, if my guess is not wrong... I suppose they, meaning the people who are operating for the sake Kihachi, ought to be known as the 'purer Miike.'"

"And this... so-called purer Miike is?"

Haruya was silent. It seemed like he could not go on any further. Right at the moment when just a little more information could have allowed him to seize the crux of situation, Haruya said no more. Chiaki spoke in a low voice.

"I get it. Speaking of the Fire sect, a few days ago, several of their young followers went missing. Moreover, Ikeda Katsuya died not long before those incidents happened. Do you think this has anything to do with the letter of threat?"

"It is not possible for them to be related," Haruya replied indifferently. "I fear those young followers may have decided to act to fulfill Uncle's will now that he is dead."

"They want to undo the seal on Kihachi's head?"

"Correct."

"For what purpose?"

Haruya was silent again. Whenever this question was raised, Haruya would not reply. It seemed like this was a serious situation. Chiaki changed the question again.

"Do you know that the followers who went missing have the ability to fly? Do you know how that's possible?"

"I know of an incantation that creates this sort of ability."

"Oh?"

"It is called the 'bird technique,' an extremely confidential incantation handed down through the generations of reikami of the Miike family. To be more accurate, it is more of a technique based on the awakening of a latent ability rather than something that is created. The incantation is such that it generates a response in those who have the same type of blood as Asara did. The purer the blood, the greater the chance of having such a reaction. The Miike family have numerous types of incantations that can awaken hidden abilities in Asara's blood as well as crystalize Aso's lava, which is said to possess divine might."

He was referring to the luminous flame stone, the object which the followers of the Fire sect used.

"However to implement these incantations, one would need the blessed goshinka of the Miike family."

"If that's the case..." Chiaki leaned forward. "Did Ikeda Tatsuya rob the Miike family of their holy fire and the secrets that only the reikami ought to know of? Did he steal it from you?"

"Not from me."

Haruya had a pained expression on his face.

"It was... from my younger brother."

"Your younger brother?"

"I was not the reikami in the beginning, my younger brother was."

Haruya's younger brother was Miike Hideya. Tetsuya's father.

"Hideya-san passed away when Tetsuya was really young..."

"Yes. My younger brother had a sudden death nine years ago. At that time, I was living in Tokyo and was abruptly called back to succeed him as the new reikami."

Haruya had become rather gloomy.

"The cause of death for my younger brother was reported as an accident for the official statement. However, the truth was that his death was very suspicious."

"His death was suspicious? Could it be that...!"

"There is high possibility that he was murdered."

Chiaki gasped.

"Don't tell me Ikeda Tatsuya..."

All of a sudden, Haruya sensed the presence of another and looked up with a sharp eye. Chiaki remained silent. After scrutinizing the surrounding atmosphere for while, Haruya stated loudly,

"Tetsuya, if you are there, come in."

The beige door opened and Tetsuya entered the room. His face was very pale. It seemed like he had overheard the entire conversation. But Haruya was rather calm.

"Tetsuya, I told you to return. Why are you still here?"

Tetsuya looked at Haruya with dismay.

"I have already told you, we will deal with this matter from here onwards. There is no need for you to continue to involve yourself. Go back. Are you going to disobey an order from the reikami?"

Tetsuya's shoulders trembled with hesitation.

"I will not... just let things go on as they are."

He did everything in his power to force his voice out of his throat.

"Hokage is not your thing! I won't let you Miike do as you please! Never!"

Tetsuya shouted in an explosive manner and ran out of the room. Chiaki's face reflected this troubled turn of events but Haruya had a calm expression from start to finish as he observed Tetsuya.

"Tetsuya is very much like how I used to be," Haruya noted unexpectedly.

"Miike-san."

"I was exactly like that when I was young. I rebelled against the wishes of the family, refused to be the reikami, left home and went to Tokyo. If my younger brother had not died, I probably would never have set foot through that entrance for the rest of my life."

Naturally, Tetsuya should have inherited the position of reikami after his father but as he was too young, his relatives summoned Haruya back from Tokyo. If not for the mysterious circumstances surrounding his younger brother's death, Haruya would have never responded.

"Uncle Katsuya was the same as I was. But why would he want to establish a religion similar with that of the Miike family which he rebelled against?"

What change of heart did he have during the Choukaku battle?

"We shall go to Hokage," Haruya decided. "Even if the other party has the head of Kihachi, there is nothing they can do without Asara. We should go to Asara's side."

Haruya said to Chiaki, "Please assist me."

Was he talking about protecting Asara? Or was he talking about not handing Asara over? Whatever it was, they had to go to where Hokage was.

"Where is Hokage now?"

Hearing Chiaki's question, Haruya clearly replied.

"Takachiho. Hokage is now at Takachiho."


***


It was now late night. The drizzle of snow which was initially mingled with rain water had changed to pure snowfall. The road among the mountains was impossible to navigate by car because of the snow, especially when their vehicle had no tire chains. Going by the map, the national highway 325 had a shortcut that ran from Aso directly to Takachiho but that road was narrow and had too many bends thus it seemed like the faster alternative was to set off from the 265 line towards Soyoumachi. The roads on the 265 line were much wider, making it an easier drive.

The city of Takachiho in the Miyazaki prefecture was famous as it was the place where the grandson of the sun goddess descended to earth in Japanese mythology.

Additionally, Takachiho also had its own Kihachi myth, the story of how Kihachi was expelled by Mikenu-no-Mikoto, which was slightly different from the Aso version. Of course, this was also important to the Miike family who were the descendants of Mikenu-no-Mikoto. Takachiho's reputation rested on the legendary Ama-no-Iwato shrine, the most important of the several ancient shrines in the area. Among them was also the Takachiho shrine where rituals were performed for Mikenu-no-Mikoto.

"Is Takachiho's Kihachi the same as Aso's Kihachi? Or are they two different beings?"

"Are they the same... I suppose they can be considered to be the same."

"?"

"Although Kihachi was a person who really existed, in the legends, he is often treated as a symbol for a functional object. He is often regarded as the personification of an object."

"So Kihachi symbolizes a kind of object?"

"You can think of it in that way."

Chiaki looked at Haruya in surprise via the rearview mirror.

Could it be that...

Some kind of possibility had come to his mind about this mythical Kihachi whose existence lingered in the periphery of Aso. The words "personification" and "symbol" appeared to lead Chiaki one step closer to deciphering the true identity of Kihachi, who was banished by either Takeiwatatsu-no-Mikoto or Mikenu-no-Mikoto in the legends.

Could it be that this so-called Kihachi thing is...

Their car entered Takachiho city. Chiaki drove on according to the directions given by Haruya and before he knew it he had come to the upper region of the Takachiho ravine. This place was lined by a towering rock valley. The Ama-no-Iwato shrine in the short distance was considered to be the legendary "Heavenly Rock Cave" where Amaterasu was sealed in as a goshintai. As prayers were carried out on the opposite bank of the mass of water, there was no main shrine but a strangely-shaped temple. The place was like a page straight out of the annals of Japanese mythology brought into actual existence on this stretch of land. Asara - namely, Hokage, had been concealed here for a year.

"Takachiho can be regarded as the place of our origin. There are still families here with deep ties to the Miike family that date back to the ancient times. Hokage was left under their care."

"So you hid her to prevent the followers of the Fire sect from laying their hands on her?"

"We noticed that ever since the Hi-taki no Shinji, Asara's power in Hokage has continuously increased."

Haruya explained. He was behind the driver's seat in the vehicle.

"As a fire shrine maiden, Asara has special abilities. Hokage became aware of her capacity as a shrine maiden ever since the first Hi-taki no Shinji where she received a 'response' from Kihachi-sama. Her ability was so strong that we decided a year ago to hide her in an uninhabited place."

"So that Ikeda Katsuya wouldn't know, right?"

"..."

Tetsuya was listening to their conversation with a terrified expression.

"It is as you say."

"Was he the one who sent the letter of threat?" Tetsuya prudently asked. "Sensei, do you also think he's the culprit?"

"No idea... Well we don't know if he was the direct culprit."

To say the least, the Fire sect was the one who had leaked the secret.
From knowing that Shimozura Rairyuu had kidnapped Inaba Akemi, the testimonies of multiple eyewitnesses (that the one who had attacked Takaya also took away Akemi) and the information from Kaizaki Makoto (that the one who had attacked Takaya was Shimozura Rairyuu), he could now understand the situation better. The Ikkoushuu have joined forces with the Fire sect and were responsible for attacking Takaya. But it was strange that the people who had stopped Rairyuu were also from the Fire sect. Was there some unresolved internal strife between them?

Chiaki also knew that being a part of the anti-Oda alliance, the Ikkoushuu and Akechi Mitsuhide were allies, and Mitsuhide was affiliated with the Shimazu. The Shimazu were enemies of the Ootomo. The people at Kojou high were the Ootomo.

He did not know if the Fire sect had learned of the whereabouts of the Golden Snake Head. Even Haruya could not figure out that the Golden Snake Head was under Kojou High without depending on the secret documents of the Aso family.

Then how did the Ootomo learn about the Golden Snake Head? He had heard that an Aso lord (either Koretoyo, Koremasa or Koremitsu) who was resurrected as an onshou had offered himself to the Ootomo. This could explain how the Ootomo knew about it. If that was the case, the Ootomo were probably unaware that the Golden Snake Head was the head of Kihachi, much less the fact that Asara was required for it to be useful.
Although both parties were after the same object, each side was still missing one important piece of information. The situation was better than he anticipated.

"Basically, we have to first rescue Inaba. Can't let her kidnappers have that satisfaction of victory."

"Sensei, who are you really?" Tetsuya hissed in a threatening manner. "Who are you to ask so much information from the reikami? I still find you really suspicious. First Ougi and then all that complicated crap, all I know is that the moment you came here, things just got worse."

Oh dear...

Tetsuya was now attacking him, startling Chiaki a little.

"Before poking into other people's affairs, first state your own true identity! Why did you infiltrate this school!"

"Be quiet, Tetsuya."

Haruya silenced him. Tetsuya was shocked and his back stiffened.

"If you are only going to be a noisy hindrance, you should return. If you want to see Hokage, just follow along quietly."

"Uncle..."

"You are not allowed to talk back. And you are not allowed to give your teacher trouble."

Tetsuya could not disobey Haruya despite his rebellious attitude. Haruya's sternness was probably part of his dignity as the reikami though he was still needlessly cold towards Tetsuya.

--Tetsuya's father might have been murdered by Ikeda Katsuya...

This had always been kept as a secret from Tetsuya and Hokage. Were the Miike family members cold to Tetsuya in order to preserve this secret or was it that they considered this topic taboo? Or perhaps it was another way of showing sympathy?

"There is an alley in front of the building to your right, we can alight there. Drive until you see the torii."

Chiaki stopped the vehicle at where Haruya instructed. They had to walk from here on. The three of them held one large torchlight each and got out of the car.

"Follow me."

Haruya said to them, walking towards the mountain path that led through the dense, green forest. Chiaki and Tetsuya followed behind closely.

They had to walk quite a distance. The mountain path had not the slightest bit of lighting. Even if one was not likely to get lost because it was one-way, this path was really not the easiest to navigate at midnight. After walking a little further, they finally saw a faint light ahead. It came from a house. It was an ancient wooden dwelling that stood rather lonesomely in a wide space. There were two sections altogether and the smaller section was an ancient shrine.

"This is... Shimomiya," Tetsuya whispered when he saw the horizontal board hung in front. "Why is there a frost shrine in this place?"

Haruya walked towards the house. A middle-aged woman came out. She had probably received word prior to their arrival. She addressed Haruya as "reikami" and respectfully told him that they had been waiting for them. Then she noticed Tetsuya.

"This is my nephew, Tetsuya. My younger brother's son."

"Younger brother... then he is Hideya-sama's...!"

The woman bowed towards Tetsuya in a deferential manner. Perhaps this gesture conveyed her condolences. Haruya addressed the woman as "family guardian."

"Where is Asara now?"

"She has headed up to perform the mikagura."

Haruya muttered, "Really." He glanced upwards then lowered his voice.

"Has it been made ready?"

"I have sent word to fetch it. When the resident sect guardian returns from the mountains, it will be ready."

"I understand," replied Haruya before urging the others up the path into the shrine. Chiaki and Tetsuya followed him. After about ten minutes of walking, they heard the ring of a bell from the darkness.

"That sound..."

That was the sound of the bell often used in a shrine maiden dance. Before long, a faint radiance appeared in front of them.

It was a cave. There was a great opening into a cavern at the side of the mountain and the radiance came directly from the lights inside the cave. Haruya went in. The light from the burning candles they were holding threw their shadows against the surface of the rock as huge inverted shapes.

When they reached the innermost section, Chiaki's and Tetsuya's eyes widened. A shrine maiden, dressed in complete white, was dancing alone in front of an altar.
The clear rings of the bell echoed throughout the entire cave.
She was a beautiful maiden.
There was an air about her that made one felt like she was not from this world, that her entranced eyes were gazing at some faraway object. Her figure was illuminated with a swaying blaze, making her even more mysterious.

The shrine maiden would not notice them until the dance ended. So the three of them watched her until she finished her dance. Chiaki could not help but be enthralled by her and Tetsuya stood rooted to the ground with his mouth agape.
Before long, the shrine maiden ended her night dance. It was said that every night she would come to this place and dance. The shrine maiden calmly turned around to look at them. Not a single strand of her lustrous, fine black hair was out of place after the dance.

Tetsuya called her name in a hoarse voice.

"Hokage..."

Suddenly, the shrine maiden's expression changed. Chiaki was completely surprised by this. It seemed like her mask was taken off within that few seconds, changing her face as she recovered from her entranced state. She was now merely an ordinary girl standing there. Hokage saw the three of them and was alarmed.

"Tetsu... Why are you here!"

Then she realized Haruya's presence and addressed him as "reikami" in a small voice. But that cute face gradually contorted as tears streamed out of her eyes.

"R-Reikami, please save me!"

Hokage cried out like a child. Chiaki saw that a deep sadness was etched on Haruya's face.

"Please save me...! I'm already at my limit! I.. I... If I go on like this, I will be consumed by Asara!"

Tetsuya stared at her in shock.

"Hokage--..."


T/N: Sorry for being MIA for so long. I now have a little more time to spare so expect a few chapters in the next month. :)
 
 
Current Mood: busy
 
 
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[identity profile] erah-haruna205.livejournal.com on November 25th, 2010 06:06 am (UTC)
Welcome back! ^___^ Thank you for sharing this chapter!
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[identity profile] sarah3161.livejournal.com on November 25th, 2010 07:35 am (UTC)
Hi ^^ I dont know what i will do Without you ^_^ thank you (1000.000 times) for MoB ^_^
you are a soul Saviour
(i know i already Left a comment but i felt that i have 2 thank you again in the chapter ^_^ )
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[identity profile] prismangel.livejournal.com on November 25th, 2010 09:34 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for continuing! It's good to see you back :3
Your work is wonderful, as always.
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[identity profile] myra9.livejournal.com on November 25th, 2010 01:29 pm (UTC)
Hi~ I just started reading the novels and I found it much more in depth than the anime I watch several years ago. I was afraid you wouldn't update it anymore, but I'm glad you're back!
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[identity profile] amarissia.livejournal.com on November 25th, 2010 03:56 pm (UTC)
Thank yooooou!
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[identity profile] uraniabce.livejournal.com on November 25th, 2010 07:25 pm (UTC)
Welcome Back!
Thanks for the wonderful translation. Happy Thanksgiving!
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[identity profile] skinintheway.livejournal.com on November 25th, 2010 10:16 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for continuing your wonderful work. I was afraid you had given up on Mirage altogether.
I just realized I have no idea where we stand in the story, it's been so long I have forgotten nearly everything what was going on. Oh well, at least now I know what is going to consume my Christmas holiday: Mirage re-reading!! :)
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[identity profile] rose-erato.livejournal.com on November 25th, 2010 10:38 pm (UTC)
I'm so happy about this new chapter! Thanks again for all the hard work you put into this!
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[identity profile] hpstrangelove.livejournal.com on November 25th, 2010 11:46 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for doing this.
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[identity profile] bloody-x.livejournal.com on November 26th, 2010 02:59 am (UTC)
Welcome back and thank you so much for this. I swear that I'm cursed on Thanksgiving so I don't like the holiday but I must say that I am highly thankful for this and a wonderful person such as yourself for feeding my MoB obsession.
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[identity profile] lady-nara.livejournal.com on November 26th, 2010 07:13 am (UTC)
I am liking Tetsuya more and more...he just reminds me so much of Takaya back at the beginning ^^

It was kind of fun to take a step back from the Takaya-Naoe-Kotarou drama and see how Chiaki and Haruie are taking things. My heart hurt a little for Chiaki, experiencing the shock of realizing that Naoe may be alive and wondering what the hell is going on. I did have to wonder a little at his lack of concern for Kagetora, though. He's not sure if he's dead or alive and he just...? Gah.

Thank you!!
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[identity profile] dbzdoll.livejournal.com on November 28th, 2010 11:38 pm (UTC)
I cannot thank you enough for finding the time to share this wonderful series with those of us who are "language challenged" and will never be able to read these books for ourselves. Your efforts are greatly appreciated!
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[identity profile] balisarde.livejournal.com on November 29th, 2010 12:43 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much!
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(Anonymous) on November 29th, 2010 08:10 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much!!! I'll be waiting for new chapters as New Year Presents!!!
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[identity profile] bluesea81.livejournal.com on December 6th, 2010 08:19 am (UTC)
Welcome back to LJ!!!!!!!!!!I missed having you around!
Thank you for another MoB wonderful translation...
Not much to say about this chapter...I missed the Mirage angst so much...Poor Takaya..."gives him a hug"
See you soon I hope!
Until then take care!
Bye!
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[identity profile] kiraiqa89.livejournal.com on December 11th, 2010 01:12 am (UTC)
Ouh!!! OMG Thank you so much for continuing translating MOB!!
d(^3^)b "KISS"
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