quaint_twilight: (Default)
quaint_twilight ([personal profile] quaint_twilight) wrote on March 23rd, 2011 at 03:56 pm
Book 17 Chapter 22 風よ、遠き王国へ
Japanese to Chinese translation by Hinako. Chinese to English translation by me.

Basics of this chapter: Yuzuru is on a mission to save Takaya; Irobe and Shouun discuss the Ootomo's plans


The flight arrivals from Haneda were being announced in Kumamoto airport. Not long after, the arrival hall was packed with travelers who had disembarked from the line of All Nippon Airways 645 planes.

"I made it safe and sound..."

Among them was a young university student, who shifted his cap up a little as he muttered to himself. He managed to make it safely to Kumamoto after having to wait for an alternate flight, due to trouble with his previous flight. The young man moved together with the crowd, coming to the hall on the first level.

"What.. do I do next?"

This was his first time in Kumamoto. He had taken the plane to this place despite not knowing a single thing about Kumamoto. The young man's home was situated in Shinagawa, which was relatively close to Haneda airport. That said, he did not have much experience in traveling to distant places. He readjusted his knapsack, stuffed with enough clothes to last him several days, and carried on with eyes full of determination.

Takaya...

This young man was Narita Yuzuru.
He had come because of the pulsation that started yesterday. Although Yuzuru had no extraordinary abilities such as telepathy, he had confidence in his own intuition and the visions he sometimes saw in his dreams after the Kasuke incident. Moreover, this was the first time he felt so worried about Takaya.

Takaya is in danger...

He had been distressed by an incomprehensible feeling of desperation or perhaps sorrow since yesterday, so much that he could not sleep. Furthermore, he did not know why his fingertips were afflicted with a biting chill as though they were buried in snow. All of this led him to think that something terrible had happened to Takaya.

Kumamoto.

He was told that Takaya and the others had infiltrated a certain school in Kumamoto and, after much pestering, managed to acquire information on where they were staying. Yuzuru had waited until early morning before calling the hotel and he found out that Chiaki and Takaya had not return since the day before yesterday. Thus Yuzuru concluded that something had happened to them. Fortunately, he was currently on spring break. Although he had found a part-time job, Takaya's safety was more important to him. Even if this turned out to be a wild-goose hunt, he would not mind as long as Takaya was safe. Yuzuru decided that if something had happened to Takaya, he would bring him back at all costs hence his unexpected flight to Kumamoto.

There was something unusual about Kumamoto.
During his flight, Yuzuru came across a strange report in the newspaper he was reading. The Amakusa Gokyo situated in Amakusa was blockaded for unknown reasons, effectively isolating the residents in Amakusa. According to the newspaper, a gale had formed due to hot air above the bridge, making it inaccessible to vehicles. Although the authorities have deemed it as an unusual atmospheric phenomenon and were carrying out an investigation, Yuzuru kept thinking that this was an unnatural occurrence. Amakusa was located in the Kumamoto prefecture. Kumamoto.
But this was not the only 'strange incident.'

Yuzuru had felt a strange feeling of oppression which stiffened his entire body the moment he stepped out of the plane. What was that?

What is this? Why is there such a dense spiritual atmosphere?

He quickly realized that it was not a bout of airsickness that caused the brief feeling of fatigue when the plane flew over Aso. Yuzuru understood this after he got off the plane. It was the spiritual atmosphere. The spiritual atmosphere was much denser than usual. The land was saturated with it.

Damn...

Yuzuru slumped down into a chair in the arrival hall, feeling giddy from nausea and heart palpitations. It was not normal for his body to be so deeply affected by a spiritual atmosphere. Additionally, this place seemed to be furthest from the point of the highest spiritual concentration.

Get a grip, I'm not going to be defeated by this.

Yuzuru spurred himself on, striving to boost his own morale. Once he lifted his head, the sight before him made him gulp. Yuzuru saw spirits everywhere in the hall. It had been quite a while since he last saw such spirits so clearly. Yuzuru felt nervous as there was no doubt that something unusual had happened in this place.

What happened to Kumamoto?

Takaya and the others have definitely gotten involved in a very intense and abnormal situation.

This is bad.

Yuzuru bit his lips and pressed his fingers against his forehead. Eventually, even the 'Seed of the Demon King' began to ache a little. Was it because of this atmosphere?

No...?

It was different than usual. Yuzuru could clearly feel the swelling power of the 'Seed of the Demon King.' As he tried to figure out what was going on, a loud squealing suddenly distracted him from the deep pain, causing him to turn around.

What?

The shrieking came from a group of female university students. In front of them was a group of what seemed to be members of the entertainment industry. Was there a famous actor among them? It seemed like they had taken the same flight as Yuzuru. They were probably seated in the business class section so Yuzuru never noticed them on the plane.

Standing in the middle of the entourage was a tall man. Although he was dressed in ordinary T-shirt and jeans, coupled with a pair of sunglasses and a baseball cap, it could not hide his brilliant charisma. Yuzuru nearly cried out when he saw the man. From the person's figure, hairstyle and outline of his face, Yuzuru could tell who he was.
That man was...!

Shiba Eiji!

Yuzuru almost shouted his name aloud.

Isn't that Shiba Eiji of the band SEEVA?!

Indeed. Yuzuru was a huge fan of Shiba Eiji. He mostly listened to Shiba's music, in fact, Shiba's tape was currently in his Walkman. Furthermore, Yuzuru had just recently attended Shiba's concert in Yokohama so it was impossible for him to not recognize the singer.

"Whoa--...!"

Yuzuru could not help but gasp as he stared intently in that direction. The more he looked, the more he felt that he was not mistaken. Travelers and retail personnel, even members of the air crew walking by were drawn to him, some joining in the excitement. In short, everyone's eyes were on Shiba. Was this what it meant to be a superstar?

But why is Shiba here?

Kumamoto was not one of the stops in his concert tour.
As Yuzuru wondered about this, Shiba, who was talking to a man who appeared to be his manager, suddenly lowered his sunglasses a little. It could have been his own imagination but Shiba was unexpectedly looking his way. Yuzuru's heart leaped excitedly and his entire body froze this time. However, right at that moment--

Eh...!

Yuzuru felt a burst of pain from the red dot in his forehead. It felt as if a water bead had ruptured, causing him alarm and an unprecedented trembling in his entire body.

What's happening?

"Looks like he came for a promotional photo shoot."

The group of female university students nearby speculated noisily.

"It was reported in the recent magazines that he'll be in Aso for a special filming. Aww, Shiba's unexpectedly fond of Japan!"

"I thought that he would go abroad but he didn't in the end. Still, this is really amazing---"

In Aso...?

When Yuzuru turned back, Shiba and the rest were leaving. It seemed like a vehicle had arrived to pick them up. Yuzuru stood up and followed them. As Shiba and his entourage approached the main entrance of the airport, Yuzuru got caught in the swarm of people drawn to them. Then,

Eh...?

Something bizarre happened. Shiba stopped all of sudden, gazing at something. Yuzuru followed his line of sight and saw a man wearing a high-neck school uniform standing there. The man looked like a senior high school student. But what was shocking was the fact that he was covered with serious wounds from head to toe. His school uniform was soiled with mud, his hair was in a mess and his cheeks were coated with blood.

Who is that?

The senior high school student gazed at Shiba; he did not look like a fan.
Shiba quietly returned his gaze.
Then the student staggered forward. Seeing this, other members of the entourage came forward to prevent him from getting close to Shiba but the latter stopped them. The student's face was contorted in pain as he came forward tenaciously. He dragged his steps, as though simply walking was a great difficulty for him. As he came close to Shiba, it appeared that he smiled a little.

"My... Lord..."

Suddenly, he fell forward into Shiba's chest. Shocked cries erupted all around as some scrambled to call security but all of them were stopped by Shiba. Yuzuru's curiosity of how Shiba was going to respond was fulfilled as the latter placed the high school student inside the car in the driveway and got into the vehicle himself before it promptly left the airport. Yuzuru was left standing there, astounded by what he had just witnessed.

What on earth...?

There was an extremely nasty... loath-inducing feeling of foreboding. The 'Seed of the Demon King' in his forehead ached like a wound, as if it had resonated with a certain something...

The city. I guess I'll first head to the city.

Yuzuru decided that he should go straight to the source of the abnormality. His first stop would be the school that Takaya and the others attended. He should be able to gather some information about their activities from that place. Yuzuru's mind was set as he ran towards the taxi stand. Having been distracted by Shiba and the others, Yuzuru did not notice that someone had been watching him since his arrival. Walking out from the airport entrance, a young man observed Yuzuru as the latter left the airport in a taxi. This young man was wearing the same type of cap as Shiba did. One could see strands of his hair hanging out from the edge of the cap like golden threads. His figure was slender and he wore a pair of jeans.

"Well well. To have flown to such an interesting place," the young man mumbled to himself, smiling. "Welcome, Jouhoku High senior student, Narita-sempai."

***

What is with this place...!

Not long after entering the city, Yuzuru started to feel uncomfortable because of the overly dense spiritual atmosphere. Kumamoto was in an extremely unusual state. During his journey from the airport to the outskirts of the city, he had noticed many spirits, seemingly from the Sengoku Jidai, but once he crossed over the high trestle bridge of the Kyushu island highway, there was an abrupt difference in what he saw. Was this the effect of the so-called kekkai? The moment he reached the city, Yuzuru felt suffocated by a murky spiritual atmosphere. He was so overwhelmed by nausea and a chill that he told the taxi driver to let him alight at a nearby public park.

Get a hold of yourself... Get a hold...

Yuzuru washed his face, trying to pluck up his spirits. He should feel better as he grew accustomed to it. As long as he could control himself, it should be fine.

Wait, didn't Takaya teach me something to counter this?

He knew a technique suitable for use in this sort of circumstances. It was not a high-level technique. He just had to imagine a transparent sphere around his whole body. The power of this thought could rebound some of the spiritual pressure, much like a form of self-hypnotism. No matter how much spiritual pressure one was under, one could reduce its effect to the minimum.

That's it, transparent sphere. Sphere...

Yuzuru diligently focused his thoughts and found it to be really effective. He did not want to be a burden to Takaya. He felt that he ought to be able to handle this sort of problem by himself. With renewed determination, Yuzuru returned to the street leading into the city center.

The situation in the city center was even worse but it did not pose too large a hindrance to Yuzuru perhaps because he now had some immunity.

This is just miserable...

Yuzuru's face grew taut as he walked past the shops. Floating spirits, earth-bound spirits and so forth had come alive and were seen all over the place. This reflected just how strong the spiritual barrier was. Will the residents be all right? While he was pondering over this, the electric lamp above him suddenly burst. Yuzuru got such a fright that he shrank backwards. It was rather unusual for a poltergeist phenomenon to occur so openly in broad daylight. He also noticed that there were less pedestrians than he expected. He was standing on the main street of Kumamoto city but about half of the shops on the left and right were closed, robbing the place of its lively ambience. Even the few people who were present had very little life in their eyes or facial expressions and they moved around in a stupor. As a result, the street was devoid of any energy.

This loathsome feeling...

When Shingen's soul was wrecking havoc back then, was the town of Matsumoto affected in the same way? The spiritual atmosphere obviously had an impact on the vitality of the ordinary people. Yuzuru decided to first make enquiries at the hotel Takaya and the others had stayed at.


"They still haven't returned?"

Yuzuru looked pained by the receptionist's words. Apparently, Chiaki had contacted them once but did not tell them when they would return. Yuzuru sighed.

"I see... If I'm not wrong, Ougi Takaya commutes to school from this hotel. Do you know which school he goes to?"

"Yes... But... that school is now..."

The receptionist's tone grew ambiguous upon mention of the school. Yuzuru was surprised and leaned forward.

"What happened? Which school?"

"Ougi-san attends Kojou High, but I think... I am afraid the reason why he has not returned could be because of that situation..."

"Situation?"

"I do not really know all the details," the receptionist replied and related the entire incident to Yuzuru in a small, hesitant voice.

"A mass runaway?"

"I am not sure... if that is really the case..."

According to the receptionist, the incident occurred the previous night. All of the students had remained in school and were collectively settled there.

"Settled? How can this be? Why would all the students suddenly abandon their families!"

"Well, right now even the police and other authorities are there. The situation is seriously disturbing. That is why I suspect Ougi-san and Chiaki-san are still in that school..."

It seemed like the receptionist knew that Chiaki was working as a teacher there. But what brought about this situation? Yuzuru thought for a while.

"I understand. Anyway, I'm going there to take a look. Kojou High, right?"

Yuzuru asked for the address of Kojou High then immediately left the hotel.

What's going on here?

Not only were the surroundings cramped with spirits, now there was a group of runaways holding fort in school. Yuzuru had also noticed that there were quite a few active spirits attached to the body of the receptionist and had felt extremely fearful. He almost could not endure the sight of the spirit parked on the receptionist's shoulder grinning at him with a wide smile. Takaya and the others really had a lot of courage to face this sort of thing. Normally, these spirits should not possess much power. They must have acquired the energy to move from something. If not, they would not be so clearly visible.

Kojou High...?

Yuzuru believed that was the first place he should go to as he ran along the road beside the castle moat.


As what he had heard, the police, the media and affected parents were all gathered in front of Kojou High, creating quite scene in the area.

"What... on earth?"

The main gate was securely closed but he could see a few students inside the school compound. They were like gatekeepers, positioned at fixed distances from each other.

It was not surprising that Kojou High used to be a castle site. Towards the east was the Tsuboigawa river, which served as an external moat, while the west side was encircled by a rock wall. As for the gates, there was the post office side entrance and a city side internal entrance, putting it in an excellent defense position.

The curtains to the windows of the school building were all open and it seemed like most of the students were inside. The atmosphere was extremely forbidding.
The representative of the parents council was trying to persuade the students with a loudspeaker. All of the parents gathered there had pale faces as they looked anxiously in the direction of the school building.

"What on earth happened here?" Yuzuru asked the news reporter standing next to him. "I heard the students have made this school their stronghold, is this true?"

"Yeah. All of the students have decided to abandon their families, saying that they will occupy this school to launch an operation. It has become quite a big issue."

"Occupy the school? This... isn't the age of student movements, why would they want to do that...!"

"An investigation is underway but they still haven't found anything. The school board and the police have tried to convince them to come out but nobody has any idea of the situation inside. If the students intend to make any demands from the staff members or anybody else, it seems like the authorities are prepared to accept them."

It's inside.

Yuzuru knew this. The source of the peculiarly, dense spiritual atmosphere was inside the building. This was the school. But what on earth was going on?

Why are those students...

"Apparently, this school was strange from the start," the news reporter explained to Yuzuru in a friendly manner. "There's something called the 'Iron Student Council.' It seems like this school has an extremely authoritarian student union. Some have said that the president is very enterprising in her leadership, which could explain how they were rallied together, but they don't have any history of conflict with the school itself. Still, whatever happens, I guess nothing is strange in today's society. Not to mention that they are at an age where feelings can be very volatile. It's probably something like a rebellion against adults or society. But this decision to occupy a school kind of reminds me of my school days."

The reporter was probably born during the baby boomers era. Yuzuru intuitively felt that his explanation was incorrect. This was not a rebellion against society. The object which activated the spirits of Kumamoto was inside this school. It must have had some sort of effect on the students.

Is Takaya in there too...!

What should he do?

"Student representative, come out and talk to us! All of us are prepared to hear what you have to say! If you have any requests, we will listen to it, come out and talk to us!"

The adults tried enthusiastically to persuade the students but they were not aware of the actual problem. Evidently, the students outside could hear them yet they paid no attention to them at all. They were like gatekeepers or perhaps castle soldiers without their own will.

Castle soldiers?

This place was indeed part of Kumamoto castle. Did Takaya and the others choose this school because they knew this place had something to do with the onshou of the Yami Sengoku?
Yuzuru wanted to ascertain that Takaya was safe. But how?

If I sneak in...

Yuzuru surveyed the whole area outside of the school. It was like a fortress. There was no chance for him to sneak in when gatekeepers were stationed everywhere.

Most of the adults saw this as a form of naive hysteria due to adolescence and believed that it would not continue for long. That was the reason why they had not taken any tough measures. With a few further enquiries, he was told that the students had external assistance. Food and other supplies were transported to them on a daily basis by a truck. So they were not exactly self-sustainable, were they?

A truck...

If Yuzuru had the kind of power Takaya or Chiaki had, it might be possible for him to seize that truck and sneak in, but as he was now, this was a mere fantasy. In this situation, Yuzuru felt pained at his lack of strength. He only had the idea but it was not feasible. However, he could not just watch and do nothing.

What should I do...


"They are still gathered outside. How stubborn of them," remarked Ozaki, the vice-president of the student union, when he opened the blinds and looked out at the school gate from the window of the headmaster's room. He turned to Mikuriya Juri, who was seated on the sofa behind him, and asked, "Should I dispatch troops to eliminate them?"

Mikuriya was calm throughout.

"There is no need. Pay no attention to them. As long as they do not enter the fort, all is well. Are the troops fully organized yet? How far has their training progressed?"

"Understood. The preparations are complete. They can be sent out for battle at any time."

"I see... What about the Golden Snake Head?"

"The extraction operation is currently underway."

The one who responded was Takahashi Shouun. The Golden Snake Head buried under the gym had finally been excavated. Shouun informed them that the extraction would be completed in one or two days.

"The Shimazu soldiers may be closing in on us but as long as we have the Golden Snake Head, we will be unsurpassable. Let us use our castle soldiers to impede them. I shall rely on your assistance, Irobe-dono."

Irobe Katsunaga was also present. Irobe nodded politely. He was under Naoe's instructions to assist Mikuriya. Although he did not know the exact details regarding Naoe's collaborative efforts with Mikuriya under the guise of Kaizaki, he had already heard everything regarding the Golden Snake Head after the conclusion of the alliance. There had been no contact from Naoe since then. He had said that he was going to investigate the activity of the Ikkoushuu who attacked Kagetora but what was his current status?

Anyway, I must protect this place until the Golden Snake Head is obtained.

Suddenly, there was increase in the volume of the loudspeaker outside and a loud siren. This muffled the Gregorian hymn being broadcasted inside the school. Mikuriya's face eventually hardened in displeasure.

"...Expel them from this place."


The people in front of the school gates were making a ruckus, which surprised Yuzuru as he turned in their direction. Apparently, something had happened. It seemed like the student representative had emerged. The representative was a female student with a Japanese doll-like hairstyle and she was accompanied by other students who followed her like a group of subordinates.

That is...

"Mikuriya!"

The headmaster of Kojou High shouted. The police asked the noisy staff members who she was.

"She's Mikuriya Juri. President of the Student Council."

"Mikuriya! You've finally responded to our appeals. What's going on here!"

"Everyone, please be silent."

That cold voice, which was completely unexpected for someone of her appearance, suppressed the uproar. There was a lofty look in the girl's eyes as she scrutinized the adults like she was exerting her control over them.

"Yesterday, we claimed ownership of Kojou High School. From now onwards, we shall be preparing for battle. All of you gathered here will hinder us in our fight. Please leave immediately."

"Battle...?"

"What's going on! What are you guys planning to do!"

"I do not accept questions. I am telling you people to leave immediately."

The teachers were intimidated into silence by Mikuriya's forcefulness. Mikuriya slowly folded her arms as she surveyed the crowd with an air of arrogance.

"There is no need for me to explain myself to lowly minions such as yourselves. If you value your lives, leave at once!"

What!

In an instant, Yuzuru saw something like threads of a spider web shooting out from Mikuriya's entire body. The threads spread out like a fog, engulfing everything in its range within seconds. Then a large snake emerged from the center of the white fog...!

"Uwahh!!!"

The staff members cried out, fleeing from the scene. The snake's red eyes could be seen flickering in the depths of the fog. Then, everyone was suddenly frozen in position.

Eh...

Eventually, the fog dispersed and the snake also faded away like an illusion. The staff members, parents and the police officers, every single one of them had a listless expression on their face as they walked away one by one.

"Eh... W-Wait a minute... you guys!"

Yuzuru shouted. He was the only one still standing in his original postion. Everyone else who had originally gathered there were leaving. This was definitely some form of hypnosis.

That girl...!

She was surely not an ordinary person. Yuzuru broke through the scattering crowd and dashed towards the school gate, pressing in on the student gatekeepers.

"Hey, there should be a student by the name of Ougi Takaya here! Let me see him! I know that he's here! Let me see Ougi Takaya!"

Mikuriya and the others, who were about to go inside, looked back upon hearing Yuzuru's voice.

Was my hypnosis ineffective...?

"Takaya! Takaya, are you there! Come out...! Ougi Takaya! Ougi Takaya--!"

"!"

Mikuriya's face stiffened. Next to her, Ozaki said in a pale face,

"President, that person..."

Mikuriya's eyes were emotionless and the expression on her face was cold like ice. Then she slowly turned around and walked towards him. Yuzuru saw her and braced himself.

"You say you are here to see Ougi Takaya?"

"Y...Yes."

Mikuriya nodded lightly at her subordinates. The two male students next to Yuzuru immediately grabbed his arms tightly.

"What are you doing...!"

"Who are you? What is your name?"

"I'm Narita Yuzuru. I'm Ougi Takaya's friend."

Mikuriya carefully scrutinized Yuzuru and discerned that he was not a hyoui rei or a kanshousha. Then why was he unaffected by her hypnotism?

"...Did you come here looking for Ougi Takaya?"

"Yes. I came all the way from Tokyo to look for him. If he's here, let me see him!"

"All right."

Mikuriya gave another signal to her subordinates and the two students released Yuzuru. Mikuriya turned back, then she looked over her shoulder and said,

"Follow me."


The inside of the school was like a military base. The students moved around in groups of ten, wearing their sailor-style uniforms and high-neck shirts. All of them saluted Mikuriya the moment she entered. What was intriguing was that every student had bright red eyes as though they had some form of hyperemia. And conjunctivitis was probably not the cause for it.

But it's the same as the eyes of that snake.

Yuzuru thought in this way. It was also strange that songs of praise were being broadcasted through the speakers in the corridors. He could not detect any sign of individuality in the students. They were like manmade humans whose willpower had been sealed.

Yuzuru looked inside one classroom as he walked by and was shocked. The desks and chairs were floating in the air. It was because the students were being trained to use their powers.

Superpowers...? Don't tell me all of them have that?

"Over here."

Yuzuru entered the room situated at the very end of the corridor as instructed. The room had black curtains that screened out the light, resembling a darkroom used to develop photographs. Yuzuru heard the door bolt shut and was startled a little. Had he been locked inside!

"Ch...!"

Without any warning, both his hands were bound together behind his back and his body was pushed down against a table leg. He heard the flick of a switch and found himself blinded by a light in front of him. Yuzuru could not help but shut his eyes.

"You say you are a friend of Ougi Takaya, the transfer student from class 2B," the schoolgirl of small stature asked in a cold, witch-like voice. "You know his real identity, do you not? Tell me honestly. Who is Ougi Takaya?"

"Takaya is Takaya."

Yuzuru's reply was extremely succinct.

"There's no such thing as a true or false identity, Takaya is Takaya and not anybody else. If you understand now, hurry up and let me see him!"

This precise response from Yuzuru left Mikuriya momentarily speechless. To Yuzuru, Takaya was not 'Uesugi Kagetora,' he was just 'Takaya.' This was the truth.

"No good will come from trying to hide it. Which faction are you from? The Oda? The Shimazu? Or..."

"That's my line. Who on earth are you? How about stating your own name before you start questioning other people's identities?"

Mikuriya was slightly angered by his reply. Yuzuru was very firm. Those large, chestnut eyes were full of fortitude, causing the other students present to shrink back in that moment. Mikuriya felt that he was being stubborn and gestured to her subordinate. A girl came forward from the lightproof curtains with a beaker of liquid. Something was wriggling in the liquid, causing alarm in Yuzuru. It had a grotesque shape, a green body that looked like Konnyaku. Mikuriya seized that thing with a calm expression.

"Do you know what this is?"

"..."

"It is a breeding hebimiko. This is a strong hebimiko we extracted from the body of Nezu's subordinate. It is craving for a host. It has grown inside a person's body and undergone sufficient training, making it a rather outstanding specimen. It will also make the host obey my orders."

Yuzuru's face turned sickly. He had guessed Mikuriya's intention.

Could it be that the students have all turned because of that...

"It will turn you into my subordinate."

"Wait... Wait a minute..."

"It will make you speak the truth."

The hebimiko wriggled repulsively in Mikuriya's hand. It was viscous and dense, resembling a snake of about 20 grams in weight... no, a leech.
The students restrained Yuzuru's struggling body, secured his jaw and forced his mouth open. Yuzuru was squirming out of fear as Mikuriya pressed the hebimiko into his mouth. He could not fight it...!

"Ah... Ngh..."

The strange creature was sluggish in its movement as it made its way from his mouth to his throat. It triggered such a disgusting sensation that it almost knocked Yuzuru out. Mikuriya then forced the hebimiko down his throat by applying pressure on the bulge that appeared from its wriggling and not long after, it was deep inside Yuzuru's body.

"Did he pass out?"

Yuzuru's head drooped down powerlessly. Mikuriya grinned as she wiped her hands with the towel her subordinate had given her.

"It does not matter. When he awakens, he will tell me about Ougi Takaya. Make preparations for him to be brought under our control. We shall have him as an extra combatant."

Then Mikuriya walked out of the room, the students saluting her as she left.

***

At this moment, Irobe and Takahashi Shouun had reached the construction site in the gymnasium. The excavation of the Golden Snake Head had gone smoothly.
The target was underneath the stage of the gymnasium. A rather deep hole had been dug out and one could see a rectangular casket at the bottom of the pit. Apparently, the Golden Snake Head was stored inside it.

"Using Aso-dono's account and this map of Kojou, we managed to determine that the shrine depository of the Golden Snake Head was located in this region. Fortunately, it was not damaged when the gymnasium was built as it was buried very deep underground. And it was placed in a sarcophagus. We can only hope that the contents of the sarcophagus is still in good condition," Shouun explained. "This is the map."

He handed the map of Kojou to Irobe. Apparently, this map belonged to the Aso clan.

"I see. This is a really detailed map. But where is Aso Koremitsu-dono, the one who told us about the Golden Snake Head?"

"Koremitsu-dono should be making his way to Saigonji."

Shouun turned the Kojou map over.

"If Koremitsu-dono was never resurrected, we would not have found out about the Golden Snake Head. When he was still alive, Koremitsu-dono was ordered by Hideyoshi-kou to perform seppuku after the old retainers of Sagara slandered him. I heard that he was only 12 years old at that time. He probably harbors an intense remorse because of this."

Although Koremitsu had received protection from Narimasa and Kiyomasa during his lifetime, after his resurrection, it seemed like he had chosen to align himself with his first ally, the Ootomo.

"Koremitsu-dono should be at Saigonji making preparations to set up the Ootomo's kingdom inside the volcanic crater..."

"The 'Great Fire Wheel Technique.'"

"Correct," Shouun nodded in reply.

It was a supreme incantation which the Ootomo was going to use in the Aso region.
This was the Ootomo's true goal. The Ootomo wanted to concentrate the expanding spiritual energy at the volcanic crater, which used to be a lake, and transform it into a huge reservoir of power.

The 'Great Fire Wheel Technique' was the incantation required to accomplish this plan. It was a very powerful incantation, which could be used to concentrate the spiritual might of the sun and the volcanic lava into a special container called the 'Incantation Cornerstone,' which would then fuse the two energies together. By using the edge of the volcanic crater as an embankment, it could function like a dam to house the spiritual power of the mixture in a highly active state. Upon completion of this incantation, the power from the spiritual energy of the sun and lava combined - 'Sun Power' - could be utilized whenever needed. Furthermore, as long as there was a constant supply of sun and lava, this source of power could be maintained eternally like an unending stream.

This 'Sun Power' could be used anywhere. If one were to combine it with weapons, an astonishing power would be unleashed. Furthermore, it could be furnished to all regions via the current of lava, much like the supply of tap water. Therefore, one could have access to this power even in remote areas or allow it to build up at certain points. Concentrating this energy at one point would cause an eruption at the surface and could, for example, destroy the Shimazu's base of operations in one fell swoop.

The Ootomo wanted to use the Golden Snake Head as the cornerstone for the 'Great Fire Wheel Technique.'

The nature of the Golden Snake Head was close to that of the serpent spirit. It had the ability to attract souls like a magnet, but it was not so much attracting the souls themselves as gathering together the energy that souls possessed. This made the Golden Snake Head the perfect cornerstone for the 'Great Fire Wheel Technique' where the spiritual might of the sun and lava were to be combined. After Mikuriya's entry into Kojou High, the attractive ability of the Golden Snake Head gradually became active. The magnetic force of the Golden Snake Head was responsible for perturbing the spiritual field of Kumamoto.

Once the 'Sun Power' dam was completed by Ootomo Sourin, they would be one step closer to calling this place their own kingdom.

"When Sourin-kou was alive, did he really want to build a Catholic kingdom?"

Shouun's hands paused in their movement; he looked at Irobe with a serious face. Irobe's expression was also solemn.

"I was told that Sourin-kou intends to set up many churches in the Aso city subdivision. By granting the power of the sun to the Catholics, he's planning to win the support of the Catholic spirits in the entire country and then unify the Yami Sengoku."

"That is correct, Irobe-dono."

"Did Sourin-kou really intend to set up a Catholic kingdom when he was still alive? Does he still linger on this earth in order to establish his kingdom? Were all of you resurrected for this purpose?"

"We have no say... in matters regarding the Catholic church," said Shouun.

During his peak, Ootomo Sourin ruled the six provinces of northern Kyushu island and was known as the 'Chinzei King.'
He displayed excellent foresight and took an active part in foreign transactions, bringing economic prosperity to increase his nation's power. Sourin also received the favours of Kyushu island's top retainers: Tachibana Dousetsu, Takahashi Shouun and Tachibana Muneshige. Their strength made Ootomo's Kyushu island the strongest nation at that time.

However, the glory of a feudal lord does not last long.
In this case, Sourin's own moral depravity was the reason for his downfall. He was preoccupied with glory and splendor, grew deeply egoistic, craved for riches, indulged in travel and sank into a rotten livelihood. Ultimately, the advice of his military advisor, Tachibana Dousetsu, never reached his ears. As Sourin's rule degenerated, the political situation in Kyushu island underwent rapid and substantial change. Ryuuzouji rebelled and a Shimazu uprising occurred, putting the Ootomo in an increasingly distressing position. The expedition to take Hyuuga failed and they suffered even greater losses at the battle of Mimigawa where their defeat cost them 20000 of their soldiers. From then on, the Ootomo weakened as the days went by and never recovered from this setback.

The despair of the Ootomo was greatly linked to the introduction of the Catholic church. Sourin originally became a Catholic for the purpose of using the missionaries to increase the Nanban trade but he unconsciously indulged in his faith and began to reward the actions of the missionaries in his territory, relentlessly built churches and even committed the atrocity of ordering the burning of Buddhist temples and pavilions during the war. As a result, his faith was regarded with increased religious antagonism in his family and eventually his own retainers rebelled against him.

Sourin was baptized in the sixth year of the Tenshou era. That was the year in which he personally led an expedition into Hyuuga in order to construct a Catholic kingdom in the state of Shiga. Unfortunately, the defeat at Taka Castle and Mimigawa dealt a significant blow to him and exploiting this turn of events, the Shimazu invaded the Ootomo territory.

Since his plans to create an ideal state, the Catholic kingdom, never came to fruition in his lifetime, Sourin sought to fulfill his dream in the land of Aso after his resurrection.

"...Do you feel that this is just a vain attempt? Irobe-dono."

Shouun asked in a somewhat gloomy tone.

"Indeed... When he was still alive, when my lord said that we were going to march into Hyuuga, I felt that it was just an ideal. During a time where our nation was in danger of instability, the idea of a Catholic kingdom was foolish. Everyone was opposed to it."

That ideal was a vain attempt but it could also be seen as a means of escape for Sourin who wanted to break out of the haze that enveloped his family. Shouun believed the latter to be the actual truth.

"But I feel that I can understand my lord's attachment to the Catholic church."

"..."

"My lord always had Dousetsu-dono by his side."

He was referring to Tachibana Dousetsu. Dousetsu was the Ootomo's military advisor who pledged his allegiance to Sourin after the inheritance battle known as the 'Nikai-kuzure no Nen.' He supported the Ootomo by serving as Sourin's trusted aide. Dousetsu was the quintessential military leader. He had outstanding integrity and was the type of warrior that stood out in a crowd. Irobe felt compelled to agree with him, having met Dousetsu in person.

"Perhaps Dousetsu was too diligent in my lord's view."

"Too diligent?"

"Yes. How should I put it... too outstanding, too perfect, he was too strong. My lord grew estranged from Dousetsu-dono and sent him to the furthest Tachibana castle in Bungo. Although he drifted apart from Dousetsu-dono, I can tell that my lord still feared him."

"Afraid of usurpation?"

"No," Shouun replied, shaking his head.

"My lord is not the type of person who worries about usurpation. And Dousetsu-dono lives by a code of unremitting loyalty, he will never abandon my lord. My lord also knew this, which was why the decision made him feel even worse."

"Him being too perfect... became a kind of pressure?"

Irobe asked. Shouun nodded slightly.

"Dousetsu-dono's shadow cannot be found in the Catholic teachings and culture. Perhaps my lord wanted to put up a good front or perhaps he wanted proof... By constructing a... kingdom that did not involve Dousetsu-dono..."

Irobe looked at the side of Shouun's face in silence.

"With this in mind, I feel that I can understand the reason for my lord's attachment to the Catholic kingdom. Or maybe I am overthinking this matter..."

"...Dousetsu-dono is currently at Kawaradake."

"It was my lord's order," said Shouun. "Dousetsu-dono wanted to be stationed in Aso to lead us but my lord stubbornly insisted that he should handle the construction of the 'Fallen Kingdom.' There are other people who are more than qualified to manage the 'Fallen Kingdom' but my lord does not want him to be involved."

The 'Fallen Kingdom' was the name of a large cannon, acquired from the Nanban trade, formerly used by Sourin to repel Shimazu Iehisa at Usuki's Niyuujima Castle. Sourin wanted to reconstruct it as a 'Spiritual Cannon' by using the land of Kawaradake.

"Dousetsu's resurrection... probably brought back the burden in my lord's heart," Shouun muttered, sighing as he thought of the two men.

Irobe did not say anymore. In his heart, he felt that there were truly all sorts of master-retainer relationships in this world.
The relationship between people could so much as influence the rise and fall of a nation. Only the affected parties understood the delicate feelings involved, many of which become the source of conflict.
Thus a nation was destroyed. Thus the master was beheaded... It resembled a certain master-retainer relationship of 400 years.

"The kingdom of Aso..."

Irobe mumbled to himself and sighed.
Then, the vice-president Ozaki came in to have a word them.

Shouun noticed him.
"Gorou? How is the situation outside? Has my lady driven away those people?"

"A strange person was found among them."

"What?" The two of them looked at him in a questioning manner. Ozaki appeared to be puzzled by it as well.

"That person was claiming to be a friend of Ougi Takaya and my lady's hypnotism did not affect him. My lady is personally examining him right now.

"What? What is that person's name?"

"I think it was Narita Yuzuru... if I am not mistaken..."

"Narita Yuzuru...!"
Irobe's strong reaction caught Shouun by surprise.

"Do you know him, Irobe-dono?"

"Ah... No..."

Irobe knew Narita Yuzuru. Irobe had heard everything from Naoe regarding the fact that Narita Yuzuru was the reincarnation of Kagekatsu as well as his true identity. He also knew that the 'Seed of the Demon King' had been embedded inside him by Nobunaga.

"What has Lady Julia done to him?"

"I was told that the hebimiko has been planted inside him. He will probably be brainwashed soon."

The situation was not good. Irobe thought in this way.

***

Narita Yuzuru had become a soldier of the Ootomo.
When Yuzuru awoke, he was dressed in the school uniform of Kojou High and allocated to a team like the rest of the students.

Really strange.

Yuzuru felt funny. Although the hebimiko was inside his body, it seemed like he was a bit different from the rest of the students. Yuzuru rubbed his body with his hands.

Isn't that weird worm the reason why all the students are so obedient?

Fortunately, half of Irobe's worries were not needed. The brainwashing effect of the hebimiko did not work on Yuzuru. Yuzuru vexed over what he should do next for a while before he decided to camouflage himself by mimicking the actions of the other students. He felt that this was a more convenient way to look for Takaya. Yuzuru pretended to be brainwashed and participated in the training.
Things got interesting.

I... I have superpowers!

It was an astonishing ability. He did not know if it was caused by the force of the incantation but he could lift a large desk without touching it. Yuzuru felt extremely excited by this.

Amazing! Amazing! Too amazing...!

It seemed as though he was now like Takaya and the others with this supernatural power. The ability came to him so easily.

Now I can fight like Takaya and the rest!

Yuzuru had always felt upset that he was the only one who could not do anything. He had felt extreme remorse for not being able to be of any assistance to Takaya. But as long as he had this sort of power, he could do it. He could fight for Takaya. The students around Yuzuru watched him in amazement because nobody else could utilize this power as easily as he could.

"This is just awesome..."

Mikuriya, who had come to inspect the training sessions, was also shocked by Yuzuru's ability. There was no soldier more ideal than Yuzuru. Although he did not reveal any information about Takaya, that was no longer important. There was no reason to ignore such an outstanding soldier.

"Gorou. Assign him to the first squadron of 2A. We will have considerable victory if he is included in our main battle strategy. He will be a useful soldier."

After that, Mikuriya said to the leader of the small squadron, "I will leave this to you."
Then she left with her subordinates.


Not long after, Irobe Katsunaga appeared in the classroom. The students knew Irobe was Mikuriya's guest.

"President Mikuriya told me to send for Narita Yuzuru."

The students complied without the slightest doubt, calling to Yuzuru who was in the midst of his training.

What is he up to...?

Yuzuru raised his guard as he gazed steadily at the man who was obviously not someone from this school. Irobe did not take him to the enforcement division but to the darkroom where there was no sign of anyone. The moment the door closed, Yuzuru felt uneasy. He wondered if someone had seen through his acting.

"W-Who are you..."

Yuzuru's eyes widened in alarm.

"Why did you call for me? If there's a problem then say it."

"...As expected of you. You were not affected by the hebimiko."

"!"

Yuzuru suddenly attacked with an incantation he had just learned but the man scattered it with a goshinha.

The incantation...!

"So you even have powers now in addition to being resistant to the brainwashing? That's pretty amazing."

"W-Who on earth are you! Are you a teacher of this school!"

"Heh. Please don't worry. I'm on your side."

"Eh?" Yuzuru had a bewildered look on his face.

"I am a comrade of Ougi Takaya. My name is Irobe Katsunaga."

"Irobe..."

The name was familiar to Yuzuru as he had heard it once from Takaya.
Yuzuru was stunned.

"Irobe... Katsunaga..."
 
( Read comments )
Post a comment in response:
From:
Anonymous( )Anonymous This account has disabled anonymous posting.
OpenID( )OpenID You can comment on this post while signed in with an account from many other sites, once you have confirmed your email address. Sign in using OpenID.
User
Account name:
Password:
If you don't have an account you can create one now.
Subject:
HTML doesn't work in the subject.

Message:

 
Notice: This account is set to log the IP addresses of everyone who comments.
Links will be displayed as unclickable URLs to help prevent spam.