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Honoo no Mirage - Volume 5 - Chapter 8


Published at 7th of February 2016 09:09:13 PM

Chapter 8

Chapter 8: The Demon's Funeral Fire


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When Nagi abruptly regained consciousness, she was sitting on the bank of a small pond in a park-like area.

Eh? She looked around dazedly. The ‘pond’ actually appeared to be the moat of some castle. Nagi looked down at herself. She was barefoot and still in pajamas, now mud-splattered.

“Ah...”

Her mind finally cleared. Why was she here? How had she gotten here? When? She should be in bed in her own room. Why had she woken up in this place? Why...?

(Was I sleep-walking?)

Increasing afraid, she instinctively hugged herself.

(What...happened to me?!)

She looked around. A towering stone wall encircled the moat, and morning mist enveloped the park and what looked like the ruins of a castle. She could hear the faraway clanging of an electric train, but no other signs of life. And—then.

“...!”

Nagi spun reflexively at a rustling behind her.

“Is—is someone there?”

There was the sound of feet treading over grass. Nagi tensed in fear. A figure appeared—and she screamed the moment she saw it clearly.

“Aaaah...!”

The figure had resolved itself not into a person, but into a blood-covered warrior in crumbling helm and armor. It was a «nue» of the Oda, sent to hunt her down—and now, at last, hunt her down it had. The warrior was not alone. It howled the moment it saw her, and its comrades answered in kind nearby. Ghostly warriors began gathering around her, one after another, all of them with hideous battle wounds that had left their bodies mangled and torn.

Nagi was so terrified that she had lost even her ability to scream. Her body was as paralyzed as her voice.

The warriors unsheathed their swords as they approached. No doubt they intended to kill Nagi while her consciousness, not the ‘Hiragumo’s, was in control.

“N-no...” Nagi stammered, trembling so hard her teeth clattered. Tears slid down her cheeks. “Don’t...!”

And the warriors brandished their swords and attacked...!

“Aaaaah...!”

Nagi and the spirit warriors screamed simultaneously. Something ripped through their ghostly bodies, out of which a dark smoke gushed, to be instantly sucked into Nagi’s body.

“Aaah...eeeek...!”

A strange discomfort filled her. The warriors crumbled in place as their bodies broke apart and evaporated into the air. The black smoke, the stolen spiritual power of the warriors, spread into Nagi’s every pore.

“Wh...!”

The power filled her to her fingertips, completing her in a way she had never known before. The sensation bewildered and frightened her.

(What in the world is happening to me?!)

The warriors’ gaze on her was different now, tinged with obvious fear.

«She destroyed our brothers...»

«She is our enemy...!»

«Kill!»

Nagi cried out in terror. “No! I didn’t do anything...!”

Unheeding of her pleas, the warriors drew their swords.

«She cannot be allowed to live!»

«Kill her!»

They raised their swords. Nagi screamed. But then a voice—!

“Sheathe your swords.”

The low, hoarse command had come from behind the warriors. Staring in surprise in the direction of the voice, she saw a short hunchbacked man appear out of the mist.

“This monster cannot be killed at the hand of any «nue». If you should attack carelessly, your power will only be stolen away like that of your brethren.”

The ghostly warriors shuddered and retreated. Nagi shivered in overwhelming terror. The old man turned dull leaden eyes towards her and said, his voice the raven’s harsh croak, “Art thou afraid? How strange. For ’tis we who are very much afraid of thee.”

“Who are you...?” Nagi gathered up her courage to ask. “What...is happening...? What did I...”

“You must die,” another voice said from behind the old man. Nagi’s eyes opened wide as a sun-tanned young man with a dauntless face appeared—Sassa Narimasa. The «nue» he had sent fromNara had put everything into the search for Nagi, finding her a step ahead of Takaya, Naoe, and Chiaki. Looking at the trembling Nagi, Narimasa added, his voice calm with the conviction of victory, “You seem to know nothing. Well, no matter. You will soon be dead in any case. If you must hate anyone for it, then hate the monster living inside you: the ‘Hiragumo’, and the one who invaded you with the parasite in the first place, Matsunaga Hisahide.”

“Matsunaga...Hisa...hide...?”

“Your body is no longer yours alone. You are sharing it with the ‘Hiragumo’. It’s unfortunate, but further struggle is meaningless. Once you become a host to it, it cannot be extracted. The monster living inside your body is dangerous to us in the extreme. We will destroy it here along with your body.”

“Who are you? Who are you people?!” Nagi shouted, forgetting her fear. “You were the ones who attacked me, weren’t you?! What are you...!”

Narimasa stopped Akanue as he opened his mouth to speak and replied composedly, “I am Sassa Narimasa, vassal of Sengoku general Oda Nobunaga. I came in response to the resurrection of the onshou Matsunaga Danjou Hisahide at Mt. Shigi.”

“O-Oda Nobunaga...” Nagi repeated, stunned. Even she recognized that most famous of names. But what did he mean by being Nobunaga’s vassal? And Matsunaga Hisahide—wasn’t that the name of the Mt. Shigi general who had governed this area during the Sengoku?

What was this man saying...?!

What had she stepped into?!

“The parasite living inside thy body is Matsunaga Hisahide’s secret weapon, a terrifying monster that devours the power of the onshou of the «Yami-Sengoku». We cannot simply let it be. Forgive me!”

“...!”

Narimasa unsheathed his katana. Nagi backed away. The young man appeared to be quite serious. She didn’t understand anything but the fact that he was going to kill her. She didn’t want to die. She didn’t want to die...!

“I will protect thee.”

The Dragon God’s promise echoed back to her. Nagi desperately threw out a silent cry for help.

(Save me...! O Dragon God!)

She screamed with all her might, “Save me! Chiaki-san!”

 

“!”

Chiaki turned as he was about to step into the car. He had felt a strong «mind-call» from the north.


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(It’s Nagi...!)

Naoe and Takaya stopped and looked at him. They had exterminated Hisahide’s hoihoi fire and had been about to pick up the trail once more. Chiaki told them, “I heard a cry from Nagi. Kagetora, where is the Gohou Douji?”

Takaya looked at the dagger and blanched at the scene reflected there.

(Oh shit...!)

He shouldn’t have taken his eyes off of it. Nagi was surrounded by «nue». Oda’s...?!

They were out of time!

Takaya said in a tight voice, “Nagi’s been found by the Oda. Chiaki, synchronize with my ‘eyes’ and navigate. I’ll relay what the Gohou Douji is seeing.”

“Kagetora, what are you...?”

“I’m going to synchronize with the Gohou Douji’s ‘body’. I’ll have him protect Nagi until we arrive. Naoe, step on it. Head due north. You’re racing against time! Don’t stop for any reason!”

“Understood!” Naoe released the hand break even as he responded, without pausing to check if Takaya and Chiaki were fully in the car. The car shot forward before the doors could close completely. On the back seat, Takaya chanted to the dagger, then bit his finger and held it over the blade. He said to the Gohou Douji as drops of his blood fell onto it, “Bestow upon me the ‘spirit’ of the Dharma of the Sword!”

The blood instantly dissolved into the blade, and Takaya’s consciousness melded with that of the Gohou Douji. Chiaki caught Takaya’s tilting body against his side, also chanting: “Naubou bagyabatei ushunishaya on roro soboro jinbara chishuta shidda roshani sarabaarata sadaniei sowaka—...”

Sensation stirred within his soul. His vision mingled and fused with Takaya’s. This was spirit-energy synchronization, a unique technique which could only be invoked between those with especially high spiritual powers; Kagetora and Nagahide were the only Yasha-shuu capable of this difficult feat. Chiaki opened his eyes. The Gohou Douji’s vision, relayed by Takaya, imposed itself over Chiaki’s visual perception. He expanded the reach of his spirit sensing antenna in a wide circle to pinpoint the Gohou Douji’s location.

“Anything, Nagahide?”

“Not far. North. We’re close—it’s around Kooriyama... Hmn?”

The scene the Gohou Douji looked upon was familiar. There was a moat. Castle ruins perhaps, with railroad tracks close by... It was...

“I got it, Naoe! That’s Kooriyama Castle!”

“What?!”

“I’m sure of it! That’s where Nagi is!”

“Kooriyama Castle!”

Naoe twisted the wheel sharply. The Presia accelerated wildly towards Yamato-Kooriyama on a seldom-used road.

 

“Ugh...!” Narimasa grunted, halting in his tracks with naked sword in hand.

“!”

Nagi gasped in surprise. Akanue and the other nue also sucked in amazed breaths. Just as Narimasa had been about to cut Nagi down—

The golden Douji, bearer of a thousand swords, suddenly whirled down into the space between them.

“Wh-what is that...!”

“Narimasa-dono! That’s...!”

The Gohou Douji of the Sword stood protectively in front of Nagi, blocking Narimasa’s way.

(This is...the Dragon God?) Nagi thought, stunned and bewildered.

 

 

“Narimasa-dono!” Akanue called sharply, “’tis a Gohou Douji being controlled by the Uesugi—Gohou Douji of the Sword, servant of Bishamonten!”

“What? Uesugi?!”

Narimasa confronted the Gohou Douji, glaring. The synchronization of his spiritual energy with that of the Gohou Douji allowed Takaya to move the Gohou Douji according to his will. TheYasha-shuu, who served Uesugi Kenshin, God of War, could also be called servants to the heavenly deities. Through Kagetora’s own spiritual power and the divine power of «choubuku» granted to him by Bishamonten, he was able to synchronize his spiritual energy with others who served him.

“Damn you, I won’t let you interfere...!”

Narimasa attacked the Gohou Douji with «nenpa». The plasmatic bolt met the golden film that covered the Douji’s body and scattered.

“You...!”

His attack frustrated, Narimasa hesitated. With a graceful swish, the Gohou Douji’s swords fanned across his back like the feathers of a peacock’s tail.

Several hundred swords shot towards Narimasa and the nue!

“Ugh!”

Anger warped Narimasa’s face at last as he erected a «goshinha» to protect himself against the cloud of swords flying towards him.

“You impudent...!” Narimasa roared. Spiritual energy erupted from his body—and a violent battle began between the two combatants!

Nagi stared speechlessly at the unbelievable scene in front of her. What was this? What was happening here? What...

«Nagi...»

Nagi started and lifted her head. Someone was calling her, and the voice seemed to be speaking directly into her mind.

Who...?

«I will protect you, Nagi.»

A man’s voice she had heard somewhere before.

«These people are your enemies. Our enemies. They will hurt you. They will hurt us.»

Enemies—

People who wanted to kill her. Enemies. Those who had hurt her, rejected her. She suddenly saw them again: her relatives, people who had treated her and her mother like insects to be crushed underfoot. Her stepfather, who had married her mother only to use her, and then driven her to suicide.

«I am the only who will protect you, Nagi!»

This voice... Yes, this voice belonged to—

The Dragon God!

 


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The terrible «power» of the two combatants crashed into each other, creating a squall that mowed down the surrounding trees. The air between them exploded with plasmatic light!

“!”

A car screeched to a halt nearby. Naoe and Chiaki alighted and immediately came flying into the battle between the Gohou Douji and Narimasa.

“Over here...!” Chiaki shot a «nenpa» at Narimasa. Narimasa could not bring up his defenses in time against the sudden attack, and was flung back.

“Narimasa-dono!”

Akanue and the other nue leapt into an attack against Naoe and Chiaki as soon as they saw the Yasha-shuu reinforcements.

“Ugh...!”

Naoe encircled himself and Chiaki with a «goshinha», intercepting the oncoming «nenpa» with sharp explosions of light.

“Damn you...!” Narimasa climbed to his feet, blood running into one fiercely glaring eye.

At that moment they heard an eerie sound coming from behind them.

Creak creak...

“What the!”

They spun. Cracks darted through the tall stone wall in the blink of an eye.

The wall crumbled with a terrifying boom. Naoe and Chiaki reflexively leapt nearly five meters back to either side, but the «nue» were on them in a flash.

“...!”

The wreckage of the wall shot out in all directions like a storm of bullets. Naoe and Chiaki strengthened their «goshinha» shields, but it was all they could do to protect themselves against the fierce attack. The Gohou Douji, in synchrony with Takaya, commenced another strike against Narimasa. His golden swords shot forth, but were completely brushed aside by Narimasa’s «goshinha».

“!”

Naoe whirled. He had gotten separated from Takaya, whose body lay defenseless while he controlled the Gohou Douji.

(Dammit...!)

Akanue was certainly aware of that fact. “There!” He shouted, blasting a «nenpa» charged with all his power at the car where they had left Takaya. Vreen—Naoe encircled him with a «goshinha».

“Ugh!”

A terrible flash of plasmatic light scattering in all directions.

“Asshole!” Chiaki yelled as he mowed down the «nue». They screamed as they were tossed aside, but instantly recovered, brandishing their swords. Chiaki spat in disgust and formed the ritual gesture of Bishamonten.

“Ari nari tonari anaro nabi kunabi!”

He attacked the swarm of «nue».

“ (bai)!”

The onryou disappeared with a sharp crack of air. Turning, Chiaki shouted, “Naoe! Kagetora, withdraw! We’re too thinly spread!”

Naoe shouted towards the Gohou Douji, “Kagetora-sama! Please go back! Hurry!”

Narimasa’s fierce attack had strained the synchronization between Takaya and the Gohou Douji. He was being pressed back. If he slipped and any part of the Gohou Douji were injured, then Kagetora himself would be injured through their bond.

“Kagetora-sama! Hurry...!”

Narimasa shot a «nenpa» at the Gohou Douji. Naoe barely managed to block it with his «goshinha». Akanue attacked Takaya at the same time, to be deflected by Chiaki’s shield.

The Gohou Douji shot up into the sky. His body suddenly became transparent, and Narimasa’s attack went right through him. Naoe dashed towards Takaya, who finally opened his eyes in the back seat as he disengaged from the synchronization. He quickly shook his head several times, then finally looked at Naoe beside him.

“Naoe! What happened to Nagi?!”

“Nagi-san? ...!”

Turning, Naoe and Takaya—and, even Chiaki, Narimasa, and the nue paused their various battles as they gaped.

(Wh...!)

Nagi stood with the stone wall at her back. Eerie orange flames danced around her, and her eyes glowed with a strange light. Her aura...was full of an unearthly evil...!

Vreesh.

There was a sound as of something being warped. Then the bodies of the Oda ghost-warriors suddenly wavered in place and were pulled towards Nagi.

“Ah!”

Everyone cried out in one voice. Another shape was superimposed over Nagi’s: a large tea kettle wearing a human face. A monster tea kettle with human limbs.

(So that’s the “Hiragumo”...?!) Takaya thought as Oda’s «nue» were sucked into the tea kettle’s mouth. The other «nue» were also being forcibly dragged towards the ‘Hiragumo’. Their struggles were useless against its terrifying power.

“Wauuugh...!” Akanue screamed. The ’Hiragumo’s enormous power was pulling Akanue out of his spiritual vessel.

“Akanue! You impudent...!” Narimasa shouted, launching an attack against the ‘Hiragumo’, but it simply absorbed his «nenpa». Akanue’s darkish spirit was losing his grip on his body even as he clung to it with frantic desperation.

“Ugh...!”

Meanwhile, Takaya, Naoe, and Chiaki were experiencing crisis of their own. They could feel the power bleeding out of them. The ‘Hiragumo’ had finally developed the ability to wring spiritual energy out of kanshousha!

“Aaaaah...!”

It was stealing their power from them—from Takaya, from Naoe, from Chiaki, from Narimasa. One by one, they fell to their knees as exhaustion abruptly assaulted them. They couldn’t resist this terrible leeching of their «power». If this continued, they would die. The ‘Hiragumo’ had begun to feed on all ‘energy’, including their life forces!

“I will stop this!”

Mustering his will, Narimasa raised his sword. Chiaki’s eyes widened.

(No...!)

If he couldn’t use «power», then he would kill Nagi with his own two hands.

If its body died, the ‘Hiragumo’ would lose its abilities...!

Narimasa attacked Nagi with a roar. Chiaki immediately sprang in front of him.

“Get away from her!”

Blade clanged violently against blade as Chiaki’s dagger blocked Narimasa’s katana at close quarters.

“Damn you...! Do intend to interfere still?”


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“I’m not gonna let you kill Nagi!” Pushing against the hilt of Narimasa’s long sword with all his might, Chiaki shouted, “Nagi! Wake up! Nagi!”

She only gazed fixedly at him, clad in orange flames.

“Are you gonna let yourself be taken over by him, Nagi?! Dammit, wake up! Nagi! Nagi!”

Nagi!

Nagi’s shoulders quivered. The unearthly power filling her eyes gave way to her own light.

“Chiaki-san...?”

Clang—pushing against Narimasa’s katana with all his strength, Chiaki yelled, “Nagi! That thing within you is not the Dragon God! It’s just a monster! A monster being controlled by a ghost!”

«He’s your enemy, Nagi...!»

Another voice resounded within her mind: the angry voice of the Dragon God rebuking her.

«He is our enemy! Do not listen to him! He is deceiving you...!»

Nagi pressed a hand against her head in confusion. Chiaki shouted vehemently, “That thing is not the Dragon God, Nagi!”

Narimasa attacked Chiaki.

“If you insist on standing in my way, then I will send you to your death...!”

“!”

Chiaki dodged the downward-swinging sword at the last second. Narimasa swung again. Ah, Nagi gasped. Takaya dashed forward and threw himself at Narimasa. They tumbled grappling to the ground.

«Kill them!» the Dragon God commanded Nagi. A sharp voice that brooked no refusal.

«Kill them all!»

“He is not the Dragon God, Nagi!” Chiaki refuted the voice.

«I am the one who will protect you...!»

Nagi cowered, arms around her head. She was no longer sure of anything. Her head was about to explode.

“Stop it...!”

“Nagi!”

In the next instant the ‘Hiragumo’ began drawing in everything with terrifying power.

Noooo—!

Unable to resist the implosive inhalation, Akanue was torn out of his spiritual vessel with only a single short scream.

“Akanue!”

There was no way of stopping it. Akanue abruptly disappeared into the ’Hiragumo’s jaws.

Every type of energy spiraled towards the ‘Hiragumo’. Takaya and the others shielded themselves and tried to resist, but even their physical strength was drained by the tremendous force. Their «power» was being stolen from them!

“Aah...aaaaah...!” Chiaki groaned as energy gushed out of his body. He felt as if his muscles were rapidly weakening, withering. Takaya collapsed to the ground. Naoe reached for him desperately, calling his name. He touched Takaya, but could move no further. His body lost all strength, and he, too, crumbled to the ground, hand still outstretched.

(This...can’t be...happening...!) Takaya clawed at the ground in desperate defiance. (Namu...Tobatsu...Bishamon...)

Even his soul was being wrenched out of him. Takaya finally lost consciousness.

But then—

Some tremendous power jerked his consciousness back.

(Wh...?)

The pull on his energy suddenly slackened. No, had been partially cut off. He realized then that a golden light encircled the three of them. They looked up.

The Gohou Douji had cast a «goshinkou» around them.

“It’s...!”

Oddly enough, even the awesome force of the ’Hiragumo’s draining power had no effect on the Gohou Douji. It hovered in midair, completely unaffected, protecting Takaya and the others. Naoe inhaled a quick breath and turned to the astonished Takaya. That was it! Of course!

“Kagetora-sama, the Gohou Douji!”

“Huh?”

“Look. The Gohou Douji, which has no corporeal body, is unperturbed by even the ’Hiragumo’s draining power. Neither is this «goshinkou» being pulled away. What do you know what this means?”

“What it means...?”

Naoe said urgently, “It means that the powers of the Gohou Douji—as well as that of the heavenly deities and their servants—cannot be stolen by the ‘Hiragumo’. My guess is that their origins lie in dimensions that are too far apart, and if the ‘Hiragumo’ should carelessly take in such power, its capacity would be exceeded. No matter how far it’s grown, a phantom cannot handle divine powers within its worldly limitations. If it exceeds its capacity, the ‘Hiragumo’ will implode and self-destruct!”

“Divine power...” Takaya said, enlightened. “I got it!”

Nagi cried out. There was no way for her to control the power of the ‘Hiragumo’.

“Nooooo... Stop...!”

“Nagi!” Chiaki shouted desperately, his voice hoarse. “Hold on! Don’t lose yourself! Nagi!”

“Noooooo! Help me—!”

The voice of the Dragon God reverberated in her head. «Kill them! Kill them all!»

Nagi covered her head, sobbing, “Help me, help me...!”

“Nagi!” He desperately reached out to her.

“Chiaki-san!”

Takaya formed Bishamonten’s symbolic gesture. In the glowing «goshinkou»-shielded eye of a wildly raging storm, Takaya chanted loudly, “On beishiramandaya sowaka, on beishiramandaya sowaka—...”

Power gathered within his hands.

“On beishiramandaya sowaka!”

His eyes opened wide, and he thundered, “Namu Tobatsu Bishamonten! For this demon subjugation, confer thy demon-vanquishing sword upon me!”

A plasmatic bolt of silver light crashed through the center of the storm.

“!”

Nagi was flung back. Naoe and Chiaki shielded themselves, leaning into the gale. An intense white light coalesced in Takaya’s hands. His palms burned for a moment before the mass of light solidified into steel, and a magnificent sword glowed in his grip.

 

The Sword of Bishamonten had taken shape in the earthly realm.

Their «choubuku» ability was a divine power bestowed upon them by Bishamonten, the God of War. His Sword was created from the same power and could also be called a mass of «choubuku» energy. And if the ‘Hiragumo’ could not drain divine power, then...!

“Eat this...!”

Takaya sprinted forward, swinging the Sword of Bishamonten. The ’Hiragumo’s kettle shape with its terrible power was superimposed over Nagi’s body. Takaya leveled the Sword and thrust it straight into the ’Hiragumo’s maws!

“Go blow yourself up!”

The blade disappeared into the ’Hiragumo’s mouth with a flash of blue light.

«...!»

Bishamonten’s power unfolded within the tea kettle.

And the ‘Hiragumo’ swallowed it down. Its tea kettle body immediately swelled, its capacity exceeded. Light flared from the sharp cracks spreading through its body.

!

Then it exploded in all directions!

Takaya and the others shielded themselves. The ‘Hiragumo’ self-destructed with an ear-splitting denotation.

(Did that work...?!)

The pieces of the tea kettle turned to silver, then a sparkling rain that enveloped them in every color of the rainbow. It had tried to devour so much power that its body had instantly inflated like a balloon and imploded.

Takaya lifted his head. The pieces of the ‘Hiragumo’ continued to fall like a glistening downpour of light against the morning sun. But at the touch of the earth they turned to ash and disappeared.

The storm calmed. That terrifying draining power and everything else had vanished as if they had never been.

The gluttonous tea kettle monster had been destroyed by its own gorging of Bishamonten’s power...

 

“Nagi!”

Nagi, who had regained her own form, had collapsed into Takaya’s arms, unconsciousness.

She had at last been released from the ’Hiragumo’s hold. Though exhausted, she appeared to be uninjured. So in the end they had managed to resolve the problem of the ‘Hiragumo’ without hurting Nagi. Chiaki rushed up to them, and Takaya passed her over.

Sassa Narimasa climbed shakily to his feet. Naoe stood protectively beside Takaya. Takaya pinned a stony stare on Narimasa.

“So you’re Sassa Narimasa?”

“I have heard of the Uesugi’s «choubuku» power, but it is far and away more terrible than the rumors...” Narimasa commented, panting. “That it could destroy the ‘Hiragumo’ with such ease... Still, well and good. What you have done will one day pave for us the way to ascendancy.”

“What are you talking about?”

“...”

Narimasa considered, smirking. “So you...don’t know yet. Ah, I see.”

Takaya glowered at him threateningly. Narimasa wiped his mouth and added, "I thought that you destroyed the ‘Hiragumo’, knowing. Hmn. In that case, I will tell you this as a token of my appreciation.

“What?!”

Narimasa’s eyes hardened, the unyielding spirit of a ferocious warrior surfacing from their depths.

“The ’Hiragumo’s master, Matsunaga Hisahide, has allied himself with Akechi Mitsuhide, our bitter enemy, and has declared war against Oda...!”

“!”

Takaya, Chiaki, and Naoe stared at Narimasa. “Akechi Mitsuhide?!”

“Has he been resurrected, too?! That’s...!”

Narimasa replied, his voice hard as steel, “Our battle against the anti-Oda forces in the provinces around the old capital will only intensify from this point...and the impact of the destruction of Hisahide’s secret weapon on that battle will be great. So for now I will say my thanks to you, Yasha-shuu of the Uesugi.”

The resurrection of Akechi Mitsuhide—

Completely blind-sided by this news, for a moment none of them could make a reply.

“Don’t think that we’ll let it end here, Narimasa,” Takaya retorted after a moment, eyes glinting. “D’you really think we’re gonna let the «Yami-Sengoku» onshou run wild under our noses?”

“Are you planning to challenge me here?” Narimasa smiled, lifting razor-sharp eyes. “Though it appears as if we’re not going have the time for that.”

“Eh...?”

He turned, following Narimasa’s gaze, and gasped at the unbelievable sight. An enormous cloud of fireballs flew towards them from the distant eastern sky, making the eerie janjan sounds that gave them their other name.

(Hoihoi fire...!)

“Cursed Hisahide. He has incited Toichi’s «nue» in revenge. What now, Uesugi? Will you fight me? Or would you be toasted by Hisahide’s fireballs before that?”

Takaya spat in disgust, glaring at the incoming hoihoi fire. “We’ll put off settling with you. Let’s take care of the hoihoi fire.”

“Kagetora-sama.”

“Naoe. You can protect Nagi, right?”

Chiaki rose as if this had been the signal he had been waiting for.

“Time to go wild, huh?”

“Let’s ask Mt. Shigi’s Bishamon-san for some help.”

Takaya filled himself with power as he spoke, and it circled his body in a whirling dance. Narimasa glowered fiercely up into the sky. Energy flared from Chiaki and Naoe as they awaited the swarm of fireballs—

—the onslaught of fire-clad «nue» against the four warriors!

Takaya raised the Sword of Bishamonten and shouted, “Bring it on, you freakin’ nue!”

Burning rocks smashed apart against their «shield-wall» in the first furious barrage before Takaya and the others counterattacked—the opening shots of the battle at the ruins of Kooriyama Castle in which the four ‘kanshousha’ fought for their lives against the swarm of ‘kaki’!

“Namu Tobatsu Bishamonten! For this demon subjugation, lend me thy power!”



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