Author: 梦溪石 / Meng Xi Shi
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Otowa continued, “At that time, I hadn’t returned to Japan. In order to find the origin of the stone box, I recruited talented people from all over the world in the name of research. An old man told me that the stone box contained a demon that was sealed in it in ancient times. Because of the balance of heaven and earth, one black and one white, demons can never be killed or destroyed, so there are common people with great abilities who use it to suppress demons with great powers and seal them in stone boxes to prevent catastrophe to maintain the balance.”
Wu Bingtian knew as soon as he heard this that the person who told Otowa this had to be a practitioner who had a deep understanding of the laws of the universe.
The old monk warned Otowa Yasuhiko, who was Asaka Yasuhiko at that time, not to open the stone box. Otherwise, disaster would befall the world, but he obviously didn’t know Otowa’s cold-blooded demonic nature that enjoyed torturing people. Naturally, Otowa wouldn’t listen to such advice, and after hearing what the old monk said, it actually increased his desire to open the box.
“No matter how coercive I was, the old monk refused to help me open the box. In order to prevent the secret from leaking, I had to kill him. There are many dragons and tigers hiding in China and Japan. Eventually I found those who were willing to help me, and it took three years before I finally opened the box.”
Otowa’s breathing became rapid, as if recalling the scene of that year again. He even showed a dreamlike expression, completely ignoring the only audience present.
Wu Bingtian moved his fingers slightly, wondering if he should just violently kill Otowa right now and end everything.
But he quickly found that this idea wouldn’t work because he noticed that there was a very thin red line on the tatami mat between him and Otowa. If he didn’t observe carefully, he would have missed the obvious line.
It was very likely there was an enchantment between him and Otowa, or that the Otowa Yasuhiko in front of him was just a phantom being projected here.
Naturally, Wu Bingtian could choose to launch a sudden attack, but if he failed, he would lose his chance to save the hostage.
In a duel with an old fox like Otowa, a slight mistake would be enough to destroy the entire plan.
Wu Bingtian retracted his gaze from the red line and confronted Otowa. The latter showed him a knowing smile, causing his heart to tremble. It was indeed the correct decision to not act rashly just now.
“So what did you encounter after you opened the box?” Wu Bingtian asked as if nothing had happened.
Otowa said, “At that time, when the box was opened, of all the people present, the two craftsmen and four servants were all swept up by a black qi and fell to the ground. They all died except for me.”
Having said that, an unusual look of excitement appeared on his face.
“Only me. The black qi came to me. Instead of engulfing me, it circled me a few times and finally got into a sword that was in front of me!”
Wu Bingtian said, “And the sword didn’t jump up and kill you?”
Otowa ignored the sarcasm in his tone and seriously answered, “Director Wu, do you think this proves that I’m the legendary person of destiny and the master to receive this demon’s qi? Otherwise, why did everyone that was present die except for me?”
Wu Bingtian also found it strange, but he didn’t show it. He just sneered and said, “Maybe you’re a born demon, and the demonic qi smelled its own kind, so naturally it didn’t kill you.”
Otowa felt that it made sense and nodded. “After thinking about it, I seem to have only this answer. It may be because I killed so many people in China at that time and finally realized that the ultimate happiness in the world isn’t fame or wealth but eternal killing, which fits quite well with the qi in the stone box. That is why it chose me, and I also chose it.”
Wu Bingtian frowned. “Such a sword possessed by demonic qi isn’t an ordinary sword, is it?”
Otowa smiled. “Truly worthy of your title, Director Wu of the Special Administration Bureau. You discovered the key right away. It is indeed not an ordinary sword, but a divine sword that’s unmatched in Japan.”
Wu Bingtian thought for a while, then blurted out, “Kusanagi no Tsurugi*!”
*Legendary Japanese sword and one of the three Imperial Regalia of Japan. In folklore, the sword represents the virtue of valor. It is also allegedly kept in the Atsuta Shrine (where they are now). Due to Shinto traditions, no one is allowed to see the sword.
The Kusanagi no Tsurugi, one of the three artifacts of Japan, also known as the Kusunagi Sword, was obtained from the body of the famous eight-headed snake monster*. It was rumored that it was white all over and was enshrined in Atsuta Shrine for many years. Even the Emperor wasn’t allowed to see it.
*Yamata no Orochi. Legendary eight-headed and eight-tailed Japanese dragon/serpent.
In the Edo period, a priest recorded its appearance and then suffered a curse, eventually leading to his death. This cast a layer of mystery on the Kusanagi no Tsurugi, but outsiders would never have thought that the sword was actually obtained by Otowa as early as the 1940s and he even used it to refine magic qi.
As a person of Otowa’s background, it was naturally more convenient to do these things than others.
Otowa nodded. “The Kusanagi no Tsurugi is worthy of being a divine weapon. Not only does it absorb all magic qi, but it’s also able to infuse it little by little into my body, allowing me to turn it to my own use. When I was young, I was in a car accident. I suffered from painful aftereffects and developed headaches as a result. Since I slowly merged with the demonic qi, my body has changed quite a bit. Even the headaches had healed without medicine. More than that, even my aging has slowed down. Now, as long as I eat a fresh heart regularly, I can maintain my life and strength. Don’t you think this is amazing?”
Wu Bingtian said, “The Kusanagi no Tsurugi is known as a Japanese artifact and is heavily guarded. Even if you are part of the royal family, they might not be willing to let you take it out so easily and pollute it with the magic qi, no?”
Otowa laughed. “You’re wrong! Where is the Kusanagi no Tsurugi? What kind of artifact is it? Since it came from the body of a demon, naturally, it’s a veritable magic sword. Besides me, who else can control it? If it wasn’t for the demonic qi from the stone box, I wouldn’t have had such an opportunity. How many people in ancient and modern times wanted to obtain the secrets of the Tsurugi Sword but lost their lives. Only me! Only when I was greeted by fate, blending the magic qi in the stone box, and turning into a demon was I qualified to become the master of the Kusanagi no Tsurugi!”
Wu Bingtian said in disdain, “How vain. You have outlived most of your usefulness and are nothing more than an old coot, and your knowledge is short-sighted. The Mara we killed in Southeast Asia is a real demon. You’re just a mouse hiding in the gutters with some demonic qi. What’s there to boast about?”
Otowa didn’t care about Wu Bingtian’s deliberate provocation and said with a sneer, “Mara? That’s just a doppelganger of the Demon King. It’s not the Demon King himself. Just because it was separated from the main body and has a sense of autonomy, it thinks that it’s self-righteous. Songen was also an out-of-control idiot who thought he would become a demon by assisting it. If he had handed over the demonic qi to me, I wouldn’t have delayed for so long. But it’s not too late now since I have a more ambitious goal and I’m already gradually realizing it.”
Wu Bingtian: “The stone tablets.”
Otowa smiled mysteriously. “Yes, the stone tablets. Do you think it’ll be useful for you to work so hard to prevent me from destroying them? In fact, what I told you was just what I wanted to tell you.”
Wu Bingtian’s heart thumped, but his expression remained calm. “Your information about the stone tablets was stolen from China. Do you think we don’t know it? Why bother with such charades?”
Otowa shook his head. “You don’t know, because this is a message I got when I merged with the demonic qi from that stone box.”
Wu Bingtian wanted to wait for him to say the most critical message, but Otowa stopped and refused to continue.
He glanced at Wu Bingtian slyly, as if he could see through the anxiety under his calmness.
“Director Wu, I have two suggestions now. Do you want to hear them?”
Wu Bingtian: “I have been sitting here listening to your nonsense all this time. Do you still have to ask?”
Otowa smiled. “My first suggestion is to switch to my camp. As you know, I’m from a royal family. Even if I change my name now, I still have unlimited wealth and power. In Japan, there is nothing I can’t do. I heard that Director Wu’s favorite thing is to be an official, but how much can the mere title of Deputy Director of the Special Administration Bureau give you?”
Wu Bingtian snorted coldly. “What a joke! Leave China’s Special Administration Bureau and join you to be a lackey?”
Otowa said, “Of course China is vast, but you’re subjected to many restrictions. If you’re in Japan, it’ll be different. I can let you take charge of the priests and onmyojis in Japan, and you’ll receive countless amounts of money and power. When the darkness completely descends into the world and swallows it up with its demonic qi, those who looked down on you in the past and suppressed your position will prostrate at your feet, crying bitterly and begging for your forgiveness.”
Wu Bingtian was suspicious. “When will the darkness fall?”
Otowa smiled. “That you don’t need to know for now.”
Wu Bingtian: “And your second suggestion?”
Otowa: “The second suggestion is you meet the same fate as Dong Zhilan or Ding Lan.”
Wu Bingtian narrowed his eyes. “It seems that Ding Lan really died at your hands.”
Otowa smiled and said, “Do you want to see him?”
He clapped his hands, and the surrounding environment became pitch black, as if he were in a closed room that had all its lights suddenly turned off. Even Otowa disappeared into thin air. Although Wu Bingtian knew the other party was prepared, he couldn’t help but secretly rejoice that he hadn’t acted rashly just now. Otherwise, he would definitely fall into a trap.
A faint light flickered and dimmed, floating in from outside.
Wu Bingtian seemed to feel something, turned his head abruptly, and saw a boy walking slowly with a round white lantern.
That boy had an ordinary face that didn’t match Ding Lan’s at all.
“Didn’t you say you were going to show me Ding Lan? Where is he?” Wu Bingtian said coldly.
“Ding Lan’s heart was eaten by me while his body was refined with magic qi. I’m afraid you won’t be able to see it. The only thing you can see is probably this lantern.” Otowa’s voice came into his mind from an unknown, dark place, as if he were everywhere around him.
“This is his body oil that is used to light this lantern. Director Wu, this is the only memorial left by your colleague in this world.”
If he could hold back when he heard this sentence, then he wasn’t a man, and he couldn’t even call himself a human.
Wu Bingtian felt that he was at least a human. When compared with such a beast as Otowa, he could even be considered a saint.
He didn’t choose to be patient any longer. Suddenly, a gray shadow burst out from his hand. It didn’t jump towards the boy holding the lantern, but at a certain point on his right!
In the darkness, someone seemed to be surprised. Wu Bingtian felt that his whip had indeed hit something, but there was still darkness in front of him. He could only act based on his intuition and couldn’t help but think of Long Shen and Tang Jing, hoping there was progress on their side.
At noon, Atsuta Shrine was relatively quiet. Tourists from tour groups either had already made their visit and went to eat or would come later in the afternoon. At this moment, there were more individual tourists or locals. Many people were wearing traditional outfits as they brought the elderly and the young. Long Shen, who was dressed in casual clothing and wearing a backpack, was mixed in. Because of his tall and upright figure, even though he was wearing sunglasses, he still attracted a lot of attention.
After the three of them arrived in Tokyo, they acted separately. Wu Bingtian was in the light, Tang Jing was in the dark, and Long Shen was between the two. He didn’t disguise himself like an old man like Wu Bingtian, but his face was slightly modified to become less handsome, though even then it was still regarded as handsome, nonetheless.
“Sir, are you a photographer?” A young girl couldn’t help but step forward to strike up a conversation.
“I can only be considered an amateur at best.” Long Shen took off his sunglasses and grinned. For people who have met Long Shen before, they would never witness such a sunny and bright photography enthusiast as he was now.
Long Shen showed the girl photos from his camera. The girl exclaimed, “This level is the same as a professional. You’re being too humble!”
If Dong Zhi were here, he would be surprised to hear his master speaking in fluent Japanese almost without having to think about it. The pronunciation was a standard Tokyo accent, and the girl was convinced and regarded him as a native Japanese who often traveled around the world.
Long Shen could have gone in alone, but if a man and woman were traveling together, the goal was always better than traveling alone. The two of them talked as they strolled along. As he was disguised as a photography enthusiast, he picked up on the history of the shrine easily and spoke with eloquence, earning him admiration from the girl.
The two kept talking as they strolled along, all the way into the shrine.
“Sorry, Yoshiko, I have to go to the bathroom. Why don’t you go on ahead?” Long Shen said.
The girl hurriedly replied, “Just go. I’ll stroll around here and wait for you!”
Long Shen nodded and turned to walk to the bathroom.
After entering the bathroom stall, Long Shen locked the door and took out three short incense sticks and a small porcelain bottle from his pocket.
The porcelain bottle contained a talisman stained with Li Ying’s blood. Before they set off that day, Li Ying’s master on Mount Maoshan specially sent it to them. With this, Long Shen could find Li Ying’s location.
As soon as he entered the shrine just now, he keenly felt an aura that was seemingly absent. According to the time, Wu Bingtian and Tang Jing agreed to act on the same day with him, and now they had to act separately. He didn’t know if the fluctuation came from Wu Bingtian or Tang Jing.
Without stopping, Long Shen lit the short incense and inserted it into the porcelain bottle.
The incense curled up, but it folded down in mid-air, as if an invisible hand pinched the smoke and forcibly twisted it in one direction.
Long Shen looked in that direction. The topographic map of the shrine he had seen before appeared in his mind. He immediately found the direction it was referring to.
He pinched the smoke, threw the short incense into the toilet, and flushed it. He then cut his fingers and dripped the blood into the porcelain bottle. After doing all this quickly, he put the porcelain bottle back in his pocket, opened the door, washed his hands, dried them, and walked out of the bathroom without stopping for a moment.
The entire process only took a few minutes. The girl who was wandering outside wasn’t annoyed by the neglect at all. Just when she wanted to invite Long Shen to visit the treasure museum, she heard the other party apologetically say, “I just received a call. A local friend heard that I was here and wanted to see me. I’m afraid we won’t be able to continue anymore.”
The girl was a little disappointed and couldn’t help but say, “If he doesn’t mind…”
Long Shen smiled embarrassedly. “Sorry, it’s a girl.”
The girl immediately understood and forced a smile. “That’s okay. I’ll give you my number. If you want to go somewhere during your stay here these days, I can be your guide, Mr. Tanaka.”
Under the cherry blossom trees, there were a few tourists who occasionally stared at this man and woman. The man was handsome and upright, and the woman was delicate and beautiful. When she spoke, her words were shy and timid. It was inevitable that it was reminiscent of first love.
The truth was far from what others imagined. Of course, the girl had a good impression of Long Shen. However, they met by chance, and Long Shen simply used her as a cover. With someone walking with him as they chat, it would look more natural than him looking around by himself, which made it look less suspicious.
Long Shen bid goodbye to the girl, then hurriedly left under the other party’s disappointed gaze as he walked towards the gate.
He went out the main entrance but turned in another direction and walked around the perimeter of the shrine, turning from the main road to a small path, and finally stopping at a place.
Long Shen took out the small porcelain bottle, and suddenly a wisp of green smoke rose from it. Just like in the bathroom, the smoke broke halfway and pointed forward.
This method of finding people was taught by the school in Mount Maoshan, and it was somewhat like He Yu’s way of looking for his junior brother in Guangzhou.
Long Shen’s gaze fell on the corner of the wall.
Three flowers grew there.
They were wildflowers of an unusual variety that were often seen everywhere. They grew at high altitudes and were resistant to cold and drought, which made them a favorite to use as a decoration on grass. Though it was winter, the sun was warm, and the flowers and trees swayed gently, giving off a leisurely, calm atmosphere.
But this wasn’t the reason why Long Shen was staring at them.
Of the three wildflowers that grew side by side, only the middle one remained motionless in the wind, as if its entire body was firmly clung by an invisible force.
Long Shen suddenly stretched out his hand and pulled out the wildflower in the middle.
He used very little strength, as ordinary wildflowers weren’t difficult to pick. As soon as he picked it, the scene in front of him changed.
The stone wall that was blocking him suddenly gave birth to a door that was trembling slightly, as if it had been visually distorted after being steamed in hot weather. Without hesitation, Long Shen pushed open the door and walked in.
Immediately, after he fully entered the doorway, the stone wall returned to its original state. Except for the missing wildflower, everything else was the same.
Several tourists passed by and stood by the stone wall for a group photo, but they didn’t notice anything unusual.
But Long Shen knew that the door was actually an enchantment, and the wildflower was the key to triggering it. He had now entered the enchantment. He was still in the shrine, but it wasn’t considered part of the shrine. The surrounding area was a space opened by magic, just like the rooftop of the Special Administration Bureau.
However, the rooftop of the Special Administration Bureau was a collection of efforts from several masters and was slightly superior compared to this. There was no rotation of the four seasons, nor was there day and night. Long Shen looked around and saw that the clouds above him hadn’t changed positions since he entered.
The stones and bricks on the ground were neatly arranged, and a path stretched from his feet to the door of a house in front of him.
The light smoke from the porcelain bottle rose intermittently, pointing towards that house.
Long Shen walked slowly along the path, but just as he took his sixth step, the surrounding scenery suddenly changed. The ground beneath his feet had warped into a crater with boiling lava inside, while he was on a suspension bridge that could barely accommodate a person.
All around him was a tumbling sea of fire. Sparks were flying, and the billowing heat was steaming up from the lava below. After a while, his shoes became so hot that they almost melted. The wooden planks were baked at a high temperature, with occasional pieces falling into the molten sea, leaving only a few isolated iron cables on the bridge. Without the wooden planks, each link was at least five or six steps away, making it hard to maintain physical balance, let alone cross the bridge.
A little spark splashed on the back of his hand. The burning pain quickly passed from his skin to his nerves.
Long Shen knew well that all this in front of him wasn’t a simple illusion, but a product of a combination of illusion and reality. Now that Otowa had turned into a demon, he must have mastered the ability to distort space; overlapping the real lava sea of fire with the location here, creating a space where truth and lies could blend, just like the rooftop of the Special Administration Bureau.
If he were an ordinary practitioner, most likely he would think that it was just an ordinary illusion, but if he were to accidentally step on air and fall, he would inevitably fall into real magma, leaving not even bones behind.
Long Shen’s complexion remained the same. As soon as he turned his wrist, he immediately added a long sword to his right hand. The entire body of the sword was dark, but it faintly glowed with white light.
He let go of his hand and let the long sword fall straight towards the magma, but halfway through the fall, the sword suddenly stopped and then made a sharp turn. It flew up instead and landed on Long Shen’s feet. The blade rapidly became bigger and turned into a golden light that directly covered the iron suspension bridge.
Long Shen walked forward. His sword was as stable as a rock, and even the chains on the suspension bridge didn’t shake.
In just a moment, he had already walked the entire length of the bridge, and the surrounding scenery suddenly changed. The courtyard was still a courtyard, and the path was still a path, as if everything was just a dream. Long Shen didn’t hesitate much and opened the door directly on both sides.
In a very ordinary Japanese-style room, Li Ying sat crossed-legged in the middle. There was also a boy beside him, holding a dinner plate, as if to deliver food.
Hearing the movement of the door opening, both of them walked towards it.
Li Ying was overjoyed. “Boss Long!”
The boy was taken aback when he saw the stranger’s face and scolded, “Who are you?! Leave at once!”
Naturally, Long Shen didn’t comply and instead strode towards them.
The boy let out a low growl and rushed towards Long Shen, but halfway through he turned into a white wolf with bloody fangs.
“Boss Long, be careful!”
“How’s the situation now?”
Long Shen asked as he turned his head sideways to avoid the wolf’s fierce pounce. The white wolf moved extremely quickly. As soon as it landed, it turned around and pounced again. Long Shen made a casual move, and the sword light swept in from the outside and flew steadily into his hand. He raised his sword and slashed. Suddenly, the strong wind howled, and the snakes danced wildly. The white wolf was hit by the sword on its waist and abdomen. A deep bone wound appeared instantly, causing it to wail as it pounced at Long Shen again.
Li Ying seemed to be trapped by something. Seeing Long Shen’s arrival, he sat still, but he wasn’t unhindered from speaking. He also knew that Long Shen had limited time, and he didn’t know when Otowa would be alarmed, so he hurriedly briefed him.
“Ding Lan is dead, Yu Buhui’s whereabouts are unknown, and I’m trapped in an enchantment! Otowa is extremely powerful—much more than any human or demon. He seems to have completely turned into a demon and has an arsenal of magic weapons and monsters in his hands. He is a beast. I watched him burn Ding Ge’s body with my own eyes, and he refined it into a lamp with corpse oil—”
Having said this, Li Ying choked for a moment. His eyes were red, and he gritted his teeth, barely able to finish speaking.
“Otowa didn’t kill me because he wanted to use me as bait to lure you over. Boss Long, please leave me. Otowa has placed a ban on me, and he has even more powerful means…”
As soon as he finished speaking, the white wolf was beheaded by Long Shen. Li Ying suddenly disappeared. The messy room seemed to have triggered some mechanism and instantly turned into an overlapping space composed of dozens of mirror images. There was the same room everywhere, and the same Li Ying was trapped in each room.
A voice came from afar, illusory, that sounded old and gloomy.
“You’ve finally come. I’ve been waiting for you. I didn’t think Wu Bingtian would really dare to come alone.”
Long Shen moved slowly in the mirror space, as if he wanted to find the source of the sound.
Seeing this, Otowa smiled. “Don’t waste your energy. I’m not here at all. This space is perfect. You won’t find any flaws. I’d like to see if the famous Director Long is really that powerful!”
Long Shen said, “There’s no absolute perfection in the world. Any formation and space always have a fulcrum.”
Otowa: “I’m afraid your companion will be dead before you find a way out. Your Director Wu has just been caught by me. But don’t worry, I won’t kill those ordinary people so easily, especially you. You’re my rare and precious prey. I’ll refine you into the most powerful weapon in the world.”
Long Shen’s movements weren’t affected by Otowa’s words. He walked slowly in the space, stopping from time to time as if to check on the surrounding movements.
Whether Wu Bingtian was captured or whether Otowa was lying, neither had the slightest effect on Long Shen’s heart.
Through a mirror, Otowa could clearly see his enemy trapped in the mirror space, just like in real-time surveillance. With a smile at the corner of his mouth, he watched like a hunter determined to capture his prey.
“I heard that Long Shen isn’t human,” he said.
“I have also heard this kind of rumor. I also have heard that his true body is the famous Seven Star Longyuan Sword in China.” The person sitting next to Otowa was the familiar Fujikawa Aoi that had gone to Yinchuan to destroy the stone tablet and was later captured. He had lost half his life when he returned to Japan.
The other party’s face was pale, and his figure looked ricketier. No longer was he the cold and majestic person on Changbai Mountain, but he now looked more like an ordinary old man.
But this little old man was once an all-powerful figure in the Japanese practitioner circle.
“The Seven Star Longyuan Sword?” Otowa smiled playfully.
A legendary Japanese sword and one of the three Imperial Regalia of Japan. It was originally called Ame-no-Murakumo-no-Tsurugi (天叢雲剣, “Heavenly Sword of Gathering Clouds”), but its name was later changed to the more popular Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi (“Grass-Cutting Sword”). In folklore, the sword represents the virtue of valor.
A legendary eight-headed and eight-tailed Japanese dragon/serpent.
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