Ming Quanzi was among those who had plummeted into the waters in the wake of the thunderous roar. He was so shaken that his brain felt like pulp - So strong… so terrifyingly strong… Is this the might of an Anitya Hellguard? Will… any of us be able to make it out alive this time?
“That’s why I say that actions speak louder than words. I have to say that the quality of Cathayan cultivators are getting worse and worse with each generation that passes… If that’s the extent of abilities that Cathayan cultivators are capable of right now, it’s only going to be a matter of time before the Nipponese reigns over Cathay again.” Kuki Yoshitaka licked his lips greedily as he watched everyone fall into the waters. And then, eight tongues lashed out abruptly.
A cultivator’s flesh and blood was still one of the premium sources of nourishment to any evil ghost.
The cultivators shut their eyes in despair. The powerful sonic blast attack was something that was beyond the realms of a Soul Hunter, and it swept right through their bodies in an instant.
Such a pity… to be born a human, only to perish without the dignity of a human being… For some strange reason, this peculiar notion surfaced in Chu Mingxia’s mind in the final moments of her life, and she actually chuckled softly to herself.
When she took on this assignment, she had never in her wildest imaginations expected to encounter the Yin soldiers of an underworld. This was well beyond the realms of the usual hunting zones she faced.
But, just then--...
Sssss!!! The eight-headed corpse of the deadly cicada suddenly cried out with a startled roar. Innumerable ripples had begun to surface on the waters around him. Ming Quanzi’s eyes were shut tightly as he awaited the final blow to seal his demise. However… that final blow never came.
Instead, the only thing he heard was the shrill shrieks of the corpse of the deadly cicada.
He opened his eyes in surprise, only to be greeted by an incredibly startling sight.
A rain of arrows were pelting down on the colossal beast like meteorites, hurtling down from the heavens while leaving a trail of smoldering flames in its wake. The hundreds of arrows were akin to broad brushstrokes that painted brilliant streaks of light through the canvass of the night skies. The first salvo that landed had struck three of the hydra’s heads squarely!
“Reinforcements…” Ming Quanzi turned to look at the horizon with great astonishment. The brilliant light of the arrows were dazzling, almost like a beacon of light from the lighthouse that painted a guiding path through tumultuous waters for boats at night. As the brilliant lustre faded, hundreds of blurry figures with wings on their backs quickly came into vision.
“Reinforcements… reinforcements have truly arrived… Hang on! No! How could there possibly be reinforcements?!!”
He couldn’t comprehend the source of reinforcements. Guardian Auctions? Impossible! They don’t have the backing of such great forces. So, who in the world could this possibly be?
All of the survivors on the surface of the waters were completely dumbfounded. Back in the cargo hold, Master Kamo abruptly stood up. His face was flushed, and his hair scattered about wildly as he pulled out a talisman of decree. Then, he activated it and instructed with a quiver in his voice, “Tengu army of the Onmyoji… heed the command of the current young master of the Onmyojis. This is a kill order…”
“With whatever it takes, destroy the Pirate of Hachiman!!”
Oooooooo! A long horn sounded across the surface of the waters. In an instant, and to the great surprise of all cultivators around, the Tengu army flapped their wings and closed the remaining distance between them and the current battleground. They wore their usual white shrine uniforms and black hats, and they each held a longbow in their hands. As they flocked over to the epicenter of the battlefield, it looked no different from a migratory swarm of birds crossing the surface of the seas.
SSSS!!! The longbows and arrows appeared to be outdated and obsolete weapons of choice, yet they evidently did more damage to the corpse of the deadly cicada than the Soul Hunters did, even after they triggered the hidden acupoint in their bodies. At the very least, they were able to cause the colossal beast in the waters to flail about wildly in pain. In fact, what was most peculiar of all was the fact that the Tengu army comprised of only nascent Operative-class cultivators.
“Battle array?” Ming Quanzi gasped. This wasn’t something that one would expect any ordinary faction or alliance to have in their possession. Even the Special Investigations Department owned no more than a hundred battle arrays at their disposal. To think that they would be able to see a Nipponese force employ something so extraordinary as a battle array!
In this regard, battle arrays were a unique technique that could consolidate the power of its users, and then coordinate the release of their attacks and abilities such that it struck at the exact same time. This had been the means by which the mortal realm had been able to launch coordinated attacks on Yin spirits more powerful than them and eventually purge these existences. Each and every battle array diagram drawn up was incredibly precious. This was naturally why they hadn’t expected to see one being employed on the battlefield right now.
“Onmyojis… Damned Onmyojis!!!” Eight massive water spouts burst out of the water, followed closely by the emergence of its eight heads amidst a shower of rainwater. Their blazing eyes turned scarlet, and they all stared at the Tengu army that was standing squarely across from them, “How dare you muddy the waters? Well… since you’re looking for death, I’ll happily oblige and send you on your way!!!”
Ooooooo! The Tengu army didn’t respond directly to the colossal beast’s provocations. In fact, they weren’t even flustered despite the sheer size of the opponent that they were facing. With the sound of a horn, they quickly formed up into a triangular formation. The bows and arrows in their hands were already immolating with golden flames, and the arrowheads were trained on the roaring corpse of the deadly cicada.
Whoosh… The surface of the sea began to roil and slosh about, and countless bubbles gurgled to the surface of the waters. Initially, all it generated were some small waves that quickly faded away. However, within ten seconds, the undulations of the waters grew so great that the eddy currents generated hundreds of foot-sized whirlpools that swirled about wildly!
“Die… mortals…” The corpse of the deadly cicada licked its lips and hissed at the skies defiantly. In the deep darkness of the night, the eight long heads of the behemoth appeared no different from eight massive pillars that stretched out of the waters and into the skies. Then, with a great roar and a violent quake, innumerable water spouts shot into the skies from the heart of each whirlpool in the waters!
“Pirate of Hachiman, Water Dragon Technique!!”
The multitude of water spouts instantly transformed into a roaring water dragon that rushed towards the Tengu army. But, even then, the Tengu army simply stood their ground, motionless and valiant. Their positioning and timing was as precise as machinery. Ooo! Ooo! Ooo! With the coordinated sound of three trumpets, the triangular formation instantly lit up brilliantly with golden light which quickly converged in mid-air, transforming into a terrifying, illusory image!
The image appeared somewhat blurry, yet it clearly depicted a being with three horns on its head, three eyes, and an entire body of venal patterns. As soon as it appeared, it immediately lifted its head.
The swiftness of their transformation and the accuracy of their deployment of true energy was impeccable. This was clearly the strength of the elite among elites!
Meanwhile, on the Strait of Tsushima, a man wearing great armor and armed with a ten meter spear was standing on the mast of a ship. Then, as if responding to the appearance of the illusory figure, it lifted its head.
He looked completely different from the other evil ghosts around. He… was in fact a person.
He had the body of a human being, and he appeared complete and unharmed!
“Is this… Susanoo? Unfortunately, it looks somewhat incomplete.” He glanced at the distance, and then lowered his head in boredom once more as he waved his spear around, “To think that the Onmyojis who once enjoyed such glory, honour and wealth have fallen to such a tragic state…”
“This isn’t any different from watching a cockfight. It sure looks like there’s not going to be a single worthy opponent this time…”
Just then, a brilliant light shone in the sky, before quickly condensing into a massive golden arrow that shot straight towards the corpse of the deadly cicada.
Whoosh! The formidable water dragon instantly crumbled under the might of the golden arrow. But the scattering parts of the water dragon soon coalesced once more, each part drawing sufficient water from below to form their own complete body. Within a split second, the surface of the sea was filled with countless roaring dragons!
“How dare a mere mortal like you take on an underworldly emissary?” Riding on the majestic dance of the innumerable water dragons, Kuki Yoshitaka drew a deep breath with all eight heads and bellowed, “Die!!”
WHOOSSHHH!! The entire surface of the waters appeared to be torn asunder at once as the thunder of water dragons surged high into the sky and blasted straight at the Tengu army formation. The leader of the Tengu army stared at the oncoming attack. His eyes narrowed. The battle array was powerful, but unfortunately… their numbers were too few.
This was a corpse of the deadly cicada that was four centuries old. It would take at least two thousand people to keep the Tengu army formation in equilibrium. That said… Young master’s orders were to eviscerate the enemy at all costs.
They, too, were humans. And as humans, they had their own set of beliefs and principles.
Humans invariably had something that they were willing to give their all for.
The corpse of the deadly cicada’s terrifying Yin energy had dyed the waters around it completely black in colour. The wails of countless evil ghosts echoed through the skies and the waters, only to be drowned out by the roars and sonic booms generated by the water dragons. Yet, faced with such a terrifying opponent, not a single member of the Tengu army retreated.
OOOO!! A mournful horn sounded once more, and every Tengu soldier standing in formation instantly erupted with golden true energy which quickly condensed into the illusory image of a massive Tengu.
The image donned a Tengu mask that was far more ferocious than the ones each individual soldier wore. Its body was covered with a black feather weave, and its white hair scattered menacingly about in the sky. The massive Tengu stood over thirty meters tall, and it held a dagger in its left hand and a bell in its right. Simultaneously, the exposed skin of each individual Tengu soldier began to show signs of aging and withering.
This was the illusory image of Atagoya Taroubou, one of the eight great Tengu. He could be said to be the father of all Tengus.
Boom!! The water dragons arrived in an instant. And their powerful clash, caused the sea to tremble wildly in a one kilometer radius around them. The impact appeared no different from the blast of a nuclear bomb, and waves surged up like mountain ranges, generating a massive whirlpool in its wake as they rushed into the surroundings.
“How dare you stand against a bona fide emissary with such a feeble illusory image of yours?!” The corpse of the deadly cicada threw its head up to the sky and screeched furiously as the battle array formed by hundreds of Tengu soldiers instantly crumbled. Dozens of Tengu soldiers fell from the sky and plummeted into the sea, where they were quickly snapped at by the plumb corpses hovering about like hungry piranhas.
We can’t hold on any longer…
Faced with the overwhelming tsunami that was quickly approaching them, the leader of the Tengu army felt his heart grow cold with despair.
It was a stretch… Facing such a powerful evil ghost with just a few hundred Tengu soldiers is far too much of a stretch… Could this be… the day we all perish…?
But just then, the pitch-black night sky was suddenly set alight with an explosion of bright golden lustre.
The source of the golden light came from afar and bolted over incredibly quickly, and it instantly transformed into a golden insignia that danced and spun in the air. Within moments, it scattered into a massive ball of golden light formed by innumerable belts of lights that quickly began to shrink back once more.
“This is…” The corpse of the deadly cicada was no longer cackled wildly like before. Instead, it stared at the source of the golden light with great astonishment. He could tell that it was… scripture.
The bands of light were in fact entirely composed of scriptures that hovered about like golden fireflies, standing tall in front of the Tengu army, devouring any attacks launched at it. The air trembled lightly, and the water dragons that were charging at the Tengu army were instantly sucked into the scriptures like a bottomless abyss. Then, the bands of scriptures shrank abruptly and transformed into a fist-sized ball of light as it shot off into the distance.
“Who’s that…” The corpse of the deadly cicada licked his lips greedily, “It looks like I’ve got an endless source of blood food to feast on tonight… I wonder who it is this time around?”
All eyes looked into the distance where the golden ball of light had darted towards.
They could vaguely make out the shape of a massive wooden boat in the distance. It was an ancient wooden boat that was covered in talismans that were all glowing brightly in unison. Yet the strangest part was that the boat’s speed surpassed that of a modern-day ship!
And there were three men wearing conical bamboo hats and dressed in Nipponese monk’s robes standing stoic like statues right at the bow of the ship. They had the exact same posture to them, with a hand pressing down on their conical bamboo hat and the other holding onto a zen staff. The true energy that surrounded them revealed that they were existences who were only a single step away from the realms of a Hellguard!
Reinforcements had arrived from Mount Koya, the Nipponese shrine of Tantric Buddhism!
“Guardian monks from Mount Koya?!” The corpse of the deadly cicada gasped, “Ahh… these damned Onmyojis and monks from Mount Koya. How dare you maggots come stir the pot and muddy the waters right in front of the eyes of Azai Nagamasa…”
The handful of Hellguards stationed in the Strait of Tsushima also noticed the arrival of the monks from Mount Koya. Azai Nagamasa squinted his eyes. His chest felt as though it was burning, and his throat felt parched and sore.
A mortal’s struggle… was a sight that was normally beautiful to him. He thoroughly enjoyed the process of encountering mortals that were brimming with ambition and fighting spirit, only to slowly whittle away at it until they were drowning in the mires of despondence. But… not now!
He had already mobilized the Samurai of the Seas, Kuki Yoshitaka, for a battle on the seas. And yet, Kuki Yoshitaka had still been unable to take down the cruise ship despite having taken more than an hour. His initial expectation was to already have the Obsidian Heaven’s Eye Bowl in hand at the end of forty minutes. Therefore, he was growing incredibly impatient and frustrated. He couldn’t wait any longer. The blood feud that had festered for over four hundred years was stirring wildly, and he couldn’t wait to cut down Oda Nobunaga with his own two hands.
“Thundergod, Red Demon, Viper… I’m sick and tired of waiting any longer. Waiting can be a joy, but right now, all I want to do is to tear them apart and swallow Oda Nobunaga’s soul.” He shut his eyes, fervently repressing the trembling excitement in his heart, “Therefore, may I invite you to make a move. I would like to see the Obsidian Heaven’s Eye Bowl placed in front of me within the next half an hour.”
He opened his bloodshot eyes, “Even though you’re not subordinate to me, I… represent the authority of Lady Izanami right now.”
Seconds later, three voices echoed from behind in unison, “Yes.”
And then, a moment later, boundless Yin energy erupted from their bodies!
Yin energy wrapped around the three mighty Hellguard-class Yin spirits as they bolted towards the cruise liner, leaving a trail of grim netherflames in the wake of their path of travel!
1. Fans of Naruto might know it from there. According to Japanese lore, Susanoo-no-Mikoto is a kami and the younger brother of Amaterasu. He’s a multifaceted deity with both good and bad characteristics, and he’s often depicted as a wild, impetuous god.
2. This Tengu protects Atago shrine, which is devoted to the deity Izanagi (male counterpart and brother of Izanami). He was assigned to this job by Buddha about 3,000 years ago and considered the representative of all the other Tengu in Japan.