Risa walked up to and looked down upon the crouching figure of the Shogun. Despite her overwhelming advantage in the fight up till now, she hadn’t relaxed her vigilance in the slightest. Her lightning armour was running on full power. Even a cornered rabbit could bite and she had no wish to fall to some sort of sneak attack. Let alone, Nura Rihan was no rabbit, if anything, he was a venomous snake ambushing in the heart of the Shogunate, ready to strike at the slightest opportunity.
She couldn’t help but feel apprehensive when she thought about how far he had come with only the cultivation of Tier 4 initial stage and how long he had engaged her in battle. He was easily a match of most Tier 4 late stage opponents and any Tier 4 middle stage mage was easy prey for him with his command over the affinities and the secret techniques of the Daimyo clans.
She clenched her teeth as she noticed the emerald green sparks flying under his feet and supporting his weight on the clouds. ‘Aiko really divulged the clan techniques to him…’ and going by his use of the signature technique of the Tengu – Abyssal Mask, she wasn’t the only one of his wives to betray their clan.
‘He’s a threat,’ she concluded, firming her determination to capture and bring him back to the clan for punishment. ‘Maybe with this merit, we can finally regain our right to inheritance…’ she couldn’t help but hold some hope.
The Kirin twins were the children of the current head of the Kirin Clan. To rights, they should have been shoe-ins for the position of the Heir but their marital status had gotten in the way.
There had been a major confusion in the clan about the line of succession as tradition stated that the firstborn was to be the heir – regardless of gender. As twins, each of the siblings had different factions of the elders supporting them, causing a divide in the family. As they grew up, Risa showed dazzling martial talent while Ryuugen’s comprehension of Aspects and his command of statecraft won him many supporters, resulting in a widening of the divide.
Risa should have been married off to the new Nurarihyon according to her father’s plan in order to resolve this confusion and keep Risa’s battle strength within the clan – all in one stroke of the pen.
The problem was that the twins were involved in a clandestine relationship. They had secretly sworn themselves to each other. Risa being married off to some stranger wasn’t in their plans. After several twists and turns, the two of them – with the aid of a Kitsune illusionist – managed to manoeuvre their cousin Aiko into becoming the newly christened Shogun’s wife in Risa’s stead.
Ryuugen had expressed a desire to marry his cousin the very same day and by the time people realised that the brides had been swapped, the deed was already done and contracts had been forged. With how dark the twins’ marking was, there was nothing short of death that could part them.
It was a scandal that had taken the aristocratic circle by storm for several months before the newest piece of gossip had driven the little tidbit out of their minds.
While marrying one’s sister wasn’t considered that much of a taboo in the Shogunate nobility, twins were a bit too much for even their liberal society. They were banned from procreating. Without the possibility of a successor, Ryuugen and Risa lost their qualifications for inheriting the position of clan Heir. That honour falling to their younger brother instead.
“You don’t have to worry Rihan,” she sneered down at the kneeling man, “we’ll take good care of your son. After all, he’s the key to us regaining our position of clan Heir.”
She tucked an errant strand of hair behind her ear, “Isn’t that nice? Your son with Aiko in line to become the next Daimyo of the Land of Lightning… So, cease this futile struggling and come with us. You’ll actually be helping your son more that way than by throwing this silly tantrum and roaming about like a stray cur.”
“Does he know?” asked Nura in a hoarse voice as he kept his head bowed.
“That Aiko is his mother? That I am his father? Does he know who to call his parents?”
Risa crossed her arms across her chest, “Of course he thinks it’s us. And seeing that we raised him, that is true. If not by blood, we are his parents in spirit. I can swear by my soul that we mean him no harm. I love him as I would my own flesh and blood. Now,” she said impatiently, “I’ve given you enough time to consider. What will it be?”
Nura sighed. Supporting himself with his hands on his knees, he slowly struggled up to his feet, towering over Risa. Alarm bells began to go off in her mind as a strong sense of crisis covered her.
Reflexively, Risa leapt backwards several times to spread out with him, her feet trailing a line of violet sparks as they rubbed against the clouds before coming to a stop. She stared at Nura on full alert.
With another sigh, Nura wiped his hand across his face. “Really, you are worthy of your title of the strongest Tier 4. Your instincts are top notch,” he commended as he moved his hand away, revealing his unharmed face – the broken nose and bloodied eye melting away into smoke. Even the lines of his face had some subtle changes, rendering him unrecognizable to those unfamiliar with him.
Risa narrowed her eyes. “The Kitsune Transformation jutsu…” she muttered.
“Right,” he nodded. “How else do you think I was able to get away?” Caressing his face, his expression grew gentle, “There’s no way I wouldn’t use Keiko’s gift to its full potential.” Turning to Risa, his eyes grew cold. “As for you becoming the mother of my child…”
“You don’t match!”
The wind picked up his words, making them reverberate through the heavens. A six-coloured brilliance covered him obscuring his form. Red for fire, blue for water, golden for earth, white for light, black for shadow, and green for air. Risa felt the mana of all six elements in the atmosphere rush towards Nura, becoming visible to the naked eye in their density. Her eyes widened in shock. She had never heard of any technique that could utilize ambient mana to this degree.
With the support of this much mana, he was easily her match in terms of mana capacity alone. Why didn’t she know about this? Clenching her teeth, she stimulated her bloodline. She couldn’t let him gather his potential. It was too dangerous.
Grabbing her coat and shirt, she tore them off her and threw them away, revealing her Heavenly Silksnail garments beneath clinging to her ample curves. Purple mana spewed out of her covering her form in a haze of lightning. Under the operation of her will, the mana began to coalesce into the shape of her bloodline beast – the Kirin.
The body of a deer, the scales of a fish, the tail of an ox; all of it made out of translucent purple mana condensed to solid. The short, straight horns that crackled with violet electricity were even crystalline indicating how close she was to Tier 5.
With a feminine yell, her body morphed and inflated till it merged with the mana construct, turning the lifeless golem into a living, breathing beast. A Kirin, the Lord of Storms. Under the hauling of her influence, chunks of dark clouds broke away from the cloud layer and attached to her four hooves and back, giving her six-metre-tall form a mane and socks of cloud.
With a neigh that sounded like the crack of thunder, she swung her head, her antlers glowing with a blinding brilliance, sending twin streaks of amethyst lightning shooting at the six-colour cocoon that had formed around the Shogun.
The streaks intertwined into an arm-thick beam of pure destruction bringing with it a vibrational energy that shredded the clouds they passed close to, leaving a trail of vacancy in the cloud layer.
This attack was quite close to Risa’s strongest. In her Feral form, all her attacks were amplified by her natural bestial runes and there was very little detention between attacks. This made her a veritable behemoth of destruction. If she didn’t count the extreme drain on her mana, she was confident in going toe-to-toe with a newly promoted Tier 5 for a short while – long enough to escape alive. There was a reason why she was hailed as a once in a century genius.
The lightning slammed into the cocoon with an explosive rumble, shattering it and blowing a huge gap in the clouds. Risa narrowed her violet eyes as she stared keenly at the point of impact, the premonition of danger making her uneasy.
The roiling clouds diverged, revealing the results of her blow. Her eyes widened in shock as she took in the sight of Nura’s current figure.
There, floating in the air was a three-metre-tall muscle-bound giant with brilliant golden skin. Its face was covered by a featureless mask of impenetrable darkness. A kimono of pristine white feathers made of pure light clad its form. Six crimson tails swayed behind its back. Crystalline emerald deer-antlers branched up from its head and sapphire dragon-scales covered its outstretched palm that was smoking from blocking the lightning strike.
There were six Daimyo clans – the Oni Clan that ruled over the Land of Earth, the Tengu that ruled over the Land of Shadow, the Ryu-o Clan that ruled over the Land of Water, the Tennin Clan that ruled over the Land of Light, the Kitsune Clan that ruled over the Land of Fire and finally, the Kirin Clan that ruled over the Land of Lightning. Now, the signature characteristics of all six clans had found their way onto the body of the Shogun. How could Risa not be shocked?
“H-how?” she stuttered. There were too many impossibilities that had occurred on the body of the present day Nurarihyon, her mind couldn’t process them all. But the foremost question that assaulted her cognition of the world was:
“How the hell can a man turn Feral?!”