Descent of the Demon Master - C.705. Proving (5)

Descent of the Demon Master

C.705. Proving (5)

As Nakata Yuji expected, a tea ceremony would always be a sophisticated hobby dripping in elegance. Too bad, he wasn't interested in such things.

'It's antiquated, after all.'

This hobby required far too much work to be packaged neatly as an elegant tradition, or at least that was what he thought. On the surface, the tea ceremony was just that, drinking tea. However, this 'hobby' required one to brew the tea to perfection, then savor the aroma afterward.

If the tea drinker could find some form of calmness in their heart and soul during the process, that would be wonderful. However, Nakata Yuji had never been a fan of hobbies with so many meaningless formalities. He'd rather drink a can of beer and listen to some good music instead of wasting time like this.

The problem with that was his position. Thanks to his title as the head of Yamakawa-kai, Nakata Yuji got plenty of opportunities to hang out with folks who enjoyed this... elegant hobby of holding a tea ceremony. These people all strongly advised Nakata Yuji that a leader needed to carry himself in a dignified manner. And a tea ceremony was one of those dignified activities, apparently.

'Damn it. What era are we even living in, anyway...?'

Regardless of the era, the disconnect between the younger and older generations existed without fail. The immortal words, 'Kids these days have no manners!' were found etched on a stone tablet estimated to be around four thousand years old, so that should be all the proof one could ask for!

However, Nakata Yuji felt this generational gap had become more noticeable lately. He couldn't help but wonder what the youngsters newly joining the organization would feel if he were to discuss holding tea ceremonies with them.

Would they stare back at him with eyes reserved for weird-looking space aliens?

Nakata Yuji chuckled at that thought. Personally? He still believed he was young, but... Judging from how he had no issues with traditions like this tea ceremony, it seemed he was not a young man anymore.


His teacup was gradually filling up with green-tinged liquid. The dense aroma of tea wafted in the air as the cup was filled to the brim.

'Now that is a master in his element, alright...'

Nakata Yuji had to acknowledge the person pouring tea for his tea brewing skills. The sight of a gently-extended arm smoothly guiding the tea into a cup seemed to relax Nakata Yuji's mind. He might loathe the idea of doing it himself, but watching another person, such as a master at his craft who had reached the zenith after years of training, didn't seem like such a bad way to spend his free time.

Of course, all these were still formalities. Empty formalities at that. Even so, Nakata Yuji had to play along if the formalities were performed by this particular man. After all, this older gentleman had all the qualifications to force Nakata Yuji to be on his best behavior.

The older man presented the teacup to Nakata Yuji, then stared deep into his eyes. “It seems the mission was a failure?”

“Yes, it was.”

The calm question was met with a composed reply.

“Isn't it a little too premature to say the mission is a failure, Yuji-dono?”

“No contact from our people can only mean one thing, sir. Unfortunately, those children... lack the ability to make independent decisions on the fly at the sudden emergence of unexpected variables. They would have contacted us by now if they had time to spare. Since that didn't happen, it could only mean they failed. And already no longer alive.”

“Failure, is it...” The older man gently picked up the teacup, then savored the rich aroma. He took a dignified gulp of the hot liquid before putting the cup down. “Yet, you still remain rather composed, Yuji-dono. In that case, how about it? Are you ready to give up your finger? Someone has to take responsibility for this failure.”

“If responsibility is asked of me, I shall gladly answer it. However, there is no need to worry about such a thing in success, sir. Instead of responsibility... Will you reward me?”

“Mm? Didn't you say it's a failure?”

“Yes, it is. However, that failure is success in itself. My goal has always been to achieve this particular failure, after all.”

The older man's uncluttered, seemingly all-seeing eyes scanned Nakata Yuji from top to bottom. “That's different from what you said during the conference.”

“That was the only way to force everyone into action, sir.”

“Indeed... I agree that there is nothing wrong with bending the rules to a degree to achieve your goals. And here I was, wondering why you were uncharacteristically arguing for war.”

Nakata Yuji could only smile wryly as he listened. The older man's sly jab hurt a little since Nakata Yuji was a self-proclaimed pacifist. If he could help it, he wanted to avoid confrontation or war as much as possible. Whether it involved friction between factions or countries, his thoughts wouldn't change.

The older man continued to speak. “Raising your voice to bring people together only to drive those people into a trap so you can get what you want... Rather than wisdom, that's closer to cunning, isn't it? A man who should be called a snake...”

“I was left with little choice,” said Nakata Yuji while bowing his head deeply. His inner thoughts were starkly different to his attitude, though. 'Who are you calling a snake here, you insidious, rotten old man!'

There was no way in hell that this rotten old man didn't know what was going on. And he still permitted this plan despite knowing the truth!

Gathering representatives of various clans and organizations and working together for a common goal could only happen with the permission of this old man. After all, he was the head of Shinichi-kai, the biggest, most powerful faction in all of Kansai.

Without his approval, even someone like Nakata Yuji would never dream of getting other factions to cooperate.

When nicely put, one could say Nakata Yuji was a proxy. When not-so-nicely put, he was a puppet. However, even if he was a puppet, it was all good as long as benefits could be earned.

“So, you say you had no choice...” The leader of Shinichi-kai raised his head and peered deeply at Nakata Yuji. “Yes, it's true that some things in our world leave us with little to no choice. Plenty of things can't be stopped by the power of mere mortals, after all. However, that doesn't mean you're excused from taking responsibility. For instance... Drought and the subsequent famine can't be stopped by humans, but everyone still has to pay the price.”

So heavy! Nakata Yuji found the old man's clear, unclouded eyes so heavy and uncomfortable to bear.

“So...” The old man quietly asked, “How will you take responsibility for deceiving me?”

“Sir, I do not believe I have deceived you. It's not possible for a child to deceive an adult, after all.”

“Children these days can be quite insidious, don't you agree?”

“That may be true. However, they can never rival you, sir.”

Nakata Yuji's retort contained some barbed needles. And someone like the boss of Shinichi-kai would obviously pick up on that.

The old man smiled subtly. “Yuji-dono. You still haven't answered my original question.”

“I will take responsibility, of course. Isn't Kang Jin-Ho's head enough, though?”

“Hmm... Will everything unfold as you hope, I wonder?”

“Yes, it will,” Nakata Yuji bowed his head. “I know I've done something beyond my station. However, that man must die for the sake of the Greater East Asia region. Unfortunately, if we try to kill him ourselves, the cost will be far too great for us to bear. If the alternative solution of letting others do it for us is available... We must not hesitate. Although it's unfortunate that we can't directly end his life ourselves...”

Nakata Yuji briefly stopped talking to swallow back his saliva.

“...Considering the alternative, which would've involved a far greater sacrifice from our side, I truly believe this was the correct decision.”

“I see...” The old man slowly nodded away. “You make a valid point, Yuji-dono. Yes, if we tried to kill that man ourselves, the price would've been quite considerable.”

“Yes, sir.”

“And if that man dies by our hands, Joseon will become an ownerless mountain. With people's attention now focused on that country... Everyone would fiercely struggle to take over the peninsula. Isn't that what you're worried about?”

“Yes, that's correct.” Nakata Yuji nodded while licking his lips. There was this bitter aftertaste in his mouth. 'It feels like he has seen through me.'

Hiding something from this crafty old man and deceiving him was pretty much impossible.

The old man muttered leisurely. “If the Chinese step up and kill Kang Jin-Ho for us, people from our side would think twice about crossing the sea and getting directly involved in Joseon’s crisis. Yes, a few idiots would still try their luck, but Joseon should be able to rebut them with its own strength.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Indeed, we are too divided, aren't we? How wonderful would it have been if we were a little more united...”

The old man muttered to no one in particular. Knowing that, Nakata Yuji didn't say anything in return.

'It's inevitable, though.'

Nakata Yuji's organization, Yamakawa-kai, was worse than a group of local hoodlums compared to Shinichi-kai. If Shinichi-kai decided it was time, the unification of Kansai wouldn't even take ten days. Yet, it hadn't made any moves until now.

Like a coiling dragon hidden deep in the depths of a lake, this old man was staying still, unmoving. That was because he knew better than anyone the significance of him finally making a move.

“So... Yuji-dono. Are you certain Kang Jin-Ho will be eliminated?”

“Nothing in this world is absolutely certain, sir. As such, I cannot give you my guarantee. The best I can do is increase the odds in our favor by pursuing the best methods to eliminate him. As long as there aren't any unexpected variables getting in the way... China will be Kang Jin-Ho's burial ground. That country is not a friendly, easy-going land, after all.”

“Indeed. The mainland will always remain the same,” said the old man before closing his eyes. In a way... Japan's history, these warriors' history, had always been about their struggle to reach the mainland. To one day conquer the land they had to leave! That had been the greatest wish of Japan since time immemorial.

“Yuji-dono. Allow me to give you a piece of advice.”

“Yes, sir.”

“The affairs of our world do not always unfold according to our plans.”


The old man's voice was firm and resolute as he addressed Nakata Yuji. “It's not the planners and schemers who get to write our history. No, those who correctly read the flow of the tide do that. Everything in this world has its own flow. Only those who can sense this flow will achieve something big, Yuji-dono. People who only believe in their smarts and try to control the flow will eventually meet with a tragic end.”

Nakata Yuji grimaced a little. “Sir, do you mind if I ask you a question?”

The old man slowly nodded.

“If this flow you speak of... This flow of history was going against you... What will you do, sir? Will you quietly accept this flow?”

The old man closed his eyes and mulled over Nakata Yuji's question for a long time. He eventually opened his eyes to stare directly at Nakata Yuji and replied in a composed voice. “Such a thing will not happen.”


“I'm already going along with the flow, after all. This lengthy waiting has always been for the sake of that one moment in history, you see? If the heavens are with us, if they are paying us a little bit of attention... Before my life is over, they should grant me one shot at writing history.”

“...What if the heavens keep turning a blind eye to us? What then, sir?”

“Yuji-dono. This is the land of the rising sun,” the old man smiled warmly. “Darkness is bound to be driven away by the rising sun. And I'm merely waiting for the sun to rise again. Let me give you the answer you seek. If the flow is rejecting me, then... I shall reverse the flow. I have no desire to saddle our future generations with a heavy burden, you see?"

“I see. Thank you,” Nakata Yuji deeply bowed his head. “And I'm merely creating the flow, sir. Isn't it fine as long as I lack the desire to become the protagonist of history?”

“Mm... Yes, that's certainly one way to live your life,” The old man slowly nodded away.

'It's done!'

Nakata Yuji narrowed his eyes. He was certain that this discussion had come to an end. After realizing that, all the tension suddenly left his body, and a flood of sweat broke out to soak him from top to bottom.

He knew that one slip of the tongue or even the slightest disagreement would've meant his funeral today. He risked his life to walk this tightrope and succeeded in doing so.

The old man glanced at Nakata Yuji. “I shall trust your judgment this time. However, I hope you don't disappoint us.”

“Thank you. I won't.”

“Then, I shall excuse myself first,” the old man muttered, then leisurely got up. However, Nakata Yuji maintained his kneeling position. The old man slowly headed to the room's exit, only to suddenly stop and glance back. “Oh. By the way...”

“Yes, sir. Please speak.”

“You should still leave a finger behind.”


The old man spoke in an unhurried manner. “Haven't I said this before? The excuse of not having any choice wasn't invented for the sake of avoiding taking responsibility. Since you are responsible for turning five hundred lives into wandering vengeful spirits... Shouldn't you at least pay something? If that payment is only one finger, wouldn't you agree that it's a rather favorable trade for you?”

“...Yes, sir.”

“Remember that it won't just end with a finger next time.”

Just as the old man left through the exit, another door next to Nakata Yuji suddenly slid open. A young woman in a kimono silently entered while carrying a cutting board and a slender dagger.

Nakata Yuji gritted his teeth as his eyes took in the sight of the pure-white hemp cloth resting on top of the cutting board.

'Really? My finger is a small price to pay?'

Sure. That certainly was true. However, how could the responsibility solely be Nakata Yuji's? Didn't the old man also agree to dispatch one thousand Japanese warriors to China?

Nakata Yuji glared at the tools of yubitsume, including the tanto, and clenched his teeth.[1]

'In the end... The ones with power will never be held responsible.'

The only reason why Nakata Yuji had to sever his finger was simple: he wasn't strong enough.

While reminding himself of that hard, cold truth, Nakata Yuji grabbed the dagger.

1. 'Yubitsume', literally meaning 'finger shortening', is a Japanese ritual to show how sincere you are with your apology by... Well, I'm sure you get the picture. 'Tanto' literally means a short sword. ☜

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