Wednesday, November 23, 2022 @

Chapter 17, Part 1

 "Oh my, oh my, this is yet another classic and clichéd move."
 Kizuki Aoi, the girl with a peach-colored face that combines youthfulness and charming looks in a room of the mansion rented from the Oumi family on the occasion of their visit to Kyoto, commented on the method used by the clever fox she saw through the mirror stand as a way of getting past the boundary.
 Both the method of taking advantage of people's moral sense and good intentions, and the method of using human body parts to deceive the boundary are not particularly unusual methods, although they require a certain level of intelligence to do so.
 As a matter of fact, similar methods have been reported in many cases during the great human youkai wars. In particular, "youkai mother", one of the generals on the youkai side during the great war, who has not been defeated yet, "spawned" a mass of human-mimicking creatures by using human beings she had eaten as "materials" at the end of the great war. Thanks to this, the Imperial Court had to abandon all the boundary techniques that had been researched and developed specifically for the use against youkai for many years, and had to construct a new system of boundaries. Compared to this, it is still a cute sight.
 Probably the blue demon who is watching this scene through the shikigami will have a similar impression. It is said that when this demon was once rampaging in the capital, she took advantage of people's minds much more viciously than the fox in this case, and tried all sorts of tricks to get past the boundaries of the inner city. However, she was tricked by the Minister of the Right (右大臣) who took advantage of her and escaped half-killed.
 (The problem was how he could get past the boundary... But of course...)
 Although she was a bit wary when he came in contact with the wanted criminal... But of course, there is no way that the paranoid old man would do nothing to an orphanage full of half-Youkai. At least, 'he' has an insurance policy in case of emergencies.
 "I don't know where he gets the information but he certainly has a good eye for it."
 Kizuki Aoi evaluated the judgment of her one and only beloved one as she looked at the mirror reflecting the scene through the shikigami. The old man is indeed useful, albeit dangerous. Even she is limited in what she can teach him. Well, although Kizuki Aoi is a brilliant person who can do anything she puts her mind to, her true nature is to push with her spiritual power, which is the most powerful among the Kizuki family. No, the Kizuki family itself is known for its high spiritual power among exorcism clans, and naturally, many of its skills and systems of spiritual techniques are based on such power. Therefore, it is difficult to say that 'he' is the right person for the job, since he lacks the absolute amount of spiritual power.
 So, it is true that the old man of the Matsushige family is the best match for him, albeit reluctantly. And although the Matsushige clan is old and it is not a clan of particularly high spiritual power, there is a prerequisite that he be a member of the exorcists' clan. Though, they are not (comparatively speaking) good at physical combat either.
 Nevertheless, they are a family with a broad and deep understanding of techniques. They are known to use even the most basic and simple techniques in a vicious way by applying or combining them. And not to mention the fact that the old man is the second-ranked master of Onmyo-dormitory and has been involved in the research of forbidden techniques. So, it is not surprising that he would have skills that even the Kizuki family does not know about.
 "Worst of all, if their relationship is about to be discovered, I will be the one to make the move. But now, this is a good opportunity, so I should let him do as he likes."
 She tries to return her gaze to the mirror with a calm and composed attitude... but once she senses the presence of someone approaching, she breaks the connection between the mirror stand and the shikigami.
 "...What brings you here?"
 "Princess, a messenger from the Ako family has come to pay you a visit. He wishes to congratulate you on your recent exploits."
 The maid, sitting on the other side of the sliding door and bowing her head, announces the arrival of her guest.
 "Ako...? Oh, it's that one."
 If it was a messenger from her mother's family, she could guess who it was. Come to think of it, she had received a letter a few days ago praising the rescue efforts of the trading company... but she was not so interested in it that she had forgotten about it.
 "Since she's here, you should make her feel welcome."
 "Yes. However... the other party wishes to see the princess..."
 "I'm busy right now. I don't want to see her. If she want to see me so badly, tell her to wait. Maybe in half a day I'll have time."
 Aoi says so in a cold tone, with a little bit of murderous intent. Why did she visit me at such an inconvenient time, she said inwardly.
 As for her personally, she didn't care what that little girl... that cousin of hers thought about her. She didn't care that her cousin loved her like her own sister and followed behind her with puppy dog eyes. Do what you will.
 But... to come here as if aiming at people when I'm having a good time, and to even ask for a moment of my time, is a little too much for my taste. Why should I spend my time, which is more precious than gold and sand, for such a little girl? She thought inwardly.
 For a moment, Aoi thought of cutting her off, but that would be a bad idea. Therefore, she ordered the maid again.
 "I'm in the middle of an important ceremony. It has been prepared for days, weeks even. I can't stop halfway. So tell that one. If she cares about me, don't think about it and wait."
 "I trust you'll be sensible enough to wait," she adds, so that that little girl won't do anything rash.
 Aoi, who confirmed that the maid agreed to the order and moved away from the room reverently in spite of her trouble, put a simple boundary around the room. It also has a soundproofing effect, and is intended to block out any unimportant noises from the outside.
 "Well, now there are no more obstacles in the way."
 Then she opens the connection between the mirror and the shikigami again, and rests her elbows on her sides to resume her appreciation of the mirror. Then she noticed it.
 "Oh my."
 Shifting the viewpoint of the shikigami, she finds it. Then, she smiles a hearty smile.
 "Nice eyes, looks useful. And it would be fun to have in my hand."
 After saying so, she pulls over a candy box in her hand and pricks one of the yokans (羊羹) on it with a toothpick. As if it was a matter of course, she put the expensive yokan into her mouth and tasted its rich and pleasant sweetness and flavor, and then she opened her mouth again.
 "Hehehe, sweetie. I hope you got something for me, okay?"
 Arrogantly and haughty, the Kizuki princess added to her beloved man's expectations without his knowledge. Seeing that he was fully capable of doing so...
* * *
 Just as the fox is about to begin the meal, she is outraged by the sudden appearance of me.
 'You b*stard! Who are you...!? No, I remember this smell... You're that little fish from back then!'
 The giant fox creature sniffs and seems to realize who I am. B*stard, you've got a good nose. Even though I've removed the smell...
 'But you b*stard, why are you inside the boundary? No, why did you come out from the direction of the building in the first place?'
 Since the foxes were going to attack the orphanage, it was only natural that I had already investigated the inside of the orphanage and its members to some extent, so youkai fox was puzzled and alarmed that I had appeared here, and that I had not appeared from the front gate. I guess she was afraid that she might have been ambushed. More precisely, she may think that Gorilla-sama or other exorcists may still be waiting for her.
 "Well. I don't have to tell you."
 I say this in a deep meaning, as if I'm bluffing.
 In fact, I was the only one who could be considered as a force to be reckoned with. No, it was not accurate to say that the old man was out of the force, but I wanted to handle it as much as I could by myself. I didn't want to move too many people, and neither did the old man.
 To be honest, the most important issues in this event for me were 'when it will happen' and 'how to cross the boundary' before the battle.
 As I have a small amount of spiritual power, I can't send the shikigami to monitor the event 24 hours a day, and it would take time to move when the event occurred. Although it would be best to do something about it before they enter inside the boundary, it is not always possible.
 Therefore, I entrusted the monitoring eyes to the old man. And as soon as he saw the movement of the foxes, I left my job of patrolling the inner city and rushed to them, but it was too late. All the people who had been used as bait had been eaten, and the fox had also entered the inner boundary.
 And once inside the boundary, it's the old man's turn again. To be precise, this was not for my sake, but rather an insurance policy that he had prepared for a long time.
 It seems that Azuma Hibari did not know about the book in which forbidden words were used. The book is littered with incantations that are unnoticeable to the reader, and by reading and listening to them over and over again, the reader is gradually hypnotized over time.
 Because of its concealment, the orders it can give are simple ones that have been prepared in advance, and thus the spiritual power required is minimal, and even more so Azuma herself does not know of its existence because it is designated as a forbidden technique. By the way, it is said that a more enhanced version of this technique was used during the Great War, and that it was mainly used by the Imperial Court as a booby trap to force the withdrawal of the army. If youkai with intelligence and intellect read the top-secret documents that were abandoned to gather information, they would fall into the trap of the technique embedded in the documents and engage in a friendly fire or self-destructive action. That's sneaky, dude.
 (Though I was a little surprised at that...)
 I remember this as I hold up my twisted spear. The forbidden word technique that the old man had originally put in the orphanage to prevent it from being destroyed when he had to burn it down, was activated and invited me to the back door of the orphanage by a young girl with a lizard tail. The effect of the technique wears off as soon as she "invites" me in a daze and in a dreamy state. I was bewildered because the little girl came back to herself and hugged my legs crying and asked me for help. I told her to hide herself for the time being, but....
 "Hey, you! Take those kids and hide."
 I ordered the white fox half-youkai behind me. Frankly, I can't fight a fight with kids everywhere and with care. I want them to evacuate quickly.
 "Uh... ah, yes...!"
 The girl, the incarnation of the monster fox, shudders and shudders, but responds to my words by taking the hands of the other children nearby and leaving the scene. The hostile fox does nothing. Rather, it is wary of me. This is partly because the old man has just set up a strong anti-youkai perimeter around the orphanage. She was afraid of the exorcists who might be hiding somewhere.
 But the cooperation of the old man ends here. From this point on, the old man will do nothing unless I die. He doesn't want to make any more moves, since he's hiding in plain sight.
 "In other words, I'm on my own from here on out..."
 I ducked just in time to avoid a thick, long, half-sounding tail strike. Oh, man, if I had been hit directly by her tail, my upper body and lower body would have been separated...!
 However, the attack does not end. It was a sound-form violence that was fired at the place where I was lying down. A roar similar to or more powerful than the one that hit the gorilla the other day. Just before the invisible storm of destruction is unleashed, I spin around and move away from it. At the same time, the ground where I had just been is blown away with the sound of the explosion. A large amount of sand and soil fly through the air. I was lucky that it did not hit the orphanage because of the angle. And...
 'Hmm, the same move...!'
 The youkai fox repels my spear thrown from the dust with her paw. At the same time, in poor visibility, she is alerted by the smells in the area. Will I throw another weapon at her? Or will I approach her in the dust? Or will I try to use the Shikigami as a diversion...?
 'Is it there...!?'
 The fox calculate backwards from the smell wafting through the dust and attack that way. A whip-like tail strikes the shadowy figure just as it appears. But...
 'This is... tsk!! Another Shikigami!!?'
 The pierced figure, however, is not a cloaked human being, but merely a misshapen walking scarecrow. And poof! The shikigami turns back to a mere piece of paper.
 'How many times have you played so cleverly... Cough...!!?'
 The fox cursed, and at the same time she shouted, she winced in pain in her nostrils. She cried and coughed. It was caused by the white smoke from the shikigami.
 What was in the white smoke was vaporized tear gas and stimulants. They were made by grinding or fermenting medicinal herbs and mixing them together, and were packed in a ceramic casting together with specially processed gunpowder. When a small amount of spiritual power is applied, the gunpowder begins to generate heat, evaporating the medicine into gas. Moreover, this is a new product, a prototype, of the Kizuki family's medicine masters. It was supposed to be a kind of stimulation that even a youkai fox living for hundreds of years would not have experienced.
 'Gggghhhh... This little trick...!! Don't play with me, you little sh*t!!'
 The fox, shedding tears and wagging her tail wildly to prevent her opponent from approaching, is on the lookout for the approach. She can't hear, her vision is obscured by the dust and tears, and her range of movement is limited by the boundary, so this was the best she could do.
 And I, for one, would not go for it. If I ran into that tail storm, even if I didn't get a direct hit, the wind pressure alone could cut me down. It was too dangerous.
 "That's why... go, boys!"
 A few rats, shikigami rats carrying packages on their backs, crawl on the ground. Because the fox was wagging her tails at her human opponent, she was unaware of the presence of the tiny rats crawling on the ground.

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