DARK MODE 

Thursday, November 24, 2022 @

Chapter 19, Part 2

 "I see, I understand your meaning. But..."
 
 At the orphanage, which had been ravaged by the battle, Azuma Hibari, who was facing us in the garden, had a sour look on her face in response to the gorilla princess's argument.
 
 The exorcist who had come to the capital as part of their duties to defeat the monster fox, and then came to rescue the orphanage when it was being attacked by its incarnation... that is what the gorilla princess said in a nutshell. But Azuma Hibari was not fully convinced by this explanation.
 
 Of course. Certainly, she wasn't lying. But that's about it. Azuma can see through lies. That is what puzzles her. But the gorilla princess is not lying. Though I'm not saying... that it's not entirely true.
 
 "Oh, you don't believe our side of the story? Is the former head of the Onmyou Dormitory one of those people who are so mixed up with the lowlifes that everything gets mixed up? If it's a witness, why don't you ask the children there?"
 
 The princess boasted mockingly. It was a clear provocation. But gorilla, don't try to make things worse.
 
 "Everyone, what happened to you?"
 
 Azuma, who is not as old as she seems, does not take up the challenge of the princess, who is almost a baby in her own eyes. She bends down to the same gaze as the children while keeping a wary eye on us, then asks gently. The children's response to her question was a bit puzzling, however.
 
 "Well, umm, the person who I helped was... The man I helped was torn to pieces and a big fox came out from inside."
 "Then, the invisible man there... He was fighting with a scary fox very fast."
 "Ueee, it burned so fast..."
 "That pretty sister was really fierce!!"
 
 The children, who had just been nearly killed by the monster and were supposed to be in tears, gathered at Azuma's feet and uttered words one after another without any connection. The children were trying their best to explain to Azuma, who was their mother, but their words were either inarticulate, poorly explained, or too much of a stretch for a child.
 
 "Oh, yes, yes. I'm sorry to hear that I've caused you so much trouble this time/ You can leave it to me to fix up the house or whatever, okay? I'll send you money for the repairs later. And if you want, I can personally donate to the orphanage from now on."
 
 As Azuma was frantically listening to the children's stories and secretly analyzing and summarizing the main points, the gorilla princess made a targeted offer.
 
 "That's very helpful, but... no, wait. What do you want?"
 
 Azuma bites the gorilla princess's words as soon as she can, but it is already too late. The result may have been obvious from the start.
 
 "It's rude of me to call it a target. Instead, I would have accepted the trouble for you. Hey, that fox over there?"
 
 The girl speaks triumphantly, fan outstretched. Azuma's eyes widen, and by the way, all the children who were gathered around her feet look in her direction. That is, the white fox girl who was standing alone at a distance from them.
 
 "Shiro, you..."
 "Azuma-sensei, I..."
 
 Azuma saw everything at first glance from her complicated and sorrowful expression.
 
 "You, what have you done to her...!?"
 
 The former head of the Onmyou dormitory, who had never cared how much she was ridiculed, clearly turned her murderous intent on the princess of the Kizuki family at this moment. I gasp as I stand by her side. My whole body was tense and rigid, even though I was not directly attacked. If I had been in perfect physical condition, I would have escaped from the place as fast as I could at this moment.
 
 (I've been confronted with this before, but the pressure is the same as ever. The killing power of this world is not so fancy because there are spiritual power and youkai power.)
 
 If my body is not accustomed to the spiritual power or youkai power, or if it is too strong, I can get sick just by being exposed to it. It is not easy, but not impossible, to kill a person just by directing psychic power with the intent to kill.
 
 "Oh my, oh my, don't look so grim. Doesn't that scare the children? And I didn't mean to intimidate you."
 "How dare you...!!"
 
 Azuma's fury dissipates when she sees that the children on the other side of the room are momentarily startled, but she does not hide her hostility toward the gorilla-sama's words. No wonder. After all the talk of donations and repairs, there's no way she'd trust her words.
 
 "No, you're wrong, teacher...!! I... made my own choice! It's true! I'm going to stay with them...!"
 
 Slightly nervous, but determined, the white fox girl speaks of her choice.
 
 "Teacher, you have heard the story, haven't you? Where I come from..."
 "Yes. But although you are the source of that evil and cruel youkai, you are not it, are you...?"
 
 Azuma replies to the girl with a pained expression on her face. Well, evil is certainly a part of youkai's soul. It may be the root. However, that does not make the girl and the monster completely the same.
 
 There are many precedents in this world about the existence of the soul and the mention of its sin. There is also the existence of living spirits in the case of human beings, and even youkai can be subdued, and their souls can be cleaned and elevated to the status of a sacred beast, and vice versa. Following these examples, it is impossible for her to be punished if she has not committed any crimes since then, cutting off only the evil part of her original soul... Under normal circumstances.
 
 Even so, she would be considered dangerous. Even though the white fox has been cut down to her nature and her aspect as a youkai, the root of this thing is in the first place. Still, there's no way to know when the balance of her soul will tip to the side of the evil spirits. So, how can the people of the imperial court expect such a thing to go unchecked?
 
 In this world where youkai who have been devouring human beings for thousands of years have been dominating the world, the reason why Fuso-kuni has continued to exist is because the Imperial Court is ruthless and vile.
 
 The majority of human beings are far weaker than monsters. Therefore, people gathered together and made a country, and they use any means to maintain it and nip danger in the bud. For example, the Minister of the Right set a trap with his own body against the four evil forces that attacked the capital, sacrificed some of the people for the good of the whole, and used them as decoys in times of great upheaval.
 
 And what could he possibly do against a single child of the half-Youkai, who could be used to completely stop the resurrection of the monster fox that had attacked the capital?
 
 "That's..."
 "What are you going to do, protest? Before, you were the head of the Onmyo dormitory, but now you are just a half-youkai who opens an orphanage, aren't you? Do you have enough to ask for help from the Imperial Court? You know that it would attract more attention in a bad way, don't you?"
 
 Azuma was not well received by the court nobles because she was a half-youkai. At least, not particularly friendly. Moreover, once she had left the service of the court, and word spread that she was running an orphanage for half-youkai, she might even harm the other children.
 
 "Are you going away, Shiro-oneechan?"
 
 It was the pampered Akane who muttered in a slurring tone. She ran out and came up to Shiro and hugged her anxiously. Next, one after another, the children approached her in the same manner and began to make a fuss.
 
 "Why are you going away?"
 "Yes, let's stay together!"
 "That's right. You can't go away!"
 "Do you hate us now?"
 
 They all spoke with deep concern, and Shiro was confused and troubled. Azuma, their mother figure, stopped them.
 
 "Hey, you guys! Shiro is in trouble, you know? And Shiro, won't you change your mind?"
 "....teacher, this was a great place. My time here with you was short but I was happy. But..."
 
 She looks first at her other headless body on the ground, then at the peach-haired girl and her servant.
 
 "Do you think you'll be a nuisance?"
 "I can't deny it. And although... teacher may forgive me, but I..."
 
 The white fox does not deny Azuma's words. People cannot live on haze. Without food, clothing, and shelter, they cannot live, and they cannot rely solely on the goodwill of others in a world where simply surviving is not easy.
 
 And few people will help her in an orphanage that takes in half-youkai. Of course, that is one of the reasons. But that is not the only reason.
 
 Even if her evil and cruel side as a youkai are cut off, it is not enough for her to be able to separate herself from it, and she can't give up the feeling of remorse.
 
 "Besides... there are reasons why I want to follow them. So..."
 "Shiro..."
 "Can we please stop standing around talking? I don't want to stay in this dreary, dirty place forever."
 
 The gorilla princess interrupts their conversation, seemingly disinterested.
 
 "Princess..."
 "Do you have a problem with me? Or would you like to bring me something else right here, right now?"
 
 When I try to open my mouth to soothe her, she grumbles something like that. She says something impossible.
 
 "Besides, this is your mess to clean up. I'm sure you're not an idiot even if you're not an educated man."
 "...I understand."
 
 That's the last thing I want to hear from her. It's certainly my fault that things got messy. She's probably been watching me, if not 24/7, and she understands that.
 
 If I had just gotten rid of the girl, this might not have happened. And to top it off, the cost of repairing the orphanage and other things, and the trouble the princess had to go through to get here herself... if a servant had caused this much trouble, I could not complain even if I was physically beheaded at the worst. After all, it would be too lenient in this world to let a single half-youkai child get away with such a thing. However...
 
 "Please at least think about how you say it. The way you say it can make a big difference in the impression you get."
 
 The princess, who had been looking at me for a while at my offer, let out a sigh with a truly troublesome look in her eyes and then ordered with a slightly stern look in her eyes.
 
 "Well, I'll leave it to you, then. You go ahead and use your uselessly clever mouth to talk her out of it."
 "Thank you very much"
 
 I bowed deeply and forced my battered body to move forward. I thank Azuma, who notices me and hides the children behind her, and first I pick up a fallen dagger and put it back in my pocket, then I slowly approach her and express my lack of hostility.
 
 "When we met before, I left the place without saying hello and I am very sorry. I am the servant of the princess of the Kizuki family. Do you remember me?"
 "...You were the one who was by Shiro's side when I picked her up...?"
 "I'm sorry for the trouble I caused you. I was in too much of a rush. But don't get me wrong. I never meant any harm to anyone there at the time."
 
 Azuma assessed the truth of my words and then looked at the white fox girl as if to confirm them. The girl confirmed them with a nod of her head.
 
 "...I see. I believe your words."
 "Thank you. I know there are many doubts about what happened. But I want you to believe me that I have no ill will or malice toward you."
 
 From her point of view, Azuma's main concern is the safety of her children. Therefore, that's where I'm going to strike. She knows how harsh the world can be. Then she would not be opposed to this offer.
 
 "I understand your concern and anxiety. However, considering the payment, and the fact that the princess herself has come here, we will not treat her with disrespect. We will allow her to see you regularly during her stay in the capital. We will also send a letter to you after the princess and I return to our territory. What do you think?"
 "......"
 
 Azuma was silent for a while at my words, but when she observed me, she asked me a question.
 
 "When you were confronting that fox, you were the one who told these children to hide, weren't you? The extermination of youkai is not a simple matter. Especially for a servant like you. If necessary, you'll use decoys. At least there's no reason to keep them escape and hidden except for Shiro, who is the princess's objective. You know the risks, right? So, why?"
 "Because, as a senior, it would be degrading to leave a child to die. Of course, it could be said that I just underestimated the difference in strength."
 
 Azuma shuts her mouth again, saying "I see," in response to my half-dressed-up quick answer. Then, she silently looked at Shiro. After a few words to the children around her and the white fox steps forward and looks up at me, slightly nervous, she speaks.
 
 "Okay. I believe you. But you have to promise me. I wish not only her happiness but the happiness of all the children in my care. And you will give that girl a better life. So... you who have come to persuade me must take responsibility so that she will not be sad."
 
 It was half a threat. It was not unreasonable, however. I too had come to take their precious child away from her.
 
 "...understood. Azuma-sama."
 
 I accept her words even though I'm nervous about being hit by her murderous intent. If I did not accept it, I would not be convinced.
 
 "...I see. Shiro..."
 "Y-Yes!"
 
 The girl replies hurriedly to Azuma's words. Then she looked at me and said.
 
 "Well, my name is... um... Shiro! I know I'm not very good at this, but please take care of me!"
 
 The childishly nervous little fox bows her head in a nervous cry. I smiled through my cloak at her childishly innocent appearance and said in as gentle a tone as I could.
 
 'You should say those words to the princess, not to me.'
 
 And so, since that day, I have been able to see a half-youkai child among Kizuki Aoi's servants. How this would affect the future story of the game and the story of the original game, I could not determine at this point...

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