Monday, November 7, 2022 @

Chapter 6, Part 2

 The next moment, I felt an evil presence and hid behind a rock. At about the same time, the demon girl who had also sensed the presence made a happy face and dissipated as black Youkai energy.
 I look at the presence slowly without making a sound, with sweat on my forehead, trying to catch my breath.
 (I see. As expected, it's a shellfish. But is it good timing or bad timing...?)
 I laugh inwardly. Thinking back on it, I remember that at least since my reincarnation, I have never had any luck.
 Anyway, there was an army of monsters marching through the cave right now. And in the middle of the line was the most peculiar and eye-catching. A clam, maybe the size of a bullwheel, with its shell cracked open and blue bodily fluids seeping from within, slowly made its way toward the cave lake on the backs of countless monsters...
 It's bad... that was the first thought that came to my mind.
 It's wrong to say that monsters are best matched with monsters... After all, youkai are best matched with exorcists. Therefore, I really wanted Kizuki Ayaka to sweep up all of them, including the main dish. In yesterday's battle, she was pushed back, but that was only because of the fog that obscured her vision and the five senses. Even she, still a child, would have been able to destroy even that many monsters at a distance if her vision had been clear.
 The Kizuki family, a famous family of exorcists, has been intermarrying powerful people for hundreds of years. Even the fat and overweight head of the Kizuki family is so fast on his legs that one could almost mistake it for instantaneous movement when he gets serious. I mean, many first-time players underestimated the fat guy, only to have the main character's neck snapped off with a single blow when he was knocked back by a counterattack. He usually looks like a fatty, but when he puts all his strength into it, he looks like a muscular dharma.
 (On the other hand, a servant is always a servant no matter how far they go... the gap in bloodlines and talents is too overwhelming in this world.)
 The policy of the Imperial Court and the exorcist family is one of the factors, but this world, or more precisely, Fuso-kuni is so bad that the gap between the simple people and the people with spiritual power and different abilities is unmanageable. Of course, there is a reason for that, and it is in a sense better than the southern barbarian countries that have turned into a country of chaos.
 Anyway, the parade of the monsters who are now walking in front of me was too much for me.
 (How many are there? A few hundred? It would be best if they pass by unnoticed...)
 However, at this distance, how far can I fool them without any advance preparation against a large army of Youkai, whose senses are far superior to those of animals, let alone humans...?
 (Sh*t, sh*t, sh*t...!!!)
 No doubt, they will find out. Can I fool them? But... if I surprise them, no, I can't. Run? Can I escape? This cave is a straight road. If so, how much time? Can someone help me? Sh*t, d*mn it...!
 Before I know it, I was too nervous. My pulse jumped and the next thing I know I feel a pain in my left shoulder. I touch it with my hand and I saw my palm was red and wet. Oh, sh*t. The wound is open.
 'Ggggh! Roarrr!!!'
 The monsters suddenly started making a fuss and I knew why. But there was no time to waste.
 I made the shikigami run. The shikigami, smeared with blood stuck to my hands at my shoulders, transformed into a small crow in the shape of flesh... or more precisely, a shikigami crow with its face covered with a tag. Several of the materialized ravens fly up at once and fly in the direction of the cave's lake.
 Almost at the same time, most of the monsters start running in the direction the crows flew away with a roar. Those in the form of beasts run across the rock surface, those in the form of birds fly, and those in the form of insects crawl on the ground. Those not in these forms and those with unidentifiable shapes also ran toward the direction from which the shikigami fled, using their own means of movement. At the same time, the giant shell creature makes its minions carry it to the back of the cave for shelter.
 (It's now or never...!!)
 The next moment, I pour my not-so-much spiritual power into the joints and muscles of my legs and leap. Maybe in my previous life, I could have won the Olympic long jump.
 "Though I'd probably be disqualified for doping...!"
 I strengthened the tip of my spear and swung it with maximum concentric force at the insect minion that had been carrying the clam.
 I cut off the joints of the front legs of several small Youkai in front of me, and aiming at the gaps, I spun around with the centrifugal force of my spear, then severed the heads and chests of a few in the second row from the side.
 There was no need to kill them all. Rather, there was no time to spare. Bugs are violent for a while even after dropping their heads, and the bigger ones have hard shells. Therefore, I cut off their legs, or at least deprive them of the ability to think by cutting off their heads. But what will happen then is...!
 '...!! ...!!!?'
 Several insect creatures with their heads cut off are rolling around wildly. Unable to think, they cannot understand their master's commands. And those who have lost their front legs cannot move forward or backward. And the insects in the rear are either kicked away by the flailing of their fellows in front of them or crushed by the weight of their unsupported masters. Thus, their head and chest are crushed, and only the back half of the body twitches and convulses...
 After seeing that, with my legs neutralized, I thrust the tip of my spear toward my true target, the inside of the shell, and charge forward, unwilling to give it a chance to fight back. My plan was to kill it quickly or wound it, and then run away as fast as I could in the direction it came from.
 A metallic clash of metal screamed as my stab was blocked. Ah, right. It has a shell, so it can close its shell.
 I failed. Realizing this, I tried to squeeze the pain out of my hand and make a quick escape, but that's not how it went down.
 "What!? No way...!?"
 The next moment, as I tried to escape with my spear, the clam opened its shell and stabbed me with many tentacles. I evade it just in time to avoid it, which would probably penetrate through a thin steel plate. But then, the clam jumped.
 Quickly, I turned myself around and avoided the assault of the shell creature, which opened its shell and leaped at me. At the same time, I collided head-on with a rock behind me.
 ...Now, I learned later that clam has tentacles and that some types of clam have great leaping ability. And it's only natural for them to be able to jump.
 "Hahh, hahhh! You b*stard, you're gonna crush me between your legs...!?"
 I looked behind me and saw a giant clam leaping back at me with its tentacles. If I looked closely, I could see a row of pitch-black eyeballs on the strings of the shell. Its inorganic, but somehow angry, black eyes were focused on me.
 By the time I realized that it was an eye technique, it was too late. My legs freeze. To be more precise, I turned my eyes away from the monster in the middle of the attack, so the eye technique hypnotized me halfway and only my legs were immobilized. Still, its tentacle attack was launched at me.
 "D*mn... Seriously!? ....Ugh!!"
 Unable to move, I parry the tentacle attack with my spear, but it does not last more than ten seconds. The next moment, the spear is snatched from me and its thrown away. Then one of the tentacles pierced my right leg.
 "Aaaaahhh!!? Damn!"
 However, the pain in my right leg helped to break the eye technique in my leg. Then, with my knees bent, I angrily pull out a dagger from my pocket. I had failed to use it in the fight with the monster dog the other day. But now, the next time I swung the dagger, it had neatly severed the tentacle that had pierced my leg.
 "Ah... Damn...!?"
 The severed tentacle flailed about, widening the wound in my leg. I endure it and intercept the retaliation of a struggling clam whose tentacles were also cut off with a dagger. Haha, it's funny how a dagger like this can cut like tofu when a spear can't...
 Clam writhes in agony after having several tentacles cut off. The creature closed its shell and jumped toward me again.
 "D*mn... Don't underestimate me...!!"
 I twist my body to protect myself from its blows. The impact shatters rock and digs up the earth, sending up a cloud of dust. But that is my chance.
 "Don't you dare underestimate a human being, you stupid clam...!"
 I jump onto the clam just before it opens its shell. Then, I twist my dagger into the wound in the clam's shell, which probably has been gouged by the demon girl's light kick yesterday.
 Apparently, it hurt a lot. Because the creature writhed in agony as its tentacles flailed about wildly. However, one of the tentacles rammed into my face, which caused me to let out a little scream from the pain. Fortunately, the one that shattered my mask. Without it, I would have died instantly.
 "D*amn it... just die...!!!!"
 I then twisted the dagger deeper into the wound. Up to my shoulder. Deep enough to reach the clam's internal organs.
 After about 30 seconds of this, the clam, which had been wailing in an indescribable voice and frantically thrashing about, slowly slows down... and then falls silent.
 Still not letting my guard down, I move the dagger twisting it into the monster just to be sure. And it doesn't move.
 "...Did I do it?"
 I sigh, with my right arm buried shoulder-deep in the creature. But it looks like I made it...
 "But I don't think so, do I?"
 I look around and sigh. All around me were the monsters that had been chasing my shikigami. They were all looking at me with sharp eyes as if they were preying on me. I see that some of them are holding a crow in their mouths. Uh, sh*t. This is a dead end.
 The monsters leap at me at once, and I hastily draw my dagger and brace myself. But then...
 'Hmm... Hmm... well, I guess it's just barely a pass? Anyway, congratulations on passing the exam.'
 I don't know where the arrogant whisper came from, but I heard it at the same time. ...the monsters in front of me were slaughtered by the rain of light arrows at once.
 It was the violence of overwhelming power. No monsters were allowed to defy, no monsters were allowed to resist, and no monsters were allowed to run away. The various kinds of monsters were cut to pieces before a rain of hundreds of arrows.
 It must have been a matter of seconds. Nearly a hundred monsters were all slain in a matter of seconds.
 For a moment, silence reigns around me. And then the silence was broken by the one who had created it.
 "Tomobe-san, are you all right!!?"
 A voice echoed from behind me. In the darkness, a girl with a bow and arrow shining with spiritual power rushes toward me.
 "...Haha, as I thought, youkai are dealt with by exorcists."
 I muttered to myself in a small, self-mocking tone, recalling the carnage just now, and the innocent-looking girl with a childish appearance...
* * *
 It seems that Kizuki Ayaka and the others had been searching for me after I got separated from them. And when they had sensed the disastrous power of Youkai and stepped into the cave, they had just met the situation where I had been attacked.
 (The timing is too good. That demon girl must have been working behind.)
 Perhaps Youkai energy was used by that stalker demon to make them detect me. Maybe she didn't want to lose her toys. Or perhaps she was just setting the stage to observe the exorcist's power. Still, I don't know her true intentions.
 "Even if I wanted to know the truth, I'm not the kind of person who would come out if I asked her to. But it's still painful."
 While the shikigami were dealing with the dead Youkai in the cave, I was leaning against a tree, healing myself. The wound through my right leg is particularly painful. It was a miracle that the artery was not severed. If I had not, I would have bled to death.
 I endure the pain with my bite, and at the same time, I cover it up with a drug (apparently, it is a concentrated mixture of ingredients extracted from mustard by the medicine masters using a secret method to reduce dependence), and sew up the wound by myself. Nope, it hurts...
 With tears in my eyes, I cut the stitches, disinfected the wound by spraying alcohol, and put a bandage on it.
 "A-Are you all right, Tomobe-san...?"
 The exorcist little girl who had been watching my surgical operation with deep concern asked me. Well, it's a bit stimulating for a child of this age... though not too much. After all, fighting monsters is much more stimulating. No, well, killing each other with monsters is a different vector...
 "No problem. I took care not to let it fester. But more importantly, should someone pick you up soon?"
 "What? Ah, yes. The shikigami has come back so I think it's about time."
 The exorcist little girl replies hurriedly to my question. That's good because at this rate I would have been left behind with an injured leg.
 I feel relieved to know that Kizuki Ayaka is taking good care of me. As was the case in the game, she will call for help when a servant is unable to walk, as in this case.
 "But still, something is strange."
 "What do you mean?"
 "Because you don't wear masks. Since the servants are always wearing masks, it's hard to recognize what they look like. Although I know Tomobe-san because you are quite impressive... you are younger than I imagined!"
 Ayaka smiles at me with a good-natured smile. Yes, she is a good girl after all. I can't let such a good girl's face cloud over by telling her that the real reason the servants are forced to wear masks all the time is to make it harder for them to be tied to the employer.
 "Ayaka-sama, they've arrived."
 "I see. It looks like they're here!"
 One of the surviving servants reports to her, and Ayaka looks relieved. From across the forest, we saw an ox cart approaching with several companions. They seemed to be on their way back from work.
 (Well, well, whose ox cart is it?)
 I look at the appearance of the ox cart and realize who it belongs to and make a bitter face. This is going to be another trouble later on. Mainly with that gorilla.
 "I am glad you accept my offer. Princess."
 Ayaka, and the rest of us, the servants, bow to the ox cart that has stopped in front of us to express our gratitude.
 "I hear there are some injured. Fortunately, I'm on my way home from work too and it's not far from the residence. I'll carry you if you're the only one injured."
 I had heard this boyish voice just the other day. The figure who got off the ox cart briskly came to the spot in front of me lying in front of the tree, looked down at me, and opened her mouth.
 "I haven't seen you since the last time. But this time you're coming with me, huh?"
 "...It's a shameful thing to say, but it seems so."
 I reply to the dignified black-haired girl's words matter-of-factly, as if I were a lowly servant. The girl's eyes narrowed at my words as she silently assessed me, or more precisely, the state of my injuries.
 Kizuki Hina, the eldest daughter of the Kizuki family, the one who I had refused to accompany just the other day, I could only cover up my indescribable awkwardness by looking away and remaining silent...

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