Tuesday, November 8, 2022 @

Chapter 7, Part 2

 Well, since her position is different from ours, we'll prepare the campsite and meals for her, and she'll have a tent for a good night's sleep while we'll take turns sleeping in a huddle around the campsite, keeping an eye on the surrounding. Ah, I remember she looked so cute when she was trying to help me put up the tent but failed, or when she was trying to keep an eye on us and got sleepy and had her head in a knot.
 "...I see. Then, have you ever ridden in an oxcart?"
 "I've been on guard duty before, but I've never entered. I'm a servant, after all."
 I have been ordered by some members of the Kizuki family to accompany them as their escort. However, while accompanying them, servants were not allowed to ride in oxcarts for any reason, let alone as escorts. This was not only for me personally but for all the servants as a whole. Well, there may have been a few who rode unofficially.
 "I see. Then this is a first for you."
 She stops writing and continues with a somewhat amused expression on her face.
 "This oxcart is soundproof. If you are worried about the outside you needn't listen so closely. You're seriously wounded and exhausted, aren't you? Besides, I don't expect politeness from such a man. The best thing to do is to try to heal your wound as soon as possible. Am I wrong?"
 Sis (anego-sama)'s argument itself was reasonable. I agree with that. However...
 "...Then, I would like to ask at least the rug to be a little further away..."
 I mean, isn't it a bad idea to lie down a few meters in front of sis (anego-sama) who is working?
 At first, I had thought that I would take a rest in some other spaces built in the "stray house". Or I would stay in the same space as the guards, or at least in a corner of the room if I stay in the same as her room.
 ...I mean, isn't it out of the question to sleep right in front of the eldest daughter of the family who is working!? If someone sees me like this even for a second, I'm screwed. It's too rude, and even if it's not, it might cause some twisted gossip.
 To tell the truth, although it's not a very pleasant fact, I'm an easy target for this kind of stuff.
 After all, I was born a peasant, a farmer. In a poor, cold village where winters are harsh and crops are scarce.
 I was purchased by Kizuki's family after it was discovered that I had a weak spiritual power, but I was still somewhat lucky at that time, and was not suddenly taken in by the servants, nor was I used as experimental material. On the contrary, I was lucky enough to be one of the caretakers of Kizuki Hina, who had just been taken in at that time.
 Kizuki Hina in the original game is a hardworking person with long hair, dignified eyes, a slender body, and a proud, stern personality. She was a child born when her father, a member of the Kizuki family, eloped with a peasant girl whom he happened to meet by chance, and she was a cheerful and virile child in a rural village until the age of seven. After her mother died of an epidemic, she was brought back to the main family by her father, and they lived together in the house. Although she was treated rather roughly.
 It was about three years after she was taken to live in the house that things changed. While playing outside, she was attacked by Youkai, who was actually sent by her stepmother who disliked her.
 Its power named "Annihilation" is a foul class power. It is not just fire. It was a special kind of flame that "burns out" concepts and events.
 It could burn away the opponent's conceptual attacks and neutralize even formless mental attacks. The most amazing thing of all is that it can even burn away the event of its own "death".
 Many Youkai, especially those in the Calamity Youkai class, use this ability to kill a victim the first time they see it. This means that even the best exorcists, who are also extremely powerful, are often killed before they can show their power without prior preparation or investigation. In fact, there are many such foul creatures at the end of the game.
 However, Kizuki Hina's power has a special effect on the Youkai. Even if her power is neutralized, and even if they are lucky enough to kill her, her whole body will burst into flames the next moment, and she will revive as if nothing happened.
 If there is any weakness, it is that her spiritual power is drained at a tremendous rate. Even so, she is practically invincible for a few hours, which is foul enough. If her mother had been born into a famous family, her spiritual power would have been even more enormous, and some of the elders are regretful of her in this respect. In addition, she is a first-rate monster in all the five elements, as well as in body techniques, swordsmanship, and even the art of using spells, and is called a genius by those around her. However, it is revealed in the middle of the story that some of her skills are actually the result of her bloody efforts.
 And. At the time, I still had some sort of illusion about this world. Or I was ambitious to climb up from the shitty bottom. That's why, when I was chosen to be one of her caretakers, I was trying to flatter her, encourage her, and take advantage of her when she awakened to her abilities and her position in the family changed drastically. But I failed... at the most important moment.
 In the event of her awakening, we had to fight a monster, and I ran away from the monster in front of me. I even ignored her cries for help.
 It was so terrifying. I was too scared. I didn't feel safe just because it was a game event. I mean, how could I be sure that I would be safe when all the guards and other caretakers around me were being minced and devoured one by one?
 As it turns out, Kizuki Hina woke up and killed the monster all by herself. And that was the last time I saw her as a caretaker. Perhaps because of her change of status, perhaps because I ran away, perhaps because of multiple factors, shortly after that I was dropped into the ranks of a lowly trainee and spent the rest of my days in rigorous training.
 After that, with her little sister gorilla’s position still intact, sis (anego-sama) faction and the gorilla faction maintain a delicate balance within the Kizuki family. As for me, my relationship with sis (anego-sama) was quite delicate because I was seen as being rather embedded in the gorilla faction.
 "...I see. However, since you are my guard, do not leave my sight, okay?"
 As I reflected on these memories of the past, Kizuki Hina, who had been silent for a while, accepted my argument without hesitation. I bow to her, move the rug to a corner of the spacious room, and sit down there.
 (I wonder what this indescribable, delicate atmosphere is.)
 It's as if I'm meeting a friend I've known for a long time after we had a quarrel in childhood. No, actually, it's more serious than that.
 But then, perhaps sis (anego-sama) doesn't hate me as much... After all, despite everything, she was a (relatively) decent girl in the game, and she was fair to the main character, whom she didn't know from right to left and from whom she didn't know anything. Although she was a bit restrictive once players entered her route, she was still cute in her exasperation compared to the other yandere heroines.
 Anyway, I struggled with the pain in my right leg with an expressionless face. Still, it's hard to keep my facial expression the same. Seriously, I'll be the first to get a mask when we get back.
 For now, with the cloth-covered spear at my side, I sit up and drift off to sleep, ready to do my duty as a guard at any moment.
 (At least it's better than the cave, where there's no chance of being eaten.)
 Perhaps more tired than I expected, I slowly close my heavy eyelids and let myself drift off to sleep.
 "Good night, '■■'. Have a nice dream."
 However, just before I completely lost consciousness, I felt my childhood friend calling me by a familiar name.
 I couldn't decide whether it was a dream or not, but at least it wasn't unpleasant, unlike certain crazy demon...
* * *
 ...Oh, I let him sleep without talking to him again, even though it was a good opportunity for me to do so. Kizuki Hina thinks to herself as she stares at her childhood friend who falls asleep in a corner of the spacious room, in a position where he can be alerted at any time. Then she thought, maybe I'm not strong enough yet.
 She did not resent the servant, on the contrary, she felt responsible for him. She knew that it was her own shortsightedness that had brought him to this situation.
 Yes, he was unique. With her mother dead and her father absent, she was alone in a spacious house with no one to turn to.
 Well, technically, she had adults to take care of her and children to play with. But they were not the ones she was looking for. The adults were too distant and untrustworthy to rely on, and the children she played with were too different in sensibility from those born in the countryside.
 It was then that he was brought to her. The boy who was also born in a rural village, but was hardworking, caring, and adaptable to her because he was from a poor village, was the only one she could rely on and trust. It can be said that she liked him even though she was a child. Hina, who had no interest in the power of Kizuki's house, even fantasized about running away from home and living in the fields with this dependable boy. They even discussed the plan with each other in a playful way. Of course, he probably thought it was just for fun, but it was still fun for her.
 However, that all changed, when she was almost killed by a monster in a conspiracy, she was awakened to her power. That changed her whole environment. No, it was more than that...
 "Yes, that's not the problem. The real problem is my own stupidity..."
 Kizuki Hina closes her eyelids and remembers. The fact that her surroundings had changed, that her life was in danger, that many grown-ups had come to her doorstep to take advantage of her, frightened her too much as a young and foolish girl... so she asked for help from the boy she could always count on that she wanted to escape from the house.
 Maybe she shouldn't have done that. That was so careless of her. And because the boy didn't immediately agree to help her, she was so disappointed in him that she packed up, cried, and left. The next day the boy was expelled from her care.
 Oh, stupid. I was so stupid. I didn't think for a second why such a calm boy, so much wiser than I was, had such a look of despair on his face. She thought.
 "Of course, when I think back. His presence was an eyesore for everyone."
 After all, it would not be good for public opinion to have a poor farmer's brat by her side as she was now a strong candidate to be the next head of the family. And it is not right that the boy should be favored as a vassal or even as a member of the opposite sex.
 Whatever Kizuki Hina did was the best thing that could have happened to her. Her action of crying and running while swearing proves that she herself disliked the boy, much less consulting with him about fleeing the mansion... After all, all their conversations were overheard because they were being watched by the shikigami. Later, they also found out that she had a plan for escaping from the mansion and her life afterwards, but accept it as a prank, rather, the fact that the plan was rather specific and systematic for a child seemed to have been what stopped her.
 Anyway, perhaps it was too bad for appearance, the ostensible reason for the boy’s punishment was that he ran away from the monster without his master, even though he was his caretaker, and because of this, his memory was partially falsified by a technique. He was then given the name "Tomobe" and reduced to a lowly servant in the hope that he would die somewhere. However, the fact that he survived the attempted assassination of Kizuki Aoi and protected her was unexpected even by those who wanted to kill him.
 "It's pathetic. I couldn't do anything to help you until now. Especially that d*mned woman...!"
 After smiling to herself, she thinks of Aoi... her hateful little sister, and her face tightens up.
 Protected her little sister... if only it had saved him. But in fact, it's the opposite. She didn't know what the crazy bitch was thinking, but she couldn't understand the fact that she didn't protect him every single time, always leaving him in a state of wreckage, not knowing if he was alive or dead.
 "What have you got against him, even though he saved you...?"
 Gritting her back teeth, she suppresses her stormy anger. It is not good for her body to let her anger drain away her enormous spiritual power.
 "I don't ask you... to forgive me. But just wait a little longer, just a little longer."
 For more than a decade, she has been learning, training, and growing stronger. Not just in battle. It's about money, education, and factions, it's all because she wants to help him. To save him.
 "I'll take care of your curse, your memory, everything. Even if I have to leave everything that's left. So just wait a little longer."
 She murmurs in a trembling voice, as if apologizing, as if repenting. She can't stand the fact that she has caused so many deaths of people she cares about.
 "I'll end it all. I'm going to get you out. That's why... that's why..."
 So at least, when this is all over, you can keep your old promise to live with me, together, quietly. I'll do my best to protect you from any threats, from any existence.
 "No matter who it is, no matter who I'm dealing with..."
 She gazes at her beloved, her eyes flashing with the fire of a silent, maddened passion...

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