Friday, November 25, 2022 @

Volume 2 Epilogue, Part 2

 'Oh, that's right. Hey Uemon, I forgot to ask how that boy is doing?'
 "That boy, you mean?"
 Uemon twists his head at his mother's words in the form of an egret (Kizuki Kochou).
 'Look, look, it's that boy. The one that Aoi took with her...'
 "...oh, that"
 At the explanation of shikigami, Uemon finally remembered who he was referring to.
 "He was used as Aoi's servant in this case. Well, he seems to have been injured very badly as usual. He is now recuperating."
 Among the many Kizuki family members, who rarely communicate privately with each other, this person was one of the few exceptions.
 'Oh my, oh my, is it 'again'?"
 "He's a very unlucky boy. How could such a man survive a life like that?"
 Unlike the servants, the maids and the miscellaneous people who are involved in private life do not hide their faces, and in fact, they often have private conversations with them, so it is not uncommon for them to be remembered by name and face.
 In this sense, there were not a few adults in Kizuki, not to mention young people in the family, who remembered that man because of his origins, having been taken in as a caretaker of the eldest daughter of the head family and then reduced to a servant for personal reasons of the head of the family. Even Uemon, who was a snob and did not care about his subordinates given his position as the favorite of the second daughter of the head family... for better or worse... remembered his existence.
 'From the way you're talking, it sounds like he's hurt pretty badly this time.'
 The egret, or Kochou's shikigami, blurted out in a seemingly easygoing tone. However, Uemon, who knew his mother's character as if she had caught a cloud, was still surprised by her concern for the other party's injuries, even though it seemed to be a formality.
 "You are again so concerned about a mere servant, aren't you?"
 'Because he is the favorite of my lovely granddaughter. Besides, I was her mother when he was her caretaker. I can't help it.'
 The egret (Kizuki Kochou) smiles elegantly. Uemon had seen and heard in the past that she had loved her naughty granddaughter and that she had treated the young boy as if he were her own child or grandson, even though he was a little too young to be separated from his family. However...
 "He may have been a caretaker in the past, but now he is just a servant, a lowly man. It would be unwise for you to get too involved. You should be careful."
 In Fuso-kuni, where the status system is still strictly in place, it was common sense and education to be careful as a matter of course. It is not easy to live, and wealth is not so liquid, and in this country where bloodlines are valued, it is only a misfortune for both oneself and one's partner if one treats one's superior or inferior in a way that is inappropriate for the person's status.
 'Oh, are you sulking because your mother was stolen from you?'
 "I hope you're not joking, mother. I'm just saying the obvious. I don't care how much it..."
 Uemon Kizuki closes his mouth at his own name spun as if to interrupt his words. He had to close his mouth. He immediately realized that his mother's voice, as usual, was filled with the power of powerful words. If he uttered a reply, he would be affected by it in the next moment.
 (But how could she use such a powerful verbal power through a shikigami...!)
 It should say that she is a member of the main Kizuki family. The activation conditions are severe, and it is not an efficient technique... but to use it through a shikigami...
 'Uemon, my dear child.'
 The egret (Kizuki Kochou) steps down from the candlestick and approaches him. She shakes her pure white body and comes to rest beneath him, stretching out her long neck and rubbing her cheek against him in a gesture of affection. It was truly the unselfish love of a mother for her son.
 'The capital has a different climate and water than here. Sure, there are many beautiful things, but be careful not to eat too much, okay? And alcohol. Your job requires it, but you must not drink too much. Your answer?'
 His shoulders tremble slightly at the last, a little sternly as if she were scolding a child, but he silently affirms it.
 'And you can't stay up too late, either. You should finish the party at a moderate time. And it's not good to stay indoors and not sweat. Get some sunlight every day. Understood?'
 Silently, Uemon nodded at his mother's offer. Satisfied with his appearance, the egret (Kizuki Kochou) looks at her overweight son with loving eyes, and takes a few steps away.
 'I hope you are well until our next meeting. Mother prays for your health.'
 With these words, the last remaining shikigami also burst into flames and burned up within a few seconds. After staring at the burning remains of the shikigami for a while, Uemon let out a breath as if releasing his tension.
 "...things have become even more troublesome these days, haven't they?"
 Uemon has always known since he was a child that his mother had a sensitive and difficult personality that could change her attitude at the slightest hint of a change of temper. However... Uemon thought that she seemed to be particularly unstable these days. It was hard to determine what was bothering her.
 "...Or maybe it's just age, no matter how young she looks..."
 No matter how much spiritual power can revitalize the body, there are limits. This is especially true of the spiritual aspect. A half-youkai may be able to delay the hardening of thought, but his mother cannot prevent it, no matter how much she tries to make up for her appearance.
 "Hmm, that's a problem. ...Hey, anyone's here!"
 Uemon wipes the greasy sweat from his forehead with his sleeve, opens the shoji (sliding door), and calls for his servant by removing the boundary wards that also provide soundproofing. He shouted to them to bring him tea with sugar and ice, saying that he was sweating and thirsty. Then he opens his collar and fans himself with the fan he keeps at hand.
 "I don't know what she's thinking..."
 Uemon twisted his head, remembering the muddy eyes of shikigami that he had seen before it burned up. With the common values of this world, he could never have guessed what it meant...
* * *
 "...Well, the boy has hurt again, isn't he? Poor thing, I wish I could at least take care of him."
 The Kizuki family's mansion is located in the northern region of the country, where it is not too hot and humid even on summer nights... In one of the rooms of the north hall, blowing a smoking pipe was a glamorous woman with long black hair and a weeping black eye around her right eye. Sweetly, but in a worried voice like a mother does to her child.
 "Huff~, Hina and Aoi are still children. Both of them are too selfish and self-centered. Well, maybe it can't be helped for a girl of their age..."
 Even taking this into account, unfortunately, neither of them is a lady. The woman sighs as she comments on her granddaughters with a touch on her cheek. The demon (oni) that seems to be attached to him is out of the question, by the way.
 Those granddaughters may not be aware of it, but she can't tell how many times she herself has been working behind their backs since they fell into the servants' hands. She also thinks back and sighs, thinking of how many times he had almost died since then until they became powerful in the family. They are so selfish and flashy. It bothers her.
 "I guess it's thanks to his hard work that it's still working."
 No matter how much effort he puts in to limit the danger, when he dies, he dies. But... fortunately she knew that the boy was not stupid, that he could work hard and persevere if necessary.
 That's why she believed in him and kept working behind the scenes to support him in both tangible and intangible ways. Because she knew that if she forced herself to protect him, she would be putting him in pain and danger. Even if things get estranged from him, he is a kind-hearted boy after all, so he can't help it if her family is taken hostage. Like that boy.
 "Yes, I don't want to go through that again."
 Thinking back to old memories, she squints her eyes and mutters in a harsh tone. She doesn't want to lose any more of the things that are important to her. That's why she suppresses and endures the urge to keep him, to keep him close at hand. She didn't want to make an easy move that could lead to irreparable damage.
 Yes. It's all because she was born into a family like this. Being born a concubine of the head of a branch family and inheriting more power than the children of the legal wife was the beginning of all her misfortunes.
 When she was a child, her mother was poisoned in her place by the legal wife. She can still remember the sight of her mother writhing in agony before her eyes.
 Neglected by her father, her half-brother, and even the legal wife, her emotional support as a child was a servant boy who was like an older brother to her and her first love. He, whom she had hoped in her childhood to be with one day, was framed. With her family holding her as a hostage, he was not allowed to resist, and youkai devoured him in front of her, protecting him at least as much as he could.
 Then, when his half-brother became the head of the family, she was treated like a tumor and put under house arrest. She was prepared to live in a prison cell until her death, and at the age of 20, she was already tired and thought of leaving the family at the last moment, when she was assigned to the second wife of the head of the family, who was more than two years older than her, just for the power that she possessed. Naturally, it was a cold and loveless marriage... she couldn't even cry, so she gave her virginity out of obligation.
 The end was her firstborn son. The first child didn't inherit the power of the family, but she still loved him as much as she could. And that man...!
 "At the time, I thought this house would just disappear. But..."
 When that man died, he left everything in the house to her sons, and because of the spiritual power in her body, she was supposed to live the rest of her long life in peace and inertia. But she did not want to be a part of the family's troubles anymore. Just wanting to spend the rest of her life on her own. However, that all changed when she saw that boy.
 She couldn't believe her eyes the moment she saw him for the first time. Yes, she couldn't believe it. She was reminded of her first love. And that impression was further reinforced when she actually talked to him. He was not educated, but he was not stupid, he was good, he looked after her granddaughter who was isolated from the rest of the family, and above all, the way he treated her granddaughter was just like that person who used to do the same to her.
 And once she became attached to him, she couldn't help but love this child, who was born into a dirty, poor farmer's family. She loved him just like her own children and grandchildren. No, the love in her heart must have been more than that, considering that her real children and grandchildren are of the bloodline of that abominable man and that loathsome Kizuki.
 "And then, that one incident happened..."
 At first, she almost went half-crazy because she felt as if her own trauma was being reopened. Still, to protect him, to believe in him, she watched from afar... and his efforts were as good as, or even better than, she had hoped for. But then, the end was probably that trap set for her younger granddaughter. She had thought that she would help him when the time came, but... when she saw his act through the shikigami, her feelings were relief, admiration, envy, and jealousy.
 Yes, it was the future she wanted to have. And that is why she feels frustrated. Her granddaughters, who have grasped the possibilities she envied and wished for, are not satisfied with that, but want something more. Or at least that's what she's hoping for...
 "Hehehe, what a surprise."
 She disguised her rising emotions by saying so. She was not sure if she would be able to control herself if she admitted it, if she realized her feelings, her true feelings. At least for now, she did not want to do such a thing to her granddaughters. At least not yet.
 Her name is Kizuki Kochou... a woman who has been losing everything important in her life ever since she was born into the Kizuki branch of the family.
 "Hina or Aoi, it doesn't matter which one you are. But when I get him in my life, I'll love him a lot and spoil him for what I couldn't do before."
 For her, he is now like her own child or grandchild. Or more than that...
 "Hehe... Hehehehe...."
 She smiled even more beautifully, moonlight illuminating the lustrous beauty she had maintained with her spiritual power. Her eyes were muddy like mud, full of madness and delusion...

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