Wednesday, December 7, 2022 @

Chapter 26, Part 2

 "Master, I know you have your suspicions. But I don't want to investigate without being prepared for what may happen."
 I whisper quietly, so that Murasaki can't hear me. The truth is that I know the cause of the problem... but it was beyond my ability and connections anyway. How could a servant who has only been in the capital for a few months know the whereabouts of youkai mother, whose whereabouts have been unknown for hundreds of years?
 'I know that much. Still... during my time, this anomaly would have been detected immediately... but these days the work of the Onmyou dormitory has become much sloppier.'
 The old man sighs through the shikigami. I understand his feeling, but it is not right in a sense. It is more normal for the Onmyo Dormitory to be in a situation where they do not share information with each other, and are paranoid and pulling each other down.
 The reason why Emperor Gyokuro appointed Azuma Hibari as the head of the Onmyo Dormitory while there were many other people of pure ability was because of her broad mind, her personality, and her role as a mediator. And Ou, the old man, belonged to the Onmyo Dormitory after Azuma had already been appointed as the head of the Onmyo Dormitory. Considering the time when she was the head of the organization during the whole period of her service, it was inevitable that the current Onmyo Dormitory seemed to be slow in its work.
 "...That's why exorcists suck..."
 "...? U-um... Did you say something?"
 I muttered to myself unintentionally, and a slightly frightened Ako Murasaki raised her voice. I guess she is feeling uneasy because of my swarthy tone and this not-so-good situation. D*mn, I made a mistake.
 I open my mouth in the calmest tone possible, suppressing my inner frustration and irritation.
 "No, nothing. I was just making some plans for the future... So, Murasaki-sama, please calm down. You are safe here."
 Suddenly, I felt a tug on my sleeve in the darkness, so I added this last part. However, even after I told her so, I could feel a trembling sensation in my hand.
 Of course, no matter how strong she is, she is still a girl of 13 years old at heart. And, as far as I'm concerned, she is not suitable for an exorcist, not only in terms of her ability but also in terms of her character... especially after seeing such an R-18G scene without knowing much about real combat. A professional wouldn't raise an eyebrow even if a woman or a child was being slaughtered in front of their eyes.
 It's impossible not to feel sorry for her. It's hard not to be sad.
 However, that being the case, I couldn't afford to just pamper her. And at the same time, I knew calmly and coolly that this was the time to take a chance when she was about to be crushed by anxiety and fear. That's why...
 "...Murasaki-sama, we will start escaping from this underground tunnel soon. First of all, let's send the shikigami ahead to warn the surrounding area. We will avoid combat if at all possible, but there may be times when combat is inevitable. In that case, I ask for your assistance."
 In as quiet a voice as possible so that my voice does not echo around her, I approach her and explain and ask for her help. Those worms may be numerous, but a small fish is a small fish, and it can be managed with a white phosphorus ball, but it won't work on most of the little brats that youkai mother has produced. And if it took too much time, these little brats would call their other families immediately.
 That's why I needed her help. Her power to kill any youkai with a single blow was essential to my escape from this underground tunnel, even ignoring her fate in the game. At least, the odds of survival were much better than if I had tried to escape by myself.
 And in order to use her for my survival, I spit more sweet words at her weakened heart.
 "Help...? From me...?"
 "That's right. I need your help to escape from this place."
 I was smiling a lively smile, knowing she couldn't see me because of the mask and the darkness. I was saying the devil's words with a lively smile on my face... and with sweat pouring from my forehead from nervousness.
 (I don't know where that blue demon is watching... but this shouldn't be a problem. Am I right?)
 I knew that I was just trying to get into the mind of a little girl, a child, and take advantage of her. But... it was also true that it was the only way for both of us to survive. Fortunately, Aoko didn't get affected by this because of her character. Therefore, as a human being, she is not out of the way. I defend myself by saying so. I make excuses. I fool myself.
 (After all, I don't want to die in this place either. Besides...)
 And... if possible, I didn't want this world to have a bad ending.
 Yes, it's a sh*tty and unreasonable world, a world that could be destroyed by a small mistake, but it's only my second life after all... but there's at least something I want to protect. In the worst society, in the worst country, in the worst environment, I will use her like many others to protect what I want to protect at least, to avoid the worst end.
 Yes. Just like I used her that time...
 (That time...?)
 For a moment, I feel strange in my own thoughts. I feel a strange sense of loss as if I'm forgetting something. But soon after that, my consciousness returns to reality. I didn't have time to think about that now.
 "My... my power..."
 A small, forceful, but somewhat joyful voice of a helpless girl echoed in the underground tunnel, not knowing about my inner confusion.
 I understand that the voice is guiding her well, and I squint my eyes. Then, I decided to go for it at once, knowing that it would be the last push I needed.
 "Yes, Murasaki-sama. Unfortunately, my spiritual power is not enough to fight youkai for a long time and I can only use shikigami. Please let me rely on your help. Please accept my forgiveness."
 "Rely on... me? Me? You... depend on me? Are you depending on me? This me?"
 If it had not been dark, what expression would have appeared on her face? I wondered that as I listened to Ako Murasaki's voice, which was mumbling softly as if in a fever, with a somewhat awakened expression on her face.
 "Yes, Murasaki-sama. I beg you, I need your help."
 I'm sure I must have looked like a scumbag under my mask when I said those words...
* * *
 The space, where sewage water flowed in from multiple underground tunnels, was unusually hot and humid. It was partly because of the heat of the sewage, but it was also obvious that it was not the only reason.
 The lack of lights made it hard for human beings to see. However, if they knew what kind of a mess the inside of this space was, most of the people would have been speechless or screamed out in frenzy.
 The inside of this space was so horribly transformed. The sound of something crawling, pulsating, and writhing in the darkness alone would have given the listener an indescribable sense of dread.
 But in the center of such a space, a woman was singing a song. With her rich green hair reaching down to the floor, she was like a beautiful princess of the world, exposing the white skin of her upper body without hesitation... She looked somewhat young, but she looked like a bewitching mature woman, and her beautiful voice, like that of a diva, was played in a language not of this country.
 It was a lullaby for soothing babies in the far west, a common practice in the now-defunct western empire... that was the true nature of the song she hummed with affection.
 And suddenly, she stops singing. Then she looks back with a loving look on her face.
 "Oh dear, my boys. What's the matter with you?"
 She turns around to see a horrifying monster. A reddish-black worm with mucus clinging to its body. It was so big that it could swallow a human being whole. It came to its mother with its brothers and sisters of all sizes around it, carrying scars all over its body.
 "Well, well. Poor boy. What happened to you?"
 The huge worm slithers toward its mother, making a mysterious sound that can hardly be described as a voice. The woman who is not a human being leans close to the hideous creature, which is almost horrifying and caresses it. Then she closes her eyes and nods her head in the monster's unintelligible language.
 "Yes, yes, it's okay, it's okay. I see... That hurt, didn't it? It's okay. You'll be fine in a minute."
 And the next moment the burnt skin of the worm creature crumbles away. What was visible underneath was fresh, taut, reddish-black skin.
 As she soothed the worm, which was coiled around her as if it was trying to play with her, "youkai mother" muttered to herself.
 "Oh... yes. Some guests visited again, aren't there? Yes, yes, boys... that's terrible. If we let them go back to the surface, they'll find out that we exist."
 The mother of monsters blurted out in a somber tone. In fact, if there is an existence like hers in the underground of the capital, the Imperial Court will do its best to exterminate it. And even if she is the Mother of Monsters, she cannot be optimistic if the Imperial Court seriously tries to destroy her alone and without a sufficient number of children as she is now. At least "now" she has almost no chance to win.
 "It's a problem. At this rate, Kuu-chan will get angry with me."
 Although she has been informed of some alternative plans in case the current plan is not successful, youkai-mother puts her hand on her cheek and lets out a gloomy sigh at the thought of a reprimand from her "friend". The melancholy expression on her face radiated a powerful "fascination" power by itself.
 Then, the creature, who had been thinking for a while, suddenly smiles, as if she had just thought of a good idea.
 "Oh, that's right. Since we don't want them to know we are here on the underground, the answer is simple, isn't it? Just make sure they can't come back to the surface."
 Then she continues.
 "Well, it's a good thing anyway. But we should treat our guests well, shouldn't we? Hehe, yes. Let's do it. Since it's a good time, why don't we let our guests become our family first?"
 A great idea! Mother Youkai happily declares. Her attitude and manner were neither sarcastic nor crazy, but rather genuinely saying what she thought.
 In fact, based on her thoughts, it was natural for her to think so. Her joining the great war, much less still following the old instructions, was not because she was hostile to humans.
 Rather, she loved humans, all the living creatures in this world. And she has never once intended to kill human beings. On the contrary. To her, everything she did was out of love and goodwill. No matter how bizarre, abnormal, insane, and horrifying it might seem from the human point of view. For her, it was a perfect "good will" and "love".
 "Well then, boys, that's enough napping. Wake up, everyone!"
 As if in response to these words that echoed like the tinkling of a bell, hundreds, thousands, or even more, of some things began to stir simultaneously in the darkness. Blood-red pupils of light appear from every nook and cranny of the space. And all of them are silent as if they are sitting in the center of the room, looking in the direction of their "mother" and awaiting her command.
 "Come on, my sweet, sweet boys. Now go on. Bring the guests politely and respectfully. They will be your family, too, you know?"
 At the command of their "mother", full of goodness, compassion, and madness, the next moment, the army of monsters, both human and non-human, was pouring into the sewer corridors from all sides of the hall in a black avalanche...

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