DARK MODE 

Friday, December 9, 2022 @

Chapter 28, Part 2

 "Oh, my dear little boy. You can't eat him, okay?"
 
 The newborn baby turns around at the gentle voice of 'youkai mother' appearing besides it. Then, with its body dripping with mucus, it walks up to the voice and crawls down on all fours like a dog in front of it, wagging its tail.
 
 "Good, good, you listen to me. If you want your food, it's here, okay?"
 
 After patting the head of the mucus-covered creature, 'youkai mother' points in the direction. What was ahead was a pile of some kind of meat hanging like a mountain. A feeding ground that looked like a meat factory... It was obvious from the shape of the bones that the meat was not just an animal.
 
 The baby ran out like a dog and jumped into the pile of meat with bones, and with a horrifying crunching sound, it was time for dinner. Both Murasaki and I frowned at the sound.
 
 "I'm sorry for that. I think that boy was hungry because he was just born. But well, a similar thing happened before. The boys ate all the babies I was trying to re-birth and I had a hard time. Most of them were dying and I had to eat them in a hurry. I'm glad I kept an eye on him this time."
 
 The monster talks about the horrifying details with a wide smile on her face. Which is a bad thing for those who get eaten anyway.
 
 Well, in the manga version, the story describes the exorcists who were made to wait for their turn to be born again while suffering with their guts splattered because they stopped the babies' lunchtime in the middle of the story. I think the people involved in this game are crazy to add a grotesque scene with such a beautiful picture.
 
 "...I want to ask you again, is that a former human being?"
 
 I ask fearfully and half surely.
 
 "Yes, that boy is a former human being. Isn't he a very energetic boy? Hehehe, and recently many humans have been visiting this place, you know? I'm sure there will be many more babies born in the near future. Surely this room will become even more lively."
 
 "And I'm looking forward to it," said 'youkai mother' with a thrilled expression on her face. That's great.
 
 (It seems to be made of a mercenary of the research team that disappeared the other day... and from the looks of it, he is in the medium "youkai" class, right?)
 
 The ability of the "youkai mother" to re-birth... in other words, to ingest other creatures and re-birth them as youkai, varies depending on the material. If the materials are low grade or few, she lays low-grade eggs like insects, fishes, and reptiles, and if the materials are high quality or a combination of many materials, she lays eggs in a larger pouch or gives birth directly from the womb. At least, that is how it is explained in the book. In the case of Murasaki, thanks to the high quality of the material, in one of the bad endings, she was born from the womb and almost completely inherited her memories, and in the end, she was killed by her family in a depressing situation.
 
 (If that's the case... there are not so many brats made of humans yet, huh?)
 
 Looking around the room, there were still only a few sacks of eggs. There were at most two or three dozen. Most of the hundreds or thousands of eggs looked like those of insects or fish. But that's about it, I suppose, since the materials obtained from the underground water supply are quite limited.
 
 In this respect alone, the situation is much better than in the original game. The quests in the original game will probably be available about three years from now when the merchants and nobles who were entrusted with the management of the water system can no longer handle the situation in secrecy, and they are no longer willing to do what is necessary.
 
 ...by the way, the fact that the main character can choose it as a quest as soon as he comes to the capital means that the difficulty is so low. Therefore, many other exorcists and mercenaries are also taking it. But then, no matter how long it remains, from a meta point of view, the quest is still there.
 
 (Come to think of it, some people have a theory that the exorcists are just throwing their pawns into the battle.)
 
 The power of a family of exorcists that has been in existence for hundreds of years is different from that of defective/stray exorcists with a history of only one or two generations, and at the same time, the loss at the time of death is incomparable. The Imperial Court must have known that something dangerous was lurking underground as soon as the quest was released. And then, there was an analysis that the court was gathering information by sending the defective/stray exorcists to the underground in order to avoid the accidental loss of valuable and talented exorcists. Well, in that route, time runs out and the babes are released before the countermeasures are finally completed.
 
 "...hahaha. Truly, this is bad as far as I'm concerned."
 
 I muttered to myself. Whether it was about the situation, the monster in front of me, or the world itself, I didn't know.
 
 And then, I wondered what the fallen gods were thinking of me, and she narrowed her loving eyes at me.
 
 "...poor thing. You look like an abandoned puppy."
 "Huh?"
 
 I said, unintentionally, at her abrupt and endlessly pitiful words. The crazy creature in front of me said something that puzzled me.
 
 "Hehehe, I am your mother. I know everything about children, you know? So, I believe you are... a really poor little boy."
 
 The 'youkai mother' looks at me as if peering into my face. Her eyes reflected my constrained face, and the reflection of my eyes in them reflected the image of a monster...
 
 "I, too, have seen many children. So many different kinds of children. Life is always one to another, but humans are especially different from each other and it is a joy to watch them grow up."
 
 The 'youkai mother' glances at the restrained Murasaki and the guide. The guide, who has been screaming half-crazed for a long time, however, looks at Murasaki, who is looking at us with anxiety and fear.
 
 "But you have... a very interesting soul, you know?"
 
 She looked back at me again, staring at me as if she could see right through my soul. No, it's not like that. This is...
 
 "Really, you poor thing. It must be hard, right? Did you feel pain? Of course. You're not ignorant."
 
 The words were strangely echoing in my ears, melting into them. Clearly, they were not ordinary words. I should have covered my ears. But... my consciousness was almost forcibly directed to the monster's words. Unable to resist. Unable to ignore.
 
 "Surely there are many who have suffered as you have suffered, and many who have been in more miserable circumstances than you. But the real despair is knowing happiness and contentment and being in the depths of despair, is it not?"
 
 In a world full of death, people will not cling to life. In a world full of unreason and discrimination, people will not be outraged by their unfair treatment. In a world where the agony of hunger is common, people will not want to eat well.
 
 Of course, they do. Because they don't know. If they do not know about the safe world, the world of equality, the world of satiation, if they only know the status quo, they will not have any such envy or conception, and they will have to accept the world as it is. At least, those who are suffering from such a situation are not educated at the same time, and it is even more difficult for them to come up with such an idea, and they are probably few in number.
 
 "Therefore, the most miserable thing of all is to know what is enough. To know what happiness is, but to know that it cannot be obtained forever. To know how little hope and salvation there is in ourselves. Isn't that right?"
 
 My "mother" speaks the truth. Because of wisdom, people suffer. The poorest of the poor, the most ignorant of the poor, are still happy in some ways. The suffering of this life is bearable because of the expectation of the next life or paradise. Even if it is a means of escaping from reality, even if it is an empty and baseless delusion, if it can protect and support the mind from the hellish reality that lies before people's eyes now, then they are still happy. And what about those who don't even have that?
 
 "Ah... uh... Wh-what are you saying...? No, what do you know...?"
 "You poor boy. Why is your way of life so cruel and pathetic, that you can't run away, turn away, or escape, and that you can only live alone, with no one to understand you?"
 
 My "mother"'s penetrating words contained deep feelings of compassion, pity, and sympathy. The words were clearly compassionate and kind, forcing me to feel relief and at the same time shaking my heart violently, forcibly opening and breaking the emotional muddy stream that I had been keeping a lid on for years.
 
 "It's okay, you've worked so hard, haven't you? It's all right now. You don't have to work so hard anymore, you don't have to suffer anymore, okay?"
 
 It was only after she did that that I realized what was happening. Before I knew it, my "mother" was right in front of me, holding me gently. The mask I had been wearing was thrown away on the floor, and she was holding me against her soft bosom, my head was being stroked like a baby being soothed. Everything was happening as I came to realize it. I had no idea how long it had been happening. My rationality had melted away, and I was about to overflow in a whirlpool of intense emotions.
 
 "Ah... Sob...?"
 
 My eyes welled up, and I struggled to stop myself from sobbing. I instinctively knew that if I did, there was no going back.
 
 "Hehehe, you don't have to endure. It's okay to be spoiled. It's okay to cry. After all, it's a natural behavior of a living creature to follow its emotions. And as a 'mother', why would I refuse to let my child be spoiled and cling to me?"
 
 The words of my "mother" echoed in my head, ever so gentle and affirming of my weakness. A warm, gentle sleep fills my thoughts. I want to give up all thoughts, turn my eyes away from all realities, and just be sweet to my "mother's" heart, just like a baby. Out of relief and sadness, tears well up in my eyes.
 
 "Oh... ugh... Sob...!?"
 "Yes, yes, it's okay, okay? You don't have to worry anymore. Mother is here for you."
 
 The temptation was so sweet and luscious that I gradually closed my eyelids like a baby. Murasaki, trembling at the sight, noticed something and shouted something at me... but my brain had already refused to hear or understand her words. I was tired. Everything else was too. I just wanted to get comfortable.
 
 (Oh, it would be so nice to sleep like this...)
 
 How much easier would it be if I didn't have to think about anything else and just lived like an animal, faithful to my instincts, to my desires, to my feelings? That is exactly how youkai should be, and it would have come true if I had just left everything to my "mother". It seemed to be an endlessly fascinating fate. That's why... that's why...
 
 "Come, come here. ■■, from today on, you're part of our 'family'"
 "Fa—mi—ly?"
 "Yes, yes. You, as one of my boys, will be a member of our family. You are not alone. You have nothing to fear."
 
 That's right. If it's like that, I won't be alone anymore. No more pain. I can gather, eat, and live in groups. That's all I need. Then I won't have to worry... and I'll be happy... and carefree...
 
 (Wait, I seem to be forgetting something... or is it...?)
 
 I felt peaceful in my "mother's" arms, but something was still bothering me. Yes, something was strange. Something was definitely weird. Family? Was my family like this? My family... my family wasn't like this... Yes, it wasn't like this...
 
 'Brother!'
 
 Suddenly, the image of a girl holding hands with her parents and younger brothers and smiling carefree and exclaiming, was shown in my mind. The girl was familiar to me. It made me miss her. And although I would never see her again, she was still there...!
 
 (Yes, that was my family... my real family...!!!!)
 
* * *
 
 "You've got to be kidding me...!"
 
 With that little mutter, the sound of something being stabbed echoed through the basement.
 
 All the youkai in the nest stopped moving and looked at it. Ako Murasaki, who had been desperately shouting something, stopped and stared at the scene with a stunned expression on her face. Only the guide was looking around, not knowing what was going on.
 
 "Oh, dear...?"
 
 The human-shaped creature opens its arms, puzzled by the pain in its chest. Stabbed into its chest was a dagger. It was a dagger with a gold leaf and lacquer handle, engraved with a vivid cherry blossom pattern, with many layers of curses on it... and it was in the hand of the human being who it was holding in its bosom.
 
 "Wh-why...?"
 
 She asked, not with anger, but with confusion and sadness. As if in answer, the human who had been in her arms slowly lifted his face. Then he opened his mouth.
 
 "Don't play with me! Don't you try to destroy the memory of... my family! Don't take away my family...!!"
 
 With his face wet with tears and with a trembling voice, but with clear intent to kill, hatred and anger, the young man shouted. And then... he forcibly pulls out the dagger he has thrust into the human-shaped creature's chest. Red plasma spurts from her white skin, wetting his face. And then...
 
 "My dear boy...? What are you doing...?"
 "Don't act like a mother, you monster...!"
 
 She wasn't going to hear any of it. But in the next moment, the sharp dagger blade drawn by the young man had indeed pierced the left eye of the fallen mother goddess...

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