Monday, December 12, 2022 @

Chapter 29, Part 2

 "Eek...!? They came from in front of us!?"
 "Don't stop!! The way will be open!!"
 The passage of the underground tunnels leading to the exit was hell. Out of control of "youkai mother", youkai were rampaging around everywhere, eating each other because of their density, and jumping on us humans as soon as they found us as a feast.
 In the middle of this, Murasaki and I run through the dark corridors, escorting our guide. I stab to death the creatures that leap out from the sides, and Murasaki instantly turns the swarm that appears in front of us into a mass of flesh.
 How far have we run already? It seems to me that we have been running for a very long time, and it seems to me that not even half a minute has passed yet. And all the while, we continue to slaughter the hordes of obstacles that stand in our way.
 "There's no end in sight...!?"
 It was almost an unending hell. Dozens, maybe hundreds of them? Most of them were small fry, insignificant because of their original materials, but the number of them was so absurd that it could be called a muddy stream. Even so, if the situation where several to a dozen or more monsters attacked us in waves continued for a long time, my physical and spiritual strength, not to mention Murasaki's, would not have lasted.
 "We're getting nowhere. If that's the case...!"
 Murasaki comes to a halt and sheathes her sword once more after kicking off all the nearby youkai with a shockwave of seven slashes.
 "Just for a few minutes. Protect me there for a while."
 Murasaki dismisses my words with a crisp, blunt stare. She closes her eyes and takes a deep, deep breath. It is literally a natural state, and her spiritual power, which had been tense and turbulent just a moment ago, subsides like a receding wave, and its presence fades a little.
 "Mister!? What is she doing...!? Why is she stopping!?"
 "You watch the back! I'll stop those in front...!!"
 I order coldly to the guide who wants to run away quickly, and I move forward. I cut the artery in the neck of a cat and a wolf youkai who approached quickly in the darkness with a short spear to kill them, and then I pierce a flea as big as a big dog who jumped in front of me with a bullet-like speed with a dagger through its face. This flea b*stard, it's going to suck my blood, huh...!?
 "From above...—H-holy...!?"
 Immediately after that, I heard a noise from the ceiling and looked up to see a cockroach that looked like it could hold a human being in its arms coming down. Probably, the original material was a black cockroach. It flapped its wings like an angel. But it stares at me with inorganic red glowing eyes, not knowing what it is thinking, and its jaws open wide up and down, from side to side.
 "It's so disgusting...!!!"
 I strengthened my legs with my spiritual power without thinking and kicked it from the side, but I don't regret it. I didn't want to get splattered with its bodily fluids by using my short spear. And slammed face-first into the wall of the underground tunnels, the half-destroyed head of the roach is mercilessly swarmed by the other youkai.
 "Ten seconds left, huh? Sh*t... they're still coming!!"
 I count the time remaining as ordered by Murasaki, and at the same time, I turn around and throw my short spear with great force. It pierced into the face of the monster bat that tried to attack my guide from behind, and it fell down into the sewage. Now I can no longer use my spear.
 As I look forward, I cunningly stab the head of a young youkai pit viper that was trying to entangle itself with the corpses of its comrades and its legs under the cover of darkness, from above. With a twist of the blade, I crush its brain completely. But then, the vitality of snakes is surprisingly high, and even an ordinary pit viper without youkai-ization can survive for about a whole day on its head alone. Considering the nature of the material, it was necessary to kill the snake without fail.
 "Five seconds left...! Huh...!?"
 A flash fish came out of the sewage. It looked as big as a dolphin, with four legs like a crocodile abyss... The creature, which had probably been watching for a long time, smiled a grotesque smile and opened its mouth to Murasaki as if it had been waiting impatiently to come out. Seriously...!
 "Make it in time...!"
 When I leap in front of Murasaki, the youkai’s attack-like impact is released at the same time. Judging from the impact, it probably could have cut through steel like a water cutter. Even the robes, whose durability had been improved by the sorcery, were rendered powerless in a few seconds.
 But, at the next moment when my robe was about to be completely cut off and my body damaged, I held up my dagger and scattered the splashes of water. The water that was hit by the dagger still splashed at a very high speed and cut a thin slit on the surface of my body... but it was a hundred times better than if my body had been severed.
 And then...
 "Sorry, monsters. Time's up...!"
 A moment later, I felt a rush of spiritual power like a storm swirling behind me. At the same time, an absolute sense of death gripped the place. In response, the youkai who had just attacked us tensed up, and the smarter ones turn and run away in a hurry. But it was too late.
 "Hama・Kengi Issen...!! (Exorcism Sword Technique - Flash (破魔・剣技一閃))"
 A moment after that shout, the underground tunnels were filled with light. 
 It was the 'shockwave' of a sword thrust from the very edge of the clearest possible light. Incredibly, the light that momentarily filled the underground waterway was probably an instantaneous combustion caused by the frictional heat of the air from the shockwave.
 The shock and resonance of air and sound blew away all of the youkai before my eyes, leaving no trace of them. Literally, flesh and blood were vaporized and dispersed before the impact, and bones were scattered like sand. What is most terrifying is the fact that it was done over a wide area without letting even those who had escaped into the sewers or behind side streets escape, and with little damage to anything but the target youkai... the underground tunnel itself.
 And after the non-humans had wiped out, there was no threat left in sight. There was complete emptiness. A thrust like a half-map attack that engulfed even the most distant youkai... yes, a thrust with a sword, and with that alone most of the youkai were reduced to dust, and even the surviving youkai who were lucky enough to survive were afraid of the current blow, and temporarily retreated backward. Even I could feel it by the air.
 Both the guide and I were stunned, unable to believe what had just happened. The guide was falling on his buttocks from the sheer force of it all.
 "...!? Are you all right, Murasaki-sama!!?"
 A clanking sound echoed through the underground water. I look in the direction of the sound and see Murasaki dropping her sword to the floor and falling to her knees. Immediately, I ran over to her.
 I jerked slightly as I approached Murasaki.
 The blade of her sword had evaporated. White smoke trailed from the sword's hilt, and her palm was slightly reddened as if she had been burned. Ako Murasaki's face was blue and she was breathing hard, and sweat was pouring out of her forehead.
 "Haah... haah... haah... it seems... I missed quite a few, huh? Well... not as many as my father and brothers. It's true, I'm pathetic."
 Breathlessly, Murasaki scoffs at her own skill. Oh, is that a failure level of power? I guess exorcists aren't human.
 Still, it seems that the blow was a map attack against youkai in a closed area or a city (town), which is a technique inherited from the Ako family. Naturally, the skill and spiritual power required for the attack were not so great, and the one she had just done seemed to be a failure in her father's eyes. In addition, more than half of her spiritual power was consumed, her sword was vaporized, and her whole body was suffering from muscular pain.
 "It's not like my brothers...I didn't want to use it too much since it looks like this after just one shot... hahh... hahh... but it can't be helped! Come on, let's get on with it...!"
 Ako Murasaki tries to stand up, though she is still wobbly. But her legs are shaking like a newborn fawn, and the next moment she almost loses her posture...
 "Excuse me, Murasaki-sama"
 I rushed to her side and supported her by grabbing both her shoulders. At the same time, I apologize to her because a servant like me touched her with both hands so closely. I know she won't yell at me for holding her hands because of the precedent... but I think I should apologize just in case.
 "I don't mind, thank you. Huh...!?"
 "Is something wrong? ...This is... my mistake..."
 Unintentionally, I suppress my tendency to show my natural disposition and reply, maintaining a nonchalant attitude and a blank expression on my face. But, well, it would be bad if her clothes were stained with lowly blood.
 My wound, by the way, was caused by the puke water sprayed by the previous youkai fish. Although I was only sprayed and directly hit for a split second, so it was not a serious wound, a portion of my robe was torn, the epidermis was ripped up, and blood was soaking out. If anything, there were cuts on my arms, legs, and face from the splashed puke water, and blood was flowing from them as well.
 And the problem here, too, is the bleeding. Of course, it wasn't life-threatening, but it was still too much to look at, and what would happen if I supported another person's body as it was...
 (Silk cloth, it must have cost a lot of money, isn't it?)
 Even though it was not a formal costume, Murasaki was the youngest daughter of a famous family of exorcists. It must be at least a hundred times more expensive than those of common people. If it is covered with the blood of a lowly servant... it's not good enough in terms of the values of this world. Isn't it bad? Nevertheless, the guide looks pale when he's finally come to his senses.
 Now silence reigns. The air is heavy... and it's Murasaki again who breaks it.
 "Let's go. We don't have much time."
 Murasaki begins to walk as if nothing had happened, using her sheath, which has evaporated and lost its blade, as a walking stick. My guide and I roll our eyes at the lack of reaction we expected and fall silent. Murasaki takes one look at us and frowns grimly.
 "What is it? Is there something you want to say?"
 "I don't care what you think, but I understand the time and the place. I won't do something stupid like getting angry just because my clothes are dirty at a time like this."
 The girl replies with a bitter expression on her face as if she is remembering something, but then she immediately turns her face into a Buddhist monk's face. Sweat drips down her forehead, but she desperately tries to move forward.
 "...if you keep silent, it's not good for us..."
 "Ah, please forgive me. Guide, lead the way."
 I bow to Murasaki, who looks somewhat displeased and raises her voice and ask the guide to resume leading the way. At the same time, the guide stood up as if jumping up and down, started to walk through the dark underground tunnels impatiently, and soon overtook Murasaki.
 (Well, then... If that's the case...)
 I stand beside the exorcist's girl who is walking slowly, relieved that Murasaki can take an adult attitude, and wondering if this will work too.
 "...what do you want?"
 "I'm afraid I don't mean to be rude, but it's going to take a long time to get to the exit on your feet."
 "I understand. I still know how to defend myself better than you. If you want, you can go ahead of me."
 Murasaki says, as if she is buying a sales pitch. But I don't intend to do that...
 "No, it's not that, but I'd like to help you if you don't mind my asking."
 "Help? What do you mean by that? It can't be!?"
 She looks doubtful at my proposal, but is she humiliated when she realizes what it is? Her face turns red with embarrassment. However, as expected...
 "...do you mean you will carry me on your back like a baby or an old man? And moreover, me on your back?"
 "I understand your discomfort, but we don't have much time. Please think about it."
 Although Murasaki still looks uncomfortable, I dare to advise her once again. Her survival is an essential condition for my survival, and even if it were not so, it would be too painful a loss for her, who is a valuable asset in this world and this country, to be eaten without any hesitation and used as a material to strengthen youkai. Even if she is a low-ranked person in the eyes of her family, she is a monster in my eyes.
 "It seems that the blow earlier has blown away quite a few of them, but I still don't know what will happen in the future. For the safety of all of us, please give priority to recovering your strength. Please, I beg you."
 The last word was a killing sentence calculated from her character. It was like taking advantage of her personality, which was like a lump of an inferiority complex... but I had no choice at this point.
 At my request, Murasaki looked even more reluctant and pondered for a few seconds. ...But she was neither stupid nor blind to the situation, as she said so herself.
 "...I'll punish you later if you carry me roughly, okay? I don't care if you're my cousin's servant. Keep that in mind."
 With a tone of "I disapprove of you," but she was open to it. She was irreverent and proud, but still a good person at heart.
 "Thank you very much."
 I thanked her again, and I took a step closer to carry her on my back as I had said. And at that moment, I made a fatal mistake.
 I felt a piercing shock and pain from behind me, and I felt bewilderment before I screamed. Then, I fearfully looked at the source of the pain.
 A bloody serpentine tail had sprouted out of the side of my robe.
 "...Oh, come on, this isn't funny. Huh?"
 I didn't scream when I realized what was happening, but just took one look at the snakelike tail that was wagging like a snake sticking out of my side and blurted out. At the same time, I vomited up red blood in a single gulp, a feeling of vomit rising up from the back of my throat. The bitter taste of iron spreads through my mouth. Hahaha, this tastes bad.
 "Gghh... Cough!?"
 The next moment... when the tail is pulled out from its side at once. The tip of the tail was twisted back, and because it was pulled out so roughly, blood spurted out from the wound as if it were splashing. As it was, I was slammed to the side against the wall by the swinging tail.
 "What...? Uh...?"
 Not knowing what had just happened in front of her, Ako Murasaki's mouth was agape like a fish on land. My blood spurted out of her side and splattered on her cheek, but she didn't seem to notice it. Good grief, I guess she's inexperienced. I wish she would get herself into fighting shape right away.
 "But, I can't say that, can I?"
 I muttered with a bitter smile as I held the wound with sweat dripping down my forehead and blood pouring out of my side. As I muttered, I took a glance behind me.
 And out of the dim darkness of the underground waterway, it appeared. Or, more precisely, crawling on the ceiling...?
 It was clinging to the walls and ceiling with its pure strength of arms. And then it landed on the floor on all fours, wagging its blood-soaked tail, in a move reminiscent of a cat or a monkey, with a throaty, mocking laugh.
 It was probably the newest member of 'youkai mother's' family, a newborn baby monster, which previously want to eat me in the hall before. Its mouth twisted in a stream of viscous saliva. Then, it appeared in front of us, ready to put a stop to its prey that had escaped from its nest...
AI image based from the Fanart

The fanart

Ako Murasaki Illustration fanart: link
Ako Murasaki AI Illustration based on the fanart:

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