Wednesday, December 14, 2022 @

Chapter 31, Part 2

 It was too one-sided. Nekiri Kubi Sogimaru (Neck Cutter) is certainly the weakest of the youkai swords owned by the Ako clan.
 However, this is only from the point of view of the Ako family. Exorcists who can fight against great youkai by themselves are sufficiently top-class personnel, and the 'Nekiri Kubi Sogimaru (Neck Cutter)' in its predatory form can prey on most of the great youkai without danger. And yet... the fact that it was a 14-year-old girl who had done it in such a one-sided battle, and that she had clearly not done it with all her might, was a fact that should make experts in the field shudder.
 "...now, answer me. What is the meaning of this? Why is your sword attacking my Tomobe?"
 Murasaki, who had been watching the battle in stunned, dumbfounded, and stupefied silence as she slumped to the floor, stiffened at the sound of the cruel voice.
 The girl in front of her was a peach-colored girl. She knew her well. She should have.
 But now, Murasaki hardly knew her. She'd never seen her like that before. This person... her cousin whom Murasaki had admired and envied was a completely different person from the one that she knew.
 Her elegantly decorated clothes were covered with mud and some of the fabric was torn as if she had been in a great hurry and had gotten it caught somewhere.
 Her long hair, which was always shiny and had probably been neatly pulled down, was in disarray. Her long, striking cherry-red hair fluttered in the wind...
 The most shocking thing for Murasaki was the expression on her face. There was nothing of her usual calm, calm, bottomless, bewitching, and most of all graceful gestures. She was just angry, ruthless, and indifferent... but there was a clear sense of frustration, and also a hidden feeling of fear and anxiety, like a child who is waiting to be scolded by his parents.
 "Ah... ugh..."
 Murasaki tries to respond to her beloved and respected cousin's words, but the overwhelming spiritual power, hostility, and most of all, the sight of her never-before-seen appearance, make her unable to find the right words to say. And... she did not have the spiritual fortitude to respond.
 "...If you can't say anything, you don't need that kind of head, do you?"
 Those cold words were being spun in front of Murasaki's eyes. Then, before long, Kizuki's second daughter, who had closed the distance in just a moment, was looking down at Murasaki with her lightless pupils. Then, she waved her fan in her hand as if it were a natural gesture.
 The fan, which was infused with extraordinary spiritual power, was harder than the one made of iron, and when she waved it with a speed that cut through the air, it was no different from waving a sword.
 And now, such a fan swung down toward Murasaki's thin neck as if it was being sucked into her. Although the youngest daughter of Ako was aware of what was happening in front of her, she could not react. She only understood the fate that was about to befall her.
 And then it occurred to her. She knew that it was not the right thing to do here, and in a way, it was a foolish thought. Yes, she thought, looking at that young man lying on the floor of the underground tunnels, out of breath, but certainly still alive.
 ...ah. He is still alive, she thought.
 Before she was terrified of youkai and she had been crying so much, but then she accepted her death because he was still alive in a very natural and relieving way. She had accepted it. She does not know why but she was simply relieved that he was alive.
 And now, when death was just in front of her. When the fan, strengthened to its fullest by the spiritual power, was about to reach her neck…
 "Aren't you joking too much, Respected Kizuki's cousin? Tell me what is going on."
 Immediately after, a clanging sound echoed throughout the underground tunnels, bringing Murasaki back to reality. Then she noticed a figure standing in front of her.
 A tall, slender young man with hair of the same color as Murasaki's, flowing in a single strand, he seemed at first to lack facial expression. However, his eyes were narrowed and his voice contained a hint of caution... no, hostility. The long sword he held in one hand made a peculiar sound as it clashed with the fan wielded by her cousin.
 Ako Touma Uusaburo, the fourth son of the main Ako clan, nonchalantly protects his sister as he does regularly, and he turns to his cousin, questioning her emotionlessly...
* * *
 "A joke...? Oh, you call this a joke? Has the fourth son of Ako become so good at jokes?"
 "It must be a joke. I do not wish to wield this sword against my relatives."
 Aoi's face was distorted in a ghastly way and Ako Touma answered calmly as ever.
 "Dear brother... This is..."
 "Murasaki. There are a few things I would like to confirm later, but... you should put this on first. Our men will be here shortly. It's not appropriate for a maiden to dress like that."
 "Huh...? ...!?"
 Murasaki spins her words in a trembling voice, to which the fourth brother replies in an inorganic voice, throwing his own coat at her as he confronts Aoi. Then, for the first time, Murasaki realized how much she was dressed. Her cheeks turn red, and she hurriedly puts on the coat. At the same time, she seems to remember the pain of the injury on her right arm, and her face is distorted as she clenches her right hand.
 "...You will be treated by those who will come later. And my respected cousin, is that man, who is being treated, from your household?"
 After glancing at his sister, Touma glanced at the back of the underground tunnel, behind Aoi and asked. A white fox girl hurriedly rushes to the figure who is covered with blood like a rag and starts to stop the bleeding with a bandage, though her face is tense.
 "Do I owe you an answer?"
 "It's true that it would help. However, it seems that you are not going to answer me..."
 Touma understands that he is not likely to get a proper answer, at least not from his current cousin. It can't be helped. Then let's put it off. But still...
 (It's rare to see that my cousin is this mad...)
 It's not that he despises her. But it was quite natural for him to be interested in the person behind just because this cousin of his, who is usually the furthest away from the idea of doing something for others, is so emotional. Anyway, there was no doubt that the man behind was not from Ako. But then, had there ever been such a person from Kizuki's family?
 At the same time, the fourth son of the Ako family glanced at the countless pieces of iron scattered. These were moving too little by little, but surely. It was as if they were trying to gather in one place...
 He immediately noticed that it was 'Nekiri Kubi Sogimaru (Neck Cutter)' which had been shattered into pieces. Then he turned his eyes again to the young man who was lying down behind and he squinted his eyes more as if he was wary of him. After a few moments, he had succeeded in predicting the situation to some extent. At the same time, a new doubt arises.
 (The sword is not stupid. It should have learned that killing people without any particular reason would hurt them... So, why?)
 Aoi knew in her gut that Touma had doubts. She clucked her tongue inwardly and thought about how she could distract him from the suspicion... but that thought became unnecessary immediately. She had no more time to think about it. Because...
 "P-princess! The blood... the blood won't stop!! Wh-what should we do...!?"
 Shiro's face turned pale and she reported in a crying voice. Aoi glanced in the direction of the voice. The young man lying on the floor was bleeding so much that it was a miracle that he was still alive, and Shiro tried desperately to bind up the wound with bandages and cloths to close it, but the blood was flowing out from the place where she tried to close it, and it was beyond the child's ability alone.
 "...!? Sorry, but I need to end this conversation. If you have any concerns or objections, please come to my home to discuss them further."
 Aoi answered almost as if she was going to spit out her words, perhaps because of her frustration and nervousness, and then she took her fan away from her sword and quickly turned her heel. She then seemed to have no interest in Murasaki or her brother and rushed to the young man who had fallen down behind her, and released a shikigami she had pulled out from her sleeve to materialize it.
 A few shadows in the shape of puppets change their positions, and they slowly carry the young man who looks like a tattered rag. Murasaki tried to say something, but she could not speak. She did not know what to say.
 "Come on, we need to leave this disgusting, uncomfortable place. I don't want to stay here forever."
 "Huh? Y-yes...!"
 Aoi ordered Shiro and left the place with Shikigami carrying the young man. The white fox girl who was accompanying them followed the order of her lord, and when she glanced at Murasaki and the others, she gave a small, reserved nod and never turned her head again.
 After a while, Aoi and the others disappeared into the depths of the underground tunnels... Murasaki, a helpless girl, could only watch the scene as she had done so far.
 Yes, without questioning why her own sword had attacked that servant, why it had so far ignored her order, even though it was corrupt, and why a servant was still breathing even though his body was so injured...
 ...for the note, the guide who was thrown into the sewage was not able to come up from the sewage because the monsters in human form were spreading killing intent all the while. But it was another story.
* * *
 In a mountainous area far from the capital, a demon (oni) was waiting at the exit of a passageway where sewage water from the underground tunnels was to be discharged.
 "Oh, isn't that you, Aoko-chan? It's been a long time. How long has it been since we met again? Perhaps, you missed your mother for a long time?"
 "Hahaha, I still can't get through to this guy. You're really crazy."
 Aoko The blue demon, dressed as an ascetic monk and wearing a Kasa (bamboo hat), sarcastically dismisses the first words of the "mother" who appears from the underground tunnels along with countless other strange creatures.
 "Hehehe, you are a shy person, aren't you? Don't be shy, your mother will be happy to welcome you anytime and anywhere, okay? Here, shall I give you a hug?"
 "You're disgusting, old hag. Do you think I came to see a lunatic like you for that?"
 Aoko abuses "youkai mother" who declares so with sincere good intentions. After cursing her, the demon asks her.
 "You know what I want, don't you? Can I ask you something? Why is a youkai of your stature running away in the night like this again? And at this time of the year."
 Even though she knew more than half of the reason, the demon still asked hopefully. And 'youkai mother' was happy to answer her selfish question.
 "Yes, you are right. Actually, my dear boy seems to be a little rebellious. Oh my, are you worried about him?"
 "Of course I am. Can I ask you to tell me about him?"
 To these words, the demon replied with a mouth so twisted that it looked as if it was about to split open. A smile of delight on her beautiful face. And it is made all the more gruesome by 'youkai mother's' brief, but a demanding explanation.
 "Hehehe... Hehehehehe... Hehehehehehe!!! Well, well, what a fantastic tale! It's the best!! Hehehe, I can tell he's put an end to your old-fashioned charm, old hag! As usual, he's keeping me entertained!!!"
 As she continues to listen to the conversation, the demon's smile becomes even more twisted and she lets out a creepy, evil laugh.
 Of course, the words of this mother-faced monster are violence of fascination and enchantment. Once someone listens to her sweet words, it would be hard for them to think properly due to the euphoric and reassuring feeling, much less shake off the pleasure of it.
 "Hehe... AHHH! This is the man I was looking for! Yes, he is! He has to be! Or else…! I'll kill… the hero! If not...!!!!"
 The demon exclaims in a somewhat theatrical, intoxicated gesture. Her face is ecstatic at the success of the future hero, who has done what she expected, or even more than she expected. By the way, when she heard that 'youkai mother' had been stabbed in the face by her favorite, she couldn't help but 'come'. Her underwear under the demon's robe, which was not visible but was completely soaked at the time, was soaked to the skin.
 The face of the demon, who was only a beautiful woman, was soaked in pleasure, and her expression was fascinating and alluring... but the youkai around 'youkai mother' was rather frightened by the sight of her. Because the strong smell of the excited demon frightened them. Or rather, in a normal situation, most of youkai would run away from the place as fast as they can the moment they feel the smell of the demon's body odor, no matter how far away it comes from.
 It was the greedy, selfish, egoistic, and cunning 'Demon' among youkai.
 "Oh dear, there were so many shikigami attached to that young boy, and I suspected as much based on the way he moved... but I was surprised to see that your shikigami was there too."
 'Youkai mother', who knew Aoko's personality and preferences well, was frankly surprised at the fact that she was so attached to that young man. At the same time, she herself became even more attached to her child...
 "Oh, come on, you've got to be kidding me. Why are you treating a hero of mine like a brat? I didn't want up such a background."
 Aoko spits out at the thought of "youkai mother". Yes, she had no intention of accepting such a background. After all, he is the man who will be a hero after defeating her. There was no room for a "youkai mother" in his life. If she accepts it... she's just a prelude enemy before 'youkai mother'! How can she allow such a thing?
 "Maybe. You... have 'defiled' him?"
 More than anything else, the demon points out the fact that she doesn't like most about this whole thing. The right half of her face was shadowed by a shadow. Her right eye glowed red and crimson like a devil's fire... Her tone and manner were swarthy and youkai-esque, and she was dripping with such terrifying deadly energy that even a mere mortal could recognize it.
 Yes, this was exactly what Aoko, who had been searching for an ideal hero to defeat herself for so many years, did not like and could not forgive. She did not want such a factor, such an element.
 Therefore, she questioned the youkai mother. Depending on what she found, she might have to give up the hero she had found...
 "Hehehe. Well, it may take much longer than giving birth to him directly, but it can't be helped. He doesn't want to be in my belly, so I have to let him make that choice. As a mother, it's my job to give him what he wants, right?"
 Despite the extraordinarily large amount of killing power that would make a normal person incontinent and faint, youkai's mother responded in a carefree manner and somewhat off the mark. It was neither a provocation nor a joke but seemed to be a genuine attitude.
 "...I see. It's going to take some time., huh? Besides... He has lived up to my expectations so far. So, I have to tolerate a little bit of that."
 Aoko considers 'youkai mother's' words. And finally, she 'forgives' him.
 It was a surprisingly generous decision for a self-righteous demon. Any other demon would have been very upset if there was even a slight deviation from their plan, even if it was an irresistible force, against a human being.
 ...of course, she has her own selfish reasons for making such a decision.
 Well, whatever the case may be, she has not forgiven "youkai mother". No, there is no way she can forgive her. It is no joke to have her own prey, her own hero, taken away from her without her permission by the youkai mother, to top it all off, defiled and stolen from her. It's not a joke.
 "Well, that said... Can you please not dare to die?"
 The next moment, Aoko, who had transformed into a deformed form, was almost instantly moving toward 'youkai-mother'. Her white foot swung up to blow off 'youkai-mother's' head, and it turned dozens of youkai who stood there to protect 'youkai-mother' into pieces of meat at once.
 "Oh my, are you also being rebellious? But that's alright. If you'd like, mother can take you back to my womb. Maybe can give birth to a better version of you?"
 "Just die, you b*tch!"
 The fallen god is so carefree and crazy as to say such a thing even though dozens of children are torn apart in front of her eyes at once and she herself has just been almost killed... In response to this nonsense, the demon who has abandoned her human disguise screams out in a ferocious, rage-filled roar that is akin to a scream... and attacks.
 After that, the sound of a thunderous blast rang out in the forests.
 ...A few days later, a team of exorcists from the Onmyou dormitory, who had conducted a massive sweep and search of the underground tunnels, discovered a pile of thousands of scattered youkai corpses at the exit of these tunnels. 

 Original illustration => link 

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