DARK MODE 

Thursday, December 22, 2022 @

Chapter 34, Part 2

 "Ah, Tomobe-san! Today is a perfect day to go out, isn't it?"
 
 Said the girl at the back door of the Oumi family's house. The girl is Tachibana Kayo, who gets off the ox cart, which has no crest to be noticed, and smiles at me when I appear at the call of the miscellaneous worker.
 
 She was dressed in what is called a "tariginu" (a kimono) as she discreetly walked around the capital.
 
 She wears an ichimegasa (A type of straw hat worn by upper-class women during the Heian period) and a white robe sewn on it, which thinly hides her striking and characteristic appearance under a white cloth. A scarf-like sash was wrapped around her neck to protect her from the winter cold, and she was dressed in green-colored kimono. Her shoes were not slippers (zori) but fur boots, as if she were a daughter of a trading company dealing in imported goods. At a glance, she looked like a well-dressed town girl from a wealthy family. No, not quite, but at least a hundred times better than riding out to the open market in an ox cart with a Tachibana crest. Above all... she looks good.
 
 "Yes. That's what it looks like."
 
 I reply in a matter-of-fact way. Then the merchant's daughter puffs out her cheeks like a squirrel and sulks.
 
 "That's a good match for you, Kayo, is the right word! If anything, you should say "Kayo" while blushing or gasping, and it's perfect!"
 "Then, it’s a good match for you, Miss Kayo!"
 "Oh, gosh, you should put more emotion into your words!"
 
 Kayo gives me a reproachful look. Then she looks more dissatisfied with my appearance.
 
 "What's that look? It's a private date with me, but is it not tasteful and elegant?"
 "I'm on a personal errand. It's not a date, it's a tour."
 
 And my official role is that of a chaperone, escort, and baggage carrier.
 
 And because of my official role as a guard, my appearance was very inconspicuous. I wore shades, of course, but a cloak of invisibility disguised my face and voice. By making me less memorable, even if Kayo's identity was revealed, nobody would know who I am or where I am from. Well, it is a consideration for her who has been talking to a servant in a familiar tone since a while ago.
 
 She declared that she was alone with me, but in fact, it is not so. Being alone with a servant is out of the question. In fact, Uemon has sent a group of his men in hiding to watch her, and she probably has an escort following her from a distance. It would be a big problem if anything happens to her, so there is no way they can leave everything to myself. In fact, I felt a faint, but really faint, gaze on me, apart from the one I 'requested' myself. It's something I wouldn't have noticed if I wasn't consciously aware of it...
 
 "By the way, Miss, your name is Yuzu, and my name is Gonbei, so please don't forget it."
 
 In this world, names are important. And it is a class society. The names of powerful people and their children are avoided so that there is no overlap between them, while those who are close to them are honored by them.
 
 Naturally, there are very few girls in the capital with the name Kayo, and even fewer who can be called "Miss". So, "Yuzu" is the name of this young lady for today only.
 
 "But, "Gonbei" is too appropriate, isn't it? You took that name from "Gonbei the Nameless," didn't you?"
 "Well, it's a common and not funny name. It doesn't leave any impression on me."
 
 In Japan in my previous life, there was a common name "Nameless Gonbei" as a common name everywhere, just like John Doe in English-speaking countries or Hans Schmidt in German-speaking countries, and it is the same in this world as well.
 
 "But it's too bland..."
 
 Kayo mutters without trying to hide her dissatisfaction. If she has a problem with that, she should complain to Uemon and the others. I'm just following orders, and they're the ones who made all the detailed plans.
 
 (Though I'm sure she'll sulk forever if I don't do something about it...)
 
 I sigh a little, and I see in my mind's eye the image of Uemon who was giving me orders while counting the koban (small print) in the Senryo box (one thousand ryo box). It's my job to make sure this young lady enjoys her tour in secret to the fullest without a scratch on her. Of course, I will be in trouble if she is obviously displeased with me. I'm sure I'll be reported by the watcher later on.
 
 That's why I have to entertain her to make her happy.
 
 "Miss. No, Yuzu. Excuse me."
 
 After moving to a place where I would naturally be in the shade from the watcher, I kneeled down reverently and then grabbed her thin, white arm through my glove like a knight from across the sea.
 
 "Huh...?"
 
 Kayo was startled and looked at me with a slightly stunned expression as if she had not expected this action, which could be called impolite.
 
 Normally, this kind of outrage would have resulted in a whipping, if not a beheading... but fortunately, this was a job, so I was allowed to touch her hands only. Still, the day before, I had to clean and disinfect my hands carefully... well, I was made to disinfect. No, they also made me wear gloves.
 
 "Please forgive me for not being able to accommodate all of your requests. Instead, I will do everything possible to make your day as enjoyable as possible. I hope you will forgive me."
 
 I put my face close to the back of her hand in a manner that is almost theatrical. I don't kiss it on the mouth, though.
 
 At any rate, I knew she liked me (as a toy), and I also knew that she liked romance novels and imported chivalric tales in her books of settings and short stories. So I thought that if I pleaded with her in her favorite way, albeit in a half-clownish way like this, perhaps she would be happy... and fortunately, my reading was correct.
 
 "...mmm, you promise?"
 "Yes, I promise."
 
 After a moment of silence, the young lady answered in a reluctant, but slightly amused, flirtatious voice. She was trying to appear calm, but I think she was probably excited like a child inside. It is not good to make her like me too much, but I can't help it. Anyway, I was relieved that she was in a better mood.
 
 "By the way, that cloak doesn't suit you either, does it? Why don't you at least take off the cloak?"
 "No, it's not possible."
 
 At any rate, I quickly avoided her arm to slip it off, since her hand was reaching out to me before I speeches blatantly and naturally...
 
* * *
 
 "Looks like they're going."
 "I'm going after them..."
 
 The two men, who have seen the two figures in the distance, begin to talk and walk.
 
 Unlike the "servant," the "hidden group" have not been brainwashed in terms of ideology, nor have they been made into fools. On the contrary, they are different from the servants, the majority of whom are poor or lowly, even in terms of the bloodline.
 
 The 'hidden group' who carry out operations, reconnaissance, investigation, following, assassination, and so on, in a dynamic situation, are required to be highly flexible in their individuality and flexible in their responses in an isolated or uncontactable situation.
 
 Therefore, they are provided with no ideological education and are often provided with relatively high spiritual power that is too good to be disposed of, and from families of middle-class or upper-middle-class farmers, or from the side branches of the same family. There are also cases in which they are illegitimate children of the exorcists' families, such as the daughters of the farmers or the daughters of the peasants.
 
 In any case, the 'hidden group' are very different from the servants in terms of ability, the value of their property, and even their treatment. They are not so cheap that they are disposable. Therefore, many members of the 'hidden group despise the 'servants'. Nevertheless...
 
 "It's fine to be a watchman, but to be a servant's helper?"
 
 One of them, who is dressed commonly for a commoner in the capital and uses a concealment technique to hide his presence, gives a small cluck of his tongue. He knows he's supposed to be a watchdog, but he never thought this would happen!
 
 "To tell the truth, he's a very impudent fellow. I wonder how he won her over, as well as Princess Aoi."
 
 The others agree with him. He doesn't know the details. Although, both the servants and the hidden people are controlled in the same way.
 
 However, it is impossible that Princess Aoi of Kizuki, who is a candidate for the next head of the Kizuki family and is directly descended from the head of the Kizuki family, would be reluctant to give up a talentless servant with no special skills as her direct vassal. Given this, it was a common-sense expectation that even though he was a lowly servant, he would have been promoted.
 
 This is a normal thought for the people of Fuso-kuni, where status, bloodline, and origin are everything. Although, of course, they were determined to do their professional work to the best of their ability.
 
 "You are proceeding to the city district of the common people as planned... look, they have turned to the city corner. Let's go."
 
 One of the cloaked figures says this and begins to hurry his partner along at a brisk pace. But...
 
 "What's wrong? There is no response..."
 
 The man in the hidden group looks behind him, wondering why his partner is not responding. However, there was no sign of his colleague who was supposed to be there.
 
 "...!?"
 
 Immediately, with his back against the mud wall, the man draws a dagger from his pocket. He prepares to deploy a simple shikigami to strengthen his vigilance around the area, his eyes look around him, and his senses search for any sign of something. Kizuki's hidden group can be said to be the best. It is commendable that they were able to take such actions in a moment without any confusion.
 
 But.. is only the end of the story.
 
 "Aa—...!?"
 
 The man lets out a little scream. He meant to scream to let everyone know that something was wrong. But it doesn't work. The breath he drew from the back of his throat just hissed out through the gash in his slit throat.
 
 "No hard feelings. After all, it's my job. Just curse your own bad luck, okay?"
 
 A voice whispers in his ear. At this moment, the man understood that he had been bound from behind and something had been thrust into his throat. However, he thought that the wall behind him was a mud wall..?
 
 "Ah... Ggah..."
 
 In his fading consciousness, the man tried to think of some way to report the situation, but the pain, blood loss, and lack of oxygen had already left him with no time to gather his thoughts.
 
 Nevertheless, it was pointless to come up with the idea of sending a simple shikigami. Although he did not realize it, both his hands had already been severed from the wrists, and even if they had not been, they would have been neutralized before he could report one or two simple shikigami to others.
 
 Either way, it was too late. The man of the hidden group peels back his eyes and lowers his hands. He is dead.
 
 "......"
 
 With a plop, the shadow sinks into the mud wall with the corpse of the hidden group in his arms. After the shadow and the hidden group man disappear into the wall, all that remains is a few drops of red blood on the ground...

Kansaki Kenki's (貫咲賢希) Pop Team Epic-style four-panel raw comic.
 
74137
 
This is a four-panel comic in which only the gorilla in the last panel seems to be back to her usual style with a straight face.

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