Thursday, December 29, 2022 @

Chapter 38, Part 1

Revision : bee shikigami => hummingbird shikigami

 Speaking of torture, what do people think of it? Is it the bloody torture tools, as represented by the "iron maiden"? Or is it the image of a whip being lashed and the flesh being cut off?
 In reality, most torture involving bloodshed is more a form of punishment than torture. Or they are often exaggerated to instill fear in the people or are fictional creations of later generations.
 Fundamentally, most of the torture is intended to extract information such as confession, and it is a waste of time if it causes pain, shock due to injury, or bleeding to death, and such torture is basically second or third-rate.
 In fact, many of the more practical and refined tortures take longer to be lethal and can inflict pain for as long as possible with as little blood loss as possible. And many of them do not seem cruel at first glance. Well, at first glance.
 "Higggh!!? Agggghh...!!?"
 Involuntarily I let out a scream of agony with saliva dripping from my mouth and I could hear the sound of something snapping inside my body.
 Fishing torture is a torture in which the body is literally hung up. There are some differences, but basically, a rope hanging from the ceiling is tied around the arms behind the body, and the body is hung up. From the outside, it may appear to be nothing more than a form of restraint. However, it was feared as one of the cruelest tortures in ancient Japan.
 Think about it. A body hung up from the ceiling, in other words, the whole weight of the body is on the rope. At the same time, the arm around which the rope is wrapped is similarly burdened.
 The outward cruelty is kept to a minimum, while the rope digs into the flesh and blood of the arm, and the muscle fibers are shredded internally by the given weight. Within a few hours, the knots in the arms begin to bleed and eventually necrosis begins, and the strain is so great that the arms will never move again. It was a simple and efficient method of torture that protected the torturer's labor and mental stability.
 ...and I was forced to suffer this torture exactly for the time it took for my arm to bleed out.
 "...It's time to let him go. I don't want to break his arm too soon."
 "Oh? Seriously? Good thing it's time for a break, huh?"
 Ryuuto's command is obeyed by Iruka, who looks a little unhappy. He removes the rope that hangs me from behind... and I fall to the floor face-first, unable to move my arms and legs.
 "Hgghh...!? Ha~a... Ha~a... Gghh... Ughh!?"
 On the floor, when I am short of breath from the pain in my arm, cold water is splashed on my face. This was probably done to take away my body heat. Apart from the water torture, I had already been tortured several times. Now, I was forced to stand up and sit on a chair. Of course, the chair was made to be uncomfortable.
 "Now, what did you see in the underground tunnels? Tell me the story you made up with your rich imagination."
 Ryuuto asks. It was probably the fifth time he asked this question. The same question for the fifth time...
 "Hey, you b*stard! Don't you think you can fool me if you keep quiet?"
 Iruka grabbed my hair and pulled it up threateningly. I respond with a blank stare and no reaction.
 "...hmm, he doesn't have the strength to talk. Hey, Iruka, stop. He won't be able to give a proper testimony. Let's leave him alone for a while until he comes to his senses."
 Ryuuto stops Iruka's assault, but it can never be with good intentions.
 (A kind of "carrot and stick", I guess. It's a classic, but it's a good one....)
 I conclude that this is actually a calculated behavior from the beginning, as I have been observing it while suffering from torture. It is a basic interrogation technique that one side behaves roughly to improve the impression of the other side and to force a confession. And even though I know this, it is frustrating that I sometimes feel my mind is about to be shaken.
 (That little girl... seems to be safe...)
 If the charges were true, even high treason, and if the charges were half fabricated, she might have been tortured to make her confession, even though she was a daughter of a wealthy merchant... but judging from the way she was trembling in a dimly lit corner of the room, it seems that nothing has been done directly to her so far. Fortunately, if anything had happened to her, there would have been trouble later.
 ...well, there's no guarantee that there's a later time, is there?
 (But still... there is something strange about the way this interrogation is done...)
 As I was being interrogated and tortured mutually or simultaneously, my fading and muddled consciousness was strengthening my doubts. Something's wrong. Like...
 'Are you insane yet, servant?'
 Suddenly, I heard a simple word echoing in my ear. The tone of voice was emotionless as if it were a confirmation. This voice... is it Matsushige Botan?
 'Please don't move your eyes. Although I am hiding, I don't know when they will find me. Please blink your eyes instead of your mouth. If the question is affirmative, blink once within three seconds, and if it is negative, blink twice.'
 I respond to this instruction by closing my eyelids once. As I had expected, her shikigami was still alive.
 All of the shikigami killed by the kidnappers were more focused on fighting than on tracking. On the other hand, hers was the exact opposite. This is probably why she survived. She probably remained hidden and observed the situation throughout the torture.
 'I am glad to see that you still have the ability to make judgments. I have a few questions for you. Are you aware of the unnaturalness of the behavior of those who call themselves Danjo-dai (Imperial Prosecuting and Investigating Office)?'
 I close my eyelids and answer. I have already noticed several things that are not right.
 'I see. Next question. All your hidden weapons have been taken, right? There are no weapons left, is that correct?'
 I answer in the affirmative again. They confiscated everything I had thoughtfully concealed.
 'I understand. ...If there is preparedness, there is no fear, huh? Anyway, although this weapon can hardly be used in battle, I have a razor blade or so hidden in the belly of this shikigami. It should cut the ropes of your hands and feet when you see an opportunity. Fortunately, some of the equipment can be taken away when hiding. Well, it is better than nothing. Use it well.'
 I understand, big sis. ...Really, I'll follow you for the rest of my life!
 '...You seem to have more leeway than I thought. But, it's good.'
 Perhaps reading my inner thoughts, for a moment her shikigami stares at me with a stern look. However, she clears her throat as if she had regained her composure.
 (No, I have to be this excited or I'm going to have a mental breakdown too)
 Whether she knew such a situation or not, either way, she, Matsushige Botan touched the question.
 '...then, the last question. I told you that those who call themselves officials of Danjo-dai (Imperial Prosecuting and Investigating Office) are suspicious but do you understand what they really want to know?'
 (The question they really want to ask, huh.....)
 I thought about the question for a moment. No, I was forced to think about it.
 I was surely feeling something strange... but unfortunately, I had not yet come to a conclusion as to what it was all about. However, this guy... although I didn't think it was possible, did she have an answer for me yet? I blinked twice and replied.
 'I can't be sure because I can't be objective about this... But that's fine... It can be used as a topic for a trick at that time.'
 Botan seemed to have decided to give a simple explanation after she thought for a moment, then took a look at the interrogator's and confirmed that they were not paying attention to us.
 'Is it okay? Their purpose is not to make false statements. It's just my personal opinion, but I think it might be...'
 She prefaces her analysis with this. I listen to her analysis in silence, but with a reluctant expression on my face. Then I think.
 ...After her straightforward and precise explanation of her reasoning, the torture and interrogation of me resume a few minutes later.
 And even though I was trying to be strong, my physical and mental strength, already exhausted by the repeated torture and pain, was already weak enough...
* * *
 (...Ah. I see...)
 I instantly recalled my memories up to that point, and at the same time, I took a glance at my surroundings and understood the situation. Hahaha, I was being tortured so much that I lost my memory for a while, it appears to be that kind of thing. ...This is why I hate SM play, d*mn you!
 "Haha... it's really hurt."
 "Tsk, this guy came back to himself!"
 With that voice, I get a good blow in the face as if to cheer me up. It seemed he noticed that the color of sanity had returned to my eyes, and then the whip of the carrot and stick... a young man called Iruka, gave me a smack in the face. I clenched my teeth just before he did it to prevent myself from losing consciousness.
 "Well, I was worried when you didn't respond for a while... but I'm glad you're back. It's not very pleasant for me to ask questions to a scarecrow, too."
 Unlike Iruka, Ryuuto declared calmly and without any emotion. However, although I would not have noticed it if I had not seen it beforehand, I could see a slight... yes, a slight tinge of irritation in the depths of his eyes.
 "Now, for the umpteenth time, let me ask you a question. The other day in the underground tunnels. Tell me again what you saw and experienced there. I want the whole story, without any cover-up"
 Ryuto crosses his arms in front of me and asks me a question. His mannerisms, his attitude, and his speech were those of an interrogator. Yes. But on the outside...
 "...Ha... Haha! Hahahahaha!!"
 I couldn't help but let out a weird laugh as I hung my head. Yes, a cold, bitter, mocking, caressing laugh...
 "......what's so funny?"
 "Hey, hey, I don't think you're crazy, are you?"
 Ryuuto, the man in front of me, asks, uncomfortable with my behavior. Iruka beside him spits out a disgusted look and clicks his tongue. But his reaction was, in a way, what I had expected.
 (Okay, did they bite....?)
 Then, I opened my mouth to get more attention.
 "Hahaha... No. The more I think about it, the more I find it funny that you're acting so seriously. Did you think that just because you were dealing with... servant that I wouldn't notice it?"
 Both men react to my words. I smile at the sight of them, my mouth twisted into a sneer as if to make fun of them even more.
 Ah, yes, it is true that if this were really just a servant, this little trick would have been enough to fool them. Although there are some exceptions, most of the servants do not have a wide knowledge of the world, and they do not have much ego, so they do not expect to play games with human beings, even if they are playing with youkai.
 And... no, that is why I declare, denounce, and confess. That this is nothing more than a silly three-sentence play.
 "First of all, the order of torture is too different, you know? And when it comes to the fishing torture, aren't you skipping too many steps?"
 Fishing torture is ridiculously painful in comparison with its appearance, and therefore it should be performed in the last stage of the escalating torture. The details of the torture would be recorded, and the authority of the Imperial Court would be at stake if a confession is not obtained after such torture.
 Even if the torture is set up, the degree to which it is actually carried out is quite low, and it is a kind of near-death... well, there is no way for a servant to know all this. I just quoted it from the official book, though, you know?
 (In any case, it's impossible they would use it at such an early stage for me)
 No, if that's all, it's still understandable. If it's just that, it's still understandable, if I think it's just to make me confess in secret and within a short period of time. But...
 "In the first place... you guys weren't planning on making me confess to the whole faked story, were you?"
 These guys didn't say anything about a reduced sentence or any kind of temptation during the interrogation. If they really wanted to get me to confess, they would have offered me some kind of agreement, even if it was a blank check. Nor were they aggressive in their attempts to induce me to confess. It was as if they had no intention to make me tell a story according to the scenario they wanted.
 No, it was more like they were trying to weaken me, rob me of my ability to think and get me to confess whatever I was hiding. At any rate, it is certain that they were trying to make me tell the truth.
 "It's obviously strange, isn't it? What you're doing is not quite right? I believe my master should have refused the submission. I mean, why would you kidnap me if you knew it would make things difficult between your side and Kizuki? Besides, you don't need to interrogate me all the time. You just need to extract my memories in case you decide to cripple me. So, why go to such lengths?"
 In this world where it is possible to falsify memories, Danjo-dai (Imperial Prosecuting and Investigating Office) has a technique to extract real memories instead of crippling them. There is no reason not to use it now that they are willing to take the risk. After all, it's funny that they kidnap me if they are not prepared to do so.
 The interrogators listen to my words in silence. But their eyes narrowed, and their atmosphere changed.
 "In other words. You guys don't have the technique, do you? Or maybe there's a reason why you can't use it. Or perhaps your real purpose is not to make false statements but to find out something about the incident in the underground tunnels... In any case, it's not worth the Imperial Court's while to ruin Kizuki's face, is it?"
 It is understandable for them to humiliate Tachibana Trading Company because of the money involved. However, the Imperial Court must ostensibly know what was in the underground tunnels. There is no need to go through the trouble of asking such a question to a servant. In fact, if there is someone who would get involved in such a thing, it would be "him" from the list of possibilities. Whatever it means...
 "Hey, guys. You're not really Danjo-dai, are you? ....where are you f*cking wildlings from, huh?"
 I said with a wry smile on my face. It was a clear gesture of provocation.
 Immediately the young man called Iruka's eyes widened, and with obvious hostility and murderous intent, he aimed his elbow at my head. I thought it was his decision to cut off my consciousness and possibly my memory. But ...that was my expected action.
 "Iruka! Don't be provoked!!"
 Ryuuto shouted, sensing it just before I did. At the same time, I untied the ropes restraining my feet and kicked him in the knee.
 The man who had jumped on me quickly raised his head and avoided a leg kick that was about to break his jaw with a piece of skin. At the same time, I drop my raised leg at once, but he avoids that too with an animal-like movement backward. Tsk, this isn't the Chinese acrobatic troupe!
 "This guy's ripped the rope from his leg...!?"
 "No, the rope at his hand too. I screwed up. Where's he hiding it?"
 I untie the ropes of my hands and feet with a razor knife, which I get from the shikigami, and brace myself, though I'm still wobbly. I have no equipment except for the one that Botan had secured for me at the moment of the kidnapping. Well, even if there is nothing, my overwhelming disadvantage is still the same.
 ...But I have to do this because...
 "Ha~a...ha~a ...ah, I forgot to tell you. Let me just say this."
 Out of breath, I draw my knife and call out to the two men who are getting ready for battle. They are slightly confused by my sudden call.
 "...what I just said... I was actually bluffing."
 It's just a hypothetical inference based on a combination of superficial circumstantial evidence because in reality there are many possibilities. I had my doubts and I was never sure. Still...
 "Thanks for that shortcut, you just answered my question. I appreciate it."
 The response to my sarcastic, provocative and sarcastic acknowledgment was a charge from the men with their swords raised in the air.
 (Well, let's do it well, shall we...?)
 I glanced toward the back of the room, trying not to be noticed, as I held my knife at the men.
 I could see the Hummingbird Shikigami sitting beside the frightened blonde girl in the corner of the room and whispering something in her ear. The girl looks surprised at the suddenness of the situation, but she glances at me. Our gazes meet for a moment... but it ends as soon as I return my gaze to the front.
 Unfortunately, there was no time to offer words of comfort or encouragement. After all, in the next moment, I had to turn myself around by the scruff of my neck from the silver blade that was closing in on my neck...
* * *

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