Monday, January 2, 2023 @

Chapter 40, Part 2

 First of all, there is one prerequisite that must be mentioned. It is a simple fact that Kizuki Aoi does not have what can be called a unique ability like her sister Kizuki Hina.
 Kizuki Hina's unique ability, "Annihilation" is a near-invincible ability. It is a very troublesome power that cannot be easily defeated, although there is a way to attack or countermeasure against it.
 Meanwhile, Kizuki Aoi does not have any unique abilities. All she has inherited is a lineage of a prominent family and a great deal of spiritual power. While these are certainly important factors, it is also true that the world of the exorcists does value individual ability to the extent that a woman can become the head of the family. Not only that, but there is also the age difference. The age difference of eight years is a major factor in determining the next head of the family, even when blood and spiritual power are included.
 Above all, the difference in favorability of the sisters... how should one interpret the fact that Kizuki Aoi was considered to be as good as or even better than Hina as the next head of the family? Do they think that Kizuki Aoi has something more than Hina's "annihilating" ability?
 ...There is. Kizuki Aoi does not have a "unique ability" but her "talent" is in the realm of the non-human.
 If it was not something innate and unique, but a "skill" that anyone can learn with time, Aoi could literally learn it. Once she saw it... she could learn it 80% of the time, twice for 100%, and even three times to improve on the original.
 Therefore, for Aoi, watching Ryuuto's body technique, passing every drop of poison droplets based on it, and even developing it to build up the technique to "pass the shock wave to the opponent's internal organs by reversing even the fat and mucus of the opponent" was something that she could do in no time. Yes, for her...
 "Impossible... impossible...!!? How is that possible...!?"
 Ryuuto, who has lost both arms, retreats in fear, his legs trembling and he slumps to the ground. Of course, he did. How can there be such nonsense? Think how long it took him to develop and refine that body technique? How much blood and sweat? But just seeing it a few times for her...?
 No, his fear is not only this but anyone who has made the effort. Blood, sweat, and long hours of work, years of literally devoting one's life to it, sometimes generations of creating, weaving, and refining pride, skill... and yet the girl in front of him somehow takes it as her own, and in fact, refines it to a higher level...
 It was unreasonable. It was blasphemy. It was despair. Her very existence was a horrifying demon to those who walk the "path" of all beings, a demon that denies the very meaning of one's existence.
 "I've never heard of such a thing!! Then why did you keep attacking with the fan...!? Why, why...!?"
 Ryuuto exclaimed as he took a step or two backward with trepidation. The secret book about this woman in front of him did not mention anything like that. According to all the information gathered by the merchants, this woman has hardly used any technique except the fan blow for years, if she has such a... such a crazy power, why didn't she use it before!?
 "Oh, my, it's not that hard. I just didn't find anyone to use it with, that's all."
 Aoi answered as if it was a matter of course. And Ryuuto intuitively understood that this was true.
 Yes, the reason why Kizuki Aoi has not used most of the various talents she has acquired "just by looking" is simply because she did not need to use them.
 After all, a great youkai can be done just by waving a fan at random. Why should she spend so much effort fighting in other ways? For Aoi, the reason why she used the fan so far is simply because it was the easiest way and because she can avoid touching the youkai from a distance without being exposed to the returning blood.
 Moreover, for Aoi, such a talent that she could master 10,000 skills just by looking at anything was just an accessory. After all, instead of such tricks...
 "It's the fastest way to finish by directly beating them to death".
 Therefore, such a trivial trick is nothing to flaunt or be proud of... She declared plainly and naturally.
 "M... Monsterrrr....!!"
 Aoi's words frightened Ryuuto to the core, and he cursed in a trembling voice. But Aoi just replied with a cruel smile and silence.
 ...it was a cruel and cold smile that mocked her opponent to no end.
 Before that spine-chilling smile, Ryuuto involuntarily screamed and backed away. Then he collapsed on the spot with his legs entangled. He cannot get up. His arms are gone. He can't escape. He cannot imagine himself escaping. His heart was already half broken.
 "D*mn, d*mn it...!!!"
 Without thinking, Ryuuto played his last card. The next moment, he was spitting out the spear he had been carrying in his stomach at her at high speed.
 A surprise attack at close range, a perfect strike that would have taken even a skilled master by surprise, but... with a twist, just by a hair's breadth, Aoi avoided the incoming blow with ease. And then...
 Aoi grabbed the handle of the spear that passed right beside her and spun it around. And then, as if it was a matter of course, the tip of the spear was immediately struck to the place where it was thrown.
 It pierced Ryuuto's mouth, which was filled with the deadly poison, and pierced into the ground, pinning him to the ground.
 Or, if that was all, he might have survived with his life force that had been transformed into a youkai monster... but the venom that flowed from the wound into his body and into his brain consumed his life with indescribable pain and reaped him off.
 "Aghh...!? Cough...!!!? Ogggghh... Ogggghh... "
 The bad thing about being youkai-ized is that it's not a good idea. Because of his wasted vitality, he was unable to die instantly and struggled in agony. Tears of blood streamed from his half-white eyes, and a mixture of gastric juice, blood, and foam leaked from his mouth. His entire body is convulsing, and sweat is pouring from his body. He is incontinent. Still, he cannot die. Not yet.
 "Oh, my, you look so miserable. You look like an insect suffering from the insecticide."
 In the darkness of the night, a cruel, wicked, ruthless laugh rang out, and Ryuuto heard it in his agonizing consciousness.
 "I don't think you're going to make it. But at this rate, how long do you think you'll have to suffer before you breathe your last? It's really pathetic..."
 Ryuuto instinctively knew that these words were not from his heart. However, the words, like the tinkling of a bell, seeped into his head eerily in this indescribable hellhole and imprinted themselves on his mind.
 "Hey, I wonder who's behind this mess? Tell me as a souvenir before you go to your death. If you do that I'll release you from that hell."
 "Ugh... aghh...!!?"
 His whimsical, mean-spirited, and above all, sweet words seemed too tempting for Ryuuto. So far, he had trained to endure torture. He has used his body to the utmost to modify it and to train himself.
 But still... still nothing can compare to this pain. He feels like he is going insane, and it would be a mercy if the endless suffering that he is unable to resist because of his youkai-ization could be ended immediately. It was an irresistible temptation of the word technique.
 "Ah... Aaah..."
 That's why Ryuuto's mouth trembled at the sweet words, and his voice sounded as if he was about to say something...
 Aoi naturally bent her neck to avoid the strong acid poison mixed with blood that Ryuuto spat at her as she approached to stand on her ears immediately afterward. It was a minimal movement.
 ...Then, Aoi takes a glance at the lackey. Her eyes are cold as if she sees dust.
 "...Oh, I see. That's your answer. Well, that's okay. But then you'll suffer and die a miserable death... Oh, is that for suicide? The poison needle in your back teeth, I took it back because it looked dangerous."
 Suddenly, Aoi showed it to the lackey between her fingers in a somewhat impish manner. It was a poison needle that she had snatched when she threw back the spear. It was a strong poison that was almost harmless to human beings but had a special effect against youkai, and it didn't need to explain why it was there."
 "Ugh... Gghhh... Aggghhhh...!!!?"
 Aoi's words did not make Ryuuto react anymore. He just lay there skewered on the ground and screamed in anguish.
 "Gggh... Aghh... Ah...!"
 And the fierce, animal-like roar continued until about a hundred or so minutes after this. But in the end, until the very end, the lackey did not beg for his life, nor did he utter a single word of supplication...
* * *
 "...it's rude to look at someone like that..."
 Aoi muttered to herself as she listened to the faint, gradually fading sound of anguish in the distance.
 She spreads her spare fan and looks at him with a sworn look in her eyes as she walks in the moonlit night. What comes to her mind is the look of a lackey who looks at her with fear, contempt, and anger, as if he were looking at a monster, which is the same look that she has seen many times since she was a child.
 All martial arts... like swordsmanship, archery, spearmanship, horsemanship, polemanship, naginataship, kodachiship, iron fan technique as well as supernatural like boundary technique, eye technique, word technique, and also sorcery. Not to mention these techniques, tea ceremony, flower arrangement, calligraphy, poetry, incense, sencha (green tea ceremony), tray garden, and traditional music, those who became her teachers turned pale that day because they had nothing left to teach, some worshipped her, some were furious, some were saddened, and some tried to commit suicide. The reflection of her in the eyes of all of them was not the same person as before.
 And the same is true for her relatives, those who are trying to make her the next head of the family, and those who are against it, are only looking at her talent, and to top it all off, her father, whom she believed would love her, pat her on the head, and spoil her one day, neglected her talent, which could only lead to the decision that would harm her life...
 "...Really, what an unpleasant sight."
 Aoi mocks herself. After all, even her own father did not see her as a daughter. She was just an annoying "monster" whose talent and pedigree threatened his position. In the end, only he truly looked out for her, and only he cared about her as a human being.
 And it was her own fault that she made him dirty his hands, made him despair and break down in tears as if he were falling into an abyss, and even the memory of it has faded into oblivion, she still inflicts such a hurtful ordeal on him.
 "...though it can't be helped."
 It's inevitable. She can't live without him anyway. She can't force herself to be there for him forever. He has to become worthy of her presence. For him and for her.
 Suddenly someone called out to Kizuki's second daughter. Aoi looked in the direction of the voice. The half-youkai white fox she had taken with her and ordered to stay hidden until she was done was staring at her with a worried expression on her face.
 "...Oh, there's no need to be so frightened. I'm not trying to catch you to eat you. You're safe here."
 Aoi blurts out the truth simply and straightforwardly. However, her downcast eyes and upturned mouth show the viciousness of a predator.
 "I-I'm sorry...!"
 A normal person would feel affectionate toward the half-youkai, but some people might feel a sense of disgust at the sight. And Aoi was probably the latter. In a corner of her mind, she thought of making fun of her, and then she clucked her tongue inwardly.
 (Don't tease her too much. He will hate me.)
 To be honest, Aoi doesn't care about anything except herself and him. He and herself, that's all she needs.
 "...Yes. That's right."
 After all, no one cared for her but him...
 "...then, what, all of a sudden?"
 Aoi, who had been silent for a while remembering this fact, finally realized it. In front of her eyes, the white fox is looking up at her with a look of deep anxiety. She was holding a hand towel as if she was offering it to him. A hand towel for the servant who waits by the nobleman's side...
 "Oh, um... you looked a little unhappy... so I was wondering if you might need it... Am I bothering you...?"
 The white fox whispered in a scared, but considerate way.
 Aoi, looking slightly stunned... just slightly stunned, suddenly remembers while observing the white fox. She suddenly remembered that this fox is also frightened, but has not yet given her an abhorrent look as if she were a monster.
 And Aoi thinks with a small smile. Although being petted on the head is an evil deed that deserves to die, this time she can be forgiven for a little.
 "...Oh my, oh my, you are so cunning. Are you just trying to get in my good graces? You're a cunning fox, after all?"
 "Huh, hwehh...!? No, it's not that!! I mean, I'm...!!"
 The girl in front of her hurriedly explains herself at her lord's words. Aoi takes one look at the girl who is trying hard to explain that she has no intention and giggles. Unlike her previous sneers, her smile is not dark and carefree like a girl's. Of course, the person to whom she laughed, in short, Shiro felt pressure to the extent that she feared, so it was not a joke... But still, considering the nature of Kizuki Aoi, it would have been quite generous.
 "Hehehe, I'm a little dirty because of my outburst. Then, I'll take it just in case."
 Aoi takes the hand towel after declaring this to Shiro, who looks desperate like a child. Then she wipes her dusty hands lightly and turns around on her heel, leaving the hand towel in her hand.
 "...well, is he finished? I'm sure he could take down a small fish like that without too much damage, but after what happened the other day, I think I should welcome him just in case"
 "I'm very kind, after all," the princess concludes.
 Aoi declares so and starts to walk away. Shiro, who had been making a hasty defense, understands her lord's whimsical behavior and hurriedly follows her with a brisk pace. The half-youkai girl, though dissatisfied with her master, at least agreed with her words...
 ......Kizuki Aoi's entire fight has been observed from afar by that person.
 Without uttering a word, that person silently dissolves his own body into shadows as if his head were shattered. Then, in silence, he dissolves into the surrounding darkness and quietly leaves the scene, unnoticed by anyone...

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