Tuesday, January 3, 2023 @

Chapter 41, Part 1

 From the beginning, it was clear we would not be able to shake off the pursuit. After all, they had three men and were fully armed, while we had no weapons and were outnumbered, and even had a target to guard. The situation was overwhelmingly unfavorable for us...
 'That's why you had to make a short battle to get a head start, but this was a mistake from the very beginning.'
 The shikigami declares over my shoulder as she hides. The tone of the shikigami voice is indifferent and devoid of emotion, but it makes me feel a little annoyed at this situation. Of course, it's just a reflection of frustration...
 For my part, I was facing one of the lackeys, a young man called Iruka. I searched the warehouse for a weapon, but I only found a piece of lumber that I could use, so I reluctantly tried to hit him with it, but... he saw through my attempts at concealment and other deceptions and we were back to hand-to-hand combat.
 (I wish I had more time...!!!)
 If I had had a little more time to search inside the warehouse, I might have found a saw or a hammer, not to mention a weapon. After all, it seems all the warehouses in this area seem to contain lumber for building materials, and if so, there should have been some tools.
 "There is no use in asking for something that is not there. More importantly..."
 'What are we going to do with that?'
 I turn my attention to the front when the shikigami says this. There is a lackey with a sword in one hand and claws as sharp as a beast's in the other. No, not like a beast. He is literally a beast... with youkai's arms grown out of him.
 'It's tricky, but in a way, it's a good match. The strategy... is the 5th one we decided on beforehand, correct?'
 "Yes. Please do. I'll leave the timing to you."
 'Then, same to you. Play your cards right. If it looks like you're not going to make it, I'll let the girl appear first.'
 With these words, the bee shikigami leaves my shoulder without being noticed. Well, it depends on my effort to do well... I never thought I'd use that strategy. If I fail, I'll be beheaded for sure.
 "...I don't know how you managed to sneak into the capital looking like that. There should be some kind of boundary around it, right?"
 I ask the lackey in front of me, partly to buy time.
 The so-called boundary that repels youkai energy in the wall and the entrance/exit gate of the capital, in order to fool it, it is necessary to block youkai energy. In my case, it was a pill that tasted like sh*t, and in the case of Shiro, it was necessary to put a talisman on her whole body every time she went in and out of the place. Of course, the man in front of me should have had his arm caught in the boundary as it was... But then, I don't know how he did it...
 (I'd like to hear him say a few things, including about the other two who didn't show...)
 "Oops, I'm not going to fall for that trick, okay? I know you're trying to gather information like that!"
 As I was thinking such a thing, Iruka jumped on me like a wolf in the next moment. He swung his sword at me from above in a straight line. D*mn, he's so stubborn...!
 "Don't run!!"
 The movement itself is fast but monotonous, so I can avoid the sword by jumping to the left side. The reason why I avoid it on the left side is to avoid getting caught by a swing of his youkai's arm. I knew that the sword blow was only a diversion.
 Now, I got down to avoid the sword and kicked his leg with all my might, aiming at his shin. It was what is known as a "kick to the shin".
 "It hurts..!?"
 Iruka's posture collapses and he falls down from the shoulder with a mournful cry. I knew that youkai's left arm was still his left arm, but his leg was just like a human's...!!
 "Okay, just like this...!!"
 "Don't play with me, you little fish!!"
 I try to grab his weapon, but it's blocked by a flurry of sword blows in all directions. Without armor or even clothing, I am completely helpless against the sword. Without any other choice, I backed away and keep my distance.
 On the other side, Iruka stands up with a pained expression on his face, using the sword as a support. And then he readies his sword... and the claw of his left arm swings out. Oh crap!!
 Quickly... in an instant, the claw, as sharp and long as a dagger, is swung. I failed to measure my timing in the heat of the moment and was sliced from my right shoulder to my left side.
 It was so close. Blood spurts out, but in reality, it's just a small cut on the surface of the flesh. No internal organs, no bones, and no aorta were injured. It's literally just a flesh cut. That was close. If I hadn't reacted a little slower, the artery would have... Huh!?
 "Close call!?"
 I narrowly avoid a sword swing from the side, and then a wolf claw strike from the side. No, actually, it took a little bit of my flesh.
 "Tsk! Eat this, you stupid dog!"
 I dodge the third blow, which is aimed at my neck, barely missing my skin, and I wave my hand. The blood that had been secretly pooling in my palm splattered. The splattered red liquid landed on Iruka's face as I had intended, and some of it got into his eyeballs.
 Iruka moaned, unintentionally holding his right eye. Of course, it must be painful to suddenly have another person's blood in one's eye!
 "I wouldn't feel sorry for you...!!!"
 And I finally use the weapon. No, I learn to use it.
 "Ugh, tsk..?"
 Iruka, holding one of his eyes, swings his sword to prevent me from getting too close, but the next moment he is blocked by the "it" that I wield. And "it" is...
 "What!? A rope...."
 "It finally cut, thank you...!"
 As the rope has been cut, I twist the blood-soaked rope around Iruka's sword like a whip. Then, as I pulled up the rope, I engaged in a deadly tug-of-war with Iruka.
 The rough rope, which was tied tightly and intricately around Iruka's body, was thick, and because of the way it was processed, it was very hard and could not be removed easily. At the same time, the rough ropes completely obstructed not only the movement of the whole body but also the flow of spiritual power.
 The reason why Iruka's sword and claws were used to cut off this rope was to avoid receiving fatal wounds. A slight cut to the body and a little blood would not be a problem. If the rope was cut off at the same time, I could use my spiritual power, and above all, this strong rope itself could be used as a kind of weapon.
 "However, it is too hard...!!!"
 I clicked my tongue as I took one look at my own bloodied figure with shallow cuts all over my body. The wounds were really shallow and not so serious, and more than half of the blood had already hardened and covered the wounds... but just looking at my appearance, it was rather, well, pretty bad. D*mn, he keeps cutting me so I have to take it for nothing...!!
 "Take this....!!"
 I took advantage of Iruka's agitation and yanked up the rope at once. The hilt of the sword is pulled out of Iruka's hand. The hilt was slippery because it had been soaked in my blood and the handle was also covered in blood. Of course, that was to be expected.
 "Sh*t!!? What's the matter with you...!!"
 Iruka has lost his sword, but he immediately sets up his sharp claws and tries to get close to me. His decisiveness in immediately choosing the best option, considering the trouble of recovering the stolen sword, proves that he is not a simpleton.
 But I had already thought of that much. I throw the rolled-up sword away and spin around to gain momentum, swinging the rope like a whip to the side. The originally strong rope, strengthened by the power of the spirit, was swung with the force of my arm, and it struck Iruka with centrifugal force, cutting through the wind.
 He quickly braces his arms and fights off the swing of the rope, but the rope strikes youkai's arm with a fierce sound and shaves off the hair on the surface of his arm. Naturally, the impact inside is even greater.
 Depending on the material, the speed of the whip wielded by the expert is faster than the speed of sound, easily severing a thin sheet of metal, or, against a human being, crushing the muscle fibers of the body and shaving off the flesh. I am not an expert in the whipping technique, but the rough mesh of the rope is soaked with blood and hardened, and the spiritual power of the whip makes it possible to deliver a blow at a speed that no mere mortal can achieve. Therefore, the impact was practically equivalent to that of an expert.
 "Gghh...!? You son of a b*tch!!"
 Iruka screams in anguish and bends backward, but soon he roars ferociously and pounces on me like a beast. Immediately I swing the rope one more time. My target was his head. There was no time to hold back. I would be killed if I did not fight with all my might and without mercy.
 Now, the rope swung down with a sound that cuts through the air, but Iruka avoided it just in time. To be more precise, Iruka avoided the diagonal blow of the rope from the side by moving his head. His eyebrows and hair seem to be slightly shaved, but it is hardly an obstacle in the battle. D*mn...! He dodged that one!!
 While I'm clicking my tongue, the offense and defense are switching.
 "You're getting away from me so fast! I don't have time for this!! It's time to eat this, servant!!"
 "Aah! Gghhh!!?"
 A wolf claw swung down and pierced through my right shoulder. The claw pierced through and blood splattered spectacularly behind me. But... the wound is not deep!
 "Ugh, shut up!! You eat this too!"
 "Ah... Ggh...!? It hurts!? You b*stard...!!?"
 Immediately I snatched the scabbard from around Iruka's waist and swung it fully into his side. Iruka was choked by the blow delivered with my arm strength, which had been strengthened to the utmost limit by my spiritual power, and he vomited up some gastric juices. At the same time, I was caught as Iruka retreated, and his fingernail was pulled out from my wound with a fresh sound. Ggh, it hurts...!!?
 "Ugh... W-well, it's better than having the wound widen like that..!"
 I spit out while holding the wound on my shoulder. Just at the same time... suddenly a voice echoed through the warehouse district.
 The lovely voice sounded strangely impressive in the darkness. I turned my head to look. Kayo, who had been hiding in one of the warehouses, was leaning forward frantically to reveal herself. I turn toward her, eyes wide open. And as I was about to open my mouth...
 "Ggh... Haa! I've got a chance...!!"
 "Huh...? Ughh!?"
 Iruka did not miss the momentary opening. He opened his big mouth with a snap. His sharp, wolfish double teeth are revealed. I braced myself for the "something" that would come out the next moment.
 But it was the wrong decision. In hindsight, it would have been better to go on the offensive.
 ...a moment later, a roar rang out.
 Perhaps it was some kind of a word technique. Or perhaps it was the ability of the implanted youkai. Iruka's roar, which should not have been loud, was as sharp as scissors for me, an invisible weapon that made my brain tremble.
 I covered my ears as if my eardrums might be ruptured and blood spurting out, or as if I might have a concussion. Then, as a final blow, Iruka hit me with a roundhouse kick. I avoid the kick, which would have caved in my face if it had hit me directly, just in time, knowing that I would lose my posture.
 (This is not good! I have an opening...!?)
 I was at a huge disadvantage and was ready for Iruka's onslaught. But... it was also a mistake of judgment.
 As my legs wobbled in the shaky vision and my face twisted in anguish, Iruka ran. Not in my direction. Toward Kayo.
 "Ghh, cough... Ha~a... Ha~a... Idiot!! I don't give a shit about you. All I need is the brat...!!"
 His voice is a little tired and husky, and he seems to move closer to youkai's side by using the technique he just used. Iruka, who had sprouted an iron-colored wolf tail before I knew it, but with a look of delight on his face, he sprinted like a wolf to Kayo with his claws raised.
 Apparently, his top priority was the daughter of a merchant family. I follow him, strengthening my legs with my spiritual power while enduring a headache. But I can't get to her in time....!!
 "Cough, I don't have time for this!! Let's go roughly...!!"
 Iruka leaped at Kayo, who let out a small scream, mercilessly with his wolf claws. He probably intends to cut the tendons of his limbs so that he won't get out of control to take Kayo as a hostage or kidnap him. I could tell from the way he jumped. And by then, I couldn't keep up with him...
 "Haha, I got you!!!"
 The next moment, Iruka swung his sharp claws at Kayo, who held her head down in fear... However, the next moment, Iruka's claws were popped with a spark by an invisible wall.
 Iruka's claws could not hurt the girl in any way before the invisible, but a strong boundary that dispelled evil spirits. If anything, the claw he swung was crushed and blood was splattered all around him.
 Iruka did not scream in pain, but... well, he forgot about that and was stunned by the reality that had occurred before his eyes. Still, he did not have time to play the fool forever. After all...
 "Ah? Gghhh!!?"
 The next moment, Iruka turns around at the sound of my yell and is blown away by the sheath of the sword I hit him with, right in the face at the same time. I shouted so blatantly to get his attention and make him turn his head to me. Iruka was knocked headfirst to the ground, unable to defend himself against the sheer force of the situation.
 "Haha, you idiot! Suck it up!! Ha~a... Ha~a... Ha~a... That went well...!!?"
 I exclaim as if to throw up, covering my ears with one arm. It was a joyful shout of a successful mission...
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