Thursday, January 5, 2023 @

Chapter 43, Part 1

 Revision: Four Evil => Four Disaster
 It was a foul itself.
 After all, it would be impossible for a merchant, even an individual peddler, to train himself, much less train himself to fight against youkai if he were to become an executive of a big trading company. No, it would be a different story if he were an executive in the security department of the trading company, but there is no one in that position at least here, and therefore it would be pointless to discuss it.
 Anyway, this situation should be a precious example of what would happen if a single "youkai" were thrown into a group of merchants.
 "D*mn! This guy is so fast... Ughh!!?"
 One man screams as his shoulder is trampled by the monster that suddenly appears and leaps at him. Another man, who was standing beside him, fires his handgun to fight back, only to have his hand sliced open with the gun barrel. The severed finger falls to the ground with the barrel of the gun, and the man cowering with his wrist gushing with blood.
 "Eeekk..!? Run...!?"
 The man's back is turned in terror as he runs away, which is a bad move. Youkai, whose body is currently mutated, runs with the swiftness of a lion, closes the distance at once, and with a single swing of his claws, rips open the body of the one who runs away. The man, paralyzed by severed nerves, falls to the ground and convulses.
 The monster looks like a horse, a lion, a lizard, a wolf, an insect, and even a fish. Even now, the monster's body is being destroyed, regenerated, and reconstructed with each passing moment as the complex intertwining of the two forces of energies within it causes everyone to look at the figure with disgust and fear in their eyes.
 'Grrrrrrr... Roooarrrrr!!!!'
 "Ah... ugh......"
 The creature turns around and lets out a roaring roar. Meanwhile, Kayo, who was unable to keep up with the change in the situation, gazed at the figure in a daze. To her, the roar seemed to be angry, despairing, lamenting, or in agony.
 ...but to the rest of the people, it was nothing short of horrifying.
 "D*mn...!? D*mn you ......!"
 "Huh...? Aaaahhh... Noooo!?"
 Kurayoshi takes advantage of the chaos and starts to take action as the monsters attack the men in the vicinity at random.
 He hid in the monster's blind spot with a Matagama he obtained from Danjo-dai (Imperial Prosecuting and Investigating Office), blocked Kayo's mouth, and dragged her away in the dark night. From Kurayoshi's point of view, there was any number of ways he could have done it as long as he could have secured Kayo. He had many subordinates other than the ones he had brought here. Only Kayo, the hostage, could not be replaced here, so Kurayoshi tried to escape the situation by kidnapping her...
 The next moment, the monster jumped as if it were running in the sky, and it blocked Kurayoshi's path. The creature, which seemed to be a mixture of several beings, let out a ferocious and maniacal roar when it finally came to a halt, stomping on his foot. Kurayoshi and even Kayo, who was directly confronted by the monster's deadly gaze, shudder involuntarily.
 "Tsk! Someone get this thing... D*mn it!"
 He quickly turns around and tries to shout at someone, but it's no use. The scene behind him was horrific. Noses and ears, fingers and wrists cut off, abdomens and backs ripped open, shoulders and legs crushed, and not one of the men crumpled in a bloody heap, moaning and groaning, was able to carry out the order.
 Kurayoshi, who had been blindsided by the horrific scene behind him, was jerked out of his reverie by the sound of the roar. As he turns his head to face it, he sees a four-legged monster slowly and steadily closing in on him and Kayo. It is the behavior of a predator that gradually hunts down its prey...
 "D*mn, d*mn, d*mn, d*mn it!! You monster!! Do you want anything to happen to this gi—Aaaaaaggghh!!!??"
 Kurayoshi pulls out his wakizashi (sword) and holds it at Kayo's neck as if threatening the monster, but in the next instant, his left shoulder flesh and his left ear are torn off by the tongue that has been stretched out from the monster's mouth that has been ripped open. The monster's gesture of observation was just a deception. In reality, it was merely stalling for time to "rebuild" its own body, which had no means of flight. And the blow aimed at Kurayoshi's fear was a complete surprise.
 The old merchant drops his wakizashi in pain as his shoulder and ear are blown off. The blood sprays onto Kayo's outfit as well, and the girl lets out a small scream...
 On the other hand, the monster seems to be unaccustomed to the sensation of its own head, which has been "regenerated" and "transformed" in a short period, changing its structure. While the monster was unable to retract his fully extended tongue, struggling to hold it in a sort of stupidly open mouth with its reddish-black, mucus-glistening tongue hanging down, Kurayoshi, who is a merchant and not a warrior, does not miss the opportunity.
 "Ggghhh...! You monster!!"
 Kurayoshi pulled out his spare handgun in pain, held his shoulder, and pulled the trigger to fire. The shot then hit the inside of the monster's palate.
 With the sound of the gunshot, blood splattered.
 Despite it was a monster, the surface of the monster's mouth, however, is not as tough as it seems, and the next moment it screams in pain and cries out, cowering.
 "Ha! It's working! It works, you filthy servant! D*mn you! You've got to be kidding me! Next time I'll blow your brains out once more! And then... and then... I'll cut you open and sell you in pieces...!"
 Kurayoshi smirks in mockery at finally inflicting an injury that doesn't look like an injury. It was full of madness, partly to cover up the fear and pain.
 "Die, dieeeee...!!"
 Then he pulled the trigger to fire a bullet loaded into the other end of the barrel of the gun...
 A moment later, Botan, who had been sneaking around with the same shikigami since the kidnapping, approached Kurayoshi's gun. And the next moment, she cast a slight curse on him...
 As soon as he pulled the trigger, the handgun exploded due to the black powder that generated heat and exploded. The barrel shatters, pieces of steel fly off, and Kurayoshi's finger is blown off.
 "My finger... My finger... !? Aagghhh!!?"
 Kurayoshi, who is suffering from his bloody hand, is suddenly struck by a floating sensation. And it was not an imagination, but a fact.
 The creature had already bitten off its fully grown tongue. Then it bit the old merchant's clothes, leaving him bleeding. The old merchant was lifted up and caught in its mouth.
 "No, stop it! Stop it, you monster!!? Aagghhh...!!?"
 The monster swung at the flailing Kurayoshi. Again and again, it swung wildly and then slammed him into the walls of the warehouses around...
 "Aaaghh!? Stoppp!! Stop... aghii...!!!?"
 The sound of bones being broken echoes over and over again. There is also the sound of clothes being torn. Now, his body is scraped and bruised, and blood sprays from the wounds on his hands in all directions. And then...
 The old merchant, who had been thrown to the ground like a piece of dust, was now only moaning and twitching. He was not dead, but he was dying. At least, he was so battered that he could not escape from this place by himself.
 The creature looks down at him and snarls in displeasure, but then loses interest in the dying old merchant and turns on his heel. Then he sets his gaze on Tachibana Kayo.
 The look in its eyes made her shoulders shake, but Kayo didn't run away. No, she couldn't. It goes without saying that she would have been caught immediately even if she tried to run away on shaky legs against the presence in front of her.
 With a growl, step by step, it slowly moves toward Kayo. It did not take long for the distance between them to close. Before long, youkai was standing right in front of Kayo, looking down at her. But... that was all.
 There was silence... yes, only silence. No, only the sound of the monster's tiny breaths can be heard. Kayo was overwhelmed by the pressure in front of her, but she gathered her courage and moved her mouth slowly.
 "Tomobe.... san...?"
 Its red eyes looked down at her and it tilts its head in a gesture of observation. It made Kayo call out to it as if she were pleading or praying, hoping for a ray of hope.
 "What are you doing!?"
 "Huh!? Eek...!?"
 The reprimand echoes in the girl's ear, and the next moment, the monster in front of her leaps at her like a predator that has found its prey... but is intercepted by an invisible protection.
 A screeching sound like steel being torn apart is followed by the monster's screams and yells. Youkai, who had been blocked from preying on the girl by the boundary, charged forward once more in a fury... only to be blocked by the boundary.
 "Are you okay!!? Don't let go of those hair ornaments and bracelets!!"
 "Eh!? B-but...!!?"
 "It'll eat you alive!?"
 Kayo is confused by the shikigami who is ordering her from her shoulder, but Botan sternly tells her. After all, it was hard to believe that she could talk to the monster who was trying to bite and tear apart the boundary right in front of her eyes. If Kayo throws out the curse-tool, she will surely be devoured in the next moment. Therefore, Botan reprimanded her severely.
 'Grrrrrrrr... Roarrrrrrrr!!!!'
 Kayo, on the other hand, is horrified, terrified, and trembling at the sight before her. This is partly because a horrifying-looking monster is attacking in front of her with an obvious deadly and murderous intent, but that is not the only reason.
 The curse-tool must have been of fairly good quality for the items sold in the stalls. In many cases, cheap amulets and charms are only effective in repelling low-class youkai. However, the one that Kayo had with her was physically protecting her against monsters of medium youkai class, and even wounding the monster.
 Still, the boundary, which protects Kayo, is of no use against bullets, bows, or even spears and swords. However, if the opponent was an impure beast, it was a different story, and the boundary was currently preventing the monster's fangs or claws, or rather, purifying it by burning its youkai power from the point where it touched. Kayo could see the sound and smell of burning flesh emanating from the ground as the youkai leaped against the boundary, bubbling, and burning. Red blood also seeps out from the painful wounds, staining the boundary, and even that evaporates in a thin white smoke.
 The beast screams ferociously, fiercely, and yet somewhat painfully. It screamed, clawed, and bared its fangs at Kayo, but its deadly weapon could not reach the girl.
 However, Kayo was not so bold as to remain calm. Especially when she knew the identity of the monster that was attacking her.
 "N-no... please don't do that! N-no matter how many times you do it, it's no use! So, please, stop it!! Please stop..."
 The plea in a mournful voice is filled with not only fear but also emotion... Kayo is surely in love with the filthy monster that is now biting and devouring her, but she does not want to hurt him...
 'Roar!! Roar... Roarrrrrrrr!!!'
 "Don't... Please... don't do that..."
 Kayo mutters as she looks at youkai through the red blood-soaked boundary.
 It was painful, Kayo who had not been hurt by youkai, but felt bitter and in pain. It hurt her heart. Seeing youkai in front of her... seeing him hurt... was so painful.
 Then, Kayo suddenly noticed something strange. It was a new awareness. The unnatural behavior of the unidentified being in front of her.
 Thinking about it, it was. From the way it has been behaving so far, there is no way that the being in front of her is just a monster without wisdom. It has a brain that knows its priorities and how to find an opening. Would such a being claw at the boundary as if it were a desperate thing, and would it do anything more than sink its fangs into the boundary? Wouldn't he immediately understand that such a thing is meaningless?
 Kayo, whose vision had been clouded by fear, became aware of this as she became calm. She noticed the cracked claws of the being in front of her, the fangs of the being, and the oozing blood from the base of the claws. The movement of its claws and fangs seemed to be aimed not so much to attack Kayo, but rather to strike at the boundary itself...
 "......!!? Please stop!! You can't do that...!?"
 Kayo screams. Screaming. Finally, after all this time, Kayo realizes. The move is not meant to hurt Kayo. It's to make himself...
 'Wait... stop it! You'll die...!?'
 Botan's Shikigami shouts to stop Kayo from removing her hair ornament. But her voice doesn't reach her. She understands what he is trying to do and doesn't want to hurt him anymore... so Kayo impulsively tries to throw it away with both hands while half crying... but she has already lost her chance. After all...
 "Oh my, oh my, you've been so naughty again, haven't you? You made such a mess."
 A moment later, with a voice like the sound of a clear bell, someone appeared in front of Kayo's eyes. She was dressed in a bright and shiny cherry-red kimono, and her hair was fluttering in the air more beautifully than that. The figure was fantastic, imaginary, and made a stronger impression on those who saw it in contrast to the ugly, bloodied monster...
 "Come on, my dear. It's already past midnight. Let's stop this idle talk and go home, shall we?"
 The peach-colored lord who appeared before the girl's eyes said to his transformed subordinate and to the man he loved most. Like a wife speaking to her husband whom she has loved and been with for many years, she spoke so proudly, as a matter of course...
 For a moment, silence reigns over the place. Both Kayo and the monster stiffened at the sudden intruder. However, the meaning of this reaction is quite different.
 Unlike Kayo, who was frozen in pure astonishment, the monster's reaction was based on his crisis control ability, which comes from the sixth sense of the beast.
 The instincts of a youkai, the senses, and the few fragments of memory that remained appealed to the monster. It knew how dangerous and threatening the presence in front of it was.
 It knew its situation even amid its muddled and unclear thoughts. Now, the two forces inside the monster were intertwined, engulfing, eating each other, and making the situation untenable.
 ...In spite of the fact that the foundation of its race is the beast of the sacred spirit, the monster was already halfway to being a hideous mixture of the two.
 Its physical proportions had been shattered, its chrysalis-like human exterior had been completely stripped away, and yet inside it was completely immature... And because of its forced awakening, because of its physical remodeling, its very existence itself was like that of an immature, undeveloped deformed child. Even while this was happening, its mind was wandering violently between human and youkai, its nature was going back and forth between them, and its cells were dying and regenerating, transforming and perishing, moment by moment. Intense and intense pain shot through its entire body, driving it insane. In the midst of it all, a reason like a faint sleep was thinking, and the creature made its choice.
 The next moment, youkai jumped at it with a ferocious roar, but its movement was lackluster due to the exhaustion of body and mind, and it was too sluggish for Aoi, no matter if she was a mere human being. In fact, if she had wanted to, she could have reaped the life of this ugly monster with one swing of her hand. But Aoi accepted the blow of its jaw irresistibly.
 'Is she insane!? Is she out of her mind!!?'
 Botan shouted through the shikigami at Aoi's choice to accept the bite of the monster on her shoulder. It was something she could not understand at all. After all, Aoi, who could avoid it, pass it off, or even return it to dust without allowing any counterattack. So, she had no idea why the girl accepted the monster's fangs on her shoulder without anything.
 And the same is true for Kayo, who looks dumbfounded at the peach-colored girl who was bitten irresistibly in front of her. No, that's not right. That is wrong. It's not the fact that the bite is irresistible that really surprises her...
 "Oh my, you poor thing, I will correct it. It wasn't a big bite. It's a sweet bite at best."
 Aoi says this to both of them with ease and dignity. And if they take a closer look, they find that her words are not false. Because there was only a red stain on Aoi's shoulder despite the bite.
 If it had been serious, the bleeding would have been so serious. No, on the contrary, she would have been surely bitten off her shoulder meat by the arm. On the contrary, some of the blood on her shoulder was probably not even Aoi's blood. Because the blood was overflowing from the wound of the tongue which the creature had cut off by itself.
 Well, considering that, it was not wrong to say that the present wound was a sweet bite at best. However, even before being bitten, one could not have known that before being bitten.
 "I know it will happen. Because it's me."
 She didn't put any effort into it. Aoi just talked with a natural certainty, with common sense, as if she was telling a trivial fact. It proves how much she believed in "him"... or rather, proved how much she believed in "him".
 "Ah... Uuu..."
 And that statement, in fact, pierced Kayo's heart with an invisible sword. Can she do what the girl in front of her did without any hesitation, without any fear, without any knowledge of what was going on before and after?
 ...The answer is clear from the existence of the curse-tool still at hand, and Kayo sits down involuntarily in front of the sense of inferiority and defeats that assails her when she realizes it.
 Aoi took a glance at Kayo and immediately returned her gaze as if she had lost interest in her. In fact, it was true. For her now, comforting Kayo was near the bottom of her priority list. She had more important things to do than that.
 "Good grief, you're like this the moment I take my eyes off you. Maybe I should chain you up some more?"
 Aoi giggles with something neither joking nor serious. As for youkai, it doesn't answer her. It just stays frozen, with its jaw touching or not touching her shoulder, and continues to endure something. No, it was something that youkai knew. It was out of question for youkai to leave an irresistible girl full of spiritual power right in front of it, and Aoi understood that it was putting all its little reason into suppressing its violent instincts.
 That's why...
 "I'm afraid that that woman's stuff smells and tastes as bad as rotten meat, but... well, you'll just have to put up with it."
 She patted up its head lovingly and boasted... The next moment, Aoi took out the black pill from her pocket and made the monster swallow it into the back of its throat while twisting her arm into the gap between its sharp fangs.
 A moment later, Aoi closes the jaws of the half-baked monster forcingly which tried to spit out the pill with a vomiting reflex. She did not care about the fangs digging into her shoulders, did not change her facial color at all, and just held the mouth which was about to open by the conditioned reflex with her white and thin arms. There is only one pill. If she made the youkai spit it out, there was nothing she could do this time. So, Aoi had to stop it to do so.
 'Grrrrr... Roarrr... Grooeggh!!?'
 "Don't. No vomit. Just swallow it..."
 Aoi holds the youkai as it shakes its head in agony and tries to lash out, preventing it from vomiting. A lot of salivae and gastric juice dripped from between its fangs, staining Aoi's hand and outfit... and its fangs started to bite deeply into her shoulder because it was writhing in agony.
 "It's okay. It is fine if it's me. Just don't throw up yet, okay?"
 However, Aoi declares without any discomfort or pain. In any case, it would be the same afterward, and above all, she is not willing for him to get dirty or hurt. No, she might not have even recognized it as dirt or injury.
 And then... the moment finally arrives.
 "Here it comes...."

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