Monday, January 23, 2023 @

Chapter 46, Part 1

 In a corner of Kizuki's residence in Shinden-zukuri style, in a spacious room in the east wing of the residence, stood a girl.
 She had cleared out the entire eastern wing, which was originally partitioned on all four sides by wooden walls for meditation. There, she laid a rug on the floor and prepared for meditation by placing a Karabitsu (chinese chest) and a dagger (tantō) in front of her. Nearby her is a lighted candlestick, which illuminates the entire room.
 After a moment of silence, she removes her clothes. Without hesitation, she throws away all her clothes following gravity, and reveals her slender, delicate, white skin to the dark night. The sight of a beautiful girl standing without a stitch of clothing in a room with only candlelight was beyond sensuality and lust; it was a kind of godlike, even fantastic. A scholarly person might have compared her to the sun goddess of ancient times.
 Silently, she sits upright. Then she grabs a small knife (kogatana) that is placed in front of her.
 The blade of the knife shines in the dimly lit room. Then she smiles, understanding the meaning of the gruesome act she was about to perform. But she understood who and for what this horrific and terrible act was, and how precious it was, so she was happy to be able to do it.
 "Ugh... Hghh..."
 The knife is slowly thrust down... and she moans from the stimulation in her stomach and in her heart. Almost a gasp. However, it was not a sound of anguish from pain.
 "Ah...haa~! Ahaha!!"
 ...Rather, it was a cry of a female who was drowning in pleasure and laughing with delight.
 Sweat is pouring out of her white skin. Along with the horrifying sound of severed flesh, a fishy smell fills the air, and a sweet voice sounds out of place. The woman's face was obviously crumpled, distorted, and debauched, despite the extreme pain. And yet, her arms do what they are supposed to do, silently and solemnly. She gouges it out cleanly, vividly, and precisely, so as not to damage it. Extract the object.
 In the beginning, it didn't go well and she failed three times in a row... but now that she has had a lot of practice, she has gotten used to it, and within just one clean, flawless attempt, after retrieving it and placing it in the chest, Hina lets out a sigh of relief. She exhaled sweetly, holding her burning-hot belly and her heart.
 The next moment, her abdomen ignited. The small, dark room is filled with light.
 "Ah... it's no good. This is happening again. It's going to fire as soon as I'm weak."
 Hina muttered in some disappointment at the burning, "annihilating" crimson flame in her stomach.
 That's right. "Annihilate." It is a flame of "annihilation. It is a flame, not a fire. More precisely, concentrated spiritual power acts on reality in the form of flames, denying, falsifying, and transforming events by "burning" them. Scholars of independent capitals in the west, who have passed on advanced and systematized academic knowledge since the days of the late empire, would probably describe it as "deceiving the world by coating it with spiritual power".
 But such a detailed principle is not important for Hina. What is important is that this ability is triggered almost automatically when she is about to die, or when she dies. Thanks to this, she could not enjoy the afterglow of the feeling of accomplishment after the removal. It is a totally unattractive thing.
 "That's right. It's really not tasteful. Just when I'm thinking of him...!"
 It's a truly loathsome power. If she didn't have this power, she might not have been carried to Kizuki's house, and she might have ended up as a mere child of a concubine, without attracting anyone's attention. But then, it would have been much easier for her to meet him...
 And she didn't mind the pain. This is the price. It's love. An affection. Blood for him, pain for him, suffering for him. Then he can accept it willingly, and never hate it. She was proud of it, even loved it. And now, with this power...
 "But it's also true that I can help him because of this power. The world is a very strange place..."
 Hina pats the scarless spot where her heart beats on her skin and murmurs. Before she knew it, the wound was completely closed, and even the lost guts were replaced by new ones. Not a stain on her beautiful, white body... only the blood that had flowed from her chest, down her belly, through her navel, and into her groin, creating a red pool of blood on the fabric of the floor. If someone else had seen it, it would have been the most horrifying and at the same time sensational sight.
 "...Well. I'd better get this stuff out of here. Fresh is better for medicine."
 Hina muttered as she clutched the Karabitsu (chinese chest) that contained her heart with deep affection.
 "Ku...! Kukuku! Haha! Hahahaha!"
 And then she laughed. She laughed with a truly amused, pained, and exhilarated look on her face. Exuding an obvious sense of superiority.
 Indeed. It's funny. It's painful. It's exhilarating. However, it doesn't matter what the people around here are saying, what they are screaming, or what they are spouting, it doesn't matter. After all, they are worthless to her. They can't do anything to him. Only she... yes, only she can help him. Nothing could be more pleasant!
 "Yes. Only me... Only me can help him..."
 If anything, even this power that has robbed her of her daily life, her peace, her rest, and that she has always hated, she loves it now. It's like fate, isn't it? She has the power to protect him, to save him. Only her, not all the others!
 It was a wonderful truth. It's fate. It was inevitable. Truly bound by the red thread of destiny. Now, the dark-haired girl lifts her mouth, which has red streaks running down the edges, with conviction.
 "Hehe, ■■, just wait for me, okay? I'm going to save you. I'll get you out of this house. Yeah, don't worry. You said it yourself. Families help each other... right?"
 And then the two of us will live together, right? Somewhere in the country, in the middle of nowhere, plowing our fields, supporting each other, making a family, living quietly? Yes, just like that day when we talked and promised to leave this house together...
 "Ha! Haha! Hahaha! Hahahaha!!"
 Hina laughed hysterically. She laughed like a madman, like a maniac, like a triumphant person. She laughed as if she looked down upon, despised, and spat out everything that surrounded her and everything that surrounded him. Just laugh. A mocking laugh.
 "Ah~, I'm looking forward to it..."
 The sweet, ecstatic sound of her voice reverberated through the room. The girl's crimson eyes were darkened and clouded by lust.
* * *
 "...what's wrong?"
 "N-no... nothing. I just got a chill."
 "I think it must be that person."
 I responded to the suspicious and alarming words of the boy beside me with a brusque tone, as my body trembled with an indescribable and horrifying sensation without knowing the reason. Well... I don't want to discredit him too much, but did I make a mistake all of a sudden?
 Anyway, Shirowakamaru and I walk along the back of Kizuki's residence for a while until we reach the place.
 As I said before, the servants are just pawns for the exorcists when they need more numbers, like a litmus paper to be sent as a decoy or for observation, and ultimately consumable. And because of the danger of rebellion due to their poor environment, the system is designed to hinder their unity as much as possible. In other words, the system differentiates in treatment. Divide, then rule. Are they the British Empire?
 The lowest-ranking men without a post slept together in a crude tenement. The head of a squad lived in a detached house.
 As for the Yun-shoku (允職), their treatment became more or less luxurious. Like the head of the squad, they lived in a detached house, but the size of the house was much larger. It is about the same size as several shacks of ordinary peasants in a village.
 Even though there were no tatami mats, the futon mattresses and pillows were made of cotton, not straw, so they were soft and kept warm. The wages were more than ten times higher than in the days when they worked as servants, and they could prepare their own meals with the ingredients delivered to them. They are also allowed to have a caretaker, although only one.
 Of course, my treatment is more or less worse than that of other yun-shoku, but even so, compared to the rest of the household, except for Kizuki's family and retainers, I would say that I'm in the upper echelon. And the servants at the bottom would envy me.
 Still, against ordinary Kizuki exorcists, Yun-shoku is not so superior, depending on how he plays the game, and being the same low-ranking people, jealousy and envy is inevitable. In this way, it prevents Yun-shoku from rising up with his subordinates. Well, even if an uprising could take place, it is likely to be suppressed soon. Depending on the conditions, basically, Shisui alone can kill all the servants under Yun-shoku.
 "Here. Come in."
 "Ehh, excuse me!"
 Now then... is this my home? I open the door and invite in the boy who has been entrusted to my care.
 But the boy does not enter the house immediately, instead, he glances up at me with a silent look.
 He looks like a little girl. He had shoulder-length reddish brown hair, light-colored eyes, childishly fresh skin, and a slender frame. Dressed in a slightly bulky Suikan, it would be difficult to judge with certainty whether this guy was a boy or a girl at first glance.
 Shirowakamaru... this boy, who was sent away by a temple to reduce the mouths of poor farmers, is a lump of distrust of human beings in the game, and at times it even triggered the bad ending of the story through the sweet words of the youkai, the head of Kizuki, and that youth old hag.
 At the same time, he was also a valuable support person in the main character's camp if he succeeded in choosing the right route. If favorable ratings are raised, he even enters a rich R-18 scene with the main character, which is not for everyone. But because many players were tired of playing with the main heroine, they turned to him for healing, and he was even the subject of BL illustrations and novels on a certain site for illustration by "noble rotten" people.
 "What's the matter? We can't just stand here forever, can we?"
 "...I get it."
 He made no move to enter the house, so I told him so. Then the boy answered as if he had finally made up his mind and stepped into the house.
 "Ah, welcome back, Tomobe-sama. This footstep, is there someone visiting the house?"
 A blind girl who was knitting on a cushion just beside the soil embankment smiled at us with her eyes closed when she noticed our footsteps.
 "Eh...? Ah..."
 Perhaps because he was born and raised in a temple, the boy looked flustered when he was greeted by the woman as soon as he entered the house. It seems that he had not expected to be greeted in this way.
 (Can I use this...?)
 Thinking this inwardly, I reply to the girl, Mari, who greets me.
 "Ah. Mari, I'm back. My superior has given him to me. He's younger than you. So, be a good friend to him."
 "I see... I'm Mari. I'm looking forward to working with you."
 "Huh...? Y-yes..."
 The girl bows her head with her eyes closed, and the boy bows his head in a hurry, as if caught in the moment. It seems that the boy, who grew up in a temple, knows how to show courtesy.
 "Big bro, welcome back... Huh? Who is that little boy?"
 Then Magoroku, who was cooking, came to meet me and looked at the child I had brought with me with a doubtful expression.
 "I was ordered by Lord Shisui to take care of this child for a while. I'm sorry to ask so abruptly, but please bring enough dishes for four people for dinner. And please bring a tub of hot water and hand towels for wiping ourselves."
 "O-okay! Immediately!"
 Magoroku rushed to get ready as soon as I gave the order.
 The reason why Magoroku the miscellaneous laborer and his sister Mari are living in this house is for their own safety.
 In the game, I have seen glimpses about this, and as I have mentioned before, miscellaneous people have a sense of being the chosen people compared to other people. They are the least dangerous compared to the others, and they are easy to get close to because they take care of their master's family. Therefore, they have some privileges, and if they are good friends with the head family, they will be favored by the family. Some of them are educated. But because of this, they look down on other people.
 So what will happen if I throw a brother and a sister, who are just a nobody and from a discriminated class, into such a group... To be honest, I don't think anything good will happen.
 Especially the little sister is a problem. The big brother is still well-trained from his hard work, and the fact that he is employed by Gorilla-sama can be a check and balance. However, the little sister is only an accessory to the big brother. And if she is blind and cannot walk well... it is dangerous for her not to know who is doing what to her. In fact, she was harassed by someone pulling her hair or pushing her from behind a while after she came to this residence.
 So, as a Yun-shoku, I asked Gorilla-sama to make Magoroku my personal caretaker, and she agreed, and I also put his sister inside the house. Nobody would want to be my minder anyway, so it was just as well.
 So for the past year or so, I've had Magoroku do the main household chores such as cleaning, cooking, and laundry, while his sister has been doing relatively harmless, non-household chores such as folding laundry, washing groceries, and, lately, even weaving. All in all, the position of Yun-shoku is not so luxurious that I can just leave them there without any work. It's a far cry from my days as a lowly servant, but then again, being a lowly servant is better than being a slave...
 "Tomobe-sama, would you like me to wipe your body...?"
 As I was preparing to wipe my body by soaking a hand towel in the bathtub placed on an embankment, Mari, who came to me dragging her body on the floor, asked me hesitantly.
 I have learned in the past year or so that she is a girl who always asks me if there is anything she can do to help me, as she basically considers herself a burden who drags her brother down.
 (Or maybe it is because she is worried about her own position...)
 Well, this world is hard on the weak. If it was a crippled eye or a crippled leg like her, it would not be surprising if they were cut off from the community. Rather, it is extraordinary that she has been able to live to this day even though she is not from the upper class. That's how hard her brother worked to take care of her... 

Revision: The leader of servants is now referred to as "Yun-shoku". 
Yun-shoku: the person in charge of giving permission or approval for actions taken by lower-ranked personnel (servants). 

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