Monday, January 23, 2023 @

Chapter 46, Part 2

 "No, it's okay. You can rest there... no, wait."
 I realize this before I undress and head for Shirowakamaru's place.
 "Wh-what is it...?"
 "You don't have to be so careful. I'm just going to have Mari there to help you."
 I pull Shirowakamaru, who was trying to take off his Suikan with wrinkles on it and take him to Mari. Then I grabbed Mari's wrist and made her grab the sleeves of Shirowakamaru's clothes.
 "Take them off carefully. They were probably expensive. And don't hurt them too much. And wipe them off for me, will you?"
 "I understand, Tomobe-sama."
 "Huh...? What are you... Whoa!?"
 The boy was puzzled by the conversation between me and Mari. But the next moment, he was stripped of his clothes by Mari with such skill that I couldn't believe that she was really blind.
 "Whoa! No, stop...!!?"
 "Hey, don't be too rough, okay? He's not a strong man, you know. A guest is a guest."
 After giving Shirowakamaru a small poke on his head, I undress myself at a little distance from him and start to wipe my body with a hand towel soaked in hot water. As I am not in a position to have the luxury of taking a bath every day, I have no choice but to wipe sweat, dust, etc. off my body with this towel.
 (The more important problem is him...)
 I take off my mask and clothes, and glance in the boy's direction while wiping myself. I see a boy who is wriggling and Mari who is wiping his body. Compared to the original game, he does not go on a rampage, probably because his opponent is a weak woman. If it had been me, I would have been injured.
 Because of his condition and character, it is hard to make him a team member, but I would like to have him on the team of the main character, because of his supportive skills and abilities. With only about a year left until the start of the original story, this is an opportunity that seems to have come to me out of the blue, but it is convenient at this time. I would like to correct his character as much as possible while I can. In this sense, I may have been lucky, even though I was suddenly entrusted with this opportunity.
 Now, after wiping off his body, Shirowakamaru changes into his clothes. Shirowakamaru's clothes are the same as the ones I used to wear when I was training to be a servant. I have washed them, so they are not soiled... but I should charge him for the clothes at a later date, I suppose.
 After changing, dinner is finally served. The food is a porridge made of white rice and brown rice cooked with grains and radish leaves. The reason for making porridge is not only to increase the bulk of the rice but also to reheat the rice cooked in the morning. After all, Yun-shoku did not have the time or firewood to cook a pot for each meal as the Kizuki and noble feudal lords (daimyo) did. However, this was still an unparalleled treatment compared to my days in the lower ranks.
 The soup is miso soup with tofu and wild vegetables such as Japanese butterbur sprouts that have sprouted in the spring. As side dishes, there were bamboo shoots from the bamboo grove that had begun to grow in spring, simmered daikon radish and stir-fried soy sauce, and pickled daikon and Japanese cabbage, which had been picked last winter.
 "There is a loquat for the sweetness, so please enjoy it after your meal."
 "Y-yeah. I received it from the Princess. She said she had some left over."
 "Then, please, eat it later."
 According to the story, some of the gifts from the Tachibana Trading Company to Gorilla-sama flowed further. Loquat is a fruit of the warm southern region. And at this time of year, it was probably the first of its kind. They must have been expensive because of the transportation costs. To give such a thing away because there were too many... as usual, Gorilla-sama is indifferent to the value of things.
 "I know. But shall we all share it after dinner?"
 "No, that's..."
 "Don't be shy. Fresh fruits will soon get wasted. It's best to eat them quickly."
 Magoroku seemed to have assumed that I would eat it by myself, so I said so and pushed through my opinion. Well, if I'm too extravagant alone, I'll be hated by the people around me. Especially in front of the kids in my charge this time, it's not good for my favorability.
 "...Then, I'll introduce again. This is Shirowakamaru, whom Lord Shisui has entrusted to my care. This is Magoroku, and this is Mari. Please remember each other's names at least."
 "Huh!? Uh, yes..."
 After the meal for four people was prepared, I sat down on the cushion and began to speak. The boy, who had been staring at the rice, seems to have been hungry, and he gets flustered as if caught off-guard. Despite his reaction, he immediately straightens his posture and looks at the two people in front of him.
 "...I am Shirowakamaru. Please take care of me for a while."
 Then Shirowakamaru answered in a mumbled way, looking up at me, as if he was wary of me. Even so, he was able to reply properly, which should indicate that he was well-disciplined.
 "Yeah. I'm Magoroku, who is doing some chores for my master here. You say we're taking care of him, but how should I treat the little boy here?"
 "Hmm? Well... a servant or a household? It seems that Lord Shisui hasn't made up his mind yet. Well, I guess we can only call him a guest."
 "I see..."
 Magoroku scratched his head in a somewhat troublesome manner. Well, a servant is one thing, but a householder is superior. It's understandable that he's troubled about how to treat him. I'm even a little trouble myself.
 "Big brother (Onii-sama)..."
 "Hmm? Ah... I'm sorry. As I'm sure you heard from my master earlier, this is Mari. She's my sister."
 "Hello, Shirowakamaru-san. My name is Mari. Unfortunately, I have bad eyesight and a limp, so I may cause you trouble. Please forgive me."
 Shirowakamaru again replies distantly and awkwardly to Mari who introduces herself with a kind smile on her face while keeping her eyes closed. Well, he had just been undressed and wiped by the girl in front of him. Even if it is not with a man, he might be conscious of the situation. Or maybe he'll be aware of it in a different way because he's with a woman.
 "Oh, I forgot to tell you my name, too. I'm Tomobe, serving Kizuki's family as a Yun-shoku. I'm sure it's a little late for that, but I've been entrusted with your custody. I know you have a lot on your mind, but I want you to understand that first."
 Then, though I hate to be so late, I introduce myself. At the same time, I make him aware of his situation in a roundabout way.
 "...I get it. You mean, if I disobey you, I get skipped meals?"
 "I guess that's part of it."
 The boy shoots me a look that is a mixture of tension, fear, caution, repulsion... a complex feeling, mingled with backward feelings without exception. Perhaps sensing something unusual in the silence that follows, Magoroku looks at me and Shirowakamaru with a flustered look. The air was filled with a sense of fear...
 What ended it was the sound of a stomach rumbling. For a moment, a silly atmosphere prevailed.
 "Oh? That sound, it's not from my brother or Tomobe-sama, is it? Then..."
 Mari, who has good hearing instead of being blind, immediately recognized that the sound was something she had never heard before. She then looked in the direction of the sound.
 The boy only blushed and turned his head down when Mari called out to him. The way his body trembled in shame was somehow adorable.
 "Well, let's put the details aside and have dinner now, shall we?"
 I declared nonchalantly, and the boy beside me agreed with me with a voice that sounded like it was about to disappear.
* * *
 "I've heard about it. I hear things are getting very strange again, aren't they?"
 On the next day, I was sitting on the porch, and a pleasant, taunting voice came from behind the sliding door. The voice was beautiful, like the tinkling of a bell.
 "There is a child entrusted to me by Lord Shisui. Have this information spread already?"
 "I'm a quick listener. Especially when it comes to you."
 Gorilla-sama says like a mischievous child. At the same time, the sound of a kimono falling to the floor is heard through the shoji (sliding door). If I look through the screen, I can see the shadow of a person on the other side of the shoji. The rich curves of the body, which are clearly visible through the shoji, are somehow seductive.
 Especially her breast seems to have grown so much that it is almost the same as in the original game. It seemed that she was in the process of changing her clothes.
 Well, that's all for now.
 "Then, may I ask why you called me here?"
 "Don't be so pushy, okay? If you want to be a nobleman, you have to follow the princess's talk, even if it takes a long time."
 "What do you want from a servant?"
 I reply with a hint of exasperation in my voice. It's true that this little girl makes excessive demands of others in an abusive manner, similar to the way she did in the original game.
 "You should be more precise in your expression. You're a Yun-shoku, not a servant, right?"
 "...I understand."
 No, I'm a servant anyway.
 To be frank, Yun-shoku is certainly a higher rank among servants, but they are still in charge of the field team. Although they are expected to have skills and practical knowledge, they are not expected to be well-educated. I wish I could ask the nobles who send letters from the capital to provide for my lady's needs. But no, maybe they are just harassing me.
 "I appreciate your straightforward reply. I like men who don't make excuses like that, you know? And, what was it? Oh, yes, yes. The reason I called you here? I had a meeting the other day, and I have a job for you. Before that, Shiro."
 A panicked reply echoes from behind the shoji. It's the voice of a child.
 "Give him the medicine bag over there. It's freshly made. Take it with tears in your eyes."
 I answer with a deeper bow. Yeah, I'd cry about that, actually. It's a life-threatening situation, no kidding.
 "Here, this is the medicine bag. Please accept it."
 The shoji is opened slightly and a tray supported by a girl's thin white arm is presented. Sitting on the tray is a cloth bag, a medicine bag made of crepe silk and brightly decorated with gold and silver threads. This alone would cost at least one ryo.
 "I humbly beg your pardon."
 I accept the medicine bag from the tray with my head bowed. Just before accepting it, I glanced over and saw the face of a girl in a white fox coat, her face tense with the strain of handling an expensive item. It seemed to me that Shiro had lost some of her childishness over the past year or so. Somehow I thought that children grow up so fast.
 "It's going to be a little while, so I'll give it to you now. Don't lose it, okay?"
 "Hmm, it's a waste of effort."
 That's right, because if I lose it, it's over. But still, she's going to give it to me when it hasn't been a month yet... which means that the request will take at least a month to complete.
 As I speculate on this new assignment, I hear the sound of a shoji (paper sliding door) opening. With the words, "Raise your head," I recognize the unusual appearance of my gorilla-like master.
 "...Are those exotic clothes there?"
 "...You don't react very well, huh? You should have been a little more overtly flirtatious. I'm sorry, but you lose points again."
 "I like it, I wish I could wear it."
 Gorilla-sama with a cold smile on her face was dressed differently from her usual kimono-like attire.
 In my previous life... she was dressed like a Tang hanfu, or in this world, she was dressed in a continental style. The overall fabric was thin and loose, light cherry color, with a skirt-like hem. The fan was made of peacock feathers, probably from a tropical country, and was wrapped around a thin silk robe of feathers.
 ...Yes, I have seen this before. This is a limited costume that was created for a collaboration with a certain social game.
 "I think it's a good outfit for the approaching summer season."
 "Thank you for your as-usual boring reply. But I'm very disappointed in your expected words."
 I tried to give her a reasonable answer, but she just laughed at me. I don't get it.
 "It was a gift from the girl from the Tachibana Trading Company. It was almost summer, so I guess she wanted to give me a change of clothes. But I'll leave the gift with you before I ask you to show your face to her."
 "A messenger, you mean? I'd be happy to be an escort, but I don't know enough about etiquette to be an emissary myself."
 "Don't worry. I can teach you that much. but with merchants, there's no need for such detailed manners."
 To tell the truth, I wanted to decline the offer because it would be too much trouble, but I was sure that even if I tried to offer my opinion, it would be quickly rejected, so I gave up and decided to accept the offer. It seemed that the power harassment from my boss was the same even after I got into the Yun-shoku position.
 "...Then, may I ask what is my mission?"
 After a pause, Aoi laughed with her mouth hanging open in response to my question. She laughed in a pleasant, lecherous way. At this point, I was convinced that the contents of the request were of a decent kind.
 "I've heard that a certain group of youkai has recently been causing a lot of damage in the mountain villages in the east. In the near future, the surrounding exorcist houses are going to get together to exterminate them all at once, and they're going to send an advance team to the area. You are the second in command."
 The second-in-command of the advance team, by itself, is not a big deal... but to have not only Kizuki but several exorcists' houses get together and beat them up? Gorilla-sama's words were light, but the content was more than serious enough. Then, the other party is not just some nameless youkai.
 "is it a certain youkai?"
 "Yes. The old folks at the meeting were puzzled. It's something rarely seen here in the north, let alone in the south. Perhaps the stray propagated on its own."
 Gorilla-sama boasted while fanning her face with a fan. From that information, I already had a tight look on my face under my mask. A bad premonition was swirling in my mind.
 "Well, as I recall, the youkai's name is Kappa.... Or should I call it Yamawaro[1] since it's hiding in the mountains? That's why, you'd better work hard."
 The name of "youkai" that Aoi said aloofly, was the most troublesome, cunning, and cruel one among all the youkai in this world...

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