Thursday, February 2, 2023 @

Chapter 51, Part 1

Note: I split the chapter into 3 parts.

 Everywhere I looked was an endless white space.
 "... it looks familiar."
 I stood there in a space so white that I had no idea how far it extended, and I frowned in displeasure. I definitely recognized this space. The problem was that I had forgotten everything about my previous time here until just a few minutes ago...
 "Dreams are easy to forget... but that's not why you're here, is it?"
 I ask the being that stands behind me as I turn around.
 There is a figure with lustrous green hair that comes into my view.
 At first glance, I almost let my guard down, forgetting everything that had happened in the last event. It is probably because of her power that is too strong even though it is only a remnant from the main body that my instincts force me to recognize it as my mother, even though she does not even look like her.
 And now, this monster from the age of the gods, who is so abominable, horrifying, and evil, smiles a big smile that seems to have nothing but good intentions, as if she cares about me. A smile filled with love. ...But then again, I'd like to hit her hard.
 "Now then... this is another messy one."
 It seems that I'm back in the mental space where the youkai mother's blood is waiting for me. Is it just harassment that I can hardly remember the last time until I come here again? Or what...
 "Heh-heh, this is for your sake, too, you know? You don't want others to look into your memory too much, do you?"
 "But what's the point if you're watching me?"
 Maybe she is trying to make me feel better in case I am being watched, but I am not happy about it because she is the source of the problem in the first place. I wish she would get out of my head as soon as possible. Or is there a reason? Does she think she's an exception because she's acting as my mother?
 "So what is it? It's weird of you to bring me here after such a long time... after having no contact with you before."
 Rather, I'd hoped we'd never meet again, but...
 "Oh? Isn't it natural? My sweet, sweet child is in danger from a stranger. As a mother, it's my duty to watch over my child's struggle, and when the burden is heavy like this, it's only natural for me to help, isn't it?"
 "What are you talking about...? Wait, dangerous?"
 The youkai mother smiles with a lively, good-natured smile. However, her words shock me and make me feel uncomfortable.
 "...You're a funny one, aren't you? Everything that lives is a brat to you. Is it wrong to put a hierarchy on children?"
 I spit sarcastically and ask at the same time. She talks as if she loves "children," but, to her, insects, humans, and youkai are all treated as equals. Everything is equal.
 And, perhaps because of her nature as a Goddess of the Earth, she does not deny the food chain and the survival of the fittest, even though she talks about love. Therefore, even if a person squashes an insect or a youkai eats a person, she understands and approves of it to the same extent. It is only a quarrel between siblings. It is doubtful that she even recognizes every individual. And the problem is...
 (The way this monster is talking about "the heavy burden," and the way she talks doesn't make one feel good about the situation... what's the point?)
 I have a bad feeling about the existence of this crazy person who doesn't show any hostility even to a human being who has a Dagger (tantō) stuck in her face. And it is proved in the next moment.
 "Oh, you know, because isn't that right? That person is not my little boy. Rather, eating my little kids without a second thought... is really disgusting."
 (...!!? I see, this is quite troublesome...)
 I bit my tongue and understood the meaning of youkai mother's hostile words.
 If the youkai mother, who treats everything as her own child, is sure that the child is not hers, their being is limited.
 That is to say, she is a high-ranking monster who controls a concept that has existed since the age of the gods. Of course, as youkai-mother herself has fallen into ruin, she would have been transformed from existence as a deity and become a mere monster.
 In fact, the youkai in this world are just like those in the modern world, especially the highest-ranking ones, and not a small number of them are "godless".
 In actual monotheism, the incorporation of not a few polytheistic (belief in multiple deities) and traditions into the system as demons, angels, and miracles is only one such example. Similar examples can be found even in polytheism. There is no shortage of cases in which a former god has become a horrifying and unholy monster as a result of the downgrading of the deity worshipped by a community that was originally an enemy or the alteration of the traditions passed down through the ages.
 And this cultural fact is also emphasized in "Firefly of the Dark Night (Yamiyo no Hotaru)," which is known for its incorporation of real cultural and historical elements. In fact, it is more serious than in my previous world. Therefore, the shortest way to kill the most conceptual gods is to reduce them to killable youkai, no matter how difficult it is to kill them.
 "Hey, does that mean..!!?"
 I try to say the next words, but I collapse to my knees and groan in agony. This pain was something I had experienced before. In other words...
 "Oh dear, I told you before. 'Getting too excited speeds up the process.' It doesn't bother me, but it bothers you, doesn't it, my boy?"
 Youkai's mother looks at me as if I were a naughty child, watching me suffer as my body is transformed into various parts, battered and bruised. Her face was pure trouble, without a shred of a sense of danger or malice.
 I had been trying to be as calm as possible since I came to this white space again, but... it seems that things do not go well when it comes to the level of unconsciousness. If I understand what youkai mother said, it is almost impossible to be calm from the bottom of my heart.
 "Gh... ghhh!? D-don't talk... nonsense! I'd rather you wake me up right now!!"
 I don't need to tell you how important youkai mother's words are. I had to wake up and do something as soon as possible to face the coming crisis.
 "Hehehe, why are you in such a hurry? You don't have to be like that. The reason I invited you here in the first place is to help you, you know?"
 With a smile, she sits down beside me in agony and pats my head, which is already slightly transforming into a skeleton. My instincts are aroused by the sweet sensation, but I try my best to hold back my rationality from melting away.
 "D*mn you, you cunning b*tch...!! Tsk... isn't that what you wanted from the beginning!!?"
 She must have expected me to suffer like this. And her "help" is always convenient for her, but...
 "Well, I'm sorry to say that you must wake up. However, I'm sure you'll forget what happened here, but don't worry. ...When the time comes, your memory will come back and your blood will wake up, okay?"
 "F*ck you...!!"
 I spit out to the monster for the last time, as if shouting a curse, in my shaky, broken, dazed vision...
 "Oh, you're awake!? I am glad...!!"
 When I opened my heavy eyelids and woke up, the first thing I saw was the white fox girl looking down at me. I felt relieved and patted my chest.
 "Ah... Ggh... Wh-what happened to... here, huh?"
 I move my head and look around. This place... a tent, huh? There's a tatami mat under me, covered with a blanket, and I'm lying there, drenched in sweat.
 "M-more importantly! Please drink this quickly!!"
 What was offered to me was a bowl. The bowl was reddish-black in color and emitted a strong smell, which made me frown. But... instinctively I knew I should drink it up.
 I picked up the bowl and poured it down my throat in one gulp. The bitter taste, the taste of iron, and the fishy smell irritate my tongue and nostrils, as if I'm going to vomit. But I endure it all and pour the contents of the bowl into my stomach.
 "Ugh... Ghh! Blarg... Gulpp!!?"
 My stimulated stomach almost made the contents flow back, but I forcibly stopped it and drank it down again. Ironically, the sourness of the stomach acid helped me out in this case. After all, the taste of the stomach acid was still better than the contents of the bowl.
 "Haa~... Haa~... what happened to me?"
 I asked after taking a deep breath like an acid sufferer. It was a very vague question.
 "Well, when I visited you in your tent, Tomobe-san was having a nightmare... and, well, the blood vessels in your skin were protruding and twitching..."
 To my question, which I think is inappropriate, the half-youkai girl replies with a complement of meaning.
 The explanation is as follows. After cleaning up the kappa, I was further engaged in post-processing paperwork, etc., and then I was lying down in my tent to take a rest. But when Shiro came in to do some chores, she saw that I had a terrible nightmare. And from the looks of it, I guessed that the blood of the parasite that had been inside me was activated...
 "I-I tried to wake you up several times, but you didn't seem to regain consciousness... so I took the liberty of borrowing a medicine from your medicine bag and dissolving it in water and giving it to you to drink..."
 "Just in time to wake up, I see."
 I let out a small sigh, holding my aching head. She's very clever, she must have been told that before she woke up, right? Indeed, that's why Gorilla-sama sent this kid along with us. She's an emergency responder, I guess.
 "Ah... I'm sorry. I took your medicine without your permission..."
 Shiro apologizes apologetically, holding the medicine bag in her small hands.
 "...No, I'm grateful. You saved my life. Fortunately, there is one more medicine left."
 The question is why youkai-ization has suddenly started to progress when it should have been suppressed for a few more days, but... Sh*t, I think I'm forgetting something important.
 "I-I see..."
 Shiro exhales in relief and relaxes. And at the same time, her eyes become moist as if a thread of tension has been broken.
 "...uh, thank goodness. You know, when I came to the tent, you were moaning very painfully, so I was very anxious... about what might have happened."
 Her trembling voice made me turn my eyes to her unintentionally. A young girl was trying to wipe away her tears and snot with the hem of her kimono. Her fox ears and tail, covered in white fur, were wilting as if to show her emotions. It made me feel both adorable and guilty at the same time.
 (I bet she was worried about being brought to a place like this.)
 Even though there was some power harassment, gorilla-sama had been by her side for a long time. It could be said that she was under her protection. But she was sent to such a dangerous place by herself. So, it must have been quite uneasy for her to be alone in such a dangerous place with so many strangers, and she must have felt at ease, though I don't mean to be conceited, when I was there, with whom she had relations comparatively more often. In such a situation, I was writhing in my tent. It is not difficult to imagine that she must have been scared to her heart's content.
 I gently patted the head of the child in front of me because she reminded me of my sister. She was energetic, good-natured, spoiled, and a crybaby, a sister I would never see again in this life... I used to pat her head to calm her down when she was fighting with our second and third siblings and crying for my help.
 "Ugh, uuuu... it's a little embarrassing..."
 Shiro moaned with teary eyes as I patted her head, and looked embarrassed.
 "Indeed. I've been thinking that it's not reasonable to pat someone's head so easily. I'll stop it..."
 "No, don't stop it..."
 I tried to pull my hand away, but she grabbed my hand tightly and forced me to put it on her head. Then, the girl scrubbed and pressed her head against my arm.
 "Hey, your hair's getting ruffled, you know?"
 "Then pat it gently. I was really worried about you. Please reassure me."
 Shiro demands, sniffling as if she's sulking. Seeing her like that reminds me of her character in the original game. I remembered that she was a spoiled child in the original game, too.
 She never knew her father's face, and her mother is only a long time ago in her memory. She may not have disliked the black fox who was her master and sister, but she was rather demanding, and she may have been frustrated because of that. Come to think of it, even in the original story, she seems to have been somewhat childish in some parts of her arrogant and irreverent behavior since she was Kitsuri-shiroki.
 "...Haa~, I can't help it."
 I accepted her request with a wry smile. As gently as possible, I patted her hair calmly.
 Shyly, but pleasantly, Shiro was in a good mood. It was obvious from her wagging white foxtail that this was not a typical youkai performance.
 'What are you fascinated with? Are you a pervert?'
 But then, the granddaughter of Matsushige said a cold word in my ear, perhaps because of her half-youkai status, or perhaps because of her age in appearance. Stop it! Don't look at me with such cold, dusty eyes.
 'You're a lucky man in a strange way as usual. If that fox girl hadn't taken proper care of you, I would have had this shikigami putting pills in your mouth and into your stomach.'
 Since I am unconscious, it has to be liquid food to pass through my throat, but since the shikigami can't process it, she is forcing it to go straight to my stomach. In that case, I would have probably suffered a lot. Just imagining it is horrifying.
 "Hahaha...... Uh, by the way... it sounds like it was bad... But my clothes are soaking wet with sweat."
 I mutter to myself as I touch my linen clothes. To be honest, I was quite uncomfortable.
 "I-I have a bucket of water and a hand towel ready!"
 With these words, Shiro frantically brings a bucket of water that had been left in the corner of the tent. She is well-prepared... or rather, it seems that this is the reason she came here in the first place.
 "I see. Then, I guess I'll have to use it, then, won't I?"
 I take off my clothes and strip naked. Then I wipe the sweat from my hands with a hand towel soaked in water that Shiro had given me.
 "I think there's a spare change of clothes in that box over there. I'm sorry, but could you bring them to me?"
 "I understand. I'll take what you've taken off, too. Don't worry. I'll wash them, too."
 "Ah, I'm sorry."
 With that, I held out the clothes I had taken off, and the half-youkai girl took them while holding them close to her chest.
 "Huff~... hmm? What's wrong?"
 "Ah, nothing..."
 It was only after standing for a little while that I noticed that Shiro was still standing there, holding my clothes. When I gave her a quizzical look, she shifted her gaze to the side as if in a panic.
 "No... Well, I was just wondering how well you work out..."
 I glance at my own body at her words. I don't mean to be smug, but my body is definitely toned with muscles.
 "Does it look good?"
 "Wha... no, it's not!?"
 "Hahaha, I'm just kidding."
 When I make a rather unfunny joke, Shiro gets flustered and denies it desperately. It's very nice to make fun of her.
 "Uuuu... Tomobe-san!"
 "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, please forgive me."
 The girl is sulking with her cheeks slightly puffed out. I apologize to her with a wry smile. This was a prank because there are only a few people to whom I can make light remarks like this.
 "Okay, okay. Well, as an apology, would you like to touch it? I've just finished wiping off the sweat."

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