Friday, February 3, 2023 @

Chapter 52, Part 2

Revision : bee shikigami => hummingbird shikigami

 The man has no choice but to object if I threaten him and he reluctantly drops his weapon.
 "...Okay. Climb up."
 The man starts climbing again as soon as I allow him to resume his ascent. Finally, sweating, the leader climbs up to where we are.
 "Haa~... haa~... Cough. Oh, I'm in your debt, Kizuki's Yun-shoku. Thank you."
 Coughing and out of breath, the man finishes the climb and thanks us.
 "Hahaha. I really thought it was the end of my life this time. But ye saved my life. Haaa... do you think you're trying to be merciful to me, you servant boy!!"
 "Huh!? Are you crazy...!?"
 The next moment, the man punched me, as he should have. I am slightly startled, but avoid it. This guy...!?
 "Y-you bast*rd...!? Are you serious in this situation!?"
 Killing me won't make things better, but maybe he should help us...
 "Cooperate!? You're so naive!! There are so many kappas out there. We'll need decoys to escape...!!"
 The leader yells as he grabs me and pushes me down. This guy... I bet he just sacrifice one of his own men.
 "That's right, Yun-shoku! They almost caught me! But I cut off the legs of two of my men!"
 With a grin, the man takes my spear and throws it to the ground, then starts to strangle me with his thick hands.
 "Ugh...!? You guy...!!?"
 "Hahaha, I didn't think you'd help me out! I've been fooling other people for a long time, but you're the most good-natured bastard of them all! Hahaha! Hahahaha!"
 The leader scoffs and laughs heartily.
 "You piece of sh*t...!"
 "I take that as a compliment! That's how I've been living my life! Ye're the one who's too naive! How can ye live like that, huh?"
 The leader of the gang declares as if I was choking. He boasts triumphantly and shouts like a fool. And then, for some reason, he spits out disgustedly.
 "You know, you've been on my nerves since the first time I saw you, with your strange, clear eyes for a servant. You really piss me off, you know that!!"
 "Ugh... Ugh...!?"
 While choking me, the man was about to drop me to the ground where kappa was waiting for me. I resist the man's stranglehold on me, trying not to fall to the ground, but gradually I start to lose consciousness due to the lack of oxygen. I regretted that I had made a mistake in helping him. Of course...
 "I had an insurance cover, you know...!!"
 The next moment, the hummingbird shikigami appears in front of him and scratches him on the face. The man is surprised at the unexpected attack. Seizing the opportunity, I kick the man. But the man is sprawled on his back and hit by one of the branches of a tree. Damn, you lucky son of a b*tch. He should have just fallen down...!
 "Ggh...!? S-shikigami!? When did you... but... I can't... Ugghh!?"
 He held my face, but the hateful words of the leader suddenly stopped.
 "What the...!?"
 I stare at the person in front of me. His body was shaking, his face was tense with astonishment, and his eyes were white. I was bewildered by his bizarre appearance, but I bit my tongue when I realized what he was.
 "Damn it, isn't it only a kappa...!?"
 Several spiders appeared from behind the head. Youkai, a huge spider about the size of a child, attached itself to the leader's body and crawled on him. It seemed that the paralyzing venom of its fangs had stabbed the head from behind, blocking its movement.
 "Ah... Ggh!? H-help m—...!?"
 The leader, who was still trying to get us to help him with a lisping tongue, but I did nothing. I didn't want to be betrayed twice, and more than that, I had someone to help.
 "Shirowakamaru! Watch your head!"
 "Huh...!? Wha!!?"
 "Hey, is this whole area a nest of them!?"
 Shirowakamaru looks up and screams. If I looked carefully, I could see many layers of translucent threads extending out from among the trees. And appearing from behind the leaves and branches were several baby spiders...!
 "...!? They ambushed us, didn't they!?"
 I noticed the spiders' youkai-like attitude after all these years. They were probably lying dormant until we came. Just like spiders in the wild. Spiders are starvation-proof, and they wait in silence for a long time until their prey is caught in their webs. They even masked their youkai energy.
 "Here they come!?"
 One by one, the baby spiders pounced on us from the branches of the trees. I cut them down with a small knife (kogatana) I had tucked away in my pocket. With the sound of cutting in the air, bodily fluids and the bodies of the spiders scatter...
 'Servant, behind you!'
 "Huh!? Shirowakamaru! Get back!"
 "Huh...!? What...!?"
 I pull Shirowakamaru up behind me. The enemy didn't come from above. Instead, the spider crawled from below and aimed at Shirowakamaru from behind. But then, I cut it down. D*mn, this foothold is limited...!
 But then, all of a sudden, a catastrophe came. As if aiming at me when I lost my posture, a white thread suddenly struck me from somewhere. It was a highly viscous, yet hard spider silk with youkai force. And appearing from the trees was a gigantic female spider with such a thread stretched out from her mouth.
 'Cluck, cluck, cluck!
 She stared at me with her eight emotionless eyes and clucked her jaws eerily, spitting more threads at me and restraining my body as I writhed and tried to resist. And then...
 I screamed in agony as a piercing pain shot up my spine. My whole body convulsed, and then I became dazed. My thoughts became blurred, and I could not move. Countless spiders appeared from nowhere and surrounded me.
 "Hey, are you all right!? Are you okay!? N-no...! Don't... don't leave me alone!!"
 Then, Shirowakamaru rushes toward me like a chestnut in the fire, though he is frightened. His face was obviously crying as he desperately clung to me. The expression of a child, frightened by loneliness, asking for help from his parents and siblings...
 "Idiot... Run away..."
 But then I realized something. Where is there any escape? Underneath the tree, kappas are crying out in frustration at having their prey snatched away from them.
 In other words, the situation was deadlocked. There was nothing I could do. And when I realize that, I bite my tongue in helplessness. Because that's all I can do.
 (It's so pathetic...)
 I wish I could have at least let Shirowakamaru go, but there is nothing I can do under the circumstances. And Shiro, how are the men doing? I hope they are doing well...
 "D*mn... I want to live..."
 In my darkened vision, all I could do was helplessly stare at the boy who was crying and sadly hugging me, and the spiders who were slowly surrounding us, spitting out their threads and entangling us together.
* * *
 Black smoke was rising. While a servant and a boy were entangled in spider threads in a corner of the forest, a storm of screams and cries was raging in the outer part of the camp of the raiding party not far from there.
 The area, which was mainly occupied by temporarily employed exorcists and sorcerers, along with some servants hired to do the cooking and washing, and some guards, had already turned into a hell.
 The swarm of kappa that had attacked from the forest rushed into the defensive position built with fences and reverse bushes, and quickly broke through it with their numbers, without worrying about their own injuries. Then, they attacked the mob, which was in the mood for an early victory.
 It was a complete surprise because they assumed that the surrounding area was secured... and that they had enough time to prepare at least for the attack. Then, before they could put on their armor or pick up their weapons, more than a third of them were swallowed by the sea of kappa. Those who barely managed to intercept them, however, their fate was not so different.
 Since a large-scale extermination attack using spiritual power is ineffective, the only option is to physically cut or beat them to death, and they are as numerous as a muddy stream. Even if they cut down two of them, they were jumped upon by as many as twelve monsters, and many of them were left alone.
 Those with the strength to resist, however, are still the best. But the laborer hired by this raiding party is nothing more than ordinary people. They had no choice but to run away and be overrun by the kappa.
 "D*mn it! What the hell is going on!? Why is this...!!!?"
 Scream the stray/defective exorcist as he cuts down kappa one after another with a single sword in the hands, without even time to put on their armor.
 All around this person is already hell. The tent is burning, the bonfire is down, the ground is littered with liquor bottles and weapons, and pots have been overturned and their contents smashed.
 The stray/defective exorcist avoids a kappa's thrust from behind and slits its throat with the tip of his sword. So far in the battle, it was known that the kappa's ferocity and vitality were such that cutting off its arms and legs and ripping its belly open would not be enough to kill it. Therefore, it should be killed instantly with a single blow to prevent a counterattack.
 "We can't stay here any longer! Pull back...!! Pull back!!"
 Another stray/defective exorcist shouted. Following this, the sword-wielding guy also tries to take refuge in a neighboring position where regular exorcists are stationed. Forcing the servant, who is struggling to defend himself, to become the bait.
 "Okay, just a little more... Hmm, what's that?"
 The sword-wielding guy spotted a figure at the entrance of the camp, which was also protected by a fence and a bramble. It was dressed in black with a bird-like hood... was it the Researcher group?
 "Hey, help me!! Kappa, they're...!!"
 The sword-wielding tried to call for help at the same time. But then, at the entrance of the camp, a few Researchers and others took out something. It was an iron box with a thick cord like a cow's intestines connected to it, and a tube-like the muzzle of a flintlock rifle was attached to the end of the cord.
 The next moment, a whirlpool of flame spewed from the end of the tube engulfed the kappa approaching from behind, and swallowed him... that was the last thing the stray/defective exorcist saw.
* * *
 "Well, there are more of them than I expected."
 The old man said this to himself as he stood on a ready-made watchtower at the camp where the regular exorcists were stationed. He looked around calmly at the horrific scene in front of him.
 The total number of kappa that attacked them must have been about 5,000. There must have been a group of kappa hiding somewhere in preparation for the poisonous gas. Or they may have been breeding... But there were more of them than expected.
 "You were right to place the decoys. It would have saved us a lot of trouble."
 Muttered an old exorcist of the Miyataka family, one of the three most prestigious families of exorcism in the northern part of the region. Yes, the number was unexpected. That was all there was to it.
 In a sense, this stray/defected exorcist leader's intuition had been right on the mark.
 The reason why the Takanomiya family had gathered a wide range of "stray/defected exorcists", especially those with bad behavior, was for this occasion. He paid a lot of money to hire them only for this purpose, to place them as decoys in the lower camps. By the way, he also wanted to take this opportunity to have them die together, as they were his business enemies and would make the exorcists look bad. And that is exactly what is going on right now.
 "...well, I think it's time to give the signal."
 "Yes, sir!"
 Following the instructions of the old exorcists, a servant of Miyataka gave the signal.
 A moment later, black-clad figures emerge from the hidden positions that had been cleverly disguised in various places around the camp... the Researcher group. They pointed their tubes in their hands at the crowd of kappa. And... the next moment, the flames of the fire stretch out like a rampaging dragon, twisting its body, burning down the monsters that had attacked the decoy by the dozens at once from a hundred paces away.
 "Oh. So that's the 'Imperial Hellfire'."
 The old exorcists of Miyataka could not help but exclaim in admiration, even though they understood that it was only a tool in the face of such power.
 The 'Imperial Hellfire', which was developed in the Western Empire and passed down to Fusō-kuni, was a so-called flamethrower that spewed out and ignited a column of flame by using a kind of pump that made use of changes in air pressure to synthesize pine resin, nitre, lime, and other materials.
 This weapon, which is infinitely similar to the 'Greek fire' in the previous life of a certain servant, was one of the secret weapons monopolized by the Imperial Court. Then, along with poison gas and spirit deficiency detonators, this weapon was deployed on a large scale in the age of great war when the absolute number of exorcists was insufficient, and was the trump card for the eradication of the youkai. Such an artificial flame burns the opponent with a high heat that cannot be extinguished even by water...

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