Friday, February 17, 2023 @

Chapter 58, Part 2

 "Huh...!? That's not good! Get away from here!"
 Ayaka shouted to the servants of the same lord who were standing beside her, and hurriedly produced a glowing arrow and shot it. However, although the light projectile purifies a part of the poisonous breath, the light is immediately swallowed up and swept away.
 "Khh, not yet...!"
 She generates and shoots two or three bullets with all the spiritual power remaining in her body. But it's still not enough.
 "You're kidding...!?"
 Ayaka mutters involuntarily. Poisonous breath is rushing down to fill the air in front of her. Unlike the previous ones, this poisonous breath was more focused on neutralizing the spiritual power than on killing. In other words, it was a characteristic poison produced by the tiger wolf raccoon in its belly to neutralize Ayaka's arrow. Of course, the poison was powerful enough to kill a person in the cave even though its killing power was reduced.
 "Oh, no, here it comes...!"
 "Lady Ayaka, please pull back...!"
 The servants who had been supporting her also turned around in a panic and began to run... but Ayaka understood that it was futile. Within ten or less, the poisonous breath would engulf them and reap their lives.
 Yes, if things continue as they are.
 "Well, I don't think I can allow you to do that, okay?"
 The next moment, the fire that spreads like a tsunami engulfs the poisonous atmosphere in an instant and burns it away. Ayaka is stunned for a moment, but immediately turns around as if coming back to herself. She looks at the person who has just performed a spiritual art in front of her.
 "I'm here to protect you and this is what happens. Ayaka, you are not so good at getting things around, are you? Why don't you just run away?"
 The owner of the voice emerges from the darkness with a sword on his shoulder. The calamity youkai, who faced him, roars. The youkai recognizes the new exorcist as superior to the woman it has just fought.
 "You are...."
 "Well, well, it looks like you're getting deeper than I thought. Good job. But well, I'll take care of the rest. So you all took care of the little fish in the back."
 He orders lightly to the servants who are surprised at the identity of the reinforcements. With a fierce grin on his face. Behind him, the spider youkai monsters that had been trying to block the retreat of the servants were all cut down, their corpses exposed.
 "Well, let's get this over with. Before the old lady gets eaten up back there, right?"
 The exorcist, Kizuki Tohya boasted as he played with his sword, twirling it around and around.
* * *
 "Well, it's good that I found it... but it's not that I didn't expect it to be troublesome."
 I muttered, covering one eye with my palm as I leaned back against a rocky wall in a corner of the cave to limit the direction to be on the lookout. Of course, I was not doing this for the sake of appearances.
 Right now, I share my vision with the shikigami... and in my view is the target person.
 "D*mn, I knew it. ...No, is he lucky to be alive? Maybe he's lucky."
 I was tongue-tied at the sight I saw through the view of the rat shikigami hiding behind a rock after sneaking into the innermost part of the den.
 There was a dying hidden group member, apparently pinned to the wall with spider silk threads. Fifty paces away from there is a huge jade pillar... through which I can sense a spiritual atmosphere so thick that I almost feel nauseous. There is also a disfigured man kneeling beside him, as if he had undergone surgery. The back of his head had been shaved off, and what looked like wires were connected to a jade pillar from him.
 ...Perhaps that was the catalyst. Alas, it is no good. His brain is physically removed and forced to live by a technique to prevent him from thinking so that he can't resist. What a bad taste...
 "Even if I look at it this way, it's just a piece of meat with a life force. It would be more merciful to kill him..."
 At the same time, I remember one of the leaders of the "Youkai Salvation Organization". That monster who hid in the imperial court and had a deep knowledge of spiritual arts might have been involved in this case. I don't want to run into that guy if I can ...But thanks to that mad goddess, that guy might take an interest in my body.
 "Well, all that's left is... Sh*t, I don't know where the watchman is from here. But what's with that little brat?"
 After taking a glance at the surroundings from the shikigami, I narrow my eyes at the figure leaning on one of the rocks and crossing her legs.
 Slender and pale, with fresh and elastic skin, she looked like a child. A little girl who may or may not have reached the age of 10, and whose face somehow gives me a sense of déjà vu.
 However, it is impossible for an ordinary girl to be in such a place, and moreover, it is impossible to feel anything but a sense of caution when looking at her pure white cloth radiating divine energy, which is the only thing she wears on her body. Even through the shikigami, I can tell even if it is my first time seeing her. I see, she's the Tsuchigumo. I'm sure of it. Well, in the original story and other media, she was only described as a giant spider... but she can take human form?
 ...I mean, is she really wearing only a piece of cloth? It's quite, well, quite a daring outfit. If she shifted her legs a little, I'd be able to see a lot.
 "Well, there are many people in this world who can't be judged by their appearance. ...Anyway, what should I do now, huh!?"
 I made a light remark to cover up my fear, and the next moment, through the Shikigami, my eyes met the girl's. And when I noticed it, the girl had already seen me. And by the time I realized it, the girl already had a bewitching, seductive, and ruthless expression on her face... a second later, the image sent from the Shikigami turned black and cut off.
 "This is not good..."
 Quickly, I leaped away from the scene, which was the best decision I could have made.
 A moment later, the wall where I had just been was blown away. Countless pieces of debris hit the area around me, and a cloud of dust blocked my vision.
 "...!? How quickly did you locate me!!?"
 "Can you afford to look away, monkey?"
 While I'm still jumping in the air and grumbling to myself about the devastation I've just experienced, a voice calls out from right above me. I quickly turned my head to see a girl with grotesque spider legs on her back, reminiscent of those of a recluse spider, looking down at me. The golden eyes of the creature narrowed and a smirk appeared on her face. Spinning around, her thin, white human legs came down on my feet. Of course, a direct hit would result in the loss of half of my body and instant death.
 I avoided the kick drop by catching the momentum with the hilt of my spear. To be more precise, I catch the shockwave with my spear and blow myself away by using the principle of circular motion and leverage. This gives me rapid acceleration, and I can also cut through the pursuit attack by the spider legs that the girl has grown on her back.
 Then, I prevent my body from being slammed into the approaching rocky ceiling by standing on the hilt of my spear and land on the ground according to gravity. Of course, just before landing on the ground, I kill my momentum with the spear. Free-falling could break my legs.
 "Well, you're quite a juggling monkey this time, aren't you? And who are you...?"
 The creature, which supports herself on the ground with eight spider-legs sprouting from her back and shakes her temporary body in the air like a puppet doll, squints at me when she sees me once again.
 "Hmm? Are you... the one that blue demon and the others were talking about?"
 The ground spider frowns and puts her small palm to her mouth, as if in a bad mood, while checking my face. On the other hand, just when I was ready to start a gruesome killing spree, this unexpected reaction made me tilt my head back, not really understanding what was being said.
 "What a trouble, I've chosen you out of all the others... but I can't kill you... no, wait... You, show me your spear."
 The Tsuchigumo, who had been muttering to herself, noticed the spear I was holding and ordered me to show it to her arrogantly. As for me, I had no chance to attack him, no chance to run away, and no chance to move from the spot.
 As a result, the spider was able to fully appreciate the spear I was holding, as she herself had ordered...
 "Oh, this spear is that demon's..."
 "...? What are you talking about?"
 Looking at the spear carefully, the spider's face suddenly breaks into a smile of amusement. It was not a very pleasant smile to the observer, let alone to me. And somehow... I clearly had a bad premonition. And that premonition came true.
 "Well, there was a demon who told me not to touch you. But I thought I'd just have to bite your hands and feet off..."
 "Your spear reeks of that demon. It's the smell that demons give off when they're excited."
 "That's why I'm going to retract my previous statement."
 "What do you mean?"
 "Well. That means I won't have to be so merciless anymore. Prepare yourself, you monkey."
 "...Hey, do you mean that pheromone!!?"
 The next moment I threw the spear as if I was throwing away something half-dirty. That demonnnn!!!!??
 "...Oh!!!? I was surprised to see you throw away the spear at this moment!"
 "I'm sorry, I missed!!?"
 Perhaps the impulsive throwing of the spear was unexpected, the spider panics and leaps against the wall with her limbs growing out of her back, declaring so. It was a compliment to my unexpected action, but it was not a calculated one. On the contrary, she screamed with regret after I threw it.
 "Anyway, let's go, shall we?"
 Four spider legs leap in front of me, and the remaining four legs claw at me. The spider legs attack me from above, or from the side, or from diagonally, in an irregular manner, and I avoid each and every one of them with a single layer of paper. No, it is not. My clothes were torn off, and my skin was covered with shallow scratches one after another. Still, it was better that I had not been hit directly. The claw I had dodged was crushing the rock deeply as it dug into the ground of the cave.
 "D*mn...!? So fast..."
 The speed at which the spider's foot swings gradually increase, and at the same time, the wounds on my body also become deeper.
 "Haha! Come on, dance! You're a very poor dancer, but you're good enough for a starter, show me how you can entertain me!"
 "Ggh, stop playing with me...!"
 I spit out hatefully at the four-legged taunting attack that was waged against me. ... Also, don't move your body around like that. That outfit is pretty revealing from the bottom! Your absolute secret area is making me almost die! Hey, I can see it, you know!
 "Kuhaha, you're joking around while juggling! You're paying more attention to such a thing in this situation... aren't you? You're a real monkey."
 "Well, thank you...!!"
 I hit back like a wild monkey at the spider who was sneering at me with a lecherous smile. That is, I kicked up the gravel on the ground in the next instant.
 More precisely, I kicked the gravel made of the rocks on the ground which the spider had smashed by my attack earlier, so vigorously that dust was generated by my leg power strengthened by my spiritual power. Fine sand and a dozen or so pieces of gravel came close to the black-haired girl. The speed of the kick was so fast that a human body would surely be seriously injured, if not killed. But that was only if she was a live person.
 "What a stupid idea!"
 The Tsuchigumo was startled for a moment, but that was all.
 All the attacking debris is blown away and crushed by a single swing of one of the eight spider legs growing on her back. But that's all right. I am not so smug that I can inflict a wound on calamity youkai with a mere pebble.
 At the moment when the Tsuchigumo was knocked unconscious by the gravel, I was able to slip out from behind her through the space between the spider's legs with my strengthened leg strength. At the same time, I pulled something out of my pocket.
 "What!? No... behind me!? You've been sneaking around...!!!"
 Surprised at my momentary disappearance from her sight, the Tsuchigumo sensed my presence in less than a second, and turned around quickly with her eight legs growing out of her back. But almost at the same time, a charm was thrown in her direction.
 "Release the curse...!!"
 With my declaration, the curse on the sealed charm I had received from Gorilla-sama was released. The charm ignites. And then...
 At the next moment, a huge eagle-sacred beast emerges from the ignited charm, roars, and plunges its sharp claws toward the tsuchigumo...
 'It's surprising how well it endures, isn't it?'
 Understanding where it was coming from, the Matsushige girl who was controlling the bee muttered to herself. The servant seemed to be standing in the way as dexterously as an acrobat, though he could have been killed instantly with a single blow if he was not good enough.
 'By the way, this is also very interesting. ...Such a delicate technique, only very skilled exorcists could have developed it.'
 Now, returning her gaze to the front, she looked at the light-filled jade pillar in front of her and expressed her opinion in a casual but certainly sighing manner. No, it is about the well-crafted technique.
 The techniques to induce from the spiritual veins, the techniques to confine the spiritual energy, the techniques to muddy the trapped spiritual energy to increase the power, and the techniques to fool people into not noticing it... It is not easy to give more than 20 different effects to a single object without interfering with each other. It is even more so if the object is so delicate that it could be blown up.
 (Is a traitor involved, after all? Well, not a few famous exorcists have left the profession...)
 It is undeniable that there are a certain number of exorcists who are not willing to be human at the same time, because they have the power to resist the monsters unlike ordinary people. So. why should they, special beings be the same as human beings in terms of fixed life? Perhaps because of this electorate consciousness, it is not so unnatural for them to desire eternal life and greater power, even if it means violating the taboo.
 However, if it is to reproduce the highest level of the forbidden arts such as 'Spirit Exhaust Detonation', which the Imperial Court forbids and keeps secret, at this level of perfection, there would be only a limited number of people who could do it. Yes, for example, the first head of Onmyou Dormiyoty who played a role in the establishment of Fusō-kuni, even though this guy was the worst of the worst in a series of misdeeds and betrayals that could have led to the abolition of the Onmyou dormitory...
 '....I'm not sure whether that person is too far-fetched... Well, let's do what I have to do, shall we?'
 It is a rare opportunity to see firsthand the composition of the 'Spirit Exhaust Detonation' technique, and one of such a high degree of perfection... but it would be an insult not to do her part. That servant is risking his life to create a diversion. So, she will do her part.
 After thinking so, the bee shikigami flies. Her destination is close at hand. It was at the shoulder of a Kizuki hidden group boy whose flesh is torn, bones are broken, internal organs are damaged, and his body is being contaminated by kappa every second... Surely, he is half-dead, and his body is also bound with viscous spider silk.
 'You hidden boy, can you still hear my voice?'
 The boy whose eyes no longer reflect light responds to Botan's voice with a slight moan. Although the boy's body was only one step into the coffin, it seemed that his soul had not yet reached the other side of the world.
 'If you can moan, that's enough.'
 The bee shikigami opens its belly wide. What emerges from its mouth is an inro. The bee shikigami deftly removes the lid with its beak and takes out the pill inside.
 'Well, let's begin.'
 The bee poked the pill and chewed it by biting it into small pieces so that it could be swallowed easily, and then forcibly twisted its beak into the boy's mouth and began to transfer the pill into his mouth.
 The quake that shakes the cave violently shows no sign of abating...

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