Monday, February 20, 2023 @

Chapter 59, Part 3

Revision : bee shikigami => hummingbird shikigami

 "Oops, that was close. Isn't that a very rough way to greet a new acquaintance?"
 I was wide-eyed and astonished. It was not because of the words of the being in front of me, nor was it because he was holding the tip of my Dagger (tantō). It was the being itself.
 I pull the dagger (tantō) as fast as I can, but it doesn't budge. On the other side, the shadowy figure just pinches the dagger (tantō) with both fingers, and a poof of smoke comes out of their fingers. This is the effect of the blessing of exorcism, but unfortunately, it does not mean anything to the being in front of me. The power of exorcism is one thing, but for the shadow, the current appearance is just a temporary, borrowed one.
 "Oh? ...Hmm. I'm curious about a lot of things, but first, would you please stop pointing your noisy thing at people?"
 Looking me in the eye, the shadow tilts its head and flicks Dagger (tantō) with its finger. At the same time, the force of the flick blows Dagger (tantō) out of my hand, and it disappears into the darkness of the cave.
 "Besides, whether we have never met before or we know each other, when two people who speak the same language meet each other, they should greet each other, right? So, as intelligent and rational people, we should be courteous to each other, right?"
 Dagger (tantō) is repelled, and I try to get ready for a hand-to-hand combat, but before I can do so, I am slammed to the ground. And before I knew it, the shadow was stomping on my body...
 "You are Tomobe of Kizuki's servant group, I think?"
 "Y-you bastard is...!?"
 I stare up at the shadow that is leisurely confirming my identity, as if looking up at me from where I'm lying on the ground. This action, however, did not mean anything to the shadow.
 "No, no, I'm just a little monster who can suppress some instincts. There's not much to tell. Though it seems I don't have to introduce myself to you in the first place. I'm curious about you. Where in the world did you find out about me?"
 The last whispered cold question makes me flustered. And then the shadow silently narrowed its eyes in response to my reaction. No, what I could see behind the rag was just darkness, and I couldn't see anything, but it certainly looked like that.
 To that extent, it was a gesture that looked too human.
 "Hmm, was that the proper reaction? But, where did you get to know me... Well, most likely from the earth's mother goddess, I think? After all, she's always so light-mouthed no matter how many times I warn her."
 The shadow, rubbing their chin and thinking to themselves... no, a faceless monster with a hundred faces.
 Yes, this is the main body that is one of the four disasters that once plunged Fusō-kuni into chaos... This monster is one of the most rational, yet most evil, human beings in the series and the one who causes the misery of half of the characters in the series. This guy is more youkai-like than youkai, but in a bad way, more human-like than youkai. It is a character who has gained a kind of cult-like popularity along with hate from the fans of the original work.
 This guy is the leader of the "Youkai Salvation", named Sugami Yoritsugu when he was a human being, and formerly the first head of the Onmyou dormitory.
 However, as a youkai, this one is probably easier to understand. A monster with a hundred faces, '鵺 (Nue)', and...
* * *
 It is also called '鵺 (Nue)', 鵺 (Nue), 夜鳥 (Yachou/Night Bird), or 奴延鳥 (Nue) there may be more aliases if searched for. (NB: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nue)
 It is difficult to explain the youkai represented by so many Kanji characters, even in historical fact. After all, there are many legends about its appearance. Depending on the region, the youkai monster has been handed down in several irregular forms at different times. A mysterious monster with a hundred faces, like a cloud, that cannot be grasped.
 The creators of 'Firefly of the Dark Night (Yamiyo no Hotaru)' have created the character of '鵺 (Nue)' based on the characteristics of the mysterious creature by chewing, examining, and interpreting its youkai in their own unique way.
 That is, in the world of 'Firefly of the Dark Night (Yamiyo no Hotaru)', the youkai called '鵺 (Nue)' is false in all its forms that have been told, and true at the same time.
 More precisely, for '鵺 (Nue)', all the forms handed down in folklore were for mere terminology. Yes, they are merely containers that allow the soul to influence this world.
 The clue is bloodline. The root of this dastardly trick is that the main body of the 鵺 (Nue), has placed a curse on its own bloodline. Following the curse, the soul of the body is transmigrated. The curse of blood that spreads from generation to generation becomes the soul's host. It becomes the object of possession. In fact, even animals and youkai who have consumed the blood become the object of possession. Or even the bodies of monsters grown from this guy's blood...
 So, this guy is a most troublesome existence. Even if the body is destroyed, as long as there is a container to replace this guy, 鵺 (Nue) will not be destroyed, and what is more troublesome is that the person who calls himself "鵺 (Nue)" is in some ways more cowardly, sneaky, cunning, and... human than any of the other youkai in this work.
 He was also the leader of the most spiritually powerful tribe that cooperated with the first emperor in establishing Fusō-kuni, and the man who was appointed as the first Onmyou Dormitory Head. The man who helped the first emperor to establish "a nation of people, by people, for people" now betrays the nation once created by him and cooperates with Kuuban and others who want to destroy the former homeland only for their own ambitions and purposes.
 But for '鵺 (Nue)', even this is just a stepping stone to the goal, and his exterminated body is just a container that he has cultivated with the intention of throwing it away in advance. So, it is meaningless to kill even that which is in front of me now. In fact, I don't know if it is possible for me to kill even a single shadow in front of me.
 ...Though there is no need for me to win here.
 "Hmm? ...Well, well, this is a problem. I didn't realize that the 'detonator' I had prepared was so quickly deactivated. It seems that the person who controls the Shikigami is a person who is well versed in the forbidden arts."
 The shadow realized this after all this time. It seemed that Hayama and Botan had accomplished it. Looking at the cripple, who had been turned into a detonator, the tube growing from his head was severed, and the cripple himself was crumbling with a single red streak running from the position of his heart. At the same time, both of us realize what's going on.
 And I, too, do not miss the chance to let my attention wander away for a moment.
 "Eat this...!"
 The next moment, I pulled it out of my pocket and wielded it like a whip against the shadow that was approaching me. The silvery, yet thin, blade severed one of the shadow's arms with a simple, yet stunning cut.
 "Here it is, the second one!"
 The shadow, whose arm was suddenly severed because of the surprise attack, collapses into a posture. I take advantage of this to get up and strike a second blow. This time, the other arm is severed.
 "This is...!? You're not... Wait, it's the string!"
 The shadow, whose arms have been cut off cleanly, observes me as if he feels no pain, and sees through my magic trick. After all, if he looks hard enough, he can see it. He can see the spider threads in my hands, which seem to be empty-handed.
 For the note, I retrieved a few of the sharp spider silk threads used in the two-stage trap set in the cave. I took these threads, which were portable and sharp, out of my pocket, poured spiritual power on them, and wielded them as a whip. The result was the shadow in front of me, which had lost both arms.
 (I thought it was very sharp, judging from the way it turned a jumping spider into a dice steak in an instant, but... it's pretty good.)
 I think to myself as I grab the string in my hand. The only thing I can say is... my finger, which is gripping it, is also slightly cut and bleeding. I'd better put on custom-made gloves the next time I use this. It hurts like hell.
 ...But, well, I hope there will be a next time.
 "Well, well, well. I didn't think that I could be reversed so easily. I should have come with a better container, I guess..."
 Shaking his head and cowering his shoulders, the shadow boasts. He is acting very relaxed even though he is being cornered. No, he is not really cornered. In fact, even if he dies here in the worst-case scenario, there are probably plenty of other mediums for him to put his soul into.
 Above all, I don't think this cunning creature is unprepared for anything. And my prediction came true right away.
 The next moment, I felt a tremor beneath my feet. I jumped in a panic, and something appeared, smashing through the rock beneath my feet.
 It was a mole. A huge one too.
 It was at least three meters tall, hairy all over, but not a single hair on its face, and it had dozens of antennae-like an earthworm. The wriggling, writhing antennae were physiologically disgusting. Its huge body was filled with a popping sound like static electricity.
 "Great youkai class...? When it comes to electricity, this guy is..."
 I immediately recognize the being in front of me.
 A millennium mole... a thunder beast in the shape of a mole, though it was supposed to be no bigger than a puppy at best. So, the possibilities are...
 "It was a failure Medium. Because of its size, I've been having a hard time disposing of it. So. I'd be happy if you could play with it."
 The shadow declares nonchalantly. Yeah, as I thought!
 "Get away from here!!"
 I stop Hayama and the hummingbird shikigami from coming this way.
 "I'm not going to die! I'll leave after I stop it for a bit. ...Sh*t, this is turning into a full-blown monster war."
 I take one look at the spider and the hawk flailing behind and click my tongue. For God's sake, if you're going to fight, do it with the Earth Defense Forces. I'm a lowlife, okay?
 "Just go! If you want, you can call for help."
 "...!? Understood. I'll be right back!"
 Hayama runs toward the exit of the room as if he realized what I had just said. After I see him off, I face the mole and the shadow again.
 "Stalling, huh?"
 "What? A servant is too much for you?"
 After observing the surroundings, I respond to the shadow's muttered words, holding a string in both hands. It was to buy time.
 "Hahaha. No, no, it's the opposite. For someone who survives fighting foxes and an earth mother goddess, you seem pretty modest."
 I grow wary of the shadow's declaration of humility despite the fact that he is missing both arms. The fox was never fully mentioned in the original story, but I wonder how far this guy is working behind the scenes.
 (In any case, I should think about escape now.)
 As for 'Souten', I don't need to worry about it. This guy is different from me. Then the question is how I can escape from this place.
 "The rest is...."
 At the same time, there is another concern on my mind. Gorilla-sama said that the old hag has been captured... But well, I don't know where she is. I hope that she has escaped by herself.
 However, my hopes are dashed in vain. After all...
 "Well, well, it seems you want to escape. That's sad. I'd like for you to stay with us a little longer."
 Then the shadow glances at the Tsuchigumo, who is in a fierce scuffle with the hawk. He glances at the spider who is biting at the hawk while cursing and crying. Then he continues.
 "Besides, I have helped her. It's a loss of face to be beaten like this. So, yes, I think how about this...?"
 Those words were the signal. The giant mole shakes its countless tentacles on its face and roars. I braced myself, but soon realized that it was not an attack of any kind. At the same time, I see a figure emerge from the sea of tentacles, and my face contorts. This guy has a bad character after all...!
 "This is...!!?"
 "It's just a game. Now, let's see what choice you make, shall we? You know I'm going to use her as a backup detonator when everything's ready, okay?"
 With that, the shadow heads toward the jade pillar, which is filled to the point of bursting with spiritual energy. It was to reapply the curse, which had been lifted or neutralized before he could set off the detonator.
 The thousand-year-old mole howled as if it were roaring. It was a voice of menace. At the same time, static electricity buzzed through the air.
 "After all, this is a forced battle that is sure to be lost. ...What a sh*tty game."
 I glare at the mole, smiling wryly as if I'm trying to be tough. I look at the unconscious black-haired woman entangled in the mole's tentacles... Her face looks strangely attractive, but I know even though she looks young, inside she is aged and decrepit in contrast to her outward appearance.
 "But that doesn't mean I can abandon her... But, let's see. It was a mistake to throw away the spear...!"
 The next moment, I just barely dodged a sudden electric shock, and with a whine, I charged toward the great youkai.

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