Friday, February 24, 2023 @

Chapter 63, Part 2

Revision : bee shikigami => hummingbird shikigami

 It's natural. Because when the surrounding area is a sea of fire, and the kappa on the immediate side are flailing about, charred, and crumbled like dry clay, the two of them can't even feel the heat?
 "This is..."
 Kochou says in amazement. It was clear that this was no mere flame. It was a unique flame with conditions such as 'Purifying Fire' or 'Annihilation'. It was also clear that it was not a spiritual power.
 'Ki... Kiiiii...'
 The screams of the kappa dying in agonizing agony echoed here and there.
 'Ki... Kiiiii...'
 Amidst this situation, one of the kappa, which had become a living torch with its whole body burned, approached Shirowakamaru, crumpling as if its whole body were melting. It crawls toward Shirowakamaru and reaches out its hand. Unintentionally frightened by the shape of the kappa, Shirowakamaru lets out a small scream and clutches at it.
 Then he looks up above his head and freezes when he realizes that it is a black shape. The look in its eyes as it stares down at him takes his breath away.
 The figure quickly looks away, as if disinterested, and takes a step forward. It steps forward to get between the burning kappa and Shirowakamaru. As a result, the kappa hugs the deformity's body and is burned to pieces. The pieces of the burnt kappa continue to burn on his body, but gradually lose their momentum...
 And Shirowakamaru saw it. His eyes stared at the screaming monsters burning to death in front of him. Pitying, grieving eyes that showed an emotion inappropriate for a monster...
 Gradually, the flames of the fire, which has burned hundreds of kappa to death, die down. And while the remaining fire still smolders, the deformity slowly begins to walk.
 "Oh, wait..."
 Shirowakamaru, who was standing by the deformity, tried to stop him as he was leaving, but the deformity did not turn around. He just kept going straight. He goes straight to Kochou surrounded by burnt kappa.
 "...!? P-Please stop!"
 Hayama steps forward and calls out to the black creature. He calls out in a trembling voice.
 He, too, understands. The difference between the being in front of him and himself. Still, he calls out. He still cannot tell if the being in front of him is an enemy or a friend, whether he is still a person at heart, because he still cannot tell.
 "Please. Please stop...!"
 He calls out, but the deformity does not stop walking. Hayama reluctantly points out the dagger (tantō). As he does so, he shouts.
 "Tomobe-san, is that you? I'm begging you. Please answer me. Are you on our side? Do you still have human memories? Or are you...?"
 Hayama called out again in desperation. As he calls out, his eyes suddenly meet the deformity's and he swallows the words he was about to say. The sadness in his eyes reduces his hostility. He slowly lowers his dagger (tantō). It was impossible for him to point a weapon at the being in front of him. Hayama knew those eyes. He had seen the same look in that person's eyes a long time ago.
 For a few moments, the deformity stares at Hayama, but then resumes his steps. He passes by him with ease, and then arrives right in front of her. On the other side, Kizuki Kochou looks up at him.
 "You, those eyes... Aaah, what are you doing!?"
 Before she can say anything to those clear eyes, the deformity lowers his head. He lowered his head and brought his nose close to Kochou's leg. Kochou yelps at the feeling and the dull pain of the press.
 Her leg, whose bones have been crushed and muscle fibers have been shredded, is probably swollen and purple under the white costume, probably also congested with blood. Or, it might have already begun to rot.
 The deformity sniffs and checks Kochou's leg, and in the next moment, he lets out an exhale. Or more precisely, he breathed fire as he exhaled. Kochou involuntarily braces herself. At the same time, Hayama screams. But...
 "Huh? This is..."
 "Madam adviser...?"
 The breath of flame was quickly snuffed out. No, that in itself is not important. What is important is what the breath of flame burned. Kochou had noticed that the pain in her foot had left before she knew it. Slowly she moves her toes, then her knees. There was nothing to it. Her feet were moving, painlessly. It was perfectly normal, no problem, as if there was no such thing as a broken leg.
 "You, this is..."
 The deformity growled at Kochou's words and immediately turned around. He turns around as if to keep his distance. Then he grunts a little and... the next moment, his whole body burst into flames.
 "Aaaah..!!? Ugh!?"
 'Please stay away from him! Do you want to die!?'
 His whole body suddenly burst into flames, and the hummingbird shikigami perched on Shirowakamaru's head stopped him as he hurriedly approached to put out the flames. It poked the boy's head with its mouth to force him to stop.
 Of course, there was a reason for that. It is not just flames that burn him. It was a conceptual fire that came from within him. A flame of annihilation that denies his existence to the world.
 (Then this is not an outburst of power. Did he create it by himself?)
 If it were to be described this way, it would be an act of self-immolation, not self-inflicted wounds. The fire that denies its own existence, however, Botan did not consider it as a mere act of suicide.
 The sacred birds of the West (Phoenix) burn themselves to ashes and reincarnate as baby birds. Botan immediately realized that this event that occurred in front of her was probably a similar phenomenon.
 If so, it is not difficult to predict what will happen next. And it was not only Botan who was thinking the same thing. At the same time, a figure passed right next to Shirowakamaru and the others. Nearly at the same time, a figure emerged from the fire in front of them and appeared as if it was going to ...... fall down.
 "Welcome back, dear. Hehe, you did well."
 It was not Kochou, Hayama, or Shirowakamaru, but she who caught the figure that emerged from the blazing fire and fell.
 The soul that had possessed the seven-tailed fox acted as if it were natural, and with a very natural movement, received her reborn beloved and held him gently in her arms with a smile of love. She embraces her beloved as if he were sinking into her bountiful bosom. As if it were common sense.
 "Ah... Uhh...? Wh-What...? What am I...?"
 "Don't talk now, just relax. Everything's fine. You're safe here, so don't move..."
 Aoi stops him as he tries to look around with an exhausted look on his sooty clothes and battered body, without knowing what to do. When she stops him, she hugs him. She didn't want him to do something reckless now. And the other people are just staring at him. ...No, one of them was thinking differently.
 (Clothes are regenerating. The inside of the body is quite bad, though the injuries are not so bad. He looks exhausted. ...As I thought, the fire earlier was a temporary time travel by using the power of 'annihilation'...)
 This was the guess of Matsushige's granddaughter, who was observing the scene through the shikigami. After the power that was consuming him had gone out of control, he denied the existence of time itself. Of course, he could not deny the world itself with his power, so he meant the time of his own body, to be precise. However, she also knew that it was only a temporary cover.
 Probably, he was barely able to make up this appearance with his thinking ability, which was becoming a beast, in anticipation of the raiding party coming from the surface... Though it is not a wrong judgment. After all, if the raiding party had seen him in that state, they would have either exterminated him or experimented on him.
 Probably, it is the same principle that healed the leg of Kizuki's adviser earlier. However, he seems to have carefully healed not only the body but also the inside of the leg.
 (He is a good-natured person. It is appalling.)
 Human beings are creatures who need food, clothing, shelter, and civility. In this world, where living itself is not easy even before basic needs, Botan could not help but be appalled at his behavior of putting others before himself. It is really ridiculous... to take care of others so much when he can't even take care of himself.
 (...Well, it has nothing to do with me.)
 No matter how poor he is or how much he is hurt, it is ultimately none of Botan's business. What matters is how to utilize him for the extermination of the monsters. That's all there is to this relationship...
 (...For the time being, how can the people here fool the others? And, as for myself, I want to get some specimens before the people on the ground come down...?)
 Thinking of this, Botan looked through the shikigami at the corpse of the spider and the mole, and that was the moment.
 "You, you d*mned...!"
 The air trembled at the echoing words. Everyone turned their eyes quickly to the suddenly heavy air. Aoi had her fan ready and swung it almost reflexively. The relentless and repeated slashes of wind... however, are offset by the similarly wielded foot slashes of wind. No, "offsetting" is not quite the right word. The wind blow that it fires is just a single one. It is only one blow, and ten of Aoi's blows canceled it out...
 "...You are not elegant. I wish you would not disturb our meeting."
 Hiding her mouth with a fan, Aoi muttered a little. She mutters with a cold look in her eyes.
 The others also look at the attacker. They hold up their weapons. Or they hide. And as soon as they see it, they are startled. There is also the sound of someone gulping.
 Yes, the attacker was a spider girl with her whole body shredded and wounded as she stared at them, but she had a series of hideous spider legs sprouting from her back.
 While radiating divine energy all over her body...
* * *
 The monster in the shape of a young girl rose up from the rock wall where she had fallen down, covered in blood. The bright, pure white fabric that reminded people of silk was stained in places with the spider's green bodily fluids. Her forehead was bleeding, and her limbs peeking out from behind the fabric were also painfully bruised. She is in critical condition, and seriously injured.
 In fact, it was a kind of miracle that Tsuchigumo survived. If it were not for the sacred fabric woven with spider silk imbued with divine power, Tsuchigumo would have died there. That is how severe the destruction caused by the black deformity was. The spider was almost dead. And if the spider had been left alone for a few days, it would have died of exhaustion.
 But the spider got up. She stood up and stared at them. Then, with sure footsteps, she takes a step forward.
 "Hmm, I see. Is this the reason why the dead are back?"
 Aoi takes a glance at Shirowakamaru, who is wrapped in a coil and flailing in the air, trying to escape from the foxtail but couldn't do it. As expected, he was an amateur. The dance was intended for him, but even the Tsuchigumo, who was not supposed to benefit from it, can't help but be a part of it.
 (No, actually, that's a surprise....)
 Aoi thinks with her eyes narrowed. It is not so easy to dedicate a dance to the god and appease them. It may not only be out of the target, but it may not even have an effect on the target. In this sense, it is a marvelous result that the aftermath of the dance has such a great effect on the opponent to whom it is not dedicated directly. If it were not for this occasion, it would even be praiseworthy.
 ......Yes, if not for here.
 "You've been a pain in the ass, haven't you?"
 Aoi complains in a tone of voice. Call it selfish or not, the fact is that she put him in danger here, which further lowers Aoi's not-so-high opinion of the boy.
 The pressure of the tail of the box slightly increased. Shirowakamaru lets out a small moan. But it is more in response to the ill feeling than pain.
 As she does this, suddenly a small laugh reverberates through the cave. It reverberated, like an echo.

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