Friday, February 24, 2023 @

Chapter 63, Part 3

 Aoi looked back at the spider with squinting eyes, and saw that the spider was smiling there. It was an arrogant, haughty smile as if it was proud of her victory.
 "Hahahaha! You've shown me so many unpleasant things, huh? I'll take this opportunity to show you my true power!"
 Then she mocks. Shouting in mockery. Proclaiming. To those who have humiliated, disgraced, and insulted her.
 Now, first of all, the spider opens her little mouth to boast and... soon after, the monster vanished. And then...
 A thunderous screeching sound echoed. Aoi also clapped her tongue at the same time. Because her fan had been damaged by the swing of the spider's legs just before the direct hit to her head. The fan which she had cursed many times was damaged. Aoi's hand trembled with the shock. They twitched.
 Having bitten a bitter bug, Aoi hugs his beloved and jumps with one of her tails while holding the boy. She leaps. She tries to keep her distance from Tsuchigumo. But she is not allowed to do so.
 "What's the matter? Where did the momentum from earlier disappear?”
 Tsuchigumo, bouncing like a fly spider, closes in on Aoi who tries to escape. The claws of the spider's legs are swung down again and again. On the other hand, Aoi waves her fan. Once, twice, thrice, four times, the sound of the fierce clash of metals rings out. There was also a sharp sound of the wind cutting through the air. In the aftermath of the impact, the ground is gouged out, and rock walls are pierced. Literally, a raging storm of destruction. However, unlike the spider, Aoi had something to protect, and there was a time limit. She could not stay with the spider forever.
 "Burn to death!"
 The fox fire was released at a moment's notice. Fox fire shot out from six fox tails in total, except for the one that held Shirowakamaru. Tsuchigumo drowned them out in an instant with a single swing of its two front legs. But that was to be expected. Immediately after that, the fire from her mouth swallows the whole body of the Tsuchigumo, and Aoi jumps backward with her loved one and Shirowakamaru secured. Now, Aoi takes a distance. And there were two people who tried to rush in front of Aoi and the others.
 A boy from the hidden group and an adviser from Kizuki joined the battle between Aoi and the spider. However, there was no way that the spider would allow them to do so. Tsuchigumo, who appeared without a trace of a scorch mark from the fire that Aoi had spewed out, shouted angrily.
 "You are so clever, one after another! Everyone, deal with them!"
 With that shout, a swarm of spider youkai monsters appeared behind Kochou and the others. At most, they were small youkai the size of large dogs... maybe fifty or so in number. They are small fry that would be kicked out by first-rate exorcists... but that is only for first-rate exorcists, and Hayama, a hidden group member, cannot be careless, and the same goes for Kochou, whose spiritual power is on the verge of depletion. Death awaits them if they are not careful.
 "...!? There are still so many!? Madam Adviser!!"
 "Tsk, the remnant... no, the escaped at a time like this!"
 At the sound of Hayama's voice holding up a dagger (tantō), Kochou also braces herself. While biting a bitter bug, they look at the spiders in front of them and spit them out disgustedly.
 Yes, they were indeed the remnants and escaped ones. The fact that they were all small and only small youkai was proof of that.
 Perhaps these spiders were the survivors of his fire, and at the same time, they were the biggest fools among the spiders who defected from the order of Tsuchigumo. They must have been the first ones to run away from him among the spiders in the swarm, because they still survive even though many of them were burned to ashes by the breath of the servants. That is why they were able to survive among their brethren who tried to escape from him.
 And Tsuchigumo, who had not been able to stop the defection and escape of the flock until just a few minutes ago, was now able to control them perfectly.
 Using their own lives, the spiders attack Hayama and Kochou. To buy time. They were completely different from the monsters without reason and intelligence that had just shown their ugly faces. After all, the baby spiders are now completely the hands and feet of Tsuchigumo. This exactly meant that the current Tsuchigumo had transformed from its former existence as a "youkai" that possessed a divine status.
 Now, the two of them are stopped by the baby spiders. So, Aoi does not get any help. And escape is also impossible. And at this moment, a bead of sweat ran down Aoi's forehead. It was the sweat of impatience. Because the time Aoi had left was not long.
 "Kukuku, what's wrong? You are talking less and less. Come on, come on, say it. Show your strength and bravado."
 "Hehehe, you're so excited just because you've got a little bit of divinity back. You haven't regained even 10% of your original power. Isn't it pathetic that you're so happy just because you've regained that much power?"
 It was Kizuki Aoi's nature to respond to the taunt with a provocation, but at the same time, it was also the truth. The current Tsuchigumo's power is certainly powerful. Ten times more powerful than before. But still, the current Tsuchigumo's power is not even close to her peak, and she is powerless in the face of Kizuki Aoi's full power. To her, the one who is not a soul.
 Inside of Aoi, an itch and a feeling of annoyance arise. It was against her own powerlessness as a mere split soul. Aoi's clear mind understood that the situation was getting worse and worse every moment, and she equally understood that there was no way out of it. She made to understand.
 Slipping, Aoi releases Shirowakamaru. The boy, who was suddenly released from the coiled-up state, let out a small scream and fell to the ground. Then, without a pause, she offers his beloved to him.
 "Uh, huhh..."
 "I'll leave him with you. I can't be bothered with him if I'm going as fast as I can."
 Aoi tells him without hesitation and turns on her heel without hearing Shirowakamaru's reply. To face the spider.
 "Hmm, a decoy, huh? You exorcists are still thinking of clever things, aren't you?"
 Tsuchigumo spits out. She does not hide her disgust at Aoi's exorcist-like behavior.
 Kizuki Aoi had recognized the true purpose of Tsuchigumo. While the spider seemed to be raging only for revenge, she understood that the spider in front of her was aiming at her beloved and the young boy.
 That's natural since on the one hand, her beloved was the perfect prey with divine power in him, and on the other hand, the boy was a rare being who could revive her divine power, even if only for a limited period, just in the aftermath of his dance. For Tsuchigumo, who has lost most of her household members due to the collapse of her plan, there is no doubt that she would like to have both of them as much as she can. They will be the key to leaving this place and taking revenge on human beings again. This is one of the reasons why Aoi kept them and kept fighting. The worst-case scenario was that they might be taken away from her and she might run away as fast as she could.
 But Aoi also had little spiritual power left. That's why she could not afford to talk about it.
 And this is why she decided to use them as a decoy... to take advantage of the opportunity if the spiders turn toward them so that she can focus her energy to defeat the spider.
 ...The situation was so bad that she, in her arrogance and insolence, had to make such a decision.
 (Did I make the wrong choice? But it's also true that there was no other medium other than this body that couldn't be bitten by him...)
 It is a fact that this body, which was formerly calamity youkai, was the most reliable and the best one among all the mediums that Aoi could use. And when it comes to the person who can accept to become her medium, it is undeniable that the white fox girl was useful in both of these aspects. If it were not for the curse on him, he could have stabbed her in the back at worst, but... there was no use in asking for something that was not there.
 "Well, that's fine. In that case, show me what you're made of!"
 With her spider legs growing from her back, Tsuchigumo jumps on Aoi. She closes the distance in a moment, and tries to crush Aoi with her two thickest spider-legs at an incomparably higher speed than before. And Aoi also avoids it with a speed faster than before, just by a hair's breadth. It shows her how to avoid it completely.
 "That's for you, you fox-monkey!"
 Then Aoi takes a step forward and tries to cut off the neck of Tsuchigumo by reinforcing her fan with her spiritual power, but the spider legs growing from her back make her dance to avoid the flash of the fan. While avoiding it, the remaining spider legs attack Aoi one after another.
 Currently, the fan is already damaged considerably, and Aoi, whose spiritual power is limited, does not receive them head-on. Aoi swats away the trajectory of the spider legs with her fan while scattering sparks, and sometimes she spins around as if she were dancing by using the power of the fan to avoid the attacks of the spider legs. This sophisticated movement was made possible only by her talent. If any exorcists had tried to imitate her, they would have been crushed by the spider legs in less than a few rounds. Aoi, who showed how to do it with a borrowed body dozens of times, was not an ordinary person.
 However, the spider knew it long ago, so the monster hit Aoi the next moment. And with the most effective way.
 "Now, you b*stards! Go!"
 "...!? No way!?"
 Aoi looks at her quickly. The fear that crossed her mind comes true soon after. A baby spider appeared from the darkness. A small youkai, no bigger than a wolf, runs toward her beloved and the boy who holds him in his arms. The last survivor of her household, the one who had been kept hidden until the last minute, the very last trump card...!
 "This is no time to be looking away!"
 A momentary lapse of concentration, a lapse of consciousness, was fatal. A moment later, Aoi caught the claws of the spider's legs which Tsuchigumo swung at her with her fan. She had to catch it. And there was no time to turn away from the claw.
 The fan and the claws clashed with each other with a clashing sound and a fierce spark. They are at each other's throats. They fought each other.
 But it does not last long. Aoi had not anticipated battling against divine beings, much less the calamity youkai that now faced her. Even if she had been prepared for this fight, there were few weapons capable of delivering mortal wounds to such formidable opponents. Aoi's fan, a trusted tool that had seen her through countless battles, was now in tatters from the fierce clashes that had taken place. It was nothing short of a miracle that it had endured for this long. But as with all miracles, its time had come to an end.
 And... finally, the fan is broken. It is shattered.
 Aoi opens her eyes. She intuitively understands that the situation has gone from bad to worse. Even so... the fox fire, which she created with her remaining spiritual power, is shot at the monster from a distance of zero. It instantly engulfs the area in front of her in a scorching fire. A storm of flames, the ultimate in low fuel consumption and high power, created by a highly efficient and thoroughly effective technique. However, as just seen, the spider cannot be stopped by such a small amount of flame...
 "It's useless!"
 A huge spider leg appeared out of the fire and pushed Aoi down. Aoi could not react to it. She didn't have enough physical strength, mental strength, and spiritual strength to do so. Now, the spider legs pierced the ground right next to Aoi to restrain her movement.
 "Kukuku, you are also a very good material, looking at you. I will eat your flesh and blood as well as your soul. Rest assured, your favorite man will soon follow you."
 Gazing down upon Aoi, who struggled to remain upright as her spiritual power waned, Tsuchigumo reveled in her own superiority. With a contemptuous sneer, she transformed before Aoi's very eyes. The petite form wavered and distorted until, at last, it swelled and twisted into the monstrous shape of a spider. Aoi could scarcely believe her eyes as she beheld the beast before her - a Tsuchigumo, its massive form looming over her like a nightmare made flesh...!
 Aoi lunged forward, poised to strike the beast with her hand, only to have her attack thwarted by the sticky, gossamer threads that the spider creature had expelled. In the next moment, she found herself ensnared, her body pinned to the earth by the thick, viscous strands that seemed to bind her tight. And as if that were not enough, the creature's fiery red eyes bore into her, its maw clenching tight in a menacing display of aggression. It stares at her. It clenches its chelicerae. It threatens her.
 Tsuchigumo smiles at the obvious fear on Aoi's face, though she doesn't scream. Then she opens her chelicerae wide. Her chelicerae open in front, back, left, right, and several times, exposing its numerous blade-like teeth. Aoi almost turns away from the horrifying sight, but she glares at the spider. Sharply and stoutly, she glares at the spider. As if to express her will not to give in.
 The spider mutters to Aoi's attitude. With a look of hatred, with a look of annoyance. And then the spider tried to devour Aoi at once from the head, as if it wanted to relieve her sorrow, but then...
 The spider screams involuntarily at the sudden piercing pain in her head and then turns her eight eyeballs above her head. And this time, the spider is astonished with her eyes wide open. Astonished. Stunned.
 And Aoi gasps at the same time. But it is only for a moment, and soon she smiles a wry smile as if she is acting. Then she says.
 "Oh, my, oh my, isn't it time for a nap already?"
 "As a matter of fact, I can't just sleep around in this situation, can I?"
 The sarcastic words are met with a wry smile and an annoyed tone.
 "...As usual, your reply is boring."
 Aoi's face, however, now had a carefree smile on it.
 She looked at the figure of her beloved who was clinging to the top of the head of Tsuchigumo and thrusting a dagger (tantō) into the brain.

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