Monday, February 27, 2023 @

Chapter 64, Part 2

 "Whoa...!? Ggh!"
 If I swat it away carelessly, I would be slammed head-first into the ground and my skull would be crushed. Even if I didn't, the spider would trample me to death the next moment if I didn't consider the direction in which I would be blown away. So I cling desperately to the outer shell of the spider.
 "!? This is..."
 As I uttered so, my attention was suddenly drawn to the corner where it had collided with Tsuchigumo's skull. There, I noticed a crack - an ancient one, perhaps even a scar. Without hesitation, my fingers reached out to touch it.
 '...!!? Impudent...!'
 "Oh, this is not good..."
 I trace the crack and touch it, and Tsuchigumo screams. Then she lifted her leg as if she was going to smash a blood-sucking mosquito, and swung it down on her own head.
 "Whoa...!? That was a close call!"
 Just in time, I let go of the head of the spider and swiftly dodge her legs by swinging away. I'm flung towards the ground but manage to break my fall by spinning and landing on the side of the gorilla ensnared in the spider silk.
 "Oh, my, oh my, how pathetic of you to run away after all those big words."
 "Well, thank you very much...! Should I break the restraints!?"
 "If you don't have a bondage hobby, then perhaps you should."
 "Then let's do that..."
 With one swift motion, I cut away the spider silk that held Gorilla-sama's limbs.
 'Don't think I'm going to let you go!'
 "Shut your mouth...!!"
 For a moment, Tsuchigumo seemed unaware of my whereabouts, likely due to the blow I had delivered to her head. But as soon as I released Gorilla-sama from the spider silk, Tsuchigumo turned and lunged at me. I was hit by a stone that was thrown at me, but Gorilla-sama responded by picking up a fist-sized pebble and throwing it with incredible speed and accuracy. The stone struck Tsuchigumo right in the eye, a hit that even a professional baseball player or batting machine would have struggled to match.
 It is common for the outer shell of a creature to be strong while its eyes are not, especially when facing a stronger opponent. As a result, Tsuchigumo, who had her eye and surrounding flesh blew off, is now writhing in pain. She flails her spider legs, and with each swing, the wind pressure becomes sharp like a blade that cuts through the air and attacks everything around her.
 Even her own household members who were fighting Hayama and Kochou were turned into dust. On the other hand, Hayama and Kochou were forced to take cover in the shadows, but the wind blades still posed a great danger to everyone in the area. Of course, those of us in the immediate vicinity are in even greater danger.
 "Tsk, an indiscriminate attack...!?"
 I hunker down in the uneven terrain near the raging Tsuchigumo, still reeling from the fight. I can't help but worry about Hayama and the others. They can't just be taken out by a stray attack like this, can they...? D*mn it.
 "Oh my, oh my, we're in trouble. We can't evacuate if this thing gets out of control like this. What are you going to do, Tomobe?"
 In contrast to my agitation, the fox, the white fox possessed by Gorilla-sama, boasts in a slightly slow and carefree voice. She looks at me as if testing me with a fearless smile.
 "...Excuse me, is your spiritual power too weak?"
 To my words, Gorilla-sama replies with a silent smile. So this is it...
 The reason I guessed so is simple. There is no way that ordinary Gorilla-sama can be caught by that spider thread. She's not the kind of person who would take such humiliation despite her position as a possessor. Earlier, she threw a stone at the spider with one hand and did not seem like the kind of person to do so only once. And normally, she would have kicked the ground and gouged out the bedrock without using her tail. Or, she wouldn't be hiding in a place like this.
 (It's my fault...)
 I glance at the thin scar on the white fox's translucent arm and bite my tongue. I had a vague and hazy recollection of what I had become and what I had done. Of course, the fierce battle with Gorilla-sama... would things have been a little better without that? No, even if not, the body possessed by the gorilla-sama...
 "Why are you staring at me? It's so unpleasant. Don't worry. I'm taking some care of this body, too. It may have sore muscles, but I'm not making it do anything crazy. Or do you have a problem with this injury?"
 Aoi shows me a thin cut made by a fingernail.
 "...No, I deeply apologize for the trouble I've caused you. Moreover, I am responsible for the injury, so please for your understanding."
 Even though my reasoning had disappeared, I had no one to blame but myself. It was only natural for Gorilla-sama to attack and prevent my movements. I couldn't be upset about it. I had no right to be. Instead, I should apologize to her.
 "Please accept my apologies for any inconvenience I may have caused. Your assistance is greatly appreciated."
 I say shortly. Well, it would have been all right if she had abandoned me in the worst case. At any rate, I should thank her for trying to help me.
 "...I see."
 Gorilla-sama says, averting her eyes somewhat uncomfortably.
 (I hope she is trying to hide her embarrassment... Well, in the original story, she is not so cute as to hide her embarrassment.)
 I was slightly puzzled, not knowing what Gorilla-sama's reaction meant, but I immediately remembered that this was not the time to do such a thing when a blade of wind passed by right next to me and gouged out the ground. I hid myself in a hole as if I were in trench warfare and said.
 "Princess, may I ask for your help?"
 "Well, do we have a chance? Unfortunately, even my fan shattered, but I wonder if any of your weapons will work?"
 "I think I can manage this..."
 I show the dagger (tantō) to the gorilla-sama, who dares to ask me even though she knows what I am talking about. It is the dagger (tantō) with a cherry blossom crest engraved on it, which is covered with many curses given to me by Gorilla-sama.
 "But you still couldn't go through with it, couldn't you? Do you think you can go through it again?"
 "I found a crack during the first attack."
 Aoi looks doubtful at my answer.
 "It was probably caused by a weapon with some kind of powerful curse. The wound was small, but it seemed to be a non-regenerative wound."
 "Aimed there? With a single dagger? That's how you think you're gonna stop it?"
 "Of course, it would alarm her. This Dagger (tantō) is a first-rate one, too, with a very well-developed curse, but I'm sure she'll be wary of it the second time around. So I ask for your cooperation, Princess."
 "...Are you going to use that?"
 Gorilla-sama glances at me, knowing what I'm planning to use. In response, I give a small nod.
 "I'll make an opening, so use the opening to attack. If that doesn't work, I'll use Dagger (tantō), and if that doesn't work... well, then it's over."
 I'm going to die sooner or later anyway, and I doubt I'll find any forgiveness. Even if I make it through this, the spider will probably seek revenge on me someday, given her nature as a vengeful youkai. I'm sure she's got a grudge against me after all this. It's a common trait among both youkai and gods to hold grudges and remains stubborn.
 Then there's nothing else to do. If I don't do it, not only me, but my family will suffer. No, I'm sure she'll curse me with all her blood if she gets her power back. So, she should be killed before that happens. It should be now.
 Still, fighting with my life on the line, it's business as usual. At least there's a chance to win. That's great.
 "...Oh my, oh my, I must say, I'm quite surprised that you have so much faith in that dagger. It's rather unexpected."
 "I understand that I have received more than my share of servants."
 I reply with a matter-of-fact reply to the princess, who is laughing at me. It pains me to thank her, but I indeed received something good. I have many things to say to her before she imposes all kinds of unreasonable demands on me at her whim, but I must repay the favor. Sadly, in this world of status, it is only kind to have something in return.
 "Don't worry about it. Just be worthy of that dagger, or better. Well, consider it a celebration."
 Well... Aoi peeks out from the hole. With amusement.
 "It's about time that thing woke up from the blood rush to its head. See, it's starting to look for us."
 Upon hearing the princess's words, I realized what was happening. It was an illusion. Aoi had created it using her last bit of spiritual power, employing her mastery of concealment to hide the very act of casting the curse. It was likely an attempt to evade Tsuchigumo's detection and pursuit.
 "This body seems to be good at illusion. I was able to hide with unexpectedly low consumption."
 Aoi boasts, showing that she can perform curses that even the front-line exorcists and calamity youkai guarding the capital can temporarily fool. No, a ray of sweat was flowing from her forehead. She must not have been able to invoke the technique as casually as she said.
 (As usual, she is a stubborn person...)
 The memory that comes back to me is the memory of the first time I served her, the memory of that life-threatening mission... Recalling it, I make scowl. Then I immediately looked at the giant spider in front of me. There was no time to dwell on the past.
 "Given that I can't think of any alternatives, I'll take you up on your offer. In fact, I can't just leave things as they are, can I? If that thing were to regain its power and attempt to change the situation, it would be a problem. At least for the time being, I suppose I should ask the old fossil to leave, shouldn't I?"
 The gorilla-sama declares, covering her mouth with her cuff. She peeks at me pleasantly, expectantly, and price-consciously.
 "...I will try my best to meet your expectations."
 Well, I have no choice but to do so, anyway...?
* * *
 'Where are you!! Where did you hide!? You damned rats!!!!'
 Tsuchigumo, somehow recovering from the pain, screams. She roars. She is furious, green fluid dripping from her crushed eyeballs.
 The sight was humiliating. It was nothing but humiliation that she herself, a mere mortal who was regaining even her divinity, albeit imperfectly, was being played like this.
 'Where are you!! Come out!! Come out now!!'
 Tsuchigumo swung her spider legs with a shout of abuse, causing the ground to crack and the rock walls and pillars around her to shatter with a thunderous sound, creating a destructive storm.
 'Ha... ha... ha... where did you hide?'
 The spider looks around after finishing her rampage. She must have understood that she can't find out the clever monkeys even if she keeps on rampaging. And when she becomes calm, she begins to understand the situation.
 (Ggh... B*stard, you b*stard! D*mmit! Every last one of them... But time is running out for me...!)
 The cobwebs in the burrows and the tremors from the spider threads make Tsuchigumo realize that she was running out of time. The humans on the surface were dangerously close, and if time continued to pass at its current rate, she wouldn't even have a chance to escape. However, she couldn't force herself to leave just yet, as she had only regained a portion of her divine power.
 'Chiiiiiiiiiii!!!! I don't have a choice!'
 Tsuchigumo leaps into the air, causing debris to scatter around her as she goes. Her intention is to impede the movements of the humans hiding in the crevice. With a determined focus, she charges straight toward the ground.
 'I can't die here, in a place like this, without being able to do anything!!!!'
 And then the ground is kicked up with a tremendous speed, and in an instant, There's a boy who was hiding behind the rock. Using her spider legs, she seizes the little boy.
 'I know your names and faces! Tremble in fear! Soon I will kill you, your whole family, and curse you to death!'
 With a pained voice, the spider flees. It is a difficult choice for her. Normally, she is not afraid of death, but she does not want to die for nothing. With the absence of 鵺 (Nue), destroying the den and the humans within it is impossible. It's only a matter of time before the humans on the surface discover the den.
 At this rate, she would not even be able to avenge herself, and she would be beaten to death by the humans who would attack her in numbers. Even though she would be killed as a powerful monster, she could not allow herself to be exterminated as if she were a pest exterminator. So, she runs away. She fled. Disregarding her honor and disregard for others. As she had done in the past.
 Fortunately, she did not lack any spoils of war. A young boy who can revive her own divine power so much with a single dance, not even directed at her. This is something that both youkai and former deities covet so greatly that they can't wait to get their hands on it. Now she must survive and use the boy to regain her former power, to recapture the strength of her prime. With this power, she can finally destroy all of those pesky humans...!
 "Although it was truly a strategic retreat and humans may ridicule me, I will still do it..." Tsuchigumo thought, that she was not wrong in her theory.
 'Kukuku! Remember, you little monkeys! If only I could get this brat, I'll... I'll...!'
 The spider's laughter echoes as she gazes at the captive boy, grinning like a conqueror. She eagerly anticipates the time for revenge. She plans to start with the man who carries the blood of the mother goddess, and she will not only kill him but also those close to him and his family. Afterward, she will feast on his flesh. Despite her disgust for the madman's blood in the man's veins, she sees him as a valuable source of meat that will aid her in regaining her power. Tsuchigumo revels in her thoughts, her smile twisted and gruesome.
 But then, with a wry smile, the spider noticed something strange. She looked at the human she had captured and noticed. Well, was it such a light thing to be a human brat? No, it is more than that... why is this guy captured without even a single resistance?
 The spider suddenly shifts her gaze toward the boy in her grasp and notices that his mouth is twisted. Then, to her surprise, the boy speaks.
 "...I see. You see me as that child, don't you?"
 The sound that emerged was not the boy's voice but the girl's, and it had an unusual quality to it. Suddenly, a puff of white smoke appeared, and the boy the spider had been holding disappeared. In his place emerged a shikigami in the form of a small bird. The spider was shocked and stunned by the sudden transformation and let out a scream. As the shikigami approached, it pecked out one of her remaining seven eyeballs with its beak.
 Tsuchigumo, in a fit of pain, quickly storms out and swings her eight legs in an attempt to smash the shikigami. However, the small and nimble shikigami slips through the gap between the waving spider legs and evades.
 'You b*stard......! Ughhh!?'
 Tsuchigumo, who is still trembling with anger and stares at the shikigami with her six remaining eyeballs, rolls over when she tries to change the direction of her body. The reason is simple. Something caught her leg.

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