Wednesday, March 15, 2023 @

Chapter 67, Part 2

 Kayo smiles with her mouth covered as she sees me stammering over what to say. She then giggles like a little bird.
 "Hehehe, it's okay. Everyone has a secret that they can't tell anyone."
 "I apologize. While we have been talking, I have not asked much about your side of things..."
 "What you say is your own free will, I only say what I want to say. There are many things I have not told Tomobe-san. Does Tomobe-san demand me to tell you the stories I am hiding from you?""
 "No, not at all..."
 "Then it is the same thing. Don't worry about it too much. Just..."
 Gently, Kayo touches the beads wrapped around my wrist, gently caressing my wrist.
 "It's just a small token of my appreciation. Tomobe-san and this bead that Tomobe-san gave me helped me a lot. So, from now on, I want Tomobe-san to use this bead. I would be worried if someone I care about gets hurt."
 Kayo looks at me with a big smile. It was a dazzlingly pure smile. And yet, it was a gaze with straight conviction. I almost fell in love with the strength of her will.
 "...I understand. You will return these beads to me. In exchange, I will be responsible for accompanying you on your journey for the next few days."
 "Yes, I'll be counting on you!"
 Kayo answered cheerfully to my declaration. We stare at each other for a while. Then we laugh at each other, wondering what's so funny...
 The next moment, the pendulum clock in the room rings the bell to tell the time. I look at the hands of the clock. A moment has already passed since I came to this room. I have stayed here too long. Tomorrow is another day, and for the sake of the supervision of my men, I ask them to leave the room. Kayo agreed to the request, though she seemed to be regretting it.
 "Oh, yes. Tomobe-san, please..."
 Kayo suggested as if she had an idea after taking a glance at the tabletop. Hearing her suggestion, I raised my hands in the air and agreed to it.
* * *
 While I was having a dinner party with Kayo, my subordinates were packed in a corner of the county branch of Tachibana Trading Company. To be precise, it was the lodging house of the Tachibana Trading Company, and I had ordered them to stay at the lodging house to rest until my return. However, it was likely that they would stay here for the rest of the day.
 "So? Yuzuki, Tsunemoto, you mustn't keep on fooling around with the contents of that gourd, do you understand?"
 I said to the two servants who were organizing the luggage by the wall as I entered the large room where ten members of the second group were staying. The two new recruits, who had finished their training only three months before and had been assigned to their duties, were perturbed by my remark. From their behavior over the past few days, I had noticed that they had been secretly switching the contents of their water bottles from water to sake at the brewery in that village. Didn't they often drink water from the riverbank instead of water gourd during their breaks?
 "......!? You guys, what are you doing!!"
 Mikage, the leader of the group who is their boss, takes their gourd water bottles and sniffs the contents as if to check them, then yells at them. Yuzuki and Tsunemoto are startled and frightened. According to the contract, they were basically not supposed to touch any of the village property. They violated it. If they did wrong, they would be jointly and severally liable. Mikage's anger was justified.
 "Mikage, calm down. You're being rash."
 Mikage pulls his sword out of its scabbard and tries to cut down his men, but I calm him down. I understand his feelings, but cutting them down is not the way to go. This group is short on manpower, too. In fact, it would be nothing but a nuisance to cut them down in a place like this.
 "I know. I'm sure they won't get away with it. Still...!"
 I glance at them. Their faces are hidden by masks, but I can tell by their posture alone that they are pale. If anything, I knew that underneath the masks their faces still had a childish quality to them. They were barely past their mid-teens. Perhaps it was an impulse... but it's a boss's job to wipe his subordinate's ass.
 "What happened can't be helped. You guys are going to pay the penalty. For the next three days, you'll take turns keeping watch at night."
 "I-I understand..."
 "And share the sake with the others. Don't try to enjoy it alone."
 The two newcomers groaned at the same time at my words. The gourds don't have much capacity. A few sips for each of us and it will be gone in no time. There would be no lingering drunkenness by tomorrow. And the county governor's men who would probably come to the village to investigate would not even notice if they snatched that much sake.
 "...Well. By the way, have you guys eaten yet?"
 "No, not yet. We didn't expect to be staying here too..."
 I asked and Yahagi answered, ignoring the two newcomers who were disappointed and depressed. It's a good capital match.
 "I see. Then I was right to bring this back."
 And here, I finally show them the folded lunch box, which I was holding with one hand as if I was fishing it down with the other.
 "This is..."
 "It's a souvenir."
 At my words, my men gather around, looking interested. I make a scowl that they can see through my face.
 "Kukuku, cry for joy. It's a treat, okay?"
 And I open the contents of the box in front of everyone, pretending to be proud of it. Each of the three tiers of bento boxes was filled with Japanese, Western, and Chinese food. The first tier was a typical Fuso dish of simmered taro and ganmodoki, tsukudani of clam and kelp, koya-tofu and dashimaki tamago (rolled egg), and a rare dish of shoyu-konnyaku (konnyaku with soy sauce). The second tier was Nanban cuisine, consisting of salted ham, cutlets, roast duck, sweet sponge cakes, and pumpkin tarts. The third tier was filled with Mainland dishes. There were meatballs, stewed pork cubes, cayenne rolls, and moon cakes. These were dishes left over from a dinner party called a tea party.
 My men are blindsided by a savory smell they probably haven't smelled since they were born. Even I, who had lived in an age of food binges in my previous life, was crazy about this treat that I hadn't had in a long time. And for them, who usually eat only porridge made of brown rice, cereals, and vegetables, it was only natural that the dishes in front of them were a shock to them.
 "What is this...!?"
 "Don't tell me I can eat this!?"
 "Of course. I'm not so bad-natured that I'd show off my treats when I don't have to."
 I boast in response to the expectant words of my subordinate. Then I continue.
 "A pot of porridge rice should be here in a little while. You can have it as a side dish or a snack. ...So, divide it equally, okay?"
 Let me remind them of the last part. They say food resentment is scary, but even if it wasn't, I didn't want to make the relationship between the members of the group awkward over a trivial matter. Well, let's share it well.
 "As for Yun-shoku...?"
 "I've had enough of this food. Don't worry about it. ...Oh, the food came just in time."
 The maid who entered the room in good time gave us a pot and a chest. In the pot was a rice porridge mixed with white rice and wild vegetables, and in the chest was a mountain of various kinds of pickles. This alone was a treat.
 "Now, put it in the bowl by yourself. Chew it well while it cools down. I can't stand it if you get sick tomorrow."
 I ordered my subordinates who were trying to gather up the food before me. In fact, if they did not, they were likely to burn their tongues or choke on their food.
 "Yun-shoku (允職)......"
 "Hmm? What's the matter, aren't you going to eat it too? There is a lot of food, but with that amount, it will be gone in no time."
 I warn Yahagi and Mikage, the group leader, who is approaching me. In fact, the underlings were eating too much. We are short on men, so many of them are teenagers growing up. And it's no wonder, given the white rice and piles of pickles that are rarely eaten in Kizuki's mansion.
 "No, I am sorry. As the leader of the group, I am sorry for the lack of supervision..."
 The two team leaders apologize in a very depressed manner. They must be feeling responsible for the misconduct caused by their inability to control their subordinates.
 "No, it is the same for me. I'll have to rethink our training when we get back home."
 I had been teaching them to think and make decisions on their own to some extent, rather than to fight blindly even if they cannot command, but it seems to have backfired on them this time. The contents of the incident itself are minor and can be covered up, but... it is best to take action against misconduct while it is still small.
 "Besides, I'm sorry we're shorthanded and have to make you the group leader. In the past, there were more experienced supervisors."
 There are now only a handful of people who have been in the lower ranks since before the same time as me. Thanks to this, I was left with no choice but to put people like these two, who were still too heavy a burden to be the leader of a group, on top of me.
 "Now, get your asses down to eat. It's part of your job to fill your stomach, isn't it?"
 "...Yes, sir!"
 I urged them again, and they reluctantly went to eat. Now then...
 "Dinner for this one, too."
 I pull down the sliding door and leave the room, going out to the edge of the dark porch. There is a chill in the autumn wind. I sit down. Then I take out a charm from my pocket.
 I open the insect cage, which is wrapped in a large number of sealed charms. What emerges from the cage, illuminated by the moonlight, is a white spider. This god spider... holds out my index finger and hugs it as if it were excited. And a dull pain ran through me. It was the pain of a bite. Bloodsucking. Predatory behavior...
 "Tsk, you're bigger than before!"
 I take one look at the white spider, which is sucking blood with its fangs raised, and bite a bitter bug. The spider looks up at me in response, tilts its head as if in love, and returns to its meal. It looks to be about the size of a tarantula by now.
 To be honest, I don't want it to eat me if I can help it, but if I don't let it eat me, I will die in a double sense. On the other hand, if I let this guy eat me, it will only postpone my doom...
 I continue to be silently sucked for blood. The other side of the sliding door is bustling with activity. Everyone is probably engrossed in a warm meal for the first time in a long time. I shouldn't be in here, their boss. After all, it would only make everyone uncomfortable. But I can't be in that circle...
 "...D*mn it."
 I let out a small exclamation, thinking of the task at hand, the hardships that will befall me, and my own inevitable doom, the feeling that I'm slowly being pushed to the edge, and the situation at hand...
* * *
 While the servant was suffering on the porch of the inn, a figure remained at the banquet table. This figure lets out a small, low, cold laugh.
 "...Hehehe, too bad. It's not always easy to get things done my way, is it?"
 The merchant's daughter says, regretting the lingering fragrance of her important and valued guest after he has left. Naturally, she pulls the teacup left over in her hand and chirps seductively.
 "It's what I expected, but I wish there was a little more to it. Well, there's no point in saying that. ...After all, I should be careful, huh?"
 Yes, she must be reasonable. The ranking has already been determined and it will be very difficult to overturn it. Kayo is not unselfish, but at the same time, she does not live by her own conceit and drunkenness. Reckless and reckless bravery without a chance to win is out of the question. She must absolutely defend her current position, and she is willing to make any sacrifices to do so. And because of such Kayo, she knew very well that the woman had given her this precious opportunity.
 ......For the record, Kayo had been planning this tea party for days, ever since Kizuki's second princess had sent her the letter by the shikigami. Even though the amount of work she could do in a short period was limited, she was confident that she had prepared as much as possible within the time available, without any expense spared, in secret, and without arousing suspicion among the people around her.
 In fact, the tableware, foodstuffs, and room furnishings prepared for this tea party were all of a high value, and this hospitality room and the room where he would stay were hurriedly rebuilt. On the surface, the room is intended for Kayo and her group. And to avoid suspicion, Kayo treated everything else the same way, including the store where she and her guests would stay. How much will be the cost for this? It may come close to several thousand ryo, even approaching ten thousand. No wonder the shopkeepers did not look at Kayo in a good way.
 But it didn't matter. Kayo did not value the malice, hostility, envy, and backbiting of those around her equally. Compared to the profits she had made, it was an insignificant and necessary expense. She was convinced that she would have a large surplus after deducting the cost. In fact, Since Kayo entered the business world to become the successor of the trading company, she was aware that she had brought tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of profits to the company. Because of him. Money earned for him, to serve him, to pay tribute to him. Therefore, Kayo felt no remorse for this splurge.
 "Hehehe. I should be thankful to the princess."
 Kayo laughed, remembering the contents of the letter. She laughed in a low voice. Kizuki's second princess had foreseen it. She had foreseen that the county governor would be reluctant to retrieve the youkai cursed book. And what might happen as a result. And the second princess asked Kayo just in case, based on her previous experience. In exchange for granting this meeting, she asked Kayo for his protection. And accordingly, Kayo made contact with him by chance, and Kayo took full advantage of it. Even if it's just a clown's play dancing on the hand of the princess...
 "Phew, it's delicious."
 The merchant's daughter slurped the teacup in her hand as if nothing had happened. She tasted sweetness with bitterness. It tasted like him. It tasted like immorality. She wondered if her beloved had noticed that she had mixed a foreign substance, 'Kayo herself,' into the tea beforehand. Every time he sipped the teacup, would he have noticed that she was staring at it with a gaze full of emotion?
 Probably not. It was better that he didn't. That way, she could look forward to what was to come. The more a wine is brewed, the deeper it tastes. Patience until the time comes when he follows the ambitions of Kizuki's second princess and he is on an equal footing before Kayo.
 ...In a room filled with the scent of an aphrodisiac, she reveals the many horrific acts she has committed against him. She imagines the moment when he, still unable to resist his lust, looks down at her with a mixture of scorn and lust as he pushes her down with a mixture of anger and desire, grabs her honey-colored hair, and violently puts her down. She fantasizes about the scene where the clothes of the beast of prey are roughly stripped off as if to pick off the fur of its prey to make it easier for the beast to eat. She fantasizes about what happens next. And it makes her body tremble. As well as her heart.
 "Mmm, phew..."
 The girl sighs, slouched in a deep chair. Her breath was so sweet, so seductive. She was like a kitten in heat. It was not the breath of a pure-hearted early teenage girl. How could such a pure and innocent sheltered girl, a virgin who had never known a man, have such a charming expression and such moist eyes? Can people believe it? The man who saw her would have lost all reason in all probability. The scent was that strong. It's poison. She's a real charmer, a witch...
 "...!? ...Tomobe-san."
 Suddenly, Kayo comes to her senses. The sexy scent that had been oozing out of her has disappeared, and she returns to the pure-hearted girl she was. She caresses the teacup with her white hand. It is warm. It is not tea. The tea has already cooled. This is the warmth of human skin. It's the residue of his heat. His warmth. It's a gentle warmth. So different from hers.
 At the same time, it reminds her of her own ugliness. It is a cruel reminder of her position. It is because it seems shallow and sinful for her, who has been so corrupted by lust, to be in the same room with him, to breathe with him, to talk with him.
 ...But that doesn't stop her. She can't give up. She cannot escape. She sighs again. Fall again. Fall to the depths of depravity.
 "...I must pick these up before Tsuru comes back..."
 She has given instructions to the elderly female servant to take care of things. She was old and Kayo didn't want to burden her too much, but she had no choice in the matter. She doesn't want her to see herself like this, ugly and shallow as she is. Kayo gets to work. She has to retrieve the teacups, chopsticks, and the rag he used to wipe his mouth. The opportunity is too good to pass up. For her, it is a treasure that she would gladly trade for a large grain of gold sand of equal weight, if not more. It is a collection to be proud of.
 Kayo was aware of the fact that her own behavior was considerably out of the ordinary. But even though she knew it in her head, she could not resist the desire. So, while hiding those treasures in her pocket, and recognizing her own inner excitement, she thinks to herself. Oh, it's really shameful...
 "Hehehe, it's really a very shameful thing, isn't it?"
 It was so embarrassing that she was wearing underwear that she had specially and secretly arranged for the occasion, which even her family would not be able to see. It was a 'just-in-case' scenario in a soundproofed room, but in fact, out of the more than sixty assumptions she had fantasized about, her beloved had chosen and followed the most benign and the most boring one, which is more than a little disappointing.
 ...No, she should stop criticizing him. She actually approached him with that expectation and whispered to him about the soundproofing of the room to tempt him. And Kayo was fooled.
 "I'm sure the princess had that much in mind."
 Her absolute trust in him must have been the reason for that letter. Or, she might have allowed and affirmed whichever option he chose. In any case, Kayo lost the game. Disgraceful, shameful.
 "Giggle... okay. I don't care. No matter how much I lose, no matter how much I dedicate, I don't care."
 Kayo laughs. She laughs innocently. Then, she laughs with a chilling smile. Yes, she doesn't care. She doesn't care how much it costs her. Worst of all, it doesn't change what she has to do, whether he turns into a monster or not.
 "Still, I'll be waiting for you, Tomobe-san. Debts must be repaid with interest and earnings. That's what a merchant does."
 Kayo laughed again. Then with a small, red tongue, she rolled the thing she had been holding in her mouth throughout the tea party and smirked. She could feel 'him' with her tongue, entangling her own saliva around 'him' in her mouth, savoring it. Licking around it, sucking it in. She kept it in her mouth so she could vividly remember that day.
 Yes, she thinks of the time when she will repay the debt of life she owed him that day with everything she has. A time when she would literally pay it all off, give it all away. Surely... it will be sweeter than any sugar candy. It will be more addictive than opium. An irresistible lure, an inescapable temptation. An addiction.
 "Ahh..., I'm really looking forward to that time. Tomobe-san?"
 The girl keeps staring at the teacup with eyes as cloudy as a maiden's dream and as an opium addict's. She keeps stroking it. As if savoring every last bit of warmth.
 In the soundproofed room, the woman's charming laughter continues to echo for a long time...

Please bookmark this series and rate ☆☆☆☆☆ on here!
Donate me