Thursday, March 16, 2023 @

Chapter 68, Part 2

 "Is something wrong?"
 "No, nothing."
 I asked Shirowakamaru with a strange feeling, but he answered bluntly. Is it jealousy? Is it like a big brother or sister sulking when their parents are taken away by their little brother or sister? In the original game scenario, I think he had a similar attitude when he interacted with other characters after he became more favorable to them. Well, I don't think that I am as trustworthy as the original main character.
 ((We're) not exactly on good terms... or at least, I wouldn't say we are.)
 Half-youkai and human, servant and potential household, faction, and guardian, I can't say irresponsibly that we should get along with each other. But I don't want each others to be hostile to each other at least. There is no need to have such an unfriendly relationship when there is no direct vengeance or hatred. Or rather, as in the original scenario, we are on the same side of the human race, so don't exhaust our strength in a war among ourselves... or I guess I'll have to gradually make some arrangements in that regard.
 "Hmm? Ah, sorry. Please take the wagons and horses to the stables. The specimens will be kept in the building where the researchers are staying and the rest in our warehouse. Make sure to keep records, okay?"
 I order my men who have caught up with me from behind. Well, I can't stay on the road much longer.
 "Shiro, thank you for picking us up. Go back to the princess. Mikage, I'm sorry, but you'll have to escort her... and Shirowakamaru-sama, I'd better be going now."
 I say this to the girl and the boy, respectively, and leave. It's not that I've gotten tired of babysitting children. But as I said before, my duty is not done yet. A field trip is an expedition until returning home, but in the case of work, it includes the report and the paperwork after returning home. It's hard to be a worker.
 Suddenly, I feel something strange and stop my footsteps. A strong feeling that someone is watching me... I look around involuntarily. However, I try to be alert, but soon after that, the presence fades away without a trace, and I can't sense even a trace of it anymore.
 (Hidden group? That's very quick, and their judgment is also very good.)
 I don't even want to imagine who is this person when I think of the internal bone fights among the Kizuki family in the original story. It is mostly a reconnaissance of me, who is said to belong to the gorilla-sama faction.
 "Despite only a Yun-shoku. They should have let me go."
 Anyway, it's not worth thinking about. This house has been a hideout from the start. I'll watch out for sneak attacks.
 Now, I'll resume my steps. After all, I can't stay here forever...
* * *
 "Hmm, so this is the youkai cursed book. Thank you for retrieving it."
 In the hall of the residence where the main members of the Kizuki family gather, in one of the rooms, I kneeled down and received words of thanks for my efforts. The person who spoke to me was Kizuki Shisui, my immediate superior. In his hand was a youkai cursed book sealed with a large number of charms and chains.
 ...For the record, there are not many Kizuki who would speak words of gratitude to a servant, even if it is a superficial social greeting. By the standards of my previous lives, servants are worth little more than household appliances at best. They are tools. And it is an oddity or a freak to thank a tool. In that sense, Shisui was a man of virtue.
 ...Though It is neither kind nor compassionate.
 "I understand the situation, and I understand how it ended. But, what is your intention in coming back later than expected? You weren't out on the road, were you?"
 This question was asked by a plump middle-aged man in a tone that was more like an interrogation than a question. It is Uemon Kizuki, the head of the hidden group and the head of the storehouse. This obese man, who has been in charge of the Kizuki family's overall finances in both name and reality since he became the head of the storehouse in the spring of this year, stares at me as if probing me.
 "As for that matter, I believe I have already reported it. We were requested by the Tachibana family to escort them on their journey, which caused a delay in our return. Therefore, I have written a letter to explain the reason."
 I simply answered the facts that had occurred to me in a matter-of-fact, emotionless manner. If I showed emotion, he would only wonder and hate me.
 "That's the funny part."
 Uemon's words are accompanied by a creaking sound as his weight rests heavily on his side armrests. The obese man spins the rest of his speech, fanning himself even though it's not even hot.
 "If they wanted to be escorted, they could have sent a letter to us, the Kizuki family, and we would have dispatched them. But instead, even if it was by chance on the road, it is very strange that they would hire a group of you and your servants. And to say nothing about hiring a person..."
 Uemon looks at me suspiciously. I remain silent, offering no comment. I'm not going to get into it here.
 "What is it you wish to say, Lord Uemon?"
 The one who spoke on my behalf of my silence was the head of the servants. He asks calmly, with a friendly smile. At least on the surface.
 "Well, I'm not satisfied that the servant there was really doing what he said he was going to do. I was worried that he might have sold out the protection to Tachibana's family without proper courtesy."
 The head of the hidden group gives a sneer. He probably suspects that I might have been in contact with the Tachibana family under someone else's orders. He may be planning to pull out the memories in my head on the pretext of my possible bad behavior. From Uemon's point of view, I'm closer to Gorilla-sama and Shisui, and he may be thinking that he can get some useful information from me. It's going to be a bad trend...
 "Speaking of which, you're right, Lord Uemon..."
 "And what does everyone think when this servant has the other servants with him on a mission? I mean, these days, the servants seem to have a strange sense of wisdom. I believe their training has been modified?"
 "Yeah, they're better than the scarecrows we had before. But... that being the case... I think Lord Shisui loosened up a bit too much."
 "Yes, and this mission. I heard Lord Shisui put him in charge of dealing with the county governor as well. Aren't you giving too much authority to a servant?"
 "Just like others say, Lord Shisui, you're responsible for supervising and controlling the servants. Can you take responsibility if something happens?"
 People began to speak in agreement with Uemon's words. At the same time, there was a mixture of scorn and ridicule toward Shisui, and suspicion and hostility toward me. Half of what they said may have been their true intentions, but the other half may have been political harassment toward Shisui.
 Even though he declined the candidacy for the next head of the family, Kizuki Shisui's position in the family is still very important. And many people wanted to be the next head of the family. If there was anything that could be called even the slightest blunder, they would pursue it with glee, as if everyone were throwing stones at a drowning dog. On the side, the assistant who was standing by glared at them with hostility, but Shisui quieted them down in a calm manner.
 "What do you think, Lord Shisui? I think there is a bad influence from the servant there."
 Uemon glances at me as I kneel down and continues. His tone was somewhat dismissive.
 "Would you be willing to give up the position of Yun-shoku? What, if there's no problem, I'll give it back to you as it is? Just to be sure, I thought we should have a hearing just to be safe. I've always had a little trouble with it."
 Uemon wasn't kidding. In his job, the hidden group is trained to interrogate people, including those under torture. Naturally, it also involves digging up the memories in their heads. There's no telling what they'll do to me if they take me in.
 "Oh, my, oh, my, you're being very indirect, aren't you, head of the hidden group? Can you speak the truth? Are you so unhappy that my pawn is the Yun-shoku?"
 The blunt statement echoed from one of the upper seats, without any qualifications or sh*t. The statement was haughty to the point of arrogance, but it had an unusually strong presence. I glanced at the owner of the voice as I remained kneeling.
 First of all, I was impressed by his bright cherry blossom-colored kimono. She was casually leaning on her elbow, just like Uemon, and she was a beautiful and voluptuous girl whom I could recognize even from the top of her robe. Kizuki's second princess, Kizuki Aoi... smiled wickedly as if she had noticed my gaze. I immediately turned my gaze away from her.
 "Aoi, this is a public place, okay? Even though you are a direct descendant, you should be careful about your words! And don't make such an accusation..."
 "Will you stop yelling, Uncle? You're hurting my ears. Don't tell me you're yelling at your wife like that? How very grown-up of you. She'll run away from you, you know?"
 Gorilla-sama says in a mocking tone, or at least that's the only tone she can use. She held her mouth with her sleeve and laughed at Umeon with a beautiful voice that sounded like a tinkling bell. The content was also harsh. Uemon and his wife, the 'NTRed young wife who destroys the player's brain,' who are together, could be mistaken for parent and child.
 "...!!!? Aoi, don't you dare to say that!!"
 Uemon's face turns red with shame and anger. As he tried to stand up quickly, some of the people who were standing beside him quieted him down and slandered Aoi's rudeness.
 However, the person in question does not seem to be bothered by such a scene. On the contrary, some of the members of the family who belong to Aoi's faction secretly let out a sneer and whispered in each other's ears on their head's comment. Like Shisui, Uemon, who had the Kizuki's finances and the Hidden group under his control, was also an object of envy, hostility, and ostracism for the others.
 "I also disagree with your treatment of Yun-shoku, uncle."
 The room, which had begun to buzz noisily, was filled with the sound of this dignified voice.
 With surprise, all the people in the room gathered their eyes on the upper seats. The person who was sitting just opposite Aoi was a beautiful woman with her glossy, raven wet feather-colored hair tied in a bun. A slender woman in a man's kimono with a straight back... Kizuki Hina, the first princess of the Kizuki family.
 Uemon frowned. His eyes widen and a look of obvious surprise comes over his face. The people around him did the same.
 It was only natural. Hina's intervention was too unexpected for him. Uemon is a neutralist who is as close as possible to the Hina faction in choosing the next head of the Kizuki family. ...Although I know this thanks to my having played the original game. In any case, there is nothing I can say. I just remain silent.
 "Hina! I, to, you...."
 "Please be quiet, Uncle. How can a man who holds such a heavy responsibility in the house of Kizuki be so angry?"
 "Ugh, but...!!"
 "I understand it."
 Hiding Uemon's anger, the first princess glared at her sister.
 "Aoi, our uncle is an elder of the family who bears the heavy responsibility of Kizuki. Don't use such impolite words. You're not a child anymore.... or are you incapable of such consideration?"
 With a dignified expression, Hina rebukes her sister while keeping her posture straight. On the other hand, Aoi makes an annoyed expression and rests his chin on his hand with an exasperated expression on her face. She lets out a sigh.
 "I understand, my dear big sister. ...Uncle, I'm very sorry for the trouble I've just caused the elders. Please, do as you please."
 Whatever the sentence, her tone was appropriate, as if she had no choice. And, Uemon looked uncomfortable with his niece's attitude.
 Well, the worst thing is that it seems quite soft to me, who knows the original story. Just by avoiding the "Absolute Despair Great Youkai Orgy Party", his niece has become a lot more mature. If it had been worse, his head would have rolled two or three times by now.
 "Well, uncle. May we return to the conversation?"
 Hina asked calmly to the angry Uemon. It was reasonable since Gorilla-sama was not expected to make any further concessions.
 "Uncle, I understand your feelings but please bear with it... This is the place where reports of the mission are received. Besides, wasn't it Uncle who stirred up the discussion by inviting irrelevant arguments? Please be mindful of this."
 Uemon could not refute Hina's point of view. Yes, this is not the place for intrigues and factional battles. Uemon was the one who diverted the agenda to the side, and Aoi was just along for the ride.
 "I understand your feelings, head of the Hidden Group. However, the servants are under my jurisdiction and I am fully responsible for them. Your words suddenly touch on my authority... Are you concerned even with the duties of a servant's head?"
 "Well, Uncle is a greedy man, isn't he?"

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