Thursday, March 16, 2023 @

Chapter 68, Part 4

 It was no use to keep thinking about the unanswerable questions, and I don't have the time to keep immersing myself in a sea of thoughts.
 Still, there was no shortage of things to be done, such as making up the bills of receipts and expenditures, checking the returned equipment, and checking the reports of the people in the group while I was gone. As a result, I finally arrived at the hut at the edge of the Kizuki family's mansion at dusk, after 7:30 in the evening. It was the end of summer and the beginning of autumn. The sky had already turned red. It was sunset sky. The crows were cawing.
 "I hope everything is alright..."
 I mutter to myself as I walk to my hut. I'm worried. I had heard about it when I was chatting with Shiro on the horse, so I knew it was nothing to worry about, but I couldn't help but worry about the two of them, considering their positions. I can't help but feel uneasy about them because of their status, where they come from, and the fact that they work for me, and I can't help but wonder if there is really nothing going on.
 Now, the hut came into view. Smoke was rising from the hearth. Is he using a fire?
 I stop in front of the doorway of the hut. I look down at my baggage. It is a sweet that I received as a souvenir when I left Kayo. I hope they'll be happy to see it...
 "What a hypocrisy..."
 I think to that point and scoff at my own thoughts. If I cared about them, I would not have brought them to this house in the first place. From this point on, the Kizuki family's conflict grows more intense. And with them as my caretakers, who knows what kind of stray bullets will come to them... I thought the same thing when I brought them here, but it's hypocrisy indeed.
 And what makes me angry is that I'm the one putting them in danger, and at the same time I'm relieved that they're here...
 "Boss (Danna), why are you just standing there?"
 "Hmm? Huh!? Magoroku...!?"
 Needless to say, I'm startled to my core when someone calls out to me from behind. When I turned around, it was Magoroku. A man with a tanned and toned body from manual labor looks at me curiously. What is that on his hand... is it rabbit meat?
 "Well, is that...?"
 "Oh? Is this it? I heard that Boss came back today, so I strangled the rabbits in the breeding shed. I thought the bleeding would be over soon, so I hung them in the back of the shed and brought them back after processing them."
 Magoroku smiles as he shows me the rabbit meat, gutted and furred. The shed, which Magoroku and I had jointly built the other day, holds rabbits and chickens. Even though I am a yun-shoku, I have to provide for the three of us to some extent.
 "Ah! Welcome back, big brother...! These footsteps, are they Tomobe-sama's?"
 Magoroku opened the door, and I followed him into the hut reserved for yun-shoku, where a blind girl greeted us, knitting. Mari, Magoroku's little sister, was blind, but her other senses were keen enough to recognize my presence just by the sound of my footsteps.
 "Yeah. I just met Magoroku there. How's it going? Everything okay?"
 "Yes. While Tomobe-sama was away, nothing much. Is Tomobe-sama hurt?"
 "Don't worry, I'm in perfect health. Right, Magoroku?"
 "Yeah, he's a great boss."
 I responded to her anxious question in an exultant tone, and Magoroku also responded in the same way. He then goes to the kitchen, checks the fireplace and the inside of the pot, and prepares a chopping board and a knife. He seems to intend to cook the rabbit that he has finished preparing.
 "Porridge and soup are almost ready. And now... the smell is rabbit meat, isn't it?"
 "Yes. Boss, the food will be ready soon. The bucket... here it is..."
 Maguroku nodded his head and poured the hot water from the pot in the corner of the room into the bucket. Since firewood is precious, he reused the heat from the cooking. Mari, on the other hand, walks on her knees and pulls out a change of clothes from a wooden box also placed in the corner of the room.
 "Please put your clothes in the basket there. I'll wash them later."
 After saying this, Magoroku stepped to Mari's side. The younger sister also noticed the sound of her brother's footsteps and turned to face him, sitting on her knees again. Then they stood side by side.
 "Once again, welcome home, Boss..."
 "Welcome home, Tomobe-sama."
 A dark-skinned, strong man and a slender, blind girl both called out to me. Smiling kindly, they welcomed me home as if they were happy from the bottom of their hearts.
 Yes, it was like welcoming home a family member...
 It must have been a happy thing. A very happy thing. But for someone like me... someone as ugly and cowardly as me... it was too much.
 "...Hmm, yeah. I brought you a souvenir. Nanban baked goods. Shall we eat it together later?"
 I give the box to Maguroku and cover my feelings so that he doesn't know what I'm thinking. The box contains cookies. The siblings look pleased with my words. They seemed to be really looking forward to it. I'm happy to see them too. And then I mutter in a small voice. I whisper in a voice I'm not sure they can hear.
 "......I'm home."
 I knew I was being presumptuous. I knew it was an easy thing to say. Even so, no, that's exactly why I wanted to at least hold on to this moment of happiness.
 I needed the support of my heart in order to get through the hardships ahead, in the pitch darkness with no hope in sight...
* * *
 As the girl reached her room, she leaned forward on the floor. Her face was burning as if she had a fever, her eyes were misty, and her breath was ragged. At the same time, however, she had a sweet and lewd air about her.
 It was the appearance of a beast in heat.
 "Haa~... finally, finally we could meet. It's been a long time... really, a long time...!"
 She screams. She screams with all her might. She roars. Like a beast... no, it was truly a beast.
 There was the figure of a person who gave herself over to instinct and desire.
 "Ah... it was long! Ah... really, it was really long..."
 Her cries of joy gradually turn to sobs. She slumps to the floor and sighs. Ten days, that's how long he had been gone from this house, and it had been too long for her, too long for Kizuki Hina.
 More than anything else, he was surrounded by a group of incomprehensible outsiders, led by her abominable little sister. Because of this, all the shikigami that Hina had sent to watch over her had been torn apart, burned to the ground, and driven away. Hina has been trying to fight against it, and her skill was already worthy of being called first-rate... Unfortunately, even so, it was extremely difficult to get a shikigami to stay with him.
 Therefore, the only time she could watch over him was when she was in this house... from far away, Hina gazed at her beloved forever. She gazed at him with indulgence. Always staring. For her, It was such a natural thing to do.
 The only thing that would hurt her was if he would leave the house, and there was nothing she could do about it. She thought of going to some random request and meeting him by chance, but even that would not work because of the obstacles.
 Once that happened, Hina suffered so much that she feared she would be burned to death. She suffered for him, longing for him. Many times she suffered so much that she actually burned herself out... Though, her body has regenerated quickly.
 Hina sobs even more as she writhes on the floor. Lamenting. Like a child, she sobs. Crying out.
 It was from loneliness. It was from sadness at not being able to be with him. It grew stronger as the years went by, as she became more of a woman. Wearing the clothes he had given her and filling her lungs with his scent could no longer disguise it. For a while, she used to drown her craving by offering her heart to him, but for some reason... that has become much less frequent in the recent past year or so. She has lost the means to prove her feelings, her devotion, and her love for him. This was despair for Hina.
 That's why... the fact that she was able to look him in the eye and have a conversation with him at the meeting of the members just now was the happiest, most joyful, most pleasurable she had ever felt. She did not show it on her face, but she had to change her underwear. It was within her expectation.
 "...So hateful."
 Remembering this, the first princess suddenly stops crying, and at the same time, her face is distorted in anger like a prawn. She is outraged at the memory of that meeting. She is enraged at those who had tried to humiliate him, at those who had joined the circle of mockery, and at her sister...
 Some of the people who had planned to undermine him before the meeting was cut off by her sister's suggestion. Shamelessly, the sister took advantage of her and her love for him and used it for her own political purposes. Thanks to her, Uemon's support for Hina was kept afloat among the factions, and Uemon himself was driven into a corner. Her uncle is a small man who will never forget even the smallest of things. And Hina had no choice but to accept it. For him, she would make any sacrifice.
 It's not just that, it's probably at the behest of that sister. But he's surrounded by some annoying mob. There's an insincere red-headed bitch, a bratty hungry animal, a filthy child monk, a horrid stray demon, a thick-faced traitor, and a blind woman of the oppressed class... Ah, they're really getting in the way. Every one of them, every one of them is dirty, ugly, and filthy. It's so pitiful for him to be surrounded by such people. So pitiful. This is abuse. How much does she intend to humiliate him...!
 "Shall I just burn them all?"
 She muttered to herself, but it seemed too tempting an option. This house and all the people who live in this house, let's just slash and burn... no one will talk about the dead, after all.
 And then she would take him by the hand through the fire and they would escape, and the day would start all over again. She'll smile back at his smile and leave all that is foul and unholy behind and fulfill the promise of that day. Oh, what a sweet sight...?
 "It's no good... no good, no good, no good, no good, no good, no good, no good, no good, no good!! Not yet, it's still no good!!!!"
 About to escape into a beautiful fantasy world, Hina scratches her head and rejects it. No, not yet! To save him, she must not act yet!!!!
 "Endure... I should endure it. Yes, I've been waiting for years. Aren't those close enough? Just be patient. Yes, just a little more... just a little more...!!?"
 Just as she was desperately trying to convince herself of her desire, she suddenly experienced heart palpitations-like withdrawal symptoms and left the room in a panic, rushing to the small chest she had left in her room. She picks up the charm she had planted herself for fear of theft. The charm burns her palm, but it does not matter. The only thing that matters is what's inside.
 Throwing off the lid, she hugs the underwear she has been storing inside, buries her face in it, and inhales the scent of the underwear into her lungs. Gradually, her heartbeat seemed to calm down. Filled with his scent, Hina was in such a state that she almost thought she was doing opium. It was calming. So soothing.
 "Mmm, haa~... haa~......"
 The underwear, soiled and stained with his blood, sweat, and vomit, had been a treasure of Hina's. A precious gift from him. His permission? She doesn't need that. They are a couple, after all. Then they should share the property, too. Everything he is is her, and everything she is him... Hina could give him everything, including her life, with a smile on her face if he so desired, without the slightest hesitation. Because family is about helping each other. She was convinced that she was a good wife.
 ...But Hina didn't know the fact that when the underwear disappeared, the siblings who served her beloved would apologize with a blue face, thinking it was a laundry mistake, and he would continue to appease the two who were horrified anyway, saying that it was just old clothes. However, even if she knew, she wouldn't care. Nor would she be interested. Every person on his side was a distraction to her. Hina's world had been fully completed and finished with him and herself. There was no room for others. Nothing was allowed. She had made her mind up.
 "So, wait for me... Just a little longer, wait for me. I'll come to get you, I'll definitely rescue you. This time it's me! I'll save you for sure! I promise! So, so…"
 The last words of strong passion faded into a plea. Then she murmured.
 "Please. Wait for me..."
 Hina hugs his underwear, murmuring sadly like a child. Tightly, tightly, as if she were hugging him herself, she thinks of their meeting someday, fantasizes about her life with him, and hugs him. Loving him. Liking him. Without realizing how crucially different she is from him.
 There is no light in her red eyes, just a muddy, murky madness of love and passion…

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