Monday, March 6, 2023 @

Volume 5 Epilogue, Part 1

 "Hey... is this slide door opened enough?"
 "Yeah, it's a little damp but if you open it too wide, the rain will come in. Anyway, it's kind of stylish, isn't it?
 While the rain was pouring down heavily, I was lying on the floor instructing Shirowakamaru to open the sliding door halfway. The boy follows my instruction and moves the sliding door...
 Now, it was the third day of the Minazuki month (June), the spring had passed and the early summer was approaching. Heavy rain had been falling on the northern region, making the humidity high and the air steamy. It is no exception, even though Kizuki's residence has been turned into a stray house. So, it was necessary to open the sliding door for ventilation.
 "Thanks for your help. Oh, yes. Do you want some of this? Magoroku brought it earlier."
 I pointed to a wooden candy box with sugar candy in it. The sugar that Magoroku and the others cooked for visiting us as well as for a snack was expensive, so he used honey instead of sugar for sweetness, but it was quite a good flavor.
 "It's not like I am hungry..."
 Shirowakamaru muttered to himself, and the next moment his stomach rumbled a little. The boy's face droops in embarrassment. I laugh and defend him.
 "You're growing up, too. So don't hold back. Eat when you can."
 "...I got it."
 The boy, who has been looking at me blankly for a while, reaches for the candy box with a sour look on his face.
 Then, with a crackling sound, the room was filled with the sound of small, gurgling noise. The taste of the candy was probably not too far off his taste buds. Well, though sweetened sugar is relatively suitable for common people, the sweet taste itself is a luxury in this world.
 For a while, the only sound in the room is Shirowakamaru taking a bite of the Karinto mixed with the sound of rain. After a few bites, Shirowakamaru suddenly stops reaching for the candy box.
 "...I wonder how long you'll be confined here?"
 "Well. At any rate, it's doubtful that we'll be able to stay here in one piece for much longer."
 Shirowakamaru, who has been staring at the torrential rain outside, mutters with a grim expression on his face, to which I reply with a self-deprecating smile. After answering, I laugh even harder. The reason is that I am surprised at my own remark.
 Young hag... or Kizuko Kochou, I was lying on the floor in one of the rooms occupied by her. For nearly a week since I came back to this house, that is all I've been doing.
 I knew the reason for this. Confinement.
 In a sense, it was natural. I guessed that the confinement was to pursue my hidden secrets, such as the unknown effect of the Tsuchigumo curse, the observation to see if the monster blood flowing in me would not run wild again, and moreover, the existence of Matsushige's shikigami and the Matagama. In fact, this room is sealed with charms at the four corners, and I am locked in an invisible boundary. And during this time, the adviser visited me several times and asked me some questions. Strangely enough, most of them seemed irrelevant and inappropriate for an interrogation...
 Moreover, there is one mysterious thing. The fact that I, who could hardly get up from the paralyzing poison of the spider youkai monsters and the muscle pain caused by the burden of transforming into a youkai monster, had been confined in a room of the residence built on the premises of the adviser, instead of the hut that had been assigned to me. It was really a strange thing. Even if I had to accept the situation a hundred percent, it would at least be in the place where my Lord, Gorilla-sama, lives. Or a cell in the basement of the residence. That way, I could be monitored in safely. So, why...?
 "It's really strange, seriously? And on top of that, they're assigning you as my caretaker."
 "...What, you got a problem with that?"
 Shirowakamaru frowns at my point. I laugh again and explain myself.
 "No, no, you're doing a great job. Rather, you're helping me a lot because I have muscle pains all over my body and it's hard to move. But that's what makes me wonder. I'm not some lord or nobleman... I thought it was extravagant to assign you as my caretaker."
 To be exact, I wonder why Shirowakamaru, who is also a candidate for a householder, is the one looking after me while I am confined within the premises of the adviser? By the way, Magoroku and his sister were prohibited from entering this location due to their social status and background. If this were a normal prison, it would be a different story...
 "Even if you're trying to stir things up, there's nothing you can do, is there?"
 "Is it worth trying to stir up with a brat like you?"
 "Hey, what do you mean by 'brat'...?"
 I put my hand on Shirowakamaru's grumpy head and stroke it roughly. Just like I used to do to my younger brothers and sisters. Maybe because of the incident at the cave the other day, Shirowakamaru does not show hostility toward me anymore, though he seems to be grumpy at least this much. I hope it's not just because he is afraid of me, but because he trusts me a little...
 "A brat is a brat. You are also not tall. So, why not be a spoiled brat while you still can?"
 Life is life, so it's no wonder he's so hostile and nervous around people. It is also a fact that he will be shunned by those around him if he continues to be like that. Of course, it is dangerous to be careless because some of them are not good enough, but I really wanted him to be friendly enough to be helped by the people around him.
 In fact, in the original game, this boy was victimized by people around him, partly because of his stinging personality that people did not help him when he got into a terrible situation. It was a negative cycle that made his character even worse. I wish he would have been stronger in this area to avoid a bad ending.
 "No, I'm..."
 "Oh my, oh my, you two seem to be getting along so well. I'm almost jealous."
 Shirowakamaru turned his eyes away and was about to say something, but his words were interrupted by a haughty, light voice. I spot the princess appearing from the other side of the sliding door and at the same time, I tried to get up and kneel, but she stopped me.
 "You don't have to kneel. It would be ridiculous for you to kneel with your body. Well, just get into a comfortable position."
 Kizuki Aoi, who appeared through the gap in the sliding door, declared to me in a very arrogant tone.
* * *
 The gorilla princess appears from the other side of the sliding door, covers her mouth with a fan, and gives me an impassive glance. Observing the situation.
 "....Even so, you've been so naughty again, haven't you? You get hurt so badly every time. You're like a child. I wish you'd consider the parents' feelings."
 "Please forgive me for that. I don't get hurt just for fun."
 I try to stand up and am stopped, resulting in me crawling on all fours on the futon, and I reply to the gorilla-sama standing in front of me, who gives me a sarcastic look. Well, it may be just for fun for you, but for me, my life is on the line, okay?
 Gorilla-sama blows off such an accusing look from me as if he doesn't care about me at all. She fans herself with a fan and complains.
 "However, it's still a problem. As soon as you returned, you were immediately brought into this place. I can't come onto that old hag's property without permission either. It took me a long time to show my face like this."
 Gorilla-sama gives me a foolish look as if to say, "You made me go through all this trouble."
 "Please excuse my trouble. ...But, uhh... Princess, may I ask what you are doing here while showing kind of that face? I mean, Princess, you aren’t here to visit me, aren’t you?"
 "Oh my, oh my, don't be happy at other people's goodwill. You're so mean."
 With the help of Shirowakamaru, who came close by my side because of my muscle pain, I slowly get into a sitting posture and express my gratitude, but of course, Gorilla-sama sees through my true intention. Once again, she cowered her shoulders in dismay. No, no, no, which one of us is meaner?
 "Don't worry. You'll only be in confinement for a few more days. I spoke to my grandmother yesterday. She assured me that you'll be returned to me so you don't have to lie under the covers every day, terrified that you're going to be experimented on."
 Gorilla-sama proudly boasts. She declares condescendingly. No, her words are indeed life-saving and I should thank her, but, strangely, she sounds more proud than she should when she says it.
 ...Although it is true I was worried about being taken out of my futon by a group of people dressed as black death doctors every day?
 "...But still, how did princess manage to talk her way out of it? How could you convince them to let a bomb like me go?"
 "It's a secret, I don't have to tell you everything, do I? If you're concerned about it, think for yourself."
 I ask her in a slightly frightened manner while noticing the anxious look in the boy's eyes beside me. Then Gorilla-sama, covers her mouth with her sleeve and lets out a mocking, yet still malicious, laugh. ...At least it doesn't sound pleasant.
 "Oh yeah, I have to give this to you. Take it."
 At that moment, she snapped her fingers, summoning a shikigami in the form of a doll through a sliding door. The doll-like shikigami was clutching an insect cage, which it then placed in front of us. As I peered inside the cage, I found myself squinting in an attempt to discern what lay within.
 "This is..."
 "I got it from my grandmother yesterday. She said she thought it would be good for you to have it. Well, that's natural. You wouldn't like your life in the hands of someone you don't know and don't trust, would you?"
 Gorilla-sama also looks at it. Staring at the insect cage.
 It is not just an ordinary insect cage. It was carved out of a sacred tree, and a curse was placed on it layer by layer. On top of it, a charm seal was carefully placed. Even at a glance, it is clear that the purpose of the cage is not just to collect insects.
 "Basically, keep it inside. No honest exorcist would commit suicide by taking this kind of mysterious thing home without permission. Besides, you don't want it to escape without permission, do you?"
 After hearing the gorilla-sama's words, I stare at the insect cage. More precisely, I look at the ventilation holes of the cage.
 ...Inside the insect cage, to which many charm seals were attached, was a spider. More precisely, a white baby spider. Insects have no feelings, but this trapped baby spider seemed somehow charming and childish.
 By the way, as can be seen from the huge amount of ostentatious symbols attached to this insect cage, this is not just a spider. Nor is it just a spider youkai monster. It is a more... troublesome existence.
 "A newborn deity, I'm surprised that you'd bring something like this back with you."
 Gorilla-sama takes a glance at the insect cage, causing me to stare at the existence in the insect cage. The baby spider inside the cage was holding its front legs in its mouth as if it was playing dumb, and tilting its head. I clicked my tongue at the aloofness of the child spider.
 "Is this the curse?"
 "I've heard that there have been cases of deities on the verge of death trying to survive by taking over their killer."
 That's why the court seals them or reduces them to youkai so they can't be replaced when they're killed.
 "This one must have mobilized all the remaining divine energy. It's small, but it's very pure. Quality over quantity, I guess."
 Gorilla-sama tapped her fingers on the cage and was astonished. The baby spider in the cage was frightened by the tremor and took shelter in the corner of the cage.
 Or should I say, "Cover its head, but not its butts?" The way it shakes its head with its legs and shakes its buttocks while trembling in the corner of the cage does not look like a horrifying monster at all, nor does it look like a divine figure that has been handed down from time immemorial.
 Yes, this deity was too fragile. It was too small.
 But.. that is why it is more troubling in this case.
 "The bad karma between you and the baby spider is very troublesome. It's not only malignant, but it's endless."
 Gorilla-sama forcibly pulls the reluctant baby spider out of the cage and stares at the spider caught in her hand. *Twitch!* The baby spider is frightened. But that's all. If Gorilla-sama used her power, she could have crushed this lowly deity. The reason why she doesn't do it is not only because she doesn't feel comfortable crushing a spider with her bare hands.
 "Well, I guess we can call it, a 'life-supporting, flesh-eating relationship?' ...What a bad kind of a curse connection it is..."
 The words that Gorilla-sama spat out were literally disgusting. For once, I had no choice but to fully agree with her words.
 'Life-supporting, flesh-eating relationship (命結骨肉喰之類縁)' ...a connection between two lives that connected through a curse. The word "骨肉喰" (kokkotsu ku) means family or blood relation, but in this case, it probably means the two lives whose lives are connected as mentioned above. To eat, it is this kind of connection... a curse.
 "In other words, this baby spider is bound to you by the bond of life, one mind, one flesh... no, it's worse than that. If it dies, you die, but if you die, it doesn't die. The word "flesh and blood" that comes up later indicates that you are considered one flesh and blood with this guy. And..."
 Gorilla-sama let go of the baby spider. The baby spider, which has been slammed head-first onto the tatami mat, pats its head and then rushes toward me when it realizes that it has been freed. It jumps desperately like a fly-catching spider and climbs out of my lap. When it reaches my neck, it stares at my skin and...
 Shirowakamaru's startled voice comes out, and at the same time, the baby spider bites its fangs into my neck. With a snap, it bit me. There was almost no pain. But the boy tries to catch the spider in a panic, to which I restrain him with my hand. I look at Gorilla-sama and mutter.
 "...Is this 'eating'?"

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