Monday, March 6, 2023 @

Volume 5 Epilogue, Part 3

 "Stop playing around. It was an accident. And... above all, he can't be blamed."
 Kochou defends Hayama and rebukes Aoi. She knew her granddaughter was vicious and mean.
 "...I'm just kidding. I understand that he needs allies to protect him."
 Hayama's presence could be of great use in protecting him from Kizuki's family. He could bring his two childhood friends, the concubines of the Hasuka (Renge) family who was taken in by Kizuki's family during the recent raid, and the admirers of this hidden group, to his side. That would be far more valuable than killing him here.
 "Okay, you pass. You seemed to take those words to heart. It's not just a form of atonement."
 Aoi's earlier words were a provocation. Will this hidden guy really work for her? To test whether he was merely trying to win her over and to himself in order to regain his power, she use that words.
 "Then, let's trust him. He needs as many allies as possible. I would be glad if you could help him. When the time comes, I'll make sure you get your proper standing. ...so don't betray him, okay?"
 "......!! Yes, princess!"
 Aoi's last words were accompanied by deadly energy that almost made Hayama faint. Hayama desperately held on to his consciousness as it faded away under the pressure of the enormous spiritual power directed at him, and he responded. Hayama's forehead was covered with countless beads of cold sweat.
 "...Thanks for your hard work. You can go now."
 It would be cruel to keep him here any longer, Kochou thought and ordered Hayama to leave the room. The hidden young boy is slightly relieved at the order, but he immediately tightens his grip on himself and bows. He quickly recomposes himself and bows before disappearing into the darkness...
 "So? What is that scroll?"
 After she confirms that the hidden group young boy has left the room completely, Aoi looks at the scroll in her grandmother's hand and asks her.
 "Well, just some research. That child was worried about them..."
 Aoi's eyes narrow at the words and she looks slightly uncomfortable.
 "Oh, about the effect of the curse on his family, huh? ...Well, he would certainly be worried about it."
 Aoi murmurs in agreement, but at the same time, she does not change her grumpy attitude. To her, family is nothing but an object of disgust. The same goes for her grandmother in front of her. Aoi has not forgotten that this young grandmother abandoned her. The only reason why Aoi can cooperate with this grandmother is that they agree on the point of protecting him.
 Aoi never had any affection for her family either. In any way, it was true that their loved ones had been sacrificed.
 Even if she understands that without it, she would never have met him, it doesn't change anything.
 "...You are free to think what you want, but I advise you as an elder. Don't harm him directly or talk about it in front of him, okay?"
 "I'm not a child either. I can put up with that much. Rather, I can give him some money if he wants. Please, I'm not like that woman."
 "I hope she really understands," Kochou thought with some skepticism. However, both Aoi and her sister Hina were too affectionate in a bad way.
 "Well, what do you think? Shouldn't you tell him if there's something wrong?"
 "Yes, I think so. ...And it seems like it's all good. There doesn't seem to be anything wrong with the family. In fact, life seems to be getting better."
 "Well, that's a big deal."
 Aoi spits out sarcastic words. Fed up with her granddaughter's attitude, Kochou continues to read the rest of the sentence. However, in the next moment, when Kochou looks at the sentence...
 Unexpectedly, Kochou was shocked. She was astonished. Her eyes widened and she gasped. She read the sentence over and over again, still puzzled and unable to believe the truth.
 "......? Grandmother, what's wrong?"
 "Uh, yeah. ...No, it's nothing serious. I'm just a little dizzy. Hehe, I'm getting old, aren't I?"
 Kochou puts her hand on her brow and takes a deep breath. After a while, Kizuki's adviser calms down and looks at Aoi. It seems that her granddaughter does not seem to have noticed anything wrong with her. So, she was covering up her agitation naturally.
 "Now, here comes the main question. The reason why I called you here and causing to interrupt your meeting. Don't you want to know?"
 Her granddaughter reacted with a jerk. Yes, of course, what Aoi wants to know about it is her first and foremost priority. She doesn't know why her grandmother is looking out for him. After all, it is hard not to worry about when one of the ladders of protection will be removed from him. Therefore, Aoi reacts. She has to react.
 "With this case, or even before that. I know you have your doubts about me. You want to know why I'm so interested in that child, don't you?"
 "Yes, I do. I've always wondered. I've always wondered why you're taking care of him.
 "Would you believe me if I told you that ever since I took care of him when he first came to this house, I've thought of him as my child or grandchild?"
 Aoi frowned when she heard those words. Her face is obviously distorted.
 "Would you stop joking? Who would believe such a thing from a woman who disowns her own children and granddaughter?"
 "Hehehe, that's true too..."
 Kochou laughs at her granddaughter's reaction. It's not that she likes to do so... but it's hard not to argue with her when she says so. Kochou's hands are not clean. In fact, she looks at him not only because she identifies him with her children and grandchildren.
 "...Okay. It will make more sense than telling Hina. But are you sure? If you hear what I have to say, you might not be able to work with me anymore, right?"
 "Well, that's exciting. I'm getting excited to find out what secrets you have."
 Aoi replied to Kochou's warning with ease. The grandmother smiles slightly at her granddaughter's arrogant, unafraid declaration.
 In fact, it was Kochou who had brought up the subject. In a sense, it is ridiculous for her to warn Aoi. No wonder she looks at her as if she's trying to be nice.
 "Yes, I guess you should listen to me then. But it's the old sentiments and regrets of an old woman, you know?"
 Kochou replies. Why does she care about the servant? Her shameful past, her regrets...
 "...It's unpleasant."
 Aoi, who had been listening in silence to Kochou's explanation, was the first one to respond.
 "Oh, dear, your grandmother answered your question and now you're talking to me like that. Isn't it cold?"
 "I didn't ask you how you felt. I'm just giving you my honest answer."
 Aoi clearly says in a tone of disgust and displeasure indifferently.
 And yet, her point of view was not against her grandmother. No, it was certainly that, but more than that, what Aoi detested was Kizuki's house itself, including herself.
 "Do you think I will make the same mistake, grandmother?"
 "I hope not. You girls aside, he can't do it alone."
 Kochou really thought so. Aoi and Hina can handle most things by themselves now. But he is different. He is always walking on the tightrope of death. And he's already twice cursed by the deities.
 "Is that ironic?"
 "I'm just telling you the truth. Or do you think you've been able to protect him without making a single mistake?"
 "You've hit me right where it hurts..."
 Aoi frowned at Kochou's retort. She can't argue. Her grandmother's words were true. No matter how necessary it was, no matter how unexpected it was, it doesn't change the fact that the wounds he has received so far, the fact that he has been cursed, are still the same.
 "I know it's hard for you to imagine such a picture like Hina. But you should be careful. It's not fair to expect too much from him."
 "...I'm not like you."
 Aoi stood up quickly.
 "However, I'll keep that in mind and he's not the man you remember. I believe in him."
 It was a bitter sarcasm to Kochou who had not believed in the man of her heart and had said the words that had driven him away.
 "Are you sure you want to finish your story?"
 "Yes, I'm sorry for putting you through this long old woman's talk. I hope that clears up your suspicions now."
 Kochou asks as she dumps the ashes from her pipe into the ashtray.
 "...Don't worry. I will continue to take good care of him. I will never cut him off or abandon him."
 "I hope so. ...So, don't be choosy when the time comes."
 Aoi's words were very true. In fact, she would literally do anything if she had to. No matter how brutal, no matter how outrageous.
 "Excuse me. Thank you for his protection."
 Aoi turned on her heel and walked away without looking back once as if she was so uncomfortable that she wanted to leave this place as soon as possible. Or maybe it was some kind of kindship aversion. She certainly saw her future in her grandmother. The possible end of herself...
 "......No, I won't allow it."
 Aoi muttered as she walked along the porch of the residence. She swears with an icy cold, yet seething rage.
 "Okay, I'll show you. I'll make it with him, I'll do it with him."
 She will twist Kizuki's blood, her fate, and his karma, everything. She will bring them to their knees. She will not let them take his future and hers away.
 "Yes, nothing will change. It won't change anything. It's a stupid idea."
 Yes, and what's the point of all that talk? It's all just old people's sentiments and the past. Don't let them keep her prisoner. Don't let them hold her. Nothing changes. Nothing will change Aoi's goal...!
 "Everything in this house is mine, and then I will be yours, so, just wait a little longer, okay?"
 Aoi whispered on the deserted porch. She whispered as if she were praying as if she were spewing out her deepest love.
 Her small voice was soon lost in the sound of the heavy rain...
 "...Huff, she's a stubborn little girl after all. I guess blood is blood, huh?"
 Kochou sighs in the quiet and lonely room after the disappearance of her granddaughter.

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