Monday, March 6, 2023 @

Volume 5 Epilogue, Part 4

 In a bad way, that granddaughter was too much like her parents. Too much love and hate. Too idealistic.
 Will she ever realize that she is hurting the people she cares about? Will she be able to admit it?
 "But I can't speak for others about that either..."
 Kochou unfolded the scroll and looked at the report from Hayama again. She sighs. Acknowledging this fact, she calms the impulse in her heart. Is it really thanks to her age that she has not succumbed to her passions like her granddaughters?
 "I see. That's him, huh...?"
 Kochou mutters looking up at the sky. Now that she knows this fact, there is no going back for her.
 It is too much of a coincidence, but that is why it makes sense to her. Certainly, he was quick in that area, otherwise, he wouldn't have impressed her with his image so much.
 According to Kochou's order, Hayama looked into the family register. It was a family tree. He had copied and organized his family tree from the family registers kept in temples and shrines... and found it in one corner. The blank space there, which corresponded to his maternal great-grandfather, meant that the child's great-grandmother was a first-degree relative. The great-grandmother's name was her... and Kochou recognized it. It was the same name as the maid who worked for Kizuki's family, and she had seen her when she was a child when she had followed her with the shikigami. She also had seen that man wooing and seducing that maid.
 "As I recall, I wonder if he gave her some free time after that...?"
 With a sigh, she found herself clutching the scroll. Yes, after losing him forever, the woman had left her job as a maid quickly with a pale expression on her face. At that time, Kochou was too sad and lost to care about that, and after that, she only had a slight feeling of disgust in her heart toward that woman who abandoned him and ran away for her own sake. But now, she is going to be...!!!!
 "Hehehe... I guess that means I'm the clown. It's a classic."
 Kochou laughs. She laughs. There is no light in her eyes. Yet, her mouth is turned up to the limit. It was twisted in amusement. A charming smile that arouses someone's lust with inexpressible anxiety...
 "But I don't care. I don't mind being a clown. It's more convenient."
 "And, isn't it so fateful? Isn't it destiny?" Kochou thought. Rather, it makes her hotter than she is. She's going to boil over. Especially because of that d*mned spider.
 "...I wonder how long you'll be there... Stop sneaking a peek, come here."
 With a thuck, Kochou beckoned someone with a smoking pipe, and at the same time, the shoji (sliding door) opened with force, and the boy in the Suikan suit was pushed into Kochou's room as if he had been grabbed by the neck with an invisible hand and dragged into the room. Shirowakamaru plunges face-first into the cushion.
 After Aoi left the room where the servant was recovering, Shirowakamaru, who was secretly summoned by a shikigami, came to the front of Kochou's room just after Aoi left. Without getting a chance to enter the room, he had been standing on the other side of the shoji (paper sliding door) listening to the mutterings of this Adviser until a few minutes ago.
 Now, he has been forcibly invited into the room by her.
 "Ugh...... Eek!?"
 "Hehehe, you don't have to be shy since I'm the one who invited you, okay? Would you like some tea? I have some sweets for you, too"
 Kochou whispers to Shirowakamaru, who looks up at her face and is frightened by the unusual atmosphere, with a smile that is as outward as possible. Then, from nowhere, a teacup filled with green tea, a teapot, and a lacquered confectioner's jar filled with sweets such as Monaka, Wasanbon, Konpeito, and chestnut buns (栗饅) come flying out of the room.
 As a matter of course, they are a kind of shikigami, a kind of simple and artificial deity, created by carving a seal on the container itself using a technique developed by Kochou herself... But this would have been of no concern to Shirowakamaru. All that was on Shirowakamaru's mind was anxiety and fear.
 "Hehe, you don't have to be so scared. I'm not going to catch you and eat you, okay?"
 Kochou moves closer to the boy with these words. She stretches out her white hand glossily and lifts Shirowakamaru's chin from beneath him. Her golden eyes shine suspiciously in the dark room. They were the eyes of a person who was rightly looking at him with a price. This boy was being trampled.
 "Ah, uuu......"
 "You have a beautiful face. White skin. And your arms... how slender? You look like a girl."
 Kochou grabs the boy's wrist with her other hand and lifts him up. The sleeve of his Suikan hangs down, exposing the boy's arm.
 "You're jealous, aren't you?"
 Shirowakamaru was momentarily taken aback by Kochou's words but soon became upset.
 "Hehehe, you finally realized it after being told by others, didn't you? You know, I've been making some observations about you the other day. You've been watching him a lot, haven't you?"
 "Huh...!! No way, I will do that...!!?"
 The boy tries to argue, but he is silenced when he looks into Kochou's eyes. He is made aware.
 He has been uncomfortable with the way his guardians, the servant, have been looking at the hidden young boy and the half-youkai girl. Of how pleased he had been when he had smiled at them and patted their heads. He was even jealous of the woman in front of him...
 Shirowakamaru is overcome with self-loathing at the fact that he himself has been turning his dirty feelings against him.
 "No, I'm...!!?"
 "You don't have to be so scared, okay? It can't be helped. Humans can't fool themselves."
 Hugging the boy, Kochou whispers in his ear. As if to soothe him, she murmurs.
 "But this... this disgusting thing...!!!"
 Shirowakamaru is frightened, his body trembling. The boy imagines. What happens when his guardian finds out his inner thoughts. That person who had smiled at him like a child, like a little brother, would look at him as if he were a dirty thing. The mere thought of it drove the boy insane.
 "N-no!! Such a thing..!! No, I don't want it! No, no, no...."
 So far, the boy had only been given either a filthy look of lust or a curious, contemptuous look. In such a situation, his presence is the only one who can protect him, and the thought of being abandoned by him is...!
 "It's okay, it's okay. Calm down."
 Kochou hugs the boy in a tight embrace. She hugs him lovingly. But the boy's fear and anxiety will not disappear. So she says a word. To attack the boy's heart.
 "Don't worry. He won't leave you."
 "How can you say that...!!?"
 "Because he needs you now."
 The boy's movements stiffen at these words. Slowly, the boy looks up at Kochou. He gazes at her as if he is hanging on to something.
 At this, Kizuki's black butterfly's mouth hangs open. She laughs as if to say, "It worked."
* * *
 "You remember, don't you? The way he transformed?"
 "His body is corrupted. He's cursed."
 "He's suffering because of it. Even at this very moment."
 "Let alone that incident with the spider... If this gets out, he won't be safe. There'll be nothing but darkness ahead."
 "Ah, that's right. You have a gift. You can help him."
 "Don't worry. As long as you have that power, he will never leave you."
 "And let me tell you something. I'll teach you how to control and calm the curse that lies within him."
 "But you know what? You'll need more than that."
 "You compensate with your talent, but it was originally difficult to appease him even if you performed the requiem dance, wasn't it?"
 "That's natural. God is selfish. They demand untainted souls from those who serve them."
 "...So, you noticed it, right? Yes, that's what I mean."
 "It's okay, don't be so scared. I know you've been through a lot at the temple. But you're lucky in a way, right?"
 "Hehehe, there are many kinds of forbidden medicines, aren't there? Many of them can change a person's appearance."
 "And you're familiar with this medicine, aren't you? Yes, those who take it will change their gender. Although what you would have taken in the temple would have been a diluted version. I guess they didn't want to make you a woman completely."
 "Even though the medicine is forbidden, it takes a long time to turn it into something safe. It will take years and a lot of restrictions and precautions. It will hurt you."
 "But the rewards will be great. You lived in the temple when you were a boy, which means you are pure as a maiden, right? And a priestess (miko) is better suited for this kind of ritual."
 "And besides, hehe... he's the fruit of the earth mother goddess that resides within him. In other words, he's a fertility god. He has taken her blood into his veins... So, in a moment of crisis, he will put himself on the line and accept you inside of you to appease him, right?"
 "And you're jealous of others, aren't you? ...Hehe, don't worry. You have a good face. I'm sure you'll be beautiful as a maiden."
 "Yes, I'm sure. At least much more than you are now... I can't guarantee it, but there's hope. He's a boy, after all."
 "......So, let me ask you something, do you accept my proposal?"
 The smoke from the smoking pipe filled the room with smoke that dulled one's thoughts and at the same time stimulated one's lust. Kochou puts the pipe down in the ashtray and pats the head of the boy who is lying on her lap like a baby. The sleepy boy looks up at Kochou for a moment, but then he immediately retreats into his own world.
 "I'm sorry. But you seemed to close your heart immediately. I can't bring out your true feelings unless I do this."
 But, her plan worked. After more than a week of having him stay and take care of him, he was convinced, and this meeting was arranged.
 It seemed like a trap to invite him in and drug him into accepting her proposal, but it had to be done since she also had to make this abandoned cat-like boy admit his true feelings. He may have his own feelings about it, but in the end, he will come to terms with it. This boy must care about him, too.
 Otherwise, he would not have taken such a lecherous pleasure in Kochou's proposal, no matter how effective the incense might be.
 "Thank goodness I found a good bargain. I don't want to depend on that spider or Hina as much as possible."
 Neither of these things can be said to be under control. Danger should always be spread out and multiple safeguards should be prepared. Besides, this boy is far more docile than the spider and her granddaughters, far easier to manipulate, and, if necessary, easiest to cut down...
 "Hehehe... I'll keep my promise. The outcome after that will depend on your, no, your efforts. I'm counting on you..."
 "For his sake," she murmured at last and caressed the boy's head gently and tenderly.
 She looked just like the infamous Kizuki conspirator...

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