Tuesday, April 11, 2023 @

Chapter 77, Part 4

  In response, the 'Magajuu' rushes forward in a fury at the words. The monster's onslaught is such that a mere mortal would cower in fear. However, the exorcists looked at it with disdain, as if it were nothing.
 The game was won in an instant. Uemon's frontal blow shattered its face.
 At the same time, Keiharu instantly came close to the side of its belly and thrust his sword into the windhole in its belly with fire manipulation technique. A moment later, a pillar of fire shot up to the other side of the belly. It was a fire technique using youkai's blood itself as a catalyst. Now, its internal organs burned, and its blood boiled. The youkai fell to the ground, completely defeated.
 Everything happened so quickly that there was a moment of stunned silence. I was about to speak when Uemon shouted.
 "Kibi! Capture that youkai!"
 I was caught off guard, but before I could react, a half-youkai wolf beside me had already leaped into action. But it was too late. The next moment, several black figures leap out from the gravelly ground and surround him while holding hand, and created an exorcism boundary.
 The wolf screamed in pain and suffered minor burns on his body, falling to his knees. And then a few ropes crawl across the ground like snakes, restrained the youkai's arms and legs, blinding and gagging it.
 "Miss Hotoya, please step aside."
 Kibihagi Kage, the family retainer, appears in front of Tamaki as she rushes toward him. Then, several puppet shikigami appear around her and begin to watch her surroundings.
 "Wha-what is going on...!?"
 "Don't worry, we have captured a traitor who infiltrated the village."
 As Suzune spoke in confusion, it was Onitsuki Uemon who responded, arms crossed as he walked towards them.
 "Traitor ......?"
 "Yes, that half-youkai is a dangerous individual who poses a threat to Fusō-kuni. We must not let him go."
 Uemon calmly replied, glancing at me and then down at Iruka.
 At the command of the household member, the shikigami lifted Iruka's body and stripped off the tattered clothes on his back. Revealed was embroidery unique to the Ezo people.
 "Well, the features match the wanted poster. Take him away."
 The shikigami are taking Iruka away, pinning him down with their shinigami. Iruka is thrashing about like a caterpillar, but it is useless when all his limbs and joints are bound.
 "Wh-What are you doing!? Iruka is... Iruka is!?"
 "Calm down. I don't know what he's told you, but he is not someone you should aid."
 "Indeed. is a great criminal, and he has consumed many and attempted to destroy this village."
 "Wh-what do you mean...?"
 Uemon and Kibi's words left Tamaki perplexed and bewildered, shaking with emotion.
 "Let's talk about it when we get back to your residence. Can you take care of the rest, Lord Keiharu?"
 "Yes, of course."
 Uemon asks and the head of the research group replies respectfully.
 "Very well. Kibi, you're in charge of repairing the boundary. Do so quickly."
 Nodding at the response of his subordinate, Uemon finally looked down at me.
 "You have done well. I shall praise you for your work. It seems your skills are worthy of being appointed as a Yun-shoku."
 "...Thank you very much."
 I reply, still on one knee from my leg injury. Uemon continues to look down at me for a moment, and then says only, "You should get a treatment," and orders the guards to take Tamaki and the others to the house. After that, he leave...
 I remained silent, staring down at the ground. So much had happened, and there was too much to analyze. Just thinking about what lay ahead made me feel gloomy and depressing. But...
 "Anyway, first things first... I need to stop the bleeding."
 In any case, I can't begin to do anything until I get the bleeding stopped. So, first, I send out a shikigami and call for my men. Then I rip off the hem of my garment and squeeze the wound on my leg. They work to stop the bleeding.
 After that, I sit there and let out a sigh of exhaustion. It is impossible for me to go descend the long flight of stairs alone without risking my life, and I did not want to die after coming this far.
 Suddenly, my gaze fell on the dead iron boar. It was natural, in a sense, considering its size and presence.
 But for some reason, the mouth of the carcass looked to me like it was sneering...
* * *
 "Wait, did the old boar die? ...Well, surprisingly it wasn't that big of a deal."
 Outside the boundaries of Hotoya village, far away where even the Onitsuki exorcists could not detect it, a figure knew exactly what's happening in the village. The being sitting on the trunk of a tree squinted their eyes, and then sighed with their chin on their hand.
 "Well, old man did quite a job during the last incident. It's cruel how times change."
 A child-like figure, or rather, a monster disguised as a child, heaved another sigh, bemoaning the changes in the world. However, there was not a shred of heartfelt emotion in their actions.
 "...What are we going to do? We're already infiltrated, right? Wait until they're gone before we move?"
 A voice from behind made the monster turn around. There stood a figure one size larger than themselves, but they seemed timid and nervous. The monster slightly turned their head to respond.
 "Of course, right? Didn't you see it? Fighting those monsters is a suicide mission."
 Since the Great War over 500 years ago, the exorcists have become stronger. Like breeding livestock, they mix each other's bloodlines to produce more powerful individuals and refine them.
 "This is the result of their effort. It's scary, scary..."
 The monster jeered with a deep sense of fear, yet at the same time, they sneered. Truly, it's terrifying. Scary even for a monster of a non-human being.
 And therefore, even more terrifying from the perspective of the imperial court made up of nothing but men. Even for a creature of their kind, it was terrifying.
 "...What's wrong? You seem restless. Is it mating season? In heat?"
 The partner for this operation, who stood behind the monster, noticed their unease and asked. The tone is teasing.
 "...I'm hungry."
 "...Ah, that's right, we haven't eaten in a few days."
 They have been refraining from eating for the past few days in order to deceive and dazzle the humans and exorcists, but it seems that they are close to the end of their rope. Well, given their nature, one might even say it's admirable that they've managed to hold out for so long...
 But it's still a problem. The disappearance of humans was a surprisingly noticeable event. They didn't want all their efforts to go to waste, but...
 "Oh? What's that..."
 Just as they were struggling with this, the monster found something and relaxed its mouth. Its mouth twisted cruelly.
 Emerging from the forest are several small youkai, members of the "Magajuu" remnants... They were probably soldiers who had fled in fear while remaining in the rear guard. Since their leaders were no longer around, they had likely joined up based on the chain of command and were now looking up at them ignorantly.
 These idiots, if they had even a shred of intelligence, would understand that their fate would not be just retreat, but something far worse for deserting. ...Well, in a sense, it's good for the monster and their partner.
 "The quality may be bad, but you'll have to live with it."
 "So, it's fine, is it?"
 "We can't let defeatists go unpunished. It concerns the overall order."
 The monster gives their partner permission. And with that, the monster's companion nodded in agreement and, in the next moment, leapt towards the troops of boar's soldiers, tearing them apart.
 The scream was instantaneous. The remnants were preyed upon with no resistance, no escape, no pleading for their lives. Their throats are ripped out, their legs broken. The sound of bones cracking and flesh tearing echoed through the momentary...
 "Don't leave any traces of our presence, okay? Because I don't want them to find out that we're hiding. And don't let the blood splatter either!"
 As the monster gave the warning, their partnet partner nodded obediently while dancing and eating the monkey-like youkai's head. With the mouth still full, the monster's companion crushed the skull and swallowed the twitching body.
 The monster nods good-humoredly at their partner's honest attitude, and then looks again in the direction of the village from a distance. As the monster looks, they sneers. It was a fitting action for a monster to take.
 "Hehe... Well, I can't really criticize others, can I? It seems like we've really stirred things up... Well, after all, beasts will always be beasts..."
 Long ago, during a great war, a hundred calamity youkai followed Kubou and referred to themselves as the remnants of the Youkai Salvation group, with the youkai beast Kamaitachi mocking themselves with those words. Behind them were countless monsters with similarly cruel smiles, all under their command.

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