Friday, April 14, 2023 @

Chapter 78, Part 4

  And if my younger brother works for the government, even if it is just a menial job, and my younger sister is in the service of the village headman, a very successful family, then it is a great success without any complaints. Although they cannot afford to be complacent, the possibility of going hungry is relatively low.
 "It's going well. Now I'm at ease."
 The fact that my family's life was stable was enough to make me feel rewarded. I was convinced that all my hard work and suffering had been worth it. It was like a salvation.
 If I had to pick something I wanted to do after this reunion, it would be to help my sister with her request... But ignoring what that Ezo guy did to me, I can't defend him. I mean, I'm not in a position to do that. There's nothing I can do about that. I'm honestly just glad she didn't join him.
 However, there was something that bothered me about that Ezo guy's actions. But, well, that could wait until the interrogation.
 More importantly, I had a major decision to make. And I'm going to make it through this encounter.
 "...There's no other choice. I've got to make up my mind."
 With these words, I make up my mind. But I was at a loss as to what to do. After all...
 (At this point, it has deviated so much from the original story...)
 What caused it to happen or was it part of the plan from the beginning? Whatever the case may be, the "Magajuu," which was supposed to destroy the main character's hometown at the very beginning of the scenario, has been killed off. There is no way to awaken her now. It's hopeless. It's also impossible to bring in another herd.
 No, there may be a way if only to bring youkai to this place. The spiritual veins in this area are excellent, and the boundary prevents its spiritual energy from being noticed by the outside world. If I break even one of the key points of the boundary that are being repaired now, that alone will attract all kinds of youkais, attracted by its scent. However, it is not certain that the main character will be awakened. In the worst case, the main character who is still alive may die by a mistake. Above all...
 "I don't want to put her in danger..."
 Looking towards where Suzune, no, my little sister had gone, I mutter. That would be counterproductive. After all, I'm walking a tightrope in this shitty world for myself and my family in this life. I can't just abandon my sister and ignore the miserable end that awaits her if I do so, as it was in the original story. It's impossible. It's absolutely impossible.
 "Haha, well, that's fine. It's nothing new to receive unreasonable demands or face unexpected situations."
 I smile wryly, like I'm trying to be strong. It's not what I wanted, but whether it's fortunate or unfortunate, it's too late to worry about that now. That's why I've made up my mind. I have to make a choice to deviate from the scenario of this world...
 "At best, I'll put up a futile struggle. After all, being unyielding is my forte."
 I'm ready. Even though I understand that there will be nothing but anguish and despair, pain and fear, I am determined. Because it was my duty as the eldest brother to my sister. So...
 "At best, live a long, peaceful, carefree... and happily, for as long as possible."
 I glanced at my sister as she walked away from me in the distance, and muttered a prayer. I wanted my family to live happily in this life at least...
* * *
 It was the middle of the night, when the clock struck three.
 Among the guest rooms prepared by the Hotoya family, who were the lord of the village, the one that was specially allotted to her was a particularly spacious and luxurious room. It was a large tatami room... and in the corner sat the daughter of the Tachibana family, on a zabuton cushion. A Japanese harp (Koto) sat next to her.
 "Leo-kun, that's enough for now. Please put this koto away. I'll take a rest for a while by myself with a cup of tea."
 Kayo orders gently to the young boy who has been preparing tea at her side, after she has stopped practicing the koto. The boy, who like her is of Nanban descent, turns his young face to his master.
 "I understand. However, it's getting late, so please retire for the night soon."
 The boy, who must have been warned by Otsuru, warns Kayo not to stay up too late. Kayo smiles in response. It is a smile of love that captures the hearts of those who see it.
 "I know, I know. Leo-kun, make sure you don't stay up too late, okay?"
 "Y-yes... Now if you'll excuse me."
 Leo, with his cheeks turning red, bowed awkwardly and left with the koto in his arms. Kayo thought the boy was very innocent. Her evaluation was tinged with a hint of scorn.
 And this boy Leo had no good impression of him, her beloved, and if worse, he might even be wary of him. But it is natural from his point of view. Despite being her benefactor, her beloved was still a lowly servant. In this world, social status was everything. ...This fact was unpleasant for Kayo, but she would deal with it.
 However, that being said, that boy was easy for Kayo to handle. He seemed to have a kind of admiration for her and was obedient and simple-minded. In situations like this, Tsuru wouldn't leave easily, which would be troublesome. That's why she's going to use him. As a merchant, she disliked wasting human resources.
 "Well, I've dealt with that person. You can show yourself now. ...I've been expecting you, Blue demon-sama. Would you like to drink yellow tea?"
 Kayo asked, smiling at the monster and the shikigami who had been standing behind her for some time. There was no surprise or fear in her eyes. It was as if she had known they were there from the beginning.
 In fact, Kayo had heard of their presence in advance and had even anticipated this scene. That is why Kayo had prepared for this occasion the most precious yellow tea among the continental teas, 'Golden Bamboo Needle (kinchiku hari)' which is one of the famous teas of the 8th generation.
 "Hello there. Kekeke, it's good that you are so good at making gifts. Shall I have some?"
 Blue demon sat down on the cushion in front of her with a self-satisfied look on her face, grabbed the still steaming cup of water, and slurped it down in one gulp. This was truly a feat of courage.
 After all, offering food or drink to youkai was a trap for them that had already reached the level of a classic. If people unravel the history, they will find that the great serpent with eight branches and the oni (demon) lord who devoured the capital's princess were both killed by human beings after being served a drink. They were all killed in a single gulp without any hesitation. In a sense, it was beyond heroic and even outrageous.
 "Puhah! It's so good! Do you have another cup?"
 "Yes. Here."
 Without any hesitation, the blue demon drank the highest quality imported tea as if it were a cheap liquor.
 "Well, may I ask what it is you need me to help with?"
 "Hmm? Oh, yes. Of course. It's nothing too difficult. I just need your little help with a little bit of staging."
 The demon drinks her second cup in no time, and then proudly asks for a third cup. She chuckles to herself, "Nicha-ri."
 "Staging, huh... I see. I'm happy to help with anything I can, if it's within my capabilities."
 Kayo immediately understood the meaning of the demon's abstract words. Considering what she had heard from Onitsuki's second princess and the current situation surrounding him, it was not difficult for her to guess what the monster in front of her wanted to say.
 Kayo knew very well that she had no choice when she was dealing with this demon. After all, this demon would easily turn the tables and ruin everything if she did not like what she had in mind.
 And Kayo is not like the Onitsuki princesses. She may have the power of money, but as an individual she is nothing. She is nothing more than a fragile insect that can be blown away with a single breath. It is impossible to defy the demon here, especially since it could backfire and harm her beloved. Regardless of herself, she must not do so.
 That is why Kayo reverently accepts the demands of the monster in front of her. It is the best solution for her and him to survive. She sets aside her pride and dignity and accepts the implied command with enthusiasm.
 "Hehehe, I'm glad you're on board with this so quickly. Well, the highlight of the show is about to begin. Hahaha, there's no need to be so uptight, you know? I'm not going to hurt you."
 The demon noticed the determination of the merchant's daughter, but did not pay attention to it. To her, Kayo's determination was nothing more than that. Of course, the Nanban girl in front of her is one of the cast members of this important heroic tale, and at the same time, she is a tool to set the stage. She had no intention of treating her poorly or underestimating her. ...according to the demon's standards, at least.
 "Phew, it was really delicious. It's a nostalgic taste. I never thought I could taste it in this day and age."
 The demon, who had mixed the fifth cup of sake with the cheap sake in the gourd, drank it all in one gulp. She sat cross-legged on the floor and licked her lips with her red tongue, which would make those who enjoyed the tea ceremony faint.
 "Thank you very much. How about some souvenirs? I have some hot spring buns (manju) that I received here..."
 The demon grabbed one of the manju on the plate and threw it into her wide-open mouth. She eats up all of them with a munching sound and smiles.
 "Well then, I'll be excusing myself here."
 She stood up, turned around, and made a one-sided declaration. A few moments later, the demon disappeared like a mist. Well, it was some kind of illusion or cloaking... but whatever it was, it was terrifying.
 '...You have quite the courage yourself'
 "No, I can't be compared to you, the one who is with Blue demon-sama. I almost fainted many times, you know."
 Kayo declares at the words of the hummingbird who remains in the room. It was not modesty, but a fact. It was a wise decision to pick the flowers and empty them beforehand. She could have fainted, or even worse, wet herself.
 'What an unintended compliment ...And I'm quite curious. Do you really need to accept so much humiliation for a mere servant?'
 Kayo immediately understood what the shikigami meant. For the daughter of one of the wealthiest merchants in the country to accept humiliation to any extent for the sake of a mere servant, it must look strange to a third party.
 "Hehehe, I'm just a supporting character from the start."
 Kayo boasted cheerfully without a hint of irony. However, her eyes were not smiling at all. They were cold and vacant.
 Kayo knew that she would never be the main heroine, because no matter how hard she tried, she would always be second best or later. That's why she could be so self-deprecating and couldn't give up on her dreams, even if it meant demeaning herself.
 "That's why I'm still lingering like this... Hehehe, don't look at me like that. I know I'm abnormal."
 Rolling "her beloved" in her mouth, Kayo makes excuses to the Shikigami who is frowning at her. However, even though she makes excuses, Botan does not seem to have any intention to stop her admittedly abnormal behavior.
 (Really, why are all these women so crazy?)
 Botan internally scolds and sighs. Ultimately it doesn't matter to her what kind of relationship he has with whom, but it was difficult to deal with such abnormal and strange troublemakers around. And the few people with common sense are the main culprits in this situation. It makes her want to sigh.
 "...Miss Hummingbird, please take care of that person for me, okay?"
 After a pause, Kayo pleaded with Botan. Botan manipulated her shikigami to look at Kayo. Her expression, which had been eerie and even frightening before, was now tinted with severity.
 '...I, too, would like to avoid any losses he may suffer at present. I will take all possible measures.'
 However, even though it was because of the demon's warning, her silence until the last minute would have resulted in a considerable distrust. After everything was said and done, who knows how much worse that servant's impression of her would be...
 "No, I envy you. Tomobe-san must rely on you much more than he does on me, isn't that right? It's a world of difference between us."
 'D-Don't get it wrong. We're just cooperating out of mutual interests.'
 Botan declares, dismissing Kayo's words with too much reluctance. Her shikigami shakes its head and makes a small twittering sound, then glances at Kayo again.
 'Well then, it's unpleasant to move as that demon said, but let's proceed as planned.'
 They bow to each other, then Hummingbird flew away through the window. Kayo gazed at the makeshift shikigami as it flew off into the outside world.
 "...cooperating out of mutual interests, huh?"
 Kayo thought that she had been so worried about the deterioration of her relationship with him again.
 "Well, I guess it's better for me if she doesn't become too honest."
 The less competition, the better. This competition is unfortunately a zero-sum game, because the fewer the participants, the greater her potential dividend.
 "Now then...hehehe, I must fulfill my role as well, shouldn't I?"
 Kayo murmured sweetly, as if in heat of passion and like a dreaming maiden.
 Even though she knew how much of a disadvantage it would be to her, just thinking that it was for his sake made Kayo look forward to that moment...

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