Sunday, April 16, 2023 @

Chapter 79, Part 2

 "It's cold tonight, so yeah. It's a good thing you're here. Give us some."
 "Who's gonna do that?"
 The hidden group man sneered at Yun-shoku (允職), who shrugged his shoulders. As he sneered, the servant glanced at the figure lying on the straw.
 "You seem to be taking very good care of him. Too much and he'll die," mocked the servant who had just been administering the beating.
 "A monster like him won't die so easily. You should know that too, right? Or maybe you want to join in?" teased the hidden group man who had been beating the figure.
 Yun-shoku had been involved in a commotion in the capital, and there were rumors that it was related to the prisoner.
 "I hold a grudge, but I won't go too far. I don't want to overkill him. ...Besides, I have other matters with him," said Yun-shoku as he headed towards the half-youkai with the basket in hand.
 To the confused hidden men, he explained, "It's an order. Let him eat and drink a little. They said they don't want him to break mentally before his punishment."
 "What? Why not? Can't we just forcibly remove the memories from his head?"
 "It seems the merchants in question would be troubled by that."
 "I see..."
 In other words, if his mind were to break before his punishment, the merchants would not be satisfied with their revenge. The hidden group man who had just assaulted him cowered his shoulders. He thought merchants were quite cruel.
 "But why is Yun-shoku feeding him?"
 "No miscellaneous wants to feed him. They're all too scared. Anyway, we have some free time here."
 "Looks like you drew the short straw. Haha, serves you right."
 The foul-mouthed hidden group man sneered and approached the gourd they had received from the servant. But then...
 "Wait, Hinata, you too, Yun-shoku (允職)."
 The other member of the hidden group, who had been observing the exchange up to this point, opened his mouth. The movement of those present stopped. A silence fell over the surroundings...
 "What is it?"
 The servant asked, placing the basket on the ground.
 "Well, there was no prior notice, so first I need to confirm with higher-ups."
 "Just being diligent. I want to finish the job quickly."
 "No, wait here."
 The immediate rejection was met with a sigh. The servant cowered his shoulders in annoyance, and shakes his head.
 "Just in case, by rule. Feeding him comes afterwards...!?"
 That was the next moment after the servant had spoken. A roundhouse kick flew in front of him.
 With the sudden surprise attack, the motionless Hidden Group somehow managed to react. He leaned his upper body backwards and narrowly avoided the roundhouse kick. However, one of his comrades was not quick enough to react.
 After completing a full turn with the roundhouse kick, the servant struck the Hidden Group named Hinata with a gourd containing a weighted fist. It was a blow aimed at the neck with a Guruma (yo-yo like). The Hidden Group, who had let his guard down in the face of an attack from a safe distance, had his consciousness snuffed out in an instant.
 "What the hell are you doing!? Argh!?"
 The hidden group man who had witnessed his comrade's fall groaned in frustration, but quickly drew his dagger (tantō) and charged forward. He thrusts with his body reinforced, aiming at the opponent's internal organs from below at an angle...!
 The servant quickly quickly took the gourd from Hinata's arm. He then splashed the gourd's contents on the attacking hidden group member. The Hidden Group reflexively shielded his face from the splash, which was a human reflex, but it was fatal in this situation.
 The Hidden Group member stumbled and fell after his foot was tripped. He was then pinned down and his mouth was covered with a cloth. For a while, he writhed and thrashed about, but he couldn't break free. It was strange. It was abnormal. The strength of the servant's arms, even with his spiritual power, was beyond their expectations. And then, the Hidden Group member's consciousness began to fade...
 (What is this smell...!?!)
 The hidden group member senses the unique aroma of what is clouding his consciousness that tickles his nostrils and the fact that the fabric that blocks his breathing is wet. But it is too late.
 The Hidden Group member lost consciousness completely due to breathing difficulties and drugs...
* * *
 "Tch, I didn't want to resort to such rough tactics...!!" I muttered as I restrained the two hidden group members I had knocked out. I had nothing against them, and I didn't want them to get hurt as much as possible, but as expected of the hidden agents, they were difficult to deal with. I had intended to put them to sleep with the drug mixed into their sake, but now there was no turning back.
 "If the demon was bluffing, I would have preferred to confirm things peacefully... but if his words were true, then I had to confirm it quickly. That's why I did this stupid thing," I thought to myself, nervously and cautiously turning to face the direction I needed to go.
 Looking down at the half-youkai writhing on the ground like a caterpillar, restrained and helpless, I crouched down and warned him, "Don't make a scene, okay? It's not hard to snap your neck before you can roar. Now that you understand, just be quiet."
 At my warning, the previously writhing Ezo stops moving. He seems nervous. Still, I removed the gag from his mouth.
 "...That voice, it's that servant, right? What do you want? Did you come here for revenge?" Iruka taunted.
 "Demon," I replied.
 He fell silent as soon as I mentioned that word.
 "Did you meet that d*mn blue oni? What's your relationship with that monster...?" he asked.
 "I'm the one asking. We don't have time for this. Let's get to the point," I ordered.
 Iruka responds silently to my command. And then I pointed out to Iruka that the monster targeting the Hotoya village wasn't just that wild boar youkai. I had tried to contact the Hotoya young lady for that warning.
 "Ha, I couldn't make contact easily because you guys were sticking around. And to top it off, here you are," Iruka said, trying to be strong, but I can see his frustration and impatience in his voice.
 "But there's boundary, right? Even calamity youkai will have a hard time breaking the repaired boundary head-on. What are you worried about?" he asked.
 The boundary that the "Magajuu" had shattered was possible only because its key was old and damaged. Otherwise, if it weren't for that, even a calamity youkai would need significant determination to break through that barrier. And he's right. I hope it just that demon's delusions. I hoped that was the case. However...
 "...there's a secret passage."
 At the next moment, I freeze for a moment at the words spoken by Iruka. Then, as if ruminating with a trembling mouth, I ask.
 "A secret passage?"
 "Yeah. You guys saw the map stored in the house, right? Sorry to say, but it's not perfect. It's not the original. That's why there are parts that have been left out."
 Sue Harukata, a member of the Taima Nana-shi (Seven Demon-Sealing Warriors), has created a boundary to actively eliminate youkai. And all seven of them are paranoid, cowardly, and don't even trust others.
 It was not impossible that some kind of loophole was prepared for attacking youkai from behind or for emergency escape. It is also possible that this information has been lost over a long period of time.
 "I heard that your boss has a guy who is good at detecting things, but I don't think he'll be able to find it. And even though I have good ears and nose, I normally can't find it. But I've been here for a long time and found it by accident."
 "Did you not report it when you found it?"
 "...It was my insurance in case of an emergency."
 It seems that Iruka kept it a secret as an escape route in case he was treated as a wanted criminal from the village.
 "At first, when you guys came. I was going to run away through that passage. Tamaki said she would hide me, but I didn't think she could fool you guys. But..."
 According to him, when he tried to escape through the secret passage, he found the monsters stationed around the exit, suggesting that the passage was not completely safe.
 "I heard their plan. It seems they are taking countermeasures. The exit is covered with one-way boundaries. And they were arguing about how to get in."
 While several calamity youkai were discussing the issue, the 'Magajuu' took the lead. The strategy was a two-step plan. They were going to attack with the 'Magajuu,' and even if that failed, they had a spy on the inside who would destroy the boundary from within. Not only boundary, but also defensive facilities, which are usually strong from the outside but fragile from the inside. Iruka had hoped that his warning would prevent these calamity youkai from succeeding, but unfortunately, he was caught before he could do anything.
 "Well, I could have told your boss, but I guess it's no use now. It's too bad I couldn't even speak up because of the gag."
 His words were filled with sarcasm and bitterness. To him, it was his last hope, his last gamble, and it had failed. From Uemon's perspective, he had been wary of Iruka's warning due to the possibility of a dangerous monster attack...
 "...Do you expect me to believe that story? What proof do you have that you're saying is true?" I asked, trying to sound emotionless and questioning him.
 "No. I don't expect you to believe me. Worst-case scenario, you could even check inside my head if you want, but would you believe me then?" he replied, his words full of scorn and directed towards me as a half-youkai.
 "...you have a really foul mouth, considering your position, huh?"
 "I'm sorry, but I don't come from a good family or a good upbringing."
 "Go ahead, say it."
 I retorted coldly, and then pulled out my dagger (tantō). Iruka, who must have been able to hear me even though his sight was blocked, braced himself slightly. He seemed nervous and prepared. And without saying a word, I pointed my dagger (tantō) at his head and cut off his blindfold.
 "I'm going to untie you. Don't get violent, okay?" I ordered, ignoring his question. The rough rope, strengthened by a curse, seems powerless in the face of the gorilla's dagger (tantō), which cuts through the rope like a piece of tofu. After removing the rope, I take out a water bottle and dried meat from the basket.
 "You haven't eaten enough, have you? Eat first," I said to Iruka, who had been wary of my actions with a "...tch," but now seemed to realize it was pointless in his current situation, and he immediately began devouring the food and the drink I had prepared. Despite not having eaten or drunk much for several days, he ate with a hearty appetite, tearing into the dried fish and washing it down with warm water.
 When he had eaten all the food and drink I had brought with me, he opened his mouth.
 "Do you intend to return to the village?"
 Iruka looks at me doubtfully as he finished drinking the warm water. Then, he continues to asks.
 "…Do you seriously believe me? Are you out of your mind?"
 "To tell you the truth, I still have doubts. Considering your position, I should. But..."
 But I was easily convinced by the words of this Ezo in front of me. And that was probably because of what I had witnessed at the shrine in that village.
 Yes, the incident at the shrine in the village. At that time, this Ezo was certainly trying to protect the main character and Suzune. I remember it clearly. Thinking back, it was then that I began to have doubts.
 In the first place, if youkai attacked the village, he should just hide or run away. There was no need for him to show himself. Besides, he supposed to be assassins sent to the capital, so he should have enough sense to consider such things. Even if it was a lie, he should have said something more believable. That's why I trust what he just said.
 ...And that's why I should at least confirm it.
 "This ragged cloak stands out too much. …Give me your coat and that sword."

Please bookmark this series and rate ☆☆☆☆☆ on here!
Donate me

LogoSupport Me with USDC (ERC20)

LogoSupport Me with XLM (Stellar Lumens)
Memo* : 2127737
XLM address Copied!
XLM memo Copied!