Thursday, April 20, 2023 @

Chapter 81, Part 1

 The beginning of it all was when it had passed half past five in the evening.
 "Quite a lot of them have come..." I whispered as I endured the chilly weather and waited intently from the cover of the trees, finally catching sight of them.
 The cave that existed in the forest, hidden and concealed, was clearly man-made, although it had deteriorated over the years. From it emanated a nauseatingly thick youkai aura.
 oon after sensing their presence, the source of the youkai aura appeared. It was a group of monsters, with various animal forms or forms that could be described as a combination of them. Mononoke, Chimimouryou (supernatural beings and creatures). Night Parade of One Hundred Demons.
 (They don't make a sound or a footstep even though they are beasts. They're well-trained.)
 It reminds me of a passage from a game's setting. One of the reasons Kubou lost to Fusō-kuni was due to a lack of control over their subordinates. No matter how precisely calculated and planned something is, it's meaningless if it can't be executed.
 It's natural. Managing monsters that live on instinct and impulse to the very end is a difficult task, even for their great youkai power, and sometimes it even leads to localized defeats. This weakness ultimately led to a fatal failure during the climax of the Great War, when Fusō-kuni launched a decisive counterattack.
 But just before their sealing, Kubou anticipated their defeat in the Great War and instructed some of their top subordinates about the reason for it. And the remnants of the youkai followed their will. Aside from the discarded pawns in the first half of the story, the main fighters in the second half of the story were well trained and controlled, even the small fry. Of course, the government forces, who faced a massive army of controlled monsters, were caught off guard, as were exorcists and their subordinates, who were used to dealing with disorganized mobs, and they suffered unexpected losses.
 "...Well, in a way, it's convenient. At this point, I'll take as many with me as I can," I said with a laugh. After all, I have no future. All I can do is pray for what comes next. So, I might as well leave a parting gift. I'll at least weaken the youkai forces a bit. It will be better than the original story, or rather, it has to be.
 "Well, that's how it is. Now, then..." I said, seeing the youkai horde starting to pass by. I raised my finger in front of me and focused my spiritual energy to activate my fire manipulation exploding talisman art.
 Immediately after that, some youkai reacted to the activation of my technique and rushed towards me. I had thought that I had concealed my presence, but it seemed they had sent scouts ahead who were particularly skilled at detecting. They quickly found my hiding place and charged towards me. It was a terrifyingly swift action, but it was exactly what I had anticipated. After all, they weren't fast enough.
 "Well then, let the party begin," I said as I started to chant my art. The next moment, explosions rang out in the forest, one after another, as if attacking youkai's army line.
 And thus began the signal for the start of the battle...
* * *
 "Haa... haa... hehe, this sure is quite a lively scene," Iruka panted as she arrived at the scene of the battle, just as a servant had started the fight. Enduring the pain coursing through her body, the half-youkai climbed the small hill near the mansion and chuckled wryly at the sight before her. It was a laugh laced with self-mockery and self-loathing.
 Despite being in the countryside at night, the scene was as bright as a city. It was not only because of the bonfire. The villagers had gathered on the road leading to the house and the shrine on the small hill, holding lanterns to light the way for the shrine maiden. The oil alone must be worth a fortune. It is a grand affair.
 "Now, let's see who's playing the shrine maiden role... Ha, it just doesn't suit her at all," Iruka narrowed her eyes and watched as the procession of maids and guards escorted the elegant shrine maiden towards the shrine. She looked like a true princess, but her behavior made her seem almost ridiculous, at least to Iruka. Next to her stood a sour-faced maid, proving her position in the village despite being an outsider.
 "Haha... Ggh!? Gaaah!!? ...Ah!? Hhhhg!!?" Suddenly, a sharp pain shot through Iruka's arm, causing her to crouch down and try to suppress the wild emotions that threatened to overcome her. She growls like a beast and fought to calm herself down.
 "Haha, d*mn it. You're so energetic, huh? But I'm exhausted...!" Iruka gritted her teeth and tightly gripped her grotesque, otherworldly arm that had been grafted onto her body after she had lost her own arm. Sweat pours down her forehead, her face turns pale, and she tries to be strong. The hairs on Iruka's body have obviously increased. Her arm moves of its own accord, making her fingers twitch and her sharp claws extend. The movements were grotesque, resembling those of a centipede.
 Iruka wasn't born a half-youkai. She was artificially turned into one through a curse and surgery passed down by the indigenous Ezo people. And it was her arm which was cut off and a youkai's arm was transplanted into it.
 So to speak, her youkai side was like a foreign substance in her body, constantly corroding and invading her. The more she used her power, the more it consumed her, and if she transformed into a monster even for a short time, there was no telling what might happen. Yet she had no choice but to endure it.
 "...!!? It has begun!" Iruka said as she turns around at the sound of a continuous roar from far away. It seems that that guy has started. When she looks back, she sees that the villagers have also noticed the roar and are starting to make some noise.
 "It's pretty loud over there. ...Shall I do it?" said the wolf girl, not a wolf boy, her words tinged with a hint of amusement. No, even if she told the truth, would people have believed her? Then, in a sense, is it the opposite? Such irrelevant doubts crossed her mind, but she quickly stopped thinking about useless things and focused her nerves on her goal before her. Then, she began.
 "Hear me!!" Iruka bellowed, a literal wolf howl that echoed throughout the village. A roar that draws the attention of the villagers, who are shaken by the roar of explosions from afar, to her.
 In an instant, Iruka, standing at the top of a small hill, realized that countless eyes were fixed upon her from all directions. Most were shocked or shaken by the sudden appearance of the half-youkai traitor, who had been captured by the exorcists and taken away just days before. Now, she had returned in a more monstrous form than ever before. It was a natural reaction for them to feel uneasy and fearful upon seeing her once again.
 But Iruka merely smiled, her canine teeth visible as she curled her lips into a grin, "Life is short and unpredictable," she thought. "Regretting won't change a thing."
 Absurdity and injustice were nothing new to Iruka. She had learned that regret and anger were futile emotions. It's pointless to think about what people will think of her after she dies. So, instead, she focused on what she could do for her friends. And if it meant risking everything she had, she was willing to do it.
 And now, she saw her friends looking up at her, stunned or astonished. With a slight pout, Iruka took a deep breath and shouted at the top of her lungs, "How can you humans be so carefree and oblivious?! You all just had a crisis, and yet you act as if nothing happened! Unbelievable!"
 With the moon in the background, Iruka, as befits a member of the youkai who have rightly taken revenge on the humans, taunts the villagers with her viciousness.
 Thus, Iruka's once-in-a-lifetime performance, in which she literally risks everything, begins...
* * *
 The claymore mine-like device that had been detonated were utilized for a purpose similar to their original intent.
 However, the dynamite imitation used in the underground waterway some time ago was not as easily usable due to the quality and quantity issues of nitroglycerin, which could only be refined through trial and error.
 The same was true even if I told Sarujirou how to refine it and had him produce it for me without disclosing its source. Nevertheless, it was a valuable weapon with greater destructive power than black powder for a servant like me, and I had to think of an efficient way to utilize it. The result was the claymore mine imitation.
 I am not a military otaku. However, I learned about it when I played FPS in my previous life, and I have been studying the general principle of it as well as other equipments out of curiosity.
 I do not fully understand how it works. However, what is important here is the idea. In order to make the most effective use of precious nitroglycerin, the use of shrapnel from the explosion is far more effective than a simple explosion.
 The original effective radius was 200 meters, and over 700 iron balls were said to be scattered at once, but that couldn't be replicated. Instead, I used nails, pebbles, and coated them with poison. I tested the prototypes by detonating them several times and using captured young or small youkai as targets to confirm their effectiveness. The kill radius was at best a third of the original.
 But it was fine. It was originally a small fry trap that I was thinking of using to ambush and blow up the youkai boar's men, as equipment when I decided to intervene in the first event. By the way, when carried as part of the strike forece party's baggage, it was used as an experimental tool under Sarujirou's name.
 The first explosion detonated a total of six claymore mine, which blew up on both sides of the formation. It caused damage to nearly a hundred of the leading youkai. Half of them died, and the other half were injured. But that didn't matter. If they couldn't move, it was good enough. And the operation moved on to the second phase.
 "Come on, you b*stards! Bring it on!!" I shouted, ringing the bell to attract the low-level youkai. This tool usually use it as a diversion, but when the bell is rang loudly, even the controlled youkai are excited and head toward the bell.
 "Alright, another round!! I yelled, as the youkai approached. Suddenly, there was an explosion right in front of them. It's no wonder because I've prepared a trap. A dozen or so of them charge at me, and are turned into minced meat by the countless nails and iron scraps flying towards them. It was more like a grape-shot than a landmine. It was like something out of Vendemiaire.
 'Servant! Three medium-sized youkai are coming!' a hummingbird shikigami's message came through my earpiece. I focused my thoughts and another explosion went off. This time it was black powder. The explosion blew up a large tree trunk located near the entrance to the cave. I had previously cut a notch into the trunk and stuffed a bomb in it. Now, two large tree trunks that fell to the ground blocked the entrance, and the youkai that came out to take advantage of the situation were all crushed by the mass attack. It was only meant to buy time, though.
 The remaining small youkai, now isolated, were approaching me. I throw flashbangs and stinkbangs at them to confuse them, then cut them down with cheap swords. Even though one of the medium-sized youkai was crushed by the fallen trees, it managed to stick its head out and struggle. But I threw a short spear into its mouth to kill it. Both sides of the spear were coated with poison.
 'Servant, it's time to move back. The main force is coming,' after defeating the tenth small youkai and rendering my sword useless, Botan gave an order.
 At the same time, the entrance of the cave exploded, and a huge great youkai in the form of a deer appeared. It had a grotesque human face and menacing antlers like avant-garde art. Behind the deer, a crowd of minions appeared one after another.
 "Is that the Deer God?!" I couldn't help but exclaim at the familiar appearance of the great youkai, who lunges at me. While throwing my dull sword and pulling out a spare one, I threw flash bombs and stink bombs and retreated at full speed, making sure to ring my bell.
 The deformed Deer God, with a sword stuck in its face, enraged by the flash and stench, rushed toward me with its minions in tow. Its face had a disgustingly pleasant smile despite its clear anger. I ran desperately, pushing my legs to the limit like an athlete. However, they still caught up with me.
 'Servant! Now! Up the tree!!'
 "Got it...!"
 Following the instruction, I threw a flash bomb while jumping up onto a tree. The Deer God passed by me with too much momentum, had all four legs cleanly severed and crashed face-first into the ground. And so did the rest of the minion. One by one, their bodies and legs were cut off, blinded by the flash of light. It was done by wire traps made from spider webs tied around the tree trunk.
 Finally, some of the youkai stop to assess the situation of those in front of them. But it was a trap, and a group of them detonated a hidden Claymore replica, causing the grotesque creatures to fly off in all directions.
 "That went better than I expected. If this keeps up...!!" I exclaimed.
 'Huh!? On your right! Get ready with your weapons!!' a voice interrupted from the side.
 "?!" I exclaimed, unable to see or detect anything. But my body obeyed Botan's warning, and I readied my spare sword as a conditioned reflex, ready to counterattack. And it was the right choice.
 "Ugh...!?" I grunted.
 "Heh," a small figure appeared out of nowhere and shattered my sword with incredible speed. But their sound came late, after the attack.
 "Sh*t!" I gasped.

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