Saturday, April 29, 2023 @

Chapter 82, Part 1

 "En" (縁) refers to a connection, relationship, fate, or bond.
 The definition is broad and encompasses not only blood relations such as parent-child and siblings but also social connections such as master and servant, as well as karmic connections based on possessions. In the end, it can even extend to groups such as villages, organizations, and nations.
 Many curses are based on these connections. The classic example is a curse that uses a straw doll. This involves sewing the target's hair or other personal belongings into the doll and cursing them. Alternatively, a curse may target the target's family or village, sending vengeful spirits and ghosts down the line of relationship. The curse of finding a person is also a form of curse.
 The closer the connection, the clearer the conditions, the stronger the power of the curse. Conversely, if the connection is vague or broad, the curse against an individual will be diluted and weak.
 This principle also applies to emotions. The stronger the emotions directed toward someone, the stronger the bond will be, and the deeper the connection will be...
 Now, the time goes back just a little. A girl sensed this connection. The determination, the resolution, and the decision that came through the deep connection between her and him through their hearts. Though she interpreted it in a way that was convenient for herself.
 As she sat up and emerged from the covers, her black, glossy hair brushed against the fabric, and her nape peeked through the gap in her hair, forming a graceful curve.
 "Just wait. I'll be there soon," she said and give a sigh.
 Inside the ox-cart, which had become a "stray house", the girl who had sneaked into the sleeping quarters behind the curtains at the upper seat was already fully awake, having been drawn out of her dreamlike state.
 She rose from the sleeping quarters into the darkness. Her slender, white limbs stood out against the jet-black background, as if illuminated. Her body was taut and glossy...
 Yes, she was naked now. Her body was glistening with sweat and she had a radiant, godly aura about her. Her cheeks were flushed with a deep shade of red and she let out a sultry sigh, as if she was burning with desire. It looked as if she was in love or lost in lust. And both were right.
 What she had been doing in the futon alone just a few minutes ago was nothing but comforting herself in the literal sense of the word. She had been thinking of her beloved, daydreaming about their rendezvous and fantasizing about their love for each other.
 He was repeatedly whispered sweet words in her ear, like a childhood game, and held tightly by his well-trained, hard and robust body. Her breasts were ravished passionately, as if by an infant, and her body was violently penetrated and tormented like an animal, until finally they would embrace each other, taking in the boiling love and reaching the climax together... She was imagining such a scene.
 It was a scene that was like a dream, where she was endlessly coddled and loved by her beloved while she snuggled up to him... However, just imagining it wasn't enough, so she used her own fingers to bring herself to climax again and again, leaning in, crying, shedding tears of joy, and continuing to reach the climax. But in reality, it was just a vain act of self-exhaustion, and she cried her eyes out. It wasn't anything special, just a daily routine for her now. It was a part of her everyday life.
 It was painful, joyful, loving... but most of all, it was a precious moment for her, where she could completely expose herself. It was comforting. It was the hope that kept her alive.
 But now, she moves. Though it was an important time, she moved. It was so natural that the fatigue from hunting youkai since dawn and the exhaustion from the comfort of the bed were irrelevant now. After all, to her now, everything about herself was a factor that could not be taken into consideration in any way.
 She hid the men's underwear, soaked with her own fluids, under the pillow like a child hiding a treasure. After hiding it, Onitsuki Hina turned on her heels and left through the curtains. She quickly put on her complete equipment for youkai extermination and snapped her fingers, causing the candlestick to light up.
 In the room illuminated by the reddish-white light source, something sat there as if it had always been there. A bird shikigami with a strangely elaborate design stared at her. The shikigami, with emotions unique to birds that were difficult to discern, glanced at Hina who had already put on her light armor.
 'Oh, are you going out? Where are you going on such a night? Maybe there are youkai running away, but there should be no more prey around here, right?' said the shikigami in front of her.
 The shikigami's summoner knew that the woman in front of her had gone to various places, even deep into the hinterlands, burning, calming, and killing supernatural beings to gain achievements.
 "Stop joking. You already know, don't you? He's in danger. I know it," Onitsuki Hina replied to her sister's mocking question in calm tone.
 She cut off the conversation as if she didn't care, as if she wasn't interested, and as if it didn't matter at all. In fact, it didn't matter to Hina. What she wants from the woman in front of her now are few words, and even those are only a final confirmation. In a sense, the answer had already been given when the woman had tried to contact her with the shikigami.
 '...It's a place called Hotoya Village, far to the west. I've made preparations for the journey, but I feel like there's still something lacking. Will you help me out?' said the shikigami that sounded like a tinkling bell.
 But Hina didn't answer the question. She simply finished preparing herself and headed out of the ox cart. It was not that she ignored her. It was just that the question wasn't worth answering for Hina.
 After all, for families, and for husbands and wives, it was only natural to help each other without any thought of gain or loss.
 ...It had to be that way.
 So Hina went eagerly. To her beloved, to her husband. To save him from his plight. To sacrifice everything for him.
 When she got off the cart, she found herself in a moonlit field, surrounded by a barrier that had been set up to protect them in the wilderness where no one's hands could reach.
 "Princess Hina?"
 "Princess, why are you dressed like that?"
 As chance would have it, some exorcists and servants who were on night duty witnessed her and were overwhelmed by the indescribable atmosphere, but still asked her what was going on.
 However, ignoring all of their calls, the princess called forth the yellow dragon that had been subdued by the Onitsuki clan.
 "W-what is this!?"
 "Please wait, where are you planning to go!?"
 Sensing her next move, but unaware of her intention or destination, the people around her hurriedly call out to her to stop her. But she didn't hear any of it.
 There was no way she could hear the noise of the insects buzzing. Then...
 '...a despicable woman,' muttered her sister on the other side of the Shikigami as she took a disdainful glance at her who pushed everything away and flew away with the dragon...
* * *
 During the ceremony, a half-human, half-youkai wolf suddenly burst into the crowd. Her words were enough to startle the villagers and send them into a panic.
 Her curse, insults, and sadistic threats that were filled with malice and a desire for revenge towards them, were incredibly persuasive. Especially with the cries and roars of the monsters echoing in the distance. As a result, the villagers had a low tolerance for this kind of crisis.
 "Don't even think about running away! Stand there and continue to tremble in fear until you are all eaten!! ...Oops, maybe I went a little too far?" Iruka, who had threatened them so much, muttered to herself about how severe the confusion among the villagers was as she glancing over her shoulder.
 People screamed, panicked, and walked foolishly to the left and right, not knowing what to do. But then...
 "Calm down!" shouted the village's leader, Hotoya Yoshinori, who led the shrine maiden. When he raised his powerful voice, which belied his old age, the villagers fell silent and turned their gaze to their superiors. The chaos subsides.
 "Gather the residents who are staying in the lower village immediately! Take shelter in my house! Katahiko!" Yoshinori commanded.
 "Yes!" Katahiko responded. "Send someone on a fast horse to the nearby fort or village! The men are under my command. Half of you will recover the people who are staying at home, and the other half will reinforce the defense of the village head house! Gatekeeper, open the key to Hyogo!"
 Yoshinori calms the confusion and agitation, while Katahiko, who had combat experience, gave specific orders. Since it was originally a rural village, the villagers follow the orders of Yoshinori and Katahiko due to their conservative and authoritarian tendencies and the distance between the residents and the ruling class was close. Women, children, and the elderly are sent to the houses in priority, while the men follow their originally designated groups to evacuate, collect the residents, and guard them.
 "There was a commotion at the inn just yesterday, wasn't there?" Katahiko continued, addressing one of his subordinates. "If you head for that area, you should be able to find some exorcists there. Please, I'm counting on you!"
 Katahiko then ordered his immediate subordinate to go to the fast horse and sent him out. Finally, he narrowed his eyes in the direction where the roaring sound was heard.
 "Is that a continuous roar? Could it be... a battle?" Katahiko thought to himself.
 Yes, it is a roaring sound. It's not just the cry of a youkai. It is the sound of battle. But it was strange. If what Iruka said is true, then what is causing this sound? Only he and his men are capable of fighting youkai in the village, and even most of his subordinates are waiting here. So, who is fighting...?
 "I can't send out scouts. Anyway, we have no choice but to fight back here..." Katahiko said.
 Running away is out of the question. He didn't know the scale of the attack. It's unclear how long it would take for over a thousand villagers to evacuate, and they wouldn't stand a chance if they were attacked during the evacuation. Above all, abandoning a place with a spiritual vein is prohibited by the Imperial Court. He had no choice but to persist until help arrived.
 The problem was that most of the men available for battle were amateurs. Katahiko himself has experience in fighting bandits and youkai when he served at court, and the guards under his direct control know how to use weapons. But other than that... the only people who can be counted on are lumberjacks and hunters. It's too unreliable.
 "Hey, remove the roof tiles of the house. At worst, the women and children will be exposed. But we can at least throw a projectile from above," Katahiko ordered one of the maids who had been caught to evacuate.
 "Y-yes! I'll do it right away!" the maid replied.
 Katahiko then watched the maid go in the direction of the house and then crossed his arms, looking around with a serious expression.
 "If we barricade ourselves in the mansion, we may be able to hold out for a day?" Katahiko muttered to himself.
 Of course, during that time, more than half of the men would likely be in the stomachs of the youkai. And they would probably not last two days, or even a day and a half.
 "Worst case scenario, at least if it's just his Lord family..." Katahiko thought. But as a warrior and bodyguard, Katahiko accepted his role and place of death. And now, he must made up his mind.
 "Lord Katahiko!" Suzune called out.
 "Huh!? What's the matter, Suzune? Sorry to interrupt your fun, but the festival is canceled for now. Hurry back to the house,” Katahiko replied.
 Katahiko, who was about to resign himself to his fate, turns around when he hears his name called out. And when he sees the frantic look on the face of the familiar maid, he dares to make a joke as an older man and in his position.
 “Stop joking around! Where, where's young lady...!?" the maid cried out desperately, making Katahiko's relaxed expression completely gone.
* * *
 If I'm not careful, I will die soon, and even if I'm not careful, I will die normally. Youkai is full of top-ranked monsters, and I don't know what even the lower-ranked ones are hiding from me.
 Since I was born into this world and became a servant, I have been in danger many times. Even if I had countless lives, it wouldn't be enough, and it's a mystery how I've survived until now. Maybe it's because I never stopped trying to survive?
 Anyway, as an extension of the above, I had been thinking about how I could use the Youbo (youkai mother) gene that I had reluctantly incorporated into myself, within the limits of safety.
 However, adjusting the genes was too difficult due to the parasite's shitty personality, and all the utilization ideas ended up failing. According to Matsushige Botan's old man, the best way to make use of the gene is to make the parasitized youkai or slaves run wild and plunge them into the youkai's den. No, I won't do something that low.
 But then, such a situation has changed since another parasitic being was added to me. It could be said that it just gave me more headaches, but I don’t care. I just wanted to find some way to utilize it effectively.
 And then, 'this method' was suggested, which was almost like suicide.

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