Friday, May 12, 2023 @

Chapter 86, Part 1

 [Part 1/4]

 The relationship between the respected Ako family in the western region and the name-worthy Onitsuki family in the northern region is not as ancient as some may believe.
 The Onitsuki family, led by the Miyataka family, had a longer history of interaction with the exorcism old families of the north, due in part to the seclusion and exclusivity of the northern province. However, the depth of this interaction was also a concern, as the complex and convoluted blood ties born from years of contact often led to the takeover of families.
 This is exemplified in the case of the Onitsuki family, who, about two hundred years ago, lost many members of the family, including the head of the family, due to the failure of a secret ritual. The 15th generation head of the family, a young child at the time, married into the Miyataka family for assistance. However, this also meant that the Onitsuki family was under the shadow of the Miyataka family, which caused significant opposition. This opposition only grew when it was revealed that the next generation of the Onitsuki family would marry a woman from the Miyataka family. And if a Miyataka's woman was given to the next generation, the ulterior motive would be too obvious.
 ...That is why Onitsuki Moriyasu Takesada, the 16th head of the Onitsuki family, divorced his wife from the Miyataka family.
 He was prepared to be called an outrage or a rash act, but he still did not want too much interference from the Miyataka family and others, so he chose to take the daughter of the low-ranking member of his family, Onitsuki Kochou, as his second wife. Although the number of women in the family had been reduced, it seemed to him that it was a better option for the family's stability as opposed to marrying a woman from elsewhere. Kochou was chosen due to her spiritual power and potential.
 It was during his reign that the friendship with the Ako family began.
 During the "Youkai Chaos of Toyoyanagi Tsurumi," a massive chaos of the youkai beings lasting four years, hundreds of thousands of people and Youkai perished, which made it the largest uprising of its time. At the behest of the Emperor, many government soldiers and exorcists were deployed to crush the turmolt, which also resulted in many casualties.
 The Onitsuki family, led by Moriyasu Takesada, also participated in the battle. However, they lost many members of the family, including his younger sister, as well as several times that number in servants and hidden group members. And it was during such a terrible battle that he and the head of the Ako family crossed paths.
 In a desolate battlefield, two people met and naturally became friends after realizing their mutual sword-fighting skills complemented each other and they had survived many life-and-death situations together, despite their old age.
 Their friendship lasted at least for a long time because of the distance between their territories and their duties, and when Takesada died, the former head of Ako, who had already retired, attended his funeral in person.
 When the seventeenth head of the family died, the Miyataka family and other old families in the northern part of Ako again approached the Onitsuki family, but this time the Onitsuki family refused their request. However, the wife of the head of the family being a peasant was not a suitable appearance, and the Ako family, a prestigious family of exorcists in the western region, with whom the previous generation had formed a friendship, was welcomed by the Onitsuki family.
 Anyway, enough of the lengthy introduction to the relationship between the two families...
 "Why is Miss Murasaki here?" I asked curiously.
 "What do you mean by that tone!? Am I not allowed to be here!?" Murasaki shouted, anger seeping through every word. She wore only a white kimono and looked as if she was about to burst into tears.
 "Oh, no. I didn't know that a member of the Akō family had visited the Onitsuki's estate," I say apologetically.
 "Well, you were probably sleeping peacefully and didn't know anything, right? Fine, I will tell you. The other day, the head of Onitsuki's house recovered from a coma," Murasaki explained, her words sharp and biting.
 "Oh, I already knew that because I met him," I interjected.
 When I point this out to her, Murasaki became depressed. Her idiotic tuft (ahoge) of hair drooped. Oh, I guess she hasn't met the yandere father yet.
 "...Is Miss Murasaki representing the family on a visit?" I asked, trying to change the subject.
 "No! It's my brother who's representing, and I'm just his companion! Is that bad!?" Murasaki exclaimed, defensive and frustrated.
 "Miss Murasaki, please don't get upset. Your outfit will be ruined," I pleaded, trying to calm her down.
 "Eh!?" She gasped, looking down at her kimono. Since she didn't have an obi, it was already slipping off, exposing her shoulder.
 "Iruka, give her back the obi... or rather, everything you've taken up. You're cheating, aren't you?" I accused.
 "What!? Wait, what do you mean!?" Murasaki reacts to my statement of revelation as if she's shouting. Yeah, Murasaki. You can scream all you want, but why were you guys playing games at someone's house first?
 "He-heh... The first to come rolling in was the half-youkai sister over there..."
 And then my question was answered by Magoroku, who had been concentrating on household chores at the edge of the room amidst all this commotion.
 According to the story, it was Iruka who had entered my house first, about two days ago. I was perplexed, but apparently it was an order from the Onitsuki family and Iruka had no choice but to take care of the girl as a lodger and caretaker.
 "An order, huh? What do you mean, Iruka?" I asked, raising an eyebrow.
 "Well..." Iruka hesitated. "I don't know all the details myself. Apparently, our young lady has some spiritual power and was sent here by the village. I'm supposed to be her servant and bodyguard."
 I nodded slowly, taking in the new information. "I see...I understand."
 I was puzzled by Iruka's comment for a moment, but then I recalled the previous incident, and I understood. In other words, Iruka had been put on hold.
 Although Iruka's treatment had been handled as if it were someone else's matter at the previous meeting, it was unlikely that everyone present had been completely deceived. There are still many people who have suspicions. And even if they were not as aggressive as the Tachibana Trading Company, they were also arranged by the Imperial Court.
 There was undoubtedly the intention of leaving the suspect in place in case of emergency when Iruka was dispatched here. Not just to miss something, but to have a suspect on hand to check out, so that they could make an excuse.
 And the reason for keeping the suspect with me is...
 (It's easier for monitoring and processing if it's all wrapped up, I suppose. Well, it's not surprising since I didn't think it would all be over with just the verdict. ...The problem is the existence of the main character.)
 The main character seems to have been placed in the custody of the Onitsuki family as in the original story, but at... this time, she may not have been completely protected as a victim. This is... a little bit bad, isn't it?
 "...By the way, why is Miss Murasaki at my house? And why are you being treated in such a way?" I asked Murasaki, who had been outside the mosquito net since earlier and has been complaining. If she's here to visit the head of the house, then don't come to my house. I want to discuss things with Iruka about the future.
 "Haa! You say that!? You completely ignored the message that someone took the time to write!? How dare you!?" Murasaki exclaimed, her voice rising in anger. But I could only tilt my head, confused about the meaning of her statement with, "...Yes?" All I could tell was that there was a huge discrepancy in our perceptions.
 "Aren't you so rude!? I've been sending you a letter once a month and you haven't written me a single reply, you know!? I've been so lonely and angry! I was going to come here and complain to you, but when I heard you received a curse from the youkai until First Princess could lift it, I was going to wait until she lifted it!!! Who do you think you are!?" Murasaki shouted angrily, her voice full of frustration and hurt, like a child throwing a tantrum. After yelling, she stands in front of me and waits for my reaction with a disgruntled, somewhat arrogant attitude. Well...
 "Um, I'm sorry, but what are you talking about? I have no idea what you're talking about?" I replied, sounding confused. Murasaki looked stunned at my question for a moment, unsure of how to respond. But quickly returned to her expression and continued to accuse me, pointing her finger at me.
 "What, are you joking!? That kind of cheap excuse...!" she exclaimed, her voice rising in anger.
 "No, really, what are you talking about? I don't remember receiving anything like that."
 "So that's just a cheap excuse... Is it true?" she asked, her eyes narrowing.
 "Yes, it's true."
 "Is it really true?" she pressed, her tone incredulous.
 "It's really, really true."
 "......" she fell silent, the weight of his words sinking in.
 An awkward atmosphere began to prevail in the room.
 "I have to ask, how did you send it?"
 "...It was through a shikigami, as a complimentary letter to my cousin," she explained, her tone apologetic.
 "As a complimentary letter to the Princess's letter? Was there a reply to the message from her?"
 "......" There was an uncomfortable pause before she finally spoke. "No, there was no reply."
 Silence was the answer. Ah, all of these must have been thrown away. It's about Gorilla-sama, disposing of both her and other people's without a care.
 "Shouldn't you check with the princess first?" I suggested.
 "O-okay," replied Murasaki meekly. Well, I doubt if she would give me a proper answer even if she did.
 "Anyway, Iruka, why did you strip off Miss Murasaki?" I asked, turning to Iruka. Murasaki looked downcast, and I felt bad for dragging her into this mess.
 Iruka shrugged, a smug grin on her face. "Heh-heh, nothing special. That shorty who saw us poking around when we were playing and said things about me. Then, I teased her a little bit and she jumped at the chance to join in."
 "And you took advantage of her?"
 "Hey, hey, I promised to pay her back everything if I lost, okay? And if she wins, she can do whatever she wants. So, I'm at a disadvantage, right?" Iruka said while grinning.
 What kind of a cheater says that?
 "Well, every time she was about to quit, that half-youkai sister provoke her with her mouth," Magoroku explained in my ear. Provocations, huh? But it seemed that she was hiding something more malicious.
 "Wait, I remember he said something about cheating earlier?" Murasaki screamed and accused Iruka of cheating. But Iruka laughed and hid her evidence with a smooth move. "Really? Then, prove it. Let's see your proof!" she teased her and chuckled.

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