The Zashiki Warashi of Intellectual Village:Volume1 Chapter 3
Chapter 3: Regarding Hishigami Mai
I may have used the name on Zashou Island, but I did not actually belong to the group. I do not like going to the effort of explaining the annoying details of an organization’s structure, and what does it matter if someone I am about to kill comes to the wrong conclusion?
“Excellent work,” said a dignified voice.
The speaker wore a kimono and sat at the back of a tearoom that smelled of old-fashioned incense. Just hearing that, you might think it was an organization ruled by the elderly and left behind by the times, but the person wearing the kimono was a girl of about 10.
You could say the girl was a decoration.
She was a symbol of the downside of putting too much focus on bloodline.
When the previous generation was sent to an early grave, the leader became a child that was softer than a crab after molting. It was remarkable how the Hyakki Yakou’s situation had so quickly shifted in a dangerous direction. There were rumors that a true conflict would occur soon and that rebellious elements were gathering from within the organization.
Nevertheless, the girl’s expression remained unchanged.
The fact that she had been forced into a situation where she had needed to gain such control over her expressions at her age made me pity her.
“You will be paid in the usual fashion.”
“Once you have confirmed receipt of your pay, are you willing to take on another job?”
“If I can take a three day vacation and the pay will be suitable for the job.”
All the jobs I got were utter shit. They were consistently as low as they could get. But I would do any job as long as I was paid. That was how I lived my life.
I had less of an issue with this young lady’s jobs because they still had a bit of “softness” left.
For one thing, any professional would call it suicide for a VIP like her to meet someone like me face-to-face rather than using a middleman. It almost made me pity her that she had no aide loyal enough to stop her.
“What is the job?”
The girl slid an envelope filled with documents toward me. I was still standing, so I stepped on the envelope as it slid along the tatami mats and then kicked it up. When I checked on the contents, I also found several pictures and a map with some marks on it.
“It is a rural city in Shinshu. The name is gone due to consolidations, but the area was one known as Ubasute Village. In fact, not even the original buildings of that village remain.”
“Yeah, the map only shows a dam.”
“That dam is set to be demolished,” said the girl softly. “The dam was constructed to develop the land for a normal rural city rather than an Intellectual Village. The old and extremely depopulated village ended up underwater. Anyway, it seems the recent fall of an influential person had an effect on the local government.”
“So they’re destroying the dam and restoring the sunken village?”
“Those in favor of turning it into an Intellectual Village have been quite active. We have no intention of interfering with that, but we fear that the process of restoration could bring something out from the depths of the water. Something that must not see the light of day.”
“So this is related to Youkai?”
“Yes, and on a level that requires the involvement of Hyakki Yakou.”
Does that mean the Public Security Intelligence Agency has already gotten involved and suffered losses? They can be prideful, so they must have lost at least 4 or 5 men to be willing to ask Hyakki Yakou for help.
As I thought, the girl created a very serious mood.
“We need you to determine the details and then eliminate the threat if necessary.”
“Will you take care of any necessary expenses?”
The girl’s voice grew stiff.
When I said “necessary expenses”, I was not referring to money. I was asking if I could get unrelated people involved in order to approach the core of the case.
I had no intention of being sloppy enough to leave behind any trace of my involvement, but having some insurance in case I did took a large burden off my mind.
And that meant I had one more thing I had to check on.
“This job includes reconnaissance and destruction. Can the necessary expenses begin in the reconnaissance part of the job? If so, it is possible some of those expenses will only lead to dead ends.”
“I was prepared for that from the moment I decided to hire someone outside of the organization.”
She had the cutest responses.
I knew it put a burden on her, but I couldn’t help but do it sometimes.
I threw the envelope of documents back at the girl and turned around.
“Do you not need the documents?”
“I have already memorized them.”
I left the tearoom.
Antiquated design. An old-fashioned interior. A strange stillness. Everything about the place created an atmosphere that Youkai would like. I walked through an area like that and headed outside.
What I exited was not a Japanese house you would expect to find a Zashiki Warashi living in.
It was a giant V-shaped flying wing that was reminiscent of a stealth bomber. That large passenger plane was the highest-class aircraft available for personal ownership and it was that girl’s mobile base.
Amazingly, she also had eight generation 4.5 and generation 5 escort fighters, two large transport planes filled with the equipment and materials needed to maintain them, and a single aerial refueling craft. The flying wing had an antenna on top that looked like a giant plate and it could function on the level as any airborne warning and control aircraft, so she could break through territory controlled by a small air force if necessary. If its armaments were changed out, it could probably carry out a bombing mission.
“The fighters have to remain up above the clouds with the slow-moving flying wing for long periods at a time, so I heard they installed kitchens and bathrooms on the fighters. I wonder if that’s true.”
Officially, a group of instructors from a flight school that hired retired pilots had been brought in to test out the latest models from aerospace defense companies, but it must have required a lot of influence to force that explanation through. Those fighters were masses of national secrets, so it was not normal to let someone land them and their maintenance parts and equipment at airports around the world regardless of whether the airport belonged to an allied nation or not. In other words, Hyakki Yakou had enough trust or threat of violence to silence the complaints of a developed nation with nothing but a glance.
“How sad,” I muttered as I walked down the stairs and onto the runway of the bayside international airport. “Spending so much money on something like this just tells everyone you would be in too much danger if you remained in one place.”
I was within mountains covered in conifer trees. You know, the type of mountains you can find anywhere. It was the type of rural area that earned many a hateful gaze because of all the cedar allergies it would surely cause every spring. I was driving through it in a rental car I had borrowed under a false name.
I was headed for a run-down pension.
It was all an attempt to not stand out, but the unfashionable cars and lodging I always had to choose were difficult to put up with. It may have been in response to that kind of camouflage that, in their time off, hit men and spies wore showy outfits that looked like your average person dreaming of being someone from a movie.
When I arrived at my room, I did a sweep for cameras or bugs and then tossed my small bag onto the bed. I opened a case and pulled out some makeup equipment. I then opened a small hidden space and assembled the nonmetallic parts hidden within.
I ended up with a handgun small enough to fit in my palm and a suppressor that looked about three times as big. I was aware the suppressor completely ignored the small size of the actual gun.
That was when a child-like voice called out from below.
“Quite a strange piece of equipment you have there.”
“Reality doesn’t work like a Hollywood movie. Simply adding a suppressor to the barrel is not enough to completely silence the gunshot. The caliber was brought down this low in an attempt to keep it as quiet as possible.”
“And is that really necessary?”
“How should I know? It’s my job to investigate and find out. But it’s best to have it around if 100% safety cannot be guaranteed. Not that I’ve ever been in such a situation before.”
If I was in a situation where I had to rely on something like that in Japan, I had 80% lost already.
It was important to only begin a fight once you had prepared an environment where you did not need something like that.
“Shirakido City is…or rather, the ruins of Ubasute Village are 5 kilometers from here. This whole thing seems suspicious, so be careful,” said the voice.
I hid the small handgun and the suppressor in my boot. My boots were like a type of trick art. There was a difference between how they looked and how much space there actually was. I was dressed like a stupid tourist with a tank top and hot pants on. The outfit was fairly revealing, so it had few places to hide a weapon.
At any rate, I lowered my gaze.
I lowered it down to the level of the voice I had been hearing.
This was not just at a child’s height. I could not have spoken from that height without pressing my cheek flat against the floor.
“What are you?”
“What do you mean, what am I? I am a Sunekosuri. I am a Youkai. Have you never heard of a Sunekosuri?”
“You look like a small dog.”
“I am a Youkai that looks like a small dog.”
I knew that much, but my question was as to why the young lady of Hyakki Yakou would send something like that to me. I cast a doubtful look down toward the canine Youkai that was already wrapping around my ankle.
“What can you do as a Youkai?”
“That is not something I expected to hear from an agent even if you are a free one. A Sunekosuri rubs its cheek up against the shins of travelers. Like this: Rub, rub.”
“Do you have the ability to steal the life energy of those travelers so they collapse or to send their sense of direction out of whack so they are suddenly headed in the wrong direction?”
“Please do not think that every Youkai in the world has some cool and useful ability.”
That was when I snapped.
“Oh, I can’t stand it!! You’re just so damn cute!!”
“Eee!? W-wait a second!! Don’t pick me up! I am called a Sunekosuri because I rub against shins! If you make me rub against your cheek, I will become a different kind of Youkai!!”
“Okay, okay. Then I’ll make you into a Paizuri Youkai.”
“Let’s go with the cheek as a compromise! I have my dignity!! If I started being called by that name, I would seriously consider suicide!!”
I continued loving on the canine Youkai for a bit as he protested with every hair on his body standing on end. Afterwards, I straightened out my hair and tank top that were both covered in puppy fur.
“Okay, now that I’m refreshed, it’s about time I headed to the ruins of Ubasute Village.”
“…Heh…heh heh. Well done weakening a real Youkai in just a few minutes. I can see why Hyakki Yakou does business with you…”
And so I left the unfashionable pension, got in the unfashionable rental car, and headed for the unfashionable ruins.
The sloping ground around the winding mountain road was covered in cedar trees. The annoying cries of cicadas and mating calls of wild birds grew louder and I became wrapped in the boring atmosphere of the countryside.
“That must be the dam…It’s ruins, too?”
“Both the village and the dam are ruins, so it can get a bit confusing.”
I stopped the car in a small space along the mountain road that was meant for attaching chains to the tires. From there, I observed things from afar.
A giant concrete construction stood between two mountains. That was the dam. However, the massive amount of water it was supposed to be holding was gone. At the bottom of the empty reservoir were several half-rotten Japanese houses.
“They’re really thinking about restoring that? The foundations and central pillars have gone soft. And the roofs and walls are gone.”
“They were thatch roofs and mud walls, so it isn’t surprising that submerging the houses underwater did away with them.”
Not much time must have passed since the water had been removed because the ground was still muddy. It was a dark mud. The roads must have been paved before the area became the bottom of a dam reservoir, but you could no longer tell which parts were the ground and which parts were the road. Everything was completely covered in mud.
Several vehicles were parked around those constructions that were hard to call either ruins or simply abandoned. A family 4-door car was surrounded by construction equipment.
I pulled out a pair of binoculars and checked the face of the car’s owner.
“That must be a scholar staring at that diagram. To go that far, it looks more like they’re investigating an ancient kofun tomb than restoring an old village.”
“I wonder why they are so insistent to restore that village? There is no sign of the old residents returning.”
“With Intellectual Villages, it isn’t always logical. You could call it a religion that worships the rural or a sect that reveres nature. They are put together by those who wish to find value that exceeds any scientific findings.”
“Basically, it’s a collection of those thoughts along the lines of ‘things weren’t like this in the old days’ or ‘everything would be perfect if we could go back to how it used to be’. Of course, rural areas are not void of problems and there were crimes and social problems in the times people refer to as the ‘old days’. These people have the ability to forget everything inconvenient to their belief.”
“But is that all they are after? If so, I doubt Hyakki Yakou would have called you in.”
“That is what I need to investigate.”
“What if this is related to some deadly Youkai?”
“Mummies are sold at auctions. I hear oni and mermaids can get crazy high prices. I wonder why humans love making medicines out of Youkai so much.”
“…You agents are scary…”
The Sunekosuri began trembling, but I did not have time to pay it any heed. My instincts wanted me to rub him against my face and roll around with him, but I had to find a clue of where to start before the sun set.
“If Hyakki Yakou is taking action, this must be more than a simple Package.”
“Are you going to carry out some old-fashioned investigation? Y’know, keeping an eye on what they do and listening as they chat inside of restaurants. The information you get might be fairly random, though.”
“I haven’t seen a restaurant yet, so the only meal options might be catered bentos and food at the inn. I have a faster method.”
“Wh-what is with that daring smile?”
“I just need to tear down these stable circumstances.”
The survey into restoring the ruins of Ubasute Village continued on into the night.
However, it did not continue straight through the night. At around 11:00, the giant lights of the type used in theatres were turned off. The workers who had been operating heavy machinery meant for surveying and boring began preparations to leave.
There was one small prefab building clearly prepared for a scholar rather than the construction workers.
After I saw someone enter that building, I pressed up against its door.
Unfortunately for them, the lock only had five disks in it.
I could open a lock like that in 15 seconds.
“Wh-who are you? Where did you come from?”
The older man who seemed to be a scholar cried out in surprise, but I grinned when I heard it. To a normal person, that grin had to have seemed quite creepy.
Yes, to a normal person.
“You are a scholar, aren’t you? But not in architecture. A folklorist perhaps?”
“No, I guess not. A folklorist wouldn’t have a callus on the joint of his right thumb. You get that from shooting a gun too much.”
“When I was investigating ruins in Cambodia and Colombia, I carried a gun for self defense.”
“You won’t get a callus unless you were being quite proactive about firing your gun. It would take 5 to 6 thousand shots.” I held up my index finger. “Also, I can smell gun oil on you even now, so you must still use a gun. Sorry, but a deodorant isn’t going to get rid of that smell.”
The scholar and I fell silent.
Total silence fell.
However, a change occurred without noise.
Just after the older man’s bewildered smile completely disappeared…
When I returned to the unfashionable rental car, the Sunekosuri who had remained in the car spoke to me. He seemed flustered. It appeared he had used the screen of the car’s navigation system to watch the news.
“Look what I just saw. Here. Look.”
“I’m exhausted from my work. Help refresh me, puppy.”
“Gyaaaaaaaaahhhh!? Please do not turn me into a Matakosuri Youkai! Anyway, the news! You need to see what is on the news!!”
“Don’t tilt the seat all the way back like you are about to go to sleep! They said a scholar involved in the survey to restore Ubasute Village committed suicide!! He hanged himself!!”
“Yeah, yeah. Why do you think I’m so tired?”
“Why would a scholar killing himself make you tired?”
“Why do you think?”
The Sunekosuri trembled in silence.
“The scholar’s name was Matsukai Hiroshi. That was a fake name of course,” I said.
“Then once word of this spreads, the police and media will look into his real name, right?”
“In this age of electronic medical records stored in the cloud, it won’t be that easy. Whether it’s teeth, fingerprints, or blood, data can easily be overwritten in this day and age.” I yawned. “Matsukai Hiroshi is not a fake name he came up with on his own. It was a disposable name used by a group that does bad things. But different organizations have different tendencies in the names they use. This was probably related to Saishi Kajin. They like to keep an intellectual air to the things they do.”
“It’s a group that is trying to create an ultimate beauty by any means necessary whether she is human or Youkai. Their actions are fundamentally driven by primitive desires, but that gives them a powerful drive. They are not the type to care much about taboos.”
“But doesn’t the idea of beauty change from time period to time period and from region to region?”
“That is exactly why they wish to create a beauty so absolute that it cannot be shaken by such things. I have no idea how successful they have been, though. It’s possible they are just barely getting by on a side business using the techniques they have developed in the research process or they could have completed this beauty of theirs and everyone in the organization is now her slave.”
Since they were rooted in base desires, I did not have a good impression of them. Of course, people who did nothing but proclaim their bland sense of justice could be just as frightening in their own way.
“The organization is made up of relatively few people, but they are said to be skilled. For that reason, the surrounding larger organizations are eager to take them in. That has made the power balance very complicated and made it very difficult to do anything about them. They probably created that dangerous method of organization intentionally. They can force all the dirty work onto the large organizations that are trying to score points with them.” I grabbed the remote for the car’s navigation system and changed the channel from the boring news program to a national late night variety show. “Now then. Whatever circumstances may be developing around Ubasute Village, one of the core members of the plan is gone. Who will act to correct this and how?”
“I-I…I can’t believe this!! You killed someone just for that!? I can’t tell who the real villain is here!!”
“Well, I’m certainly not on the side of justice. That’s the role for my little sister and that detective.”
I had obtained a few phone numbers and email addresses from Matsukai Hiroshi’s cell phone. I used those to prepare for my next action. Naturally, this too was something illegal. It was not exactly the type of work you could be proud of.
“Y-your nickname of the Killer Dragon Princess wasn’t just a name…”
“That name doesn’t refer to me. It refers to my Shikigami. Not that I get much use out of it,” I said with a yawn.
I was not looking forward to the annoying process of intercepting phone calls and emails. Of course, there was no point in continuing on if I got nothing after 3 hours from the corpse’s discovery. Once that time came, I would return to the unfashionable pension and go to sleep.
“Now then. Let’s hope they hurry up and make a mistake.”
“Wh-what if they don’t?”
“Then I'll keep doing this until they do.”
And then the next day arrived.
“…O-oh, shit. This is more than I expected. I might actually die.”
“Is that all you have to say after picking a fight with them!? Really!?”
I sat down on the hood of the rental car as I ignored the canine Youkai that was wrapping around my calves.
I held a cell phone in my right hand.
I had stopped the car a bit away from the unfashionable pension to make the call.
I was of course speaking with the young lady of Hyakki Yakou.
“So the idea that it is Saishi Kajin is all but confirmed?” she asked. “Do you need reinforcements?”
“They would just end up stabbing me in the back, so no thanks. If this is really Saishi Kajin I’m up against, I will end up surrounded if too much time passes. It looks like my only option is to crush the core of the problem quickly. This will be decided in the next 6 hours.”
“Do you have a specific objective?”
“A possible one. If this has to do with Saishi Kajin, it will be more than a simple attempt to establish a system of mass producing a Package. They must have had an important reason to demolish the dam and uncover the sunken ruins. And two months later, some dangerous people are growing active in the area. I can see why someone like me was called in.”
“If you simply cannot handle it, you can always retreat. Your life takes precedence.”
“But running away would just get me cornered. My only way out is through the center of Saishi Kajin, so let me take care of this in the next 6 hours. If I’m going to be taken out, I can at least take them with me.”
I then ended the call before the worried young lady could say anything I would rather she didn’t.
The Sunekosuri looked up from my legs with suspicious eyes.
“And you were acting so tough yesterday… You know, if you are really in a bind, maybe you should hide. Even if you have grasped the truth behind what is occurring in the ruins of Ubasute Village, it will all be for waste if you get killed.
“I haven’t actually grasped the truth yet.”
The Sunekosuri fell silent.
Oh, c’mon. Don’t look up at me with those puppy dog eyes. I’ll fall in love with you.
“If I knew that, I would have told the young lady. I intercepted Saishi Kajin’s phone calls and email messages last night, remember? I didn’t get much information from that, but I did find some terminology I couldn’t make any sense of mixed in with all the worthless data. All I did here was use it in arbitrary ways while speaking with the young lady.” I waved my cell phone in front of the dumbfounded Sunekosuri. “I may have put in a dummy SIM card, but it has no randomizer program. Why do you think I was using a phone with such half-assed security? I wanted Saishi Kajin to intercept it.”
“Wh-what? You…You will even use Hafuri-sama of Hyakki Yakou as a tool…!?”
“She won’t get mad over something like this. Those who take advantage of her influence might get a bit upset, though.”
“B-but…Will that really work? Can they really target that conversation with such pinpoint accuracy yet still not know who you are?”
“Saishi Kajin is not just targeting me. In fact, I doubt they have even been able to narrow down the suspects much.” I gave a sigh. “This is not a large city or a heavily-guarded Intellectual Village. In rural areas, they can set up a single cell phone tower to cover a wide area. That means you just have to attach a device or program at a single point to monitor all nearby communications.”
“So after one of the people in charge of their plan mysteriously committed suicide yesterday, they decided to intercept all forms communications to gather as much information on the incident as possible?”
“But that would give them a massive amount of data. Your conversation might get buried under it all.”
“It won’t. I had a direct connection to Hyakki Yakou’s mobile base. Anyone who participates in any kind of underground business would be able to tell the importance of the call just by looking at the 11-digit phone number. Saishi Kajin will be all over that call.” I got down from the unfashionable rental car. “Now then. I set a 6 hour time limit. I set that limit myself despite having no real basis for it. With any luck, Saishi Kajin will fall for it and quickly start strengthening the security of what matters most. That will serve as a handy guide.”
As expected, the enemy made their move. What I did not expect was for Saishi Kajin’s secret to not be located at the dam or the ruins of Ubasute Village. The group of men wearing work uniforms headed to the rural city located a bit away from the mountainous region.
It was Shirakido City.
I tailed them in the car, but…how should I put it? It was just too cliché.
It was the stereotypical failure.
When a city was modernized on the surface alone, it received an incredibly weak flow of incoming people and money. As a result, it would lose its ability to function as a city. The buildings along the large main road were empty after corporations had left, so it was in its final days. And the local shopping district showed no signs of prosperity either.
Despite how overwhelmingly pitiable a condition the city was in, it also had all sorts of pollution from exhaust and the like, so there was no saving it. The whole place looked like it was one closed suburban shopping center away from the residents having nowhere to buy anything.
“I think I heard this place was urbanized out of a dislike for the rural aesthetic of Intellectual Villages.”
It must have been once that had failed that they had started trying to appeal to nature lovers.
I had my doubts about how well that would work, though.
A natural environment was like your savings. When you were in the black, a bit of fluctuation was no big deal, but once you fell into the red, it was near impossible to recover. Well, it may have been because the residents understood that fact that they were focusing on redeveloping the area outside the city where some nature remained. But their estimations were too naïve. They were being too optimistic in their calculations. Intellectual Villages went beyond the actual numbers. They pushed up the value of their products as rarities by using the brand image of the beauty of nature and loveliness of rural areas. It would be incredibly difficult to create an Intellectual Village in an area that had been urbanized and therefore had its environmental image “polluted”.
“Maybe the restoration of the old village from the bottom of the dam is meant to give them a large event they can publicize.”
Not that it mattered.
My job was to bring to light what was hidden behind it.
Thinking about such unrelated matters would only bore me. Perhaps I had grown lonely. After all, I did not have the pretty Sunekosuri with me. Yeah, that had to be it. That canine Youkai said he had problems with modern urban areas. The young lady’s flying wing may have been fine because of the altered interior, but we had passed through a few large cities on the way to the ruins of Ubasute Village. That Youkai must have been putting up with it and hiding inside the bag the whole time.
What a cute little guy.
Once I get back to the pension, I’ll love him to death with a brush.
As I had that thought, I heard an electronic tone coming from the bag in the passenger seat. It was coming from a cell phone. However, this was not the one I had allowed them to intercept the calls from. It was a satellite phone with a high-level randomizer program installed. It did not use the local cell phone towers, so Saishi Kajin had no way to intercept the signal.
I ignored the traffic laws and pulled out the satellite phone. I grimaced when I saw the screen.
“…A government-use classified number.”
Despite the name, the number was not used by any office of the Japanese government. An organization independent from the country had set up a system with that name. People from the world I lived in felt it was okay to use that name as they were doing things the government should have been doing.
In other words, it was Hyakki Yakou.
“You used me to set a trap for the enemy, didn’t you?”
“Huh? You’re using a different number from before.”
“I could not call on the same line as before. Once I know what is going on, I can take the necessary measures. The enemy cannot overhear us with this phone.”
The necessary measures, hm?
I was willing to bet she had grabbed onto the clothes of one of her young men in black who acted as her guards and looked up at him with tears in her eyes. It was only so effective because she did not realize what she was doing. The instant she tried to do it on purpose, it would lose all effectiveness.
“So what do you want, young lady? I’m kind of in the middle of tailing those pain-in-the-ass enemies you were talking about.”
“Do not call me ‘young lady’. My name is Hafuri. Also, I do not mind if you get me involved, but I do hope you have taken the bare minimum of precautions. Otherwise, you will just be putting yourself in more danger.”
That was why people like her could be so dangerous when they did not even realize what they were doing.
Also, I wanted to avoid having anyone worry for me as it would throw me off my game. I especially wanted to avoid any “kind distractions” when I was in the middle of a dirty job. That was the biggest reason that pros got themselves killed.
“You said you are tailing the enemy?”
“Yes, yes. Oh, I think we’ve arrived. It looks like a storage locker facility. …Although I’m willing to bet it’s just disguised to look like one and the entire facility belongs to Saishi Kajin.”
“A storage locker facility?”
“It’s a kind of storehouse. Or are you so old fashioned I need to call it a dozou for you to understand?”
Ah, she’s upset. This is what makes her so cute.
The area may have originally been a parking lot. The ground was nothing but cracked asphalt. A number of simple storage lockers about the size of a van were lined up along the asphalt.
A large city full of one-room apartments for students was one thing, but Shirakido City was primarily a rundown commuter town filled with one-story houses with yards. There was no way that many storage lockers were necessary. It was clearly a dummy facility.
A number of sedans were parked at the facility.
It seemed some other personnel had been gathered in addition to the ones I had been tailing. There were about 20 in all. Most of them wore work uniforms. This was not out in the middle of the country where hunting rifles were common, so a gunshot would have seemed too out of place. That may have been why none of them were openly carrying a gun.
However, the odds were good they had an almost silent low-caliber gun + suppressor, a crossbow small enough to fit in a business bag, or something similar.
At the very least, they were the type of people that would have more than just knives.
Anyone without some kind of projectile weapon in this day and age was just an idiot.
“What are you going to do now?” asked the young lady of Hyakki Yakou.
“I’ve found Saishi Kajin’s secret base, so obviously I’m going to go investigate what’s inside.”
“But I thought the enemy had gathered there due to your trap?”
“I hope I do not have to tell you how overwhelmingly they must outnumber you. I do not see how you can break through them without quite an excellent plan.”
“I’m sure I’ll figure something out.”
I approached the storage locker facility from the front, caused a bit of trouble, and then returned to the car to retrieve my investigation tools. It was annoying, but those tools were too delicate to bring with me when I went on a rampage.
I heard the voice of that proper young lady coming from the satellite phone I had left in the car.
“Summertime food poisoning can be pretty scary. But I guess it’s bound to happen when you get a bunch of filthy guys gathered together eating junk food in such an unsanitary place.”
“…Did you use a stun gun?”
“Don’t be silly. That would leave burns which would give it all away. Strings and wires also leave obvious marks. I recommend a wide rubber belt.”
“I do not see how you could have pulled it off with just that. Are you sure you are not relying on the paranormal too much?”
“It doesn’t eat into me or anything, so you don’t have to worry about it, young lady.”
There were plenty of things you could do to an unconscious person.
For example, you could make it look like they had food poisoning.
After grabbing the satellite phone and my bag of tools, I left the car and entered the storage locker facility. I arbitrarily chose one of the many small storage lockers and headed for its keyhole.
“Oh, good for them. The lock has been switched out for a decent one,” I commented.
“Can you open it?”
“If not, I can melt the lock with chemicals.”
Luckily, I did not need any powerful acids. I pushed in the pins within the lock using my many tools.
When the door opened, a horrible stench wafted out.
“…What is this? It’s worse than a judo team but not as bad as a kendo team.”
“I have no idea what you are talking about.”
“No, I suppose you wouldn’t,” I commented offhandedly as I glanced through the small storage locker.
It had a few simple steel shelves inside. On one shelf was a “mass” inside of a clear plastic bag. It was a bit smaller than a pillow, I suppose. Its overall coloring was brown, but it was blackened at a few points. The color was similar to that of an old Japanese house’s central pillar.
Now, then. What is this?
“It looks like some kind of dried food.”
“Is it fish?”
“It looks like a Nekomata.”
I was not joking.
The corpse of an animal that had starved to the point of its bones being clearly visible through its skin had then been dried into a mummy. It looked like a cat, but it had two tails.
“Youkai body parts can be used for various medicines, right? Medicines that provide effects modern medical science cannot reproduce.”
“But Youkai cannot be so easily killed,” said the young lady.
“This one’s clearly dead.” I lightly poked at the dried mummy through the plastic. “Saishi Kajin is not using Youkai to put together a Package. They are killing Youkai, chopping them up, and selling them.”
“That is a new development. Does that mean the enemy is secretly working in the ruins of Ubasute Village in order to more efficiently acquire the Youkai they need to-…”
“Young lady,” I said, cutting off the head of Hyakki Yakou. “What I hate most in this world is people pretending not to know something they know. I hate that because it has a tendency to cause unnecessary tragedies. …You hired someone outside your organization for this job because you know something about what is going on, didn’t you?”
“What are you-…?”
“Does the area around the ruins of Ubasute Village produce a lot of Nekomatas? Who cares? You can find Nekomatas almost anywhere. They aren’t worth demolishing a dam for.”
I then focused on the stiches at the base of the Nekomata’s tail.
That’s right. Stiches.
“Increasing the number of tails on a dead cat is easy. You just have to sew on a tail from another cat. At the very least, it’s easier than creating a Hitosume Kozou. This kind of business used to be quite common back in the day. Fake Youkai medicines. …So how much do you know about this, young lady?”
You could call it an imitative concept. There was more than just the Nekomata there. Their exact types were hard to tell as they had all been mummified, but I could see what had been made to look like several other types of Youkai I recognized. The insides would of course have to have been rearranged as well as the outward appearance. Mummifying them with their decomposing-prone organs still inside had to be difficult.
I was not fond of that type of spiritual medicine that used Youkai as ingredients because the thought process seemed to lead to cannibalism.
If you ate an excellent creature, you would gain an excellent body. If you ate a long-lived creature, you would gain a long life. If you ate a creature with a special power, you would awaken to that special power. The thought process was simple enough, but the same thought process would lead you to eat a beautiful person to become beautiful.
Also, the world was not that simple.
Eating fish did not let you live in the ocean.
Creatures like that Sunekosuri laughed and cried just like humans did. I felt anyone who wanted to eat such creatures had horribly missed the mark. And the thought of straightening out the thoughts of those people gave me a bit of motivation.
Then again, it was the proper members of Hyakki Yakou that were supposed to deal with people like that, not me.
“All I know is that a business of that sort supposedly had its headquarters in Ubasute Village before it was submerged by the dam,” replied Hafuri-chan of Hyakki Yakou after a bit of hesitation. “Dragon scales, Nekomata mummies, Oni horns… They were said to be deeply involved in black market sales of such spiritual medicines all over the country. There was a clear discrepancy between Ubasute Village’s industrial foundation and the amount of money coming in, so those suspicions are more or less confirmed.”
“And why was the village submerged by the dam?”
“That was not Hyakki Yakou’s doing. However, it was carried out by those who were not fond of such activities.”
“Well, you’re not going to make people very happy if you give them fake medicine after they pay such a high price. And the people who want that kind of medicine are being greedy about their own lives. Their grudges are likely to grow beyond the actual amount of money they lost.”
“…But is that really so?”
“We have a few reports from those who took the spiritual medicines thought to have been produced in Ubasute Village. Most of them say they had no effect, but some say the medicines were effective against their spiritual symptoms related to Youkai.”
“And it wasn’t just the placebo effect?”
“Surely you of all people know that Youkai attacks are not something a placebo can deal with.”
…She had a point there.
If a state of mind could deal with a Youkai attack, the organization known as Hyakki Yakou would not exist in the first place.
“It may have been the opposite,” continued Hafuri-chan.
“You mean most of those who used the spiritual medicines were falsely convinced they were experiencing harm from a Youkai, so the spiritual medicines had no effect on them?”
“Yes, only the few who reported the medicines as effective were suffering from real spiritual symptoms. For one thing, I doubt spiritual symptoms related to Youkai would be that common.”
“And your average nouveau riche has no way of knowing the truth of the matter.”
It may have been similar to being tricked in an expensive art deal. Or perhaps it was closer to being led astray by a terrible prophet or fortune teller.
Maybe I’m just prejudiced, but it always seemed to me that the nouveau riche had a habit of seeing things in whatever way was most convenient for them.
It wouldn’t surprise me if they either simply had a string of bad luck or forgot about all the ill will they had earned in the process of making their money, and then assumed it was all due to some Youkai cursing them.
They could be overly sensitive about things related to themselves, but downright shameless when it came to others.
That was just how the nouveau riche were.
Of course, I was hardly deluded enough to think old money families were filled with compassion and chivalry.
“But I don’t see how this sewn-together mummy could possibly be a real Nekomata.”
“That is not the issue. It is clearly fake. They seem to have some kind of technique that gives a dried-up mummy made from multiple animals the spiritual medicinal effects of the same parts of a real Youkai. If this is true, the enemy here is a much greater threat than a group that has simply produced a Package.”
“You mean it’s possible they’re releasing real spiritual medicines?”
I had no idea what effects they might have, but something that directly altered natural and physical laws would be very bad indeed. For example, you could scatter something about an area to make any bullets fired within that area automatically miss you. Or perhaps it would create a field that would destroy your target’s brain when you snapped your fingers.
If one had several of those products…that is, mummies, the different types could be used to create many different effects.
“If so, this could be worse than that person from your top 5…what was his name? Anyway, the one that uses illness magic. Would it be something like an Onmyouji who has a bunch of charms as if he is playing a card game?”
Then again, an actual Onmyouji didn’t use a single charm for everything. They would do some pretty boring things, too. Like Katatagae.
The trick to maintaining one’s influence was to hide those more plain and boring aspects. They had to create the illusion of being able to do anything. That business likely died out because they could no longer fool those around them.
At any rate, it was possible these spiritual medicine…emulators I suppose you could call them. Anyway, it was possible they simply had enough power within them to create a convenient illusion for the amateurs that used them.
As for how much of a threat it was…Well, I suppose you could say it would be like a super hero from American comic books barging into a serious fight in real life.
“If we are talking about the effectiveness of the individual medicines, my top 5 would be higher, but these spiritual medicines are tools. The skill or nature of the user does not matter. Being able to mass produce the occult would be seen as quite valuable,” said the girl. “Also, the use of real Youkai in this fashion is simply too expensive because no one has yet found an efficient way to slay Youkai. It is more or less impossible for a human to kill a Youkai after all. However, if the exact same effects can be reproduced by combining animal corpses, the cost and skill barriers drop considerably.”
If spiritual symptoms could be freely manipulated with no side effects as simply as wielding a sword or gun, the situation would truly grow hellish. And if the entire organization of Saishi Kajin could use that kind of power, Hyakki Yakou may have been in real trouble as it was but a shell of its former self.
The young lady’s bodyguards were the type that relied on normal bullets. Even if it was to expand the organization, Hyakki Yakou had strayed too far from its original role and made too many human enemies.
It was possible we were up against a large scale paranormal unit armed with offensive spiritual medicines.
Could the current Hyakki Yakou really stand up to an opponent like that?
“…But for a group with such amazing ideas, all the Saishi Kajin soldiers I’ve beaten up have lacked any distinguishing personalities.”
“It is possible the enemy’s plan is still in the testing phase and they have yet to begin mass production.”
“We can’t base our strategy off of an assumption.”
It was possible they had a large force they had yet to use and it was also possible all our speculation was simply wrong.
However, I did agree that Saishi Kajin’s plan was likely in its central stages. If it was already complete, they would have no reason to be secretly working away in the ruins of Ubasute Village. They were likely having difficulty digging up the knowhow they needed from Ubasute Village.
What I was looking at felt like prototype versions based on fragmentary data.
“Whatever the case, I have the feeling I will get myself in serious trouble if I don’t start taking this more seriously,” I said.
“Yes, you have been taking this much too lightly.”
“This isn’t the kind of job that puts a serious expression on my face.”
“And that thinking is what tells me you are taking this too lightly.”
I left the Nekomata mummy (?) where it was. I had no idea what effects it had, and I was not about to have it curse me because I took it with me. That was well beyond what I could handle with the investigation tools I carried with me.
I didn’t like the idea of leaving without doing anything, so I decided to burn the storage lockers containing the prototype spiritual medicines.
Saishi Kajin had a few cars parked outside, so I had plenty of gasoline.
When I returned to the unfashionable pension, the Sunekosuri spoke to me in the usual manner.
“U-u-um… They just said on the news that there was a huge fire in Shirakido City.”
“Yeah, I’m tired.”
“So you’re tired this time, too…”
I grabbed the canine Youkai and put him in the sink to give him a bath. That helped get me out of my irritable mood.
“Huh? Why are you giving me a bath?”
I ignored the Sunekosuri’s confused comment and collapsed onto the bed.
I did that kind of thing for fun.
“It’s about time for the climax.”
I had burned Saishi Kajin’s storerooms. They could not sell the prototype versions, so the only reason for them to have so many in storage was to use them for the further development of those spiritual medicine emulators. It was the same as a master potter smashing his failures. It was not a fit of anger. He needed to smash them in order to view the broken edges to check how the heat had passed through them.
The best way to create was not simply to mass produce successes.
Your rate of growth could be greatly changed depending on whether you were able to use the failures that are inevitably made in the process of creation or not.
The total number of spiritual medicines in the form of mummies made up of different animal corpses inside those storage lockers had been between four and five hundred.
In my estimation, they would cut fine pieces off of the failures to inspect them under a microscope and see how they reacted to reagents. Through that process, they could discover fine adjustments to their methods that would let them create the ideal spiritual medicines.
Saishi Kajin would not be able to remain calm with all of those samples burned.
They would definitely make some kind of mistake.
I had to find where they were actually creating the mummies as well as their source of funds. The incident was far from resolved.
“But should you really have done that?”
“What do you mean?”
“Doesn’t this method of angering your enemy so they will make a mistake just make them hate you all the more? It seems to me you are exposing yourself to more and more danger the farther your plan advances.”
“Can I hug you?”
“Why would you say that all of a sudden!?”
“Because you’re just so cute. But to answer your other question, that is an issue that has long since passed.”
“There was no way we could peaceably get along from the moment we set ourselves up as opposing forces. If I am going to worry about whether I want them to hate me or not, I need to do it when I am deciding whether to accept the job or not. It’s too late to think about that kind of thing by the time you have taken the job and need to take hostile actions against them.”
“Can you really get by like that?”
“If I couldn’t, I would not have survived as long as I have,” I said casually.
Also, no matter what I was thinking, my enemies would not hesitate. There was something wrong about challenging someone to a fight and announcing you are going to punch them in the face as hard as you can but then becoming afraid of making them mad.
“The quickest way to both get things done and make sure you are not dragged down by your enemy’s grudge is to beat them so thoroughly they can no longer fight back. Once you have decided to do something, you cannot hesitate. Stepping on the brakes only increases the risk. Just like with the long jump and the high jump, you need that running start.”
“So is that the ironclad rule of the Killer Dragon Princess?”
“That isn’t my name; it’s my Shikigami’s name,” I corrected. “And if I have to resort to bringing that out, I have 100% lost.”
The end came about rather easily.
12 hours after I set the fire in the storage locker facility, a simple bit of news reached my ears as I continued to monitor for phone calls or emails.
It came from the television the Sunekosuri was watching.
I don’t know if it was because it was a local station or because of the scope of the incident, but an emergency live broadcast began in the middle of another show.
Enough body parts for 7 people had been discovered in the mountains near Shirakido City. A resident of the area had called the police after spotting a wild dog digging them up. The wording made it clear the bodies had been chopped to pieces.
The bodies were in the process of being transported, so the autopsy would not have been carried out yet. However, the report said it was likely the bones had been crushed with a blunt weapon and then some sharp blade had been used to cut them apart while ignoring the anatomical joints. Naturally, the police would not be giving out details at such an early stage, so someone from the media may have gotten a shot through the gaps in the blue sheets sealing off the crime scene and then analyzed the photo. Super telephoto lenses had come a long way in recent times. The uniformed police officers wouldn’t have been able to keep complete control over all the people on the scene.
“What a sloppy job,” I commented.
“Eh? Eh? What do you mean?”
“There were several emails sent within Saishi Kajin debating whether they should pay the fine for breach of contract or find an escape route, but the emails suddenly stopped before they found an actual route. Those mutilated corpses likely belong to the researchers who were actually creating those spiritual medicine animal mummies.”
Of course, it was also possible they had prepared corpses to fake their own deaths…but I doubted that was it. A plan like that would have required its own secret strategy meeting.
“But then who did it…? Wait, don’t tell me it was you!”
“I’ve been here the whole time. My guess would be Saishi Kajin’s sponsor. Saishi Kajin was accurately manipulating the insides and outsides of animals to create those mummies, so that crude method of crushing the bones to make them easier to cut just doesn’t seem like a method they would use. The methods used here was just so different that I doubt it was infighting within the organization.”
“Their sponsor? You mean for the spiritual medicines?”
“You don’t create a product if you don’t have any customers. Whoever this is likely paid quite a bit up front. But now that the storage lockers have been turned to ash, the sponsor likely decided they could not complete the planned development in the planned amount of time.”
“So the sponsor got mad when they realized they weren’t going to get their money back…?”
“Or perhaps they feared getting dragged down by that failing organization and cut them off like a lizard does its tail.”
I let out a smile without meaning to.
It was all so perfect that I was a bit suspicious of it being a trap.
“It was all just so sloppy. Sloppy is the only word I can use to describe it. A wild dog dug them up! The mere fact that they were buried in Shirakido City shows they didn’t know what they were doing. You can crush them down to the bones and create meatballs for fish food, you can dump them into a business-use aerobic bacteria compost facility where things like cow bones are sent, or you can use a crematory or any other facility that does not raise suspicion when human-sized flesh and bones are burned in it. Basically, there is no way someone who knows how to dispose of a body properly would just bury them near the crime scene.”
“Wait, doesn’t this mean you were indirectly responsible for this!?”
“Well, I was planning to destroy them all eventually.”
“Wh-what are you going to do now?”
“What I was hired to do. I will continue to look into where the remnants of Saishi Kajin have gone, but they’ve probably been buried somewhere else. I also have to figure out who this sponsor is and eliminate them as well. After such a sloppy job, I’m sure they’ve left a few traces behind. It shouldn’t be too hard to pursue them.”
I intercepted some police radio transmissions and it seemed a few pieces of physical evidence had already been discovered at the crime scene. They had easily found hints to look into. For example, they could look into where the blade thought to have chopped the corpses up had been bought, and the tire tracks could be used to look into the make and model of the car used.
“The sponsor must be panicking right about now. I’m sure they’re intercepting this as well.”
“What are you doing?”
“I want to get in touch with this sponsor.”
“But you don’t know how to contact them.”
“This sponsor slaughtered Saishi Kajin, mutilated the corpses, and then dumped them in the mountains. The sponsor must have taken their clothes and possessions. If I send emails to all of the cell phones and computers belonging to those dead manufacturers, I may be able to get in touch.”
Even if the sponsor had thrown out all of the electronic equipment, they might still be monitoring the victims’ addresses left using Saishi Kajin’s leftover server. That way, the sponsor could ensure there were none who had escaped.
And I could use that.
I of course employed a few tricks to ensure they could not determine my own address.
Someone else and I would be communicating via emails sent to addresses belonging to dead members of Saishi Kajin, and neither of us would be able to determine anything more than that.
The other side would be unable to tell whether I was an individual or an organization. I would hide as much information as possible to keep them as suspicious of everyone else as possible.
“What are you going to do once you contact them?”
“Make a decoy job proposal. I will tell them the police are probably going to track them down, but that I can take care of that for them. What do you think they will do?”
“…Won’t they find that suspicious?”
“Of course. That’s the entire point. I make them think I’m setting a trap so they will attempt to kill me instead. Once they try that, I can round them all up at once. That will bring this whole incident to an end.”
“B-but won’t they just run away if they think it’s a trap? They’re already trying to run away from everything to get to some safe place. I doubt they will be up for a dangerous gamble.”
“They will,” I replied immediately. “This sponsor knows what happened to Saishi Kajin. Especially the incident of the burned mummies. The person who did that to Saishi Kajin has now set her sights on the sponsor. If they want safety, they cannot just ignore this. The only safety will come from killing me.”
I sent emails to all of the Saishi Kajin addresses.
I received a response from this unknown other party after half an hour.
They must have had trouble figuring out what to do.
However, that was not simply how long it took to come up with an actual plan. Most of the time had likely been spent panicking, wondering whether it was a trap, and worrying over what to do if it was a trap. All they had been able to do was respond before too suspicious a length of time had passed and then figure out what to do in the time until we met up.
“This is going to be easy. What will you do, Sunekosuri?”
“I am not going. There is simply no way I am going.”
“I thought you’d say that.”
With a smile, I grabbed the canine Youkai by the scruff of his neck and left the unfashionable pension.
Our meeting point was in the ruins of Ubasute Village.
Or more accurately, it was the ruins of the dam that had kept the village submerged until recently.
All of the valuable parts such as the hydroelectric turbines had been removed, but the giant concrete construction creating a barrier stretching from one mountain to another was still standing. The local government’s finances were in dire straits, so I had to wonder if they were planning to dismantle it over a 10 year period. At the very least, it was never going away as long as they continued claiming it was the national government’s responsibility because of national policy.
The inside was a giant labyrinth.
It had originally been designed simply to hold the necessary equipment in the necessary places, so the passageways twisted all about as they weaved their way through gaps between that equipment. Also, any maps of the facility had been made unnecessarily complex to prevent any possible terrorist attacks.
Lastly, a concrete mass like a dam had no windows.
As it no longer received power, it was pitch black year round inside.
But bringing a flashlight would have been about the stupidest thing I could have done. The light would have told everyone else where I was so they could concentrate their gunfire on me.
I also refused to rely on my night vision like I was a Sengoku period ninja.
In these cases, it was best to simply rely on technology. In this case, a night vision device. Such devices do not require much explanation, but you could get them without having to pay ridiculous prices on an online auction.
Modern digital cameras and video cameras came with low-light compensation abilities. If you had the knowledge to mess with the firmware a bit, you could overwrite the ranges for the light amplification and give it abilities similar to a night vision device. You also had to break the backlight for the LCD display and look directly through the viewfinder, but you saved enough money for it to be worth that small bit of trouble.
While I had that 15,000 yen bargain item hanging from my neck, the Sunekosuri trembled down at my feet.
“U-um, what am I supposed to do?”
“I cannot fight! I am not a deadly Youkai!”
“A Youkai can’t be killed by normal means. If it comes to it, take some bullets for me.”
“I’m way too small to cover for you!!”
We walked through the dam as we spoke.
After a while, something seemed out of place.
Was it a noise? No, it was the flow of the air. Or more accurately, it was breathing. Someone was hiding in the darkness. But it did not seem they were about to spring a surprise attack.
“It seems you know enough to remain in a position where you won’t be hit if someone shoots at you.”
They were hiding behind some machinery.
Perhaps in response to my voice, a powerful light activated in front of me. It was likely a military LED light. It was the type meant to blind someone more than act as illumination. Thanks to that, I could not make out any details about the person on the other side of the light.
Not that I needed to know.
My job was not to splendidly find out the name of the true mastermind. It was to bring a swift end to the incident. If I needed the name to do so, I would thoroughly research it, but I did not need to more often than not. As long as I eliminated the person at the root of it all, the problem could be resolved.
The person holding the light in the darkness said, “I know who you are.”
“And I don’t even know your name.”
“You are Hyakki Yakou’s Deadly Dragon Princess. I am sure of it.”
“That isn’t my name; it’s my Shikigami’s name.”
I also didn’t belong to Hyakki Yakou. I may have had the backing of the young lady, but I really wish they would not be so damn confident in their error.
At any rate, it was now my turn.
“You certainly took care of things in a showy fashion.”
“…To be honest, we messed up,” said the sponsor with some bitterness in his voice.
His breathing is erratic. ...Has he lost a lot of blood?
“We rushed things. We should have waited a bit longer. It was only by making enemies of them that we truly saw what results they had gotten. If we had continued to cooperate with them, we could have gotten those for ourselves.”
“You mean the spiritual medicine emulators? Those altered animal mummies?”
“If they had not been near success, we would not have lost so many men.”
It must have been a clash between standard firepower and those spiritual medicines. The sponsor must have been saved by the fact that Saishi Kajin had so few of their prototype versions.
No, the sponsor would have been destroyed even then.
If you had spiritual weapons that could directly alter natural and physical laws, it did not matter how many soldiers you had. Most likely, the prototype spiritual medicines had not been up to the desired specs. Otherwise, the sponsor would never have survived.
“Was that also why the disposal of the bodies was so sloppy?”
“We did not have the time or manpower to do it properly. Frankly, we were lucky only those were found.”
“And that leads you to need my services. I can throw the police investigation off your trail, help you escape overseas, or completely change your identities. Choose whichever course you like.”
“That is certainly a trap.”
“So you came charging in knowing it was a trap?”
“If we ran away here, we would lose any chance to make contact with you. And then we would be unable to kill you.”
I heard a small bit of static.
It was likely a signal being sent over the radio.
“Are you sure a radio signal can travel through this thick dam?”
“Don’t be ridiculous. Of course it can.”
“Well, even if it can, there’s no one to respond to it.”
I casually knocked on a nearby wall.
Or more accurately, I knocked on a row of lockers for dam workers lined up along the wall. The light shock was enough to open the locker door. Something heavy came tumbling out.
I almost thought I heard someone’s throat audibly go dry.
Also, the Sunekosuri actually seemed more surprised than the man holding the light, but the canine Youkai should have realized what was going on when I suspiciously went for a walk before heading into the dam with him.
It was now time to put some pressure on the man.
“If this is your idea of a trump card, I can see why you had trouble with Saishi Kajin. That is much too weak to get by in the underground world.”
“It can’t be…”
“Oh, and don’t think this is the only corpse. If you recall, I never said this was my first time in the dam. It’s only natural to go over a meeting place ahead of time to look for traps. How much beforehand you do it is a matter of personal preference though.”
“Heh heh. I suppose I cannot complain.”
“Yes, you did come in beforehand to hide troops.”
“But you have actually saved me some time. You have simply done ahead of time what I was planning to order my troops to do.”
“I was planning to have them die so I could see the true power of the Deadly Dragon Princess.”
“…You are a horrible person. Also, that isn’t my name; it’s my Shikigami’s name.”
“Everything up until now was done without producing a single scream or gunshot. That is simply not something you can pull off with nothing but a blade or a rope. The paranormal is clearly involved. And it is something powerful enough to earn you the name of the Deadly Dragon Princess.”
“Again, that’s my Shikigami’s…oh, who cares. So what conclusion have you arrived at?”
“That you are not the type of person to rely on guns. You rely on the paranormal when something happens.”
“Well, it is true that I have 80% lost if I have to bring out a gun.”
“Yes. This paranormal that you use, this Deadly Dragon Princess, is obviously stronger than a gun. If you have to rely on a gun, that means you cannot use your more convenient Deadly Dragon Princess for some reason. And that fact means I am in luck.”
“How? You know nothing about the details of my power.”
“I do not need to. My victory is assured by the mere fact that you are using some type of paranormal power.”
I heard what sounded like a small bell.
I could not see the man due to the powerful LED light, but he must have pulled out some kind of tool.
“If you recall, we crushed Saishi Kajin. And they had gained a certain level of results with the emulators they produced.”
“Are you trying to use some kind of spiritual medicine? If so, you should have scattered them around beforehand. What if you are taken out before the effects manifest themselves?”
“No,” the figure sounded like he was smiling. “The current research was into creating effective emulators by manipulating animal corpses, but what do you think we did at the initial stages to produce these spiritual medicines?”
“…You don’t mean…”
“We chopped Youkai to pieces to test what kind of effects they had. How were we supposed to create imitations if we knew nothing about the real deal? Surely you understand what that means. It means the people of Ubasute Village had another useful skill in addition to the spiritual medicines.”
I immediately used the heel of my shoe to kick the Sunekosuri at my feet directly backwards.
“Namely, a surefire method of killing Youkai.”
A great noise as if from a large drum burst out.
That was all.
Due to the bright flashlight, I could not tell what exactly was happening.
But I felt an unpleasant feeling coming from the pocket of my hot pants. I pulled out what was in the pocket and clicked my tongue. The doll made out of a wooden charm was falling to pieces.
“I did not simply destroy the medium. It is merely that the damage to the Deadly Dragon Princess was transmitted to the medium. In other words, you can no longer use your Deadly Dragon Princess. You have lost the power that made you special.”
“I’m surprised that you could twist Otohime of Ryuuguu Jou that much. You focused on the point of her being the one who is comfortably submerged at the bottom of the sea so the attacks are primarily in the form of drowning. Is the wooden charm supposed to be Urashima? I suppose you use it to draw up the princess wherever you want despite her lack of ill will.”
At any rate, it seemed my Shikigami really had been damaged. And even if it had not, the loss of the medium used to call it in was the same thing in the short run. You can’t catch a fish without any bait. The fish would not come out of the water on their own. I could no longer invite the Deadly Dragon Princess to the battlefield.
After all this! After all this! After all this! After all this!!
Why did you have to bring about such a horrible, pain-in-the-ass problem!?
“I suppose it is time.”
The figure must have been absolutely sure he had robbed me of my last trump card because he began casually walking down the passageway toward me. He circled around the piece of machinery I had been using as cover.
“You are now nothing but a normal human. It is time for you to die from one extra bullet.”
He fired without hesitation.
I was often referred to as the Deadly Dragon Princess.
That was actually the name of my Shikigami, but people insisted on using it to refer to me no matter how many times I corrected them.
Admittedly, it was the symbol of my power and was a catchy nickname that spread easily.
It was my name. It was a symbol that referred to my body.
It was something I could not lose. It clearly supported my very existence. It gave me the power I needed to survive in that underground world. It was essential.
“…Ow, that hurt.”
The sponsor seemed truly shocked when he suddenly heard me speak. It seemed he was still mistaken about something and I could easily finish him off while he was still mistaken, but I decided against it. I decided to add to his fear instead.
He had destroyed the Deadly Dragon Princess after all. Anyone would be pissed if someone gave you another annoying task you had to carry out.
“No, no. It wasn’t getting hit by a bullet that hurt. I just hurt my leg a bit when I jumped to the side. I guess warming-up exercises really are as important as they say. This pain isn’t going to let me forget that.”
“No, no. Once an attack fails once, trying it again isn’t going to help. You aren’t going to hit me at that range even if you fire wildly.”
“What!? But I took away the power that made you special!! I took away the Deadly Dragon Princess!!”
Repeated gunshots rang out.
But that was all.
None of them hit. There was no way they would hit. If I could not endure this level of mayhem, there was no way I could survive in the underground world and there was no way I would be able to work on my own and take jobs from Hyakki Yakou.
It was said those who met me would die.
I had to wonder if some people really understood what that meant.
“What is going on? Did the Deadly Dragon Princess escape unharmed!?”
I heard what sounded like a small bell. It must have been that same anti-Youkai weapon. But I could only shake my head. If he was still afraid of the Deadly Dragon Princess at this stage, he was mistaken about something at a very fundamental level. Also, the Sunekosuri would be in trouble if he used that weapon too much.
“No. Unfortunately, the Deadly Dragon Princess was indeed damaged. That’s why I’m so pissed.”
“Then!! Then how are you-…!?”
“The Shikigami is indeed useful. It is the source of my power. But I do not use it in the way you seem to think. I did not put it together in order to have it bring about strange phenomena. Do you understand?” I asked. I had a feeling the figure was shaking his head beyond the light. “Hyakki Yakou is an organization created to overturn the accepted idea that Youkai cannot be controlled by human means. I take jobs from them, and I work towards similar ideals as them. Simply put, we work to overcome the fear of Youkai.”
“But…but!! But that’s why you drew power from the Deadly Dragon Princess, right!?”
“That is not the only way to overcome them.” I clenched my right hand and then opened it again. “You can punch them with a human hand. Think for a second about what kind of specs you would need to defeat a Youkai with a punch. You thoroughly modify, develop, and rebuild the human body to gain those specs. Isn’t that a different form of overcoming them?”
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… Oh, dear.
It appeared the truth I had told him had been so far outside the sponsor’s realm of thinking that his thoughts stopped for a few seconds. But that did not matter. I continued with my fun.
“The Deadly Dragon Princess that you destroyed was prepared as a model case. It was a hypothetical enemy prepared under the assumption that I could deal with most any situation as long as I could defeat it. I needed to thoroughly modify my own body so that I could defeat the Deadly Dragon Princess with nothing but my own body. Do you understand now that I am not someone who will be killed by a mere bullet?”
That was why I had 80% lost if I had to rely on a gun and had 100% lost if I had to directly rely on the Deadly Dragon Princess. After all, I would have to have been brought down to a hopeless condition if I had to rely on that paranormal power that was clearly weaker than myself.
“You’re insane…” muttered the figure.
Instead of asking how I had done it, he immediately jumped to my motive for doing so.
If that was his idea of a final resistance, he was more pathetic than I had thought.
“You’re insane!! You’re completely insane!! You gave yourself a body stronger than Youkai in order to overcome Youkai? That…that isn’t overcoming them at all! That’s just making yourself an even greater monster than the Youkai!! You’re just making the darkness even greater!!”
“True. Humans too are a type of monster. Hadn’t you heard?”
I cracked my neck and then slowly approached the fool who had entered the darkness with nothing but a flashlight.
The sponsor tried to step backwards as if he had finally realized the danger, but it was too late.
“Now, then. I am stronger than the Deadly Dragon Princess. I am designed to be, so that is a definite fact. So what can you do against a monster like that?”
He was already within the darkness.
He had not merely taken on step in; he was already being completely swallowed up.
We were in the tea room that was wrapped in such a calm atmosphere you would never think it was within a cutting edge flying wing aircraft. A kimono-wearing girl of about 10 spoke in a flowing voice.
“We have found data on the composition of Sashi Kajin from the sponsor’s cell phones and computers. The men I sent out to investigate have confirmed that every member is dead. There are still many questions left before we can call this truly resolved, but the original objective has been achieved. Due to your results, we shall overlook your methods.”
“Why thank you.”
I would bow my head down to anyone if they would give me what I wanted, but this had been a bit too expensive.
For one thing, the Deadly Dragon Princes had been almost completely destroyed.
And even if that had been an absolutely necessary expense for finishing the job, I could not stand that it had been done by some crazy person who showed up out of nowhere. If only I had just killed him along with the rest at the beginning rather than speaking to him in case there was someone else behind it all.
“Once you have confirmed receipt of your pay, are you willing to take on another job?”
“I’ll need a bit of a long break first. I need to do something to fix the Deadly Dragon Princess after it had its form destroyed.”
“I thought that was just a hypothetical enemy you needed for the design phase? I do not see why you would need it now that you have built yourself up.”
“I need it to perform periodic maintenance. If I just did it by feel, I would end up with things way out of order before long.”
“Fine then. It is not an urgent job. I can wait 2 weeks. If you think you will need longer than that, I will give the job to someone else.”
“Also, can I borrow that Sunekosuri?”
“As another hypothetical enemy?”
The small head of Hyakki Yakou looked confused. If possible, I wanted to borrow that young lady as well. That would have made for the best vacation ever.
“By the way,” said the young lady when I began to leave. “About the sponsor who eliminated the producers of the spiritual medicines. You have left out any information on the anti-Youkai weapon he had.”
“I went a bit nuts in that dam. It was broken during the fight.”
That was a weapon that could kill any Youkai with a single strike.
Hyakki Yakou was constantly fighting with the especially dangerous examples of deadly Youkai, so they would want a weapon like that more than anything else.
“I see. Never mind then.”
“You gave up on that easily.”
“And you broke it rather easily.”
Chehh. She saw right through me. That was the “thing that must not see the light of day” that made the demolition of the dam and the restoration of the village such a problem, wasn’t it?
She may have still been the same cute, innocent little girl, but she had grown some.
It made me a little sad.
With that thought, I left the tea room.
After all, it was not our goal to eradicate every single Youkai including the ones like that Sunekosuri.
If she kept something like that around, it would cause unnecessary conflicts with groups in favor of utter eradication that would try to steal it.
- Sunekosuri literally means “shin rubber”.
- Paizuri literally means “tit rub” and is also the Japanese term for a “tit job”.
- Matakosuri literally means “thigh rubber”.
- Saishi Kajin is a Japanese phrase that roughly means “an intelligent man and a beautiful woman”.
- A dozou is an old fashioned type of Japanese storehouse.
- Katatagae (literally meaning “different direction”) was the Onmyouji practice of divining the fortune of the direction one was going to take when heading out. If the direction was determined to have ill fortune, a different direction would be taken.
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