The Zashiki Warashi of Intellectual Village:Volume7 Chapter 7
Chapter 7: Jinnai [email protected] War, Break Through the Center
It all came down to an instant.
“Tselika Wien Alpha Chelydia Lumidrier. Appear in the form we desire to grant what we desire to the extent we desire. …Appear, Tsuerika Nyorai. It is time to begin your work.”
This was the moment when the Aoandon Group felt most victorious. They had passed the greatest turning point, the thread of tension had relaxed, they were filled with excitement despite knowing how dangerous it was, pleasure and relief exploded in their minds, and they could not help but lower their guard.
When you knew it was coming, it was easy to take advantage of it.
As if tearing through space itself, I broke through the barrier of time with the Kaeshigami by my side. I immediately rushed right up to the Aoandon.
I didn’t wait for her voice of surprise. Hyakki Yakou’s Hafuri was confronting her, but she didn’t matter either. We couldn’t win in an all-out fight with the Aoandon, so I attacked when her guard was down. I attacked just when she had gathered all of her cards to form an unbeatable hand.
I rushed straight in like threading a needle.
The Aburatori and I no longer needed words to communicate. All I did was swing my right arm horizontally and the Kaeshigami released a metal skewer with a synchronized motion.
The single skewer stabbed deep into the center of the Aoandon’s chest.
The blue Oni’s eyes opened wider than I thought possible. Time seemed to have frozen as I grabbed the skewer embedded in her chest and pulled back with all my might. With a sticky sound, a fist-sized pale blue cube came out. It was a collection of straight lines, a symbol of artificiality. It looked like a jewel, rather than an internal organ.
It may not have actually physically existed.
It may have been that the Aburatori’s ability to remove internal organs had given physical form to something like program code intentionally written inside her.
It didn’t really matter.
Not as long as I could take away the core that made the Aoandon special!
My eyes met the Aoandon’s from fifty centimeters away.
Bluish-white phosphorescence glowed from the tip of the horn on her forehead.
A moment later, a deafening sound much like clashing swords rang out. Neither the Aburatori-turned-Kaeshigami nor I could keep up physically or mentally with what had happened.
A dull sensation passed through the center of my body near my spine.
The Aoandon’s right hand had pierced through my stomach.
The Kaeshigami tried to rush in, but the Aoandon knocked him to the side with her left hand.
She had erased her smile to form an entirely blank expression.
“Have you forgotten?”
I coughed out the blood welling up from my throat, dyeing her cheeks red.
“I am that which exists beyond the one hundred gathered fears. Without Saiki Kazu and Matsukai Hiroshi’s equation, I can no longer create an infinite number of derivate stories, but I still have one hundred times the power of a deadly Youkai.”
“Ha ha. Is that so?”
She was also talkative.
I somehow managed to hold my right hand out horizontally even with her arm piercing my body. I held it toward some other place, toward the greatest evil that Saiki Kazu had summoned somewhere in this rural landscape.
“…ng. …w……ed…, …f… ……….ri…, …b………, ……s…… …h………, …..gh… …s… ……e……”
I already know how to defeat you.
That archdemon severed the bonds between people, destroyed those connections, and prevented any kind of cooperation. Without that, the battle between Hyakki Yakou and the Aoandon’s group would not grow quite so hellish.
“For the aforementioned reasons, the veil of ignorance may become the key to the door of the unknown. I name the soul of Marguerite Steinhols as a new demon and command her to pass through the door in that vessel of flesh!”
I was the only one that knew any of that, so I had to do something about it.
I may have had to cheat and jump back in time a little.
But an enemy I’ve already defeated once is hardly going to be a real threat! You small fry!!
“Return, Marguerite Steinhols!! Cast aside your old self and take hold of your new self. Like a snake shedding its skin, cast aside the name of Tselika Wien Alpha Chelydia Lumidrier and fill yourself with a bright new soul!!”
A gust of wind blew through a distant area.
Tselika herself probably had no idea what had happened.
In this timeline, not even fifteen seconds had passed since her appearance, so she might have just thought the summoning had failed.
But the Aoandon would have noticed since she was right in front of me.
That had been no coincidence and no accident. She had drawn her cards from the deck and prepared the most powerful hand, but it had been stolen from her by a kid on the verge of death.
“What did you dooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!?”
I ignored her.
Was that so much of a shock that you’ve forgotten what you need to do, Aoandon? Your priority should be getting this thing back.
A smile formed on my bloody lips as I grabbed the pale cube I had removed with the Aburatori’s skewer.
Then I stuck it in my mouth, chewed, and swallowed.
“You… How do you keep doing this!?”
My vision seemed to shatter.
The program code built for a Youkai must not have agreed with the human body. All of my senses vanished in bluish-white sparks as if a high-voltage current had bene sent straight down my spine.
“You idiot! That’s based on my traits! You won’t gain my powers if you swallow it!!”
I wouldn’t have still been standing if the Aoandon’s arm hadn’t been stabbed through my stomach.
I had lost the ability to know what was happening to my body.
“But I took it from you…both Archdemon Tselika and the secret behind your irregularity. And now that you’re nothing more than an amazing Youkai, do you and your companions really have the strength left to take on Hyakki Yakou and their Top 5?”
The Aoandon immediately replied with an incredibly simple action.
My sparking senses rapidly returned. They were all focused on a feeling of extreme pain. The Aoandon had bitten at my throat. This was nothing as kind as sucking my blood. She began biting and chewing through both flesh and bone.
Yes, I had a feeling you’d do this.
She had no way of knowing what change would come over the program code while it was inside my body, so it made sense that she would try to retrieve it before the damage could progress any further.
“You were created from the completion of one hundred ghost stories…”
Have you still not realized what’s right in front of you?
I said an enemy I’ve already defeated once is hardly going to be a real threat…but that doesn’t just apply to Tselika.
“Then what about 110? Or how about 120? As the number leaves that perfect framework of 100, the golden ratio holding your body together will crumble.”
The Aoandon looked like her thoughts had ground to a halt.
Yes, those were the same words I had said on the empty tour bus running through the blue birth canal at the end of the Zenmetsu Village incident.
When she removed her mouth from my throat, she seemed to catch on.
Her mouth was covered in something dark red. In her haste to retrieve the stolen program code, she had left the “data port” open and let in the foreign object known as Jinnai Shinobu.
“Take it,” I said with a thin smile. “Extract the data in the flesh and blood you’ve eaten and commit it to memory. …I didn’t have time to check through the detailed conditions and logic behind it, but if I’m right, my memories should be implanted inside your head.”
“My data will be treated as a foreign object inside you and I’ve been through countless incidents involving Youkai. I’ve got plenty of ‘ghost stories’ stored in there. You were created from precisely one hundred stories, so can you really endure having that number changed?”
A moment later, she lashed out in anger.
Her small mouth opened as wide as possible and bit through flabby things that I’m hesitant to describe. Strangely, it seemed I could no longer feel pain.
It was too late to turn back.
She could not stop the bug in her code, so she focused on retrieving the program code as initially planned. She was betting on the possibility that such a slight malfunction could be suppressed by that great power.
“Why…?” asked the entirely red-stained Oni as she curled up and worked at chewing. “Why would you go this far!? All you’re trying to do is defeat me, so why would you choose to be eaten alive!?”
For some reason, she had left my face untouched.
I somehow managed to move my sluggish lips and force out the words.
“Because if you eat me, you’ll take my data inside you…”
A wet dripping sound continued for a while.
The Aoandon had briefly stopped chewing.
“That’s my point.”
“What is this!? Am I taking in corrupted data!? How…how could you possibly produce these kinds of feelings in such an extreme environment!?”
Oh, I get it now.
She only experienced the one timeline without traveling through time, so this answer looked a little sudden to her.
“…This was an impossible situation from the beginning.”
I had traveled through time and returned, so there were now two Jinnai Shinobus here. One had lived through the single timeline and the other had returned via time travel. I didn’t know if I was a physical being or just a soul at the moment, but I knew this was a dangerous situation. There had to only be one Jinnai Shinobu.
But that aside…
“I can’t kill you.”
I had seen something in that room in the past.
I had seen that sloppy drawing on construction paper. Humans and Youkai were all holding hands and smiling with the message “We’re All Friends” at the top. I was never supposed to have forgotten that.
Once I looked at it from that viewpoint, it hadn’t been hard to see the truth of the Aoandon.
I knew what this most powerful of enemies really was.
“After all, you’re like my child, born from that Zenmetsu Village project.”
“I only ever showed you this sort of thing, so it’s my responsibility that you turned out this way. It was all the fear, despair, and carnage I showed you in Zenmetsu Village that turned you into an incomprehensible monster. …So I’m not supposed to punch you. I’m supposed to rub your head and teach you that there’s more to life than this.”
Just one of the Aoandon’s cheeks twitched to a disturbing extent.
“…This was my conclusion.”
“This was the optimal answer I derived!! It was not… It had nothing to do with your influence!!”
“You’re only a baby, so don’t get so full of yourself.”
I had been wrong to raise that baby in that dark red room of blood and gore. I had been wrong to throw her out into the world without teaching her about common kindness and other basic things.
So I would correct my mistakes.
I would use the first and only chance I had here!
“I don’t think I’ve lived a life worthy of praise.”
Will you be able to smile?
I promised you on that day long ago that I could get along with any Youkai.
“But if you look through that data you took from me, can’t you find just one thing? Just one thing that makes you rethink destroying this country, this village, and this family?”
“You will die.”
“Yes, most likely. If I wasn’t willing to go that far, my feelings never would have reached you.”
“You’ll lose your place in the world you’ve tried so hard to protect! You understand that, don’t you!?”
“God, what a pain. Just take a look at the data already.”
I would die here.
I had broken through the barrier of time to find this truth, but it was looking like I wouldn’t be able to pass it on to the other Jinnai Shinobu.
But if it came to that…
You tell that ignorant Jinnai Shinobu, Aoandon.
This is your father’s final request. Surely my only daughter can do this much for me.
This too was communicated through the data.
Aoandon, you are “listening”, aren’t you? I don’t think I have the strength left to move my mouth…so can I only…leave the rest…to luck…?
I held my mouth on a farm road near a dry paddy field.
“Uwehh!! Cough, cough!! Cough! Cough, cough!!”
My internal organs crawled and convulsed as if they had all malfunctioned at once. An intense shock ran through the center of my heart as if someone had pressed a gun to my chest and pulled the trigger.
I felt like my skin was being tugged at.
I shuddered at an intense feeling that something was out of place. It felt like someone else’s damage was pouring into my body or like I was being chopped to pieces by mistake. Was this oozing pain in my skin or my organs? Taking a trip to the hospital once this was over seemed like a good idea.
“Master! What’s the matter!?”
The micro-bikini Succubus sounded confused.
“Is it due to that archdemon? It looked like the summoning failed, but did the miasma of the exorcism reach you?”
“No, it isn’t that,” I groaned while placing my thumb in my mouth.
I didn’t know why, but I knew I had to do that.
I used my canine tooth to bite into my thumb. The flavor of rusty iron oozed out onto my tongue. I sensed death while also receiving a torrent of data I shouldn’t have known.
“Tselika’s summoning succeeded,” I said while holding my reeling head.
These were not my memories. At the very least, they weren’t inside my own head. It seemed to be using some kind of external storage. The data that should have been erased when Jinnai Shinobu died had been unable to disperse because another Jinnai Shinobu was still alive. Unable to remain in this world or continue on to the next world, it had wandered through this space. It was almost like a ghost and I was simply accessing it through the flavor of blood.
But it didn’t matter what it was as long as I could use it as a weapon.
Whether it was external data or corrupted data floating to the surface, it told me the correct answer even if it did not feel real to me.
“More importantly, where’s the Aburatori? He turned into a Kaeshigami after traveling through time, so I doubt he would’ve been killed that easily.”
The Succubus was clearly confused, but I didn’t have time to explain.
What was going on? I used the flavor of my thumb’s blood to access the data. If this version of me could grasp this data, did that meant that Jinnai Shinobu’s data remained inside the Aoandon after she devoured him?
Had it been moved or copied?
Depending on what had happened to the files, the Aoandon could still be moving at full power. Defeating Tselika was an MVP-level accomplishment, but that alone wasn’t enough. I had to drive Hyakki Yakou and the Aoandon’s group from the village and retrieve my normal life!
The young man in a dark suit…was his name Saiki Kazu? Anyway, he had tried to summon Tselika and had in fact succeeded, but that Jinnai Shinobu had immediately defeated the archdemon.
The witch named Marguerite Steinhols lay naked (Wow!) at his feet and he was glaring at me from over ten meters away.
He spoke while barely moving his lips, almost like a ventriloquist.
“When is your soul from?”
“I’m me,” I replied with a thin smile. “I’ve just cheated a little to take a small step outside the norm.”
His power was an unknown, but he didn’t seem to have given up his humanity like Hishigami Mai or the Illness Magic User had. Even if he had cut Archdemon Tselika away from himself to have her stand at his side.
But once that archdemon was sealed away, he was no more than a normal human.
Meanwhile, I had a paranormal Succubus on my side. That demon couldn’t breathe fire or tear through a metal panel with her claws, but she was immune to purely physical attacks like a blade or a bullet.
“Out of the way.”
So I grew bold.
“I want to know what happened to the Aoandon…to that baby. I don’t have time to deal with you. Get lost if you know what’s good for you.”
Saiki Kazu silently turned his head and stared coldly into the distance.
He was most likely looking to the small woods where the Aoandon and Hyakki Yakou’s Hafuri were confronting each other.
“The equation has fallen apart. …No, it may be more accurate to say the Aoandon’s structure has changed. Perhaps I should say the software remains unchanged, the base OS has been forcibly updated so many times that the software is no longer compatible.”
“Did you change the number of stories forming her? Not bad for such a short time. This may be an abnormality created by the constant contact with Youkai in an Intellectual Village.”
I knew I was relying on outside help, but I would utilize this chance. I couldn’t defeat both Hyakki Yakou and the Aoandon’s group, so I needed to attack the Aoandon’s group while they were rattled. If I could quickly defeat one side, there would be no more reason to continue fighting in this village.
“Will you willingly let me through or will I have to punch you first? It’s your choice.”
“Now, I have a question for you and your unwitting expertise.”
Saiki Kazu slowly raised both hands and continued speaking without moving his lips.
“You analyze the structure of Youkai and attack their weaknesses. Or you reveal the Youkai built into a criminal Package and find a loophole. In that case…”
His emotionless eyes pierced through me, the master of a (low-ranked) paranormal demon.
“Will that usual skill be of any use if you ran across a Youkai not found in any old tome or any database? Wouldn’t that make for an interesting test?”
Part 3 (3rd person)
Darkness covered everything.
The Aoandon had been thrown out into darkness too deep to distinguish one direction from another.
This was not a real or physical phenomenon, but it took her a few seconds to realize the excess data taken in from Jinnai Shinobu had directed her mind inward rather than outward.
Once she was aware of it, she saw countless bluish-white lines running through that darkness. It was a sea of data. It was her very essence and also the life-giving womb that had created her.
There was something there which clearly did not belong.
She did not know if distance meant anything here, but it appeared to be about five meters in front of her.
The biological lifeform known as Jinnai Shinobu stood in the sea of data.
She groaned while holding a hand to her shaking head.
A mass of incomprehensible data was tormenting her sense of self. She had taken in the human data of Jinnai Shinobu as much as possible. Words could lie, but data could not. The path the boy had walked filled her mind.
It could not all be summed up with some lofty ideals.
He had met several Youkai, encountered filthy Packages using those Youkai, and gotten involved in countless incidents.
When he had faced those incidents to resolve them, he had not always been driven by a sense of justice, ethics, or morals. Oftentimes, he simply wanted to live and for that reason doubted the friends and family around him.
But the Aoandon did not understand.
She understood why he would doubt those close to him. She did not understand why he was so attached to this ugly world.
She felt she understood just how ugly the world was.
She had been born from the incident in Zenmetsu Village. When she had searched from there, as if branching out her knowledge, she had learned just how cruel a reality this was and just how many people spread irresponsible rumors without facing that reality. It was not confined to Zenmetsu Village or that corporate prison. When she had searched for similar Package-related incidents, she had found the screams of people being similarly crushed and others taking irresponsible revenge on each other.
The world was full of blood and gore, red and black.
Why would he want to remain here?
In the sea of data, she did not need to speak her question aloud. The Jinnai Shinobu (technically, just his data) standing before her held out his right hand. His index finger seemed to be pointing right in front of her nose.
No, that was not it.
He was actually pointing at something directly behind her.
What was that something?
Driven by that simple question, she slowly looked back over her shoulder.
Something happened a moment later.
The next thing she knew, the sea of data had left.
Her mind had shifted from inward to outward. The smell of humus tickling at her nose and the rusty iron flavor in her mouth forced physical reality back onto her.
She was sitting on the ground and her eyes dropped to her bloody hands.
Her fingertips were trembling.
She had eaten human flesh. She had ripped open his gut, pulled out his entrails, used her white teeth to bite through them, and swallowed them.
Youkai that sucked blood or ate organs were not uncommon. Most of the deadly Youkai that did not curse their victims used such methods.
She had gathered the fears of one hundred ghost stories, so she too had that ability. It was not to the point that she needed to eat people to survive, but if she switched over to the proper mode, she could eat a human body without hesitation.
“Why…am I trembling…?”
The worst and greatest Youkai was dumbfounded.
The rusty smell stabbed deep into her nose, a strange warmth was caught between her teeth, the sensation of her chewing her meal lingered in her teeth and jaw, a stickiness remained on her tongue, and some hair was caught deep in her throat.
“I find it…disgusting? I…I’m the monster that exists beyond the one hundred fears. Why would I be feeling this human sensibility?”
“So you have lost your will to fight?”
A metallic sound rang out.
While sitting on the ground like a mere girl, the Aoandon turned toward the source of the sound and found the adult and child Hafuris glaring at her with the same family emblem on their clothing. The adult one held an eerily glittering Japanese sword.
“Would that be accurate?”
“Hyakki Yakou is the greatest paranormal organization in the country…no, the world. As their leader, I should probably hold my tongue here, but to be honest, I do not have an accurate grasp of the situation either. That is why I am asking you.”
“Are you still a being that will bring harm to mankind?”
“Don’t…joke. I don’t need a reason. I’m doing this because everyone wants me to. Not even Jinnai Shinobu could do anything. He didn’t affect me in the slightest.”
“Yes, a mere high school boy could not do a thing,” bluntly admitted Hafuri. “And isn’t that why you’re so shocked that you did not receive anything from him?”
“Jinnai Shinobu may have been trying to give you some kindness. He may have been trying to stop you with that. But it did not reach you. He bet his life on it and was literally devoured, and yet he was of no use whatsoever. …But you find that regrettable. He taught you the meaning of sorrow. In a way, doesn’t that make this his victory?”
The Aoandon was a deadly Youkai created from the combination of one hundred ghost stories, one hundred rumors.
That made her very interested in listening to what people had to say, regardless of whether it was good or evil. Even if it was a stranger or her enemy, she was not opposed to accepting data.
But she had been unable to do so.
She had not received any of what he had bet his life on telling her.
What if that had been the dying words of the individual she could call her father?
The word escaped her trembling lips.
For some reason, her lips were trembling against her will.
“I am the being that exists beyond the one hundred fears. I would never hold that kind of normal, worthless, and pointless-…”
She trailed off when she realized the truth.
She could not gather any strength in her body. Some of her curses only required a glance or a thought without any actual movement, but not even they would target properly.
“This does not seem to be a problem with your bodily structure,” calmly analyzed Hafuri. “It takes an unimaginable level of resolve for a human to intentionally kill another human. Of course, such feelings do not always show themselves between human and Youkai.”
“But what if a Youkai were given the same sensibilities as a human, even by some underhanded means? Even if you have one hundred deadly powers and even if you use them to produce unlimited possibilities, it seems your finger stops before pulling the trigger. We had only ever thought of killing, so this is a truly fascinating method for Hyakki Yakou.”
The Aoandon screamed as if to reject it all.
She used explosive muscular strength unimaginable from her slender frame to instantly stand up and charge toward Hafuri like an artillery shell. Her claws could easily slice through the surrounding tree trunks and they flew toward Hafuri’s neck.
“I knew it.”
Hafuri did not even blink.
The Aoandon’s fingertips stopped unnaturally just before reaching their target.
“With these new sensibilities of yours, you seem unable to kill a defenseless ten-year-old girl.”
“There is no need to be afraid. In the earliest stages of education, the child copies their parents and builds up their sensibilities from that. But as they are not psychic, they cannot perfectly glean their parents’ feelings. Everyone makes their own interpretations just as you did and continues forward assuming they understand.” Hafuri narrowed her eyes a little. “Personally, I think you should reflect on the honest joy of having this perfectly normal opportunity. You had a father who was willing to go this far to get something through to you.”
This girl called the opportunity perfectly normal, yet she had not been given the same opportunity.
She had been forced to lead Hyakki Yakou at the tender age of ten.
She had lost both her parents to assassins within their own organization.
The Aoandon’s sharp claws were only a few centimeters away, but they only trembled without managing to touch the girl’s slender neck.
“I can’t curse anyone, harm anyone, or kill anyone… How am I supposed to maintain my existence as an Aoandon like this!?”
“Children grow up by observing their parents, but they need not be bound by those parents’ lives.”
Once again, that was something Hafuri had been unable to do.
She had only been able to protect the world by following in her unseen parents’ footsteps, but that was why she could speak of this ideal here.
“You must choose for yourself what life you will live. But of course, that is only after you have paid for everything you have done.”
The Aoandon remained silent for a while.
She had countless means of brutally killing this girl, but they only existed as a function or ability. She could not actually use them. Jinnai Shinobu had created these new sensibilities within her by risking his life. He had placed a bizarre safety device to lock her weapons away.
“You aren’t going to kill me?”
“After everything you have done, it would be hard to find a convincing reason not to kill you.” Hafuri let out a troubled sigh. “But this possibility that Jinnai Shinobu has demonstrated is promising enough to warrant taking on this difficult challenge. Simply put, it would be a shame to kill you here and lose this process of neutralizing a deadly Youkai. Of course, it is hardly a viable method if it requires having someone eaten alive, but if we can analyze it and reconstruct it in a harmless way, it could revolutionize this small field of ours.”
“I can’t believe this,” muttered the Aoandon while her vision went dark.
This conclusion was positioned as far from fear and despair as possible.
It was bright.
Had that boy handed his body over to her with this in mind? From what she could see of his data inside her, there were no traces of having calculated it out that far. But that was not the heart of the issue. Even if he hadn’t calculated out every last part of it, he had known someone else would fill in the gaps. The bonds between people had brought this farther than anyone had predicted. It may have been incomplete and unfinished, but he had done everything he could to resolve this as quickly as possible and reduce the damage as much as possible.
Did that mean even this series of coincidences could be attributed to Jinnai Shinobu?
Like in the Straw Millionaire, this was the unseen power that joined people together. That was what he had presented for the Aoandon to process as a single system.
It had only taken him a little over a minute.
He had eliminated Archdemon Tselika, neutralized the Aoandon, and created enough of a power gap between Hyakki Yakou and the Aoandon’s group that she would have a chance to surrender. …And on top of it all, he had given her a small bargaining chip to prevent her entire group from simply being slaughtered. Afterwards, he had vanished.
With all that in mind, the corners of the Aoandon’s lips silently twisted.
“This isn’t over yet. We still have him.”
As soon as she said that, dense tension seemed to solidify the atmosphere, like thin threads twisting together to form a solid rope.
There was something there, but it was not Archdemon Tselika and it was not the Aoandon of the one hundred fears.
Hafuri could think of only one other option.
(That man in the Illness Magic’s report who shot down our mobile fortress. He most likely trained his own body akin to Kodoku by killing the majority of those gathered for their group.)
“Aoandon!! If you don’t want to waste the seeds Jinnai Shinobu has sown, then stop-…!!”
She started to shout, but then she stopped.
She had noticed the strange expression on the Aoandon’s face. It could not be classified into any of the usual emotions.
It looked like someone who had secretly prepared a birthday party for herself, only to have all of those plans destroyed on the day of the party.
It also looked like someone who had no one show up to celebrate her birthday, only to have her friends show up to surprise her at the very last moment.
It was an utter contradiction.
It looked like not even she knew how to handle the data inside her.
“My words aren’t enough to stop him. Nothing anyone in my group says will stop him.”
“In a way, Saiki Kazu uses an even more twisted paranormal power than me.”
A black wind raged.
It took me far too long to realize Saiki Kazu, that ventriloquist-like man in a dark suit, had physically “moved”.
His claws slashed through the air right in front of me and tore the chest of my jacket open.
It wasn’t my own power that saved me.
First, the Succubus had grabbed my shoulders and leaped backwards with all her might.
Second, Marguerite must have felt a debt for being freed from Tselika because she reached out a hand from the ground and did something.
That was a demon and a witch.
With the help of two Western paranormal beings, I only managed to avoid the attack by a few millimeters.
There was more to him than just Tselika. Was he drawing on some other paranormal power? Was he drawing on the power of some Youkai?
“A fascinating ability.”
Saiki Kazu emotionlessly spoke as the Succubus and I only managed to move two or three steps back.
“Normally, my killer intent would have kept you glued to the spot. Is this the power that neutralizes the fear and creates a bond, giving you such a great affinity with any Youkai?”
“It is similar to Ranzono Sachi’s ability, but it is more indiscriminate and covers a wider range. If you were able to consciously wield it, you would have individually been able to recreate the phenomenon known as Hyakki Yakou.”
Something unpleasant spiraled through his words.
I bit my thumb and tasted the blood for a specific answer.
An avalanche of Youkai had responded to young Shinobu’s cry and chased down the Aburatori. No one had been in the wrong, but that had been the trigger to a definite tragedy.
I gained the knowledge through the external access, so I spat out my emotional answer.
“To hell with that.”
“I see. It may be your ability to speak back like this that leads the world’s paranormal beings to take your side.”
Acting tough was one thing, but I also had to figure out what to do.
First of all, what Youkai was Saiki Kazu using? Without knowing that, I couldn’t find an opening. And buying time in a head-on battle was probably going to be difficult.
“Would you like a hint?”
Saiki Kazu made a shocking suggestion.
The Succubus whispered in my ear while staring at the man standing entirely still with his arms gently spread.
“(Yeah, unless he’s just bragging, he’s clearly trying to confuse us. But does that mean he has some kind of identity or weakness we would notice if he didn’t hide it?)”
He did not wait for us to finish our discussion.
He spoke his own words as if drawing power directly from the text.
“One: Saiki Kazu can move too quickly to be seen.”
The black wind roared again.
This time, the Succubus moved behind me. She passed her arms below mine and placed her fingers on my chest to hold me in place like a roller coaster’s safety bar and then she flew high into the sky.
Just before we took flight, I barely managed to grab the Umbrella and Lantern.
By the time I heard the Succubus’s flapping wings, we were already twenty meters from the ground.
Tengu, Kasha, Keizoubou-Gitsune, Kamaitachi, Yamanba, Aburatori, the Nopperabou that surprises anyone who sees it twice. Is it a fast Youkai that can get ahead of its opponent?
“Two: Saiki Kazu can crush his target remotely.”
The black wind came to a stop and became the dark suited figure once more.
The stopped man formed a gun with his right hand, like a child playing around, and aimed at the orange-dyed sky. In other words, at us.
First, the Succubus and I were knocked to the side.
Next, the region of space we had just been floating in was entirely compressed. A fist-sized glowing orange ball floated at the center. As if it had suddenly remembered gravity existed, it fell straight down. Once I realized it was the air’s dust and dirt after it was compressed and heated, a chill ran down my spine. If we had been caught in that, we would have been immediately turned to mincemeat!
“That first impact was Marguerite’s help, but I doubt she can save us every time. Not to mention that she doesn’t have a contract with anyone at the moment and that man is far too skilled!!”
“I know that!!”
Makuragaeshi, Yamanba, Inugami, Killing Stone, Tsuchigumo, Nue, Furutsubaki, Zashiki Warashi, Oshira-sama. There are plenty of Youkai that use formless curses, but that doesn’t fit with the earlier high-speed movement. The only overlap is the Yamanba.
“Three: Saiki Kazu can predict his target’s future position.”
This time, I thought my vision had gone dark, like the power had gone out.
The dark suited man made only a small movement. While standing in the dry paddy field with his gun gesture aimed upwards, he simply shook that hand a little. However, it was a decisive movement. I could tell he was accurately pursuing the Succubus and me through the orange sky.
“Not yet! Dammit. What Youkai is he using!?”
Kudan, Shaberi-Ishi, Zashiki Warashi, fox… Oh, damn. That rules out the Yamanba!! The more hints I have, the closer I should get to his identity and weakness, but this is only confusing me further. At this rate, he’s going to shoot us down before I can figure out-
“No, you don’t need to figure out what he’s using.”
A new voice cut in.
At the same time, a dull sound burst from the center of Saiki Kazu’s chest. A woman’s arm had forcefully pierced through his back and out the front.
I only knew one person who could do that.
With that woman, I could believe the idea that simply meeting her was deadly.
“I only need to know you’re relying in some kind of paranormal power. I can kill all such things, so there’s no need to analyze every little thing like my sister and her murder mysteries.”
Even then, the dark suited man’s expression remained unchanged.
Except, that is, for the single trail of blood dripping from the corner of his mouth.
Unbelievably, he continued speaking.
His heart had been torn out, so he should have been done for as a living creature.
“The concept of numbers does not apply to Saiki Kazu.”
I heard a quiet footstep.
I heard more and more of them until they covered the entire area around us.
Because the Succubus and I were flying through the orange sky, we noticed the bizarre scene before anyone else.
It was a group of identical men in dark suits.
At least one hundred copies of the unemotional man named Saiki Kazu stood across the paddy fields.
I did not even have time to feel a chill anymore.
“What kind of Youkai power is he using!?”
Part 5 (3rd person)
Saiki Kazu watched Hishigami Mai racing across the dry paddy field.
The woman had used Jinnai Shinobu’s neutralization of fear to kill one of him and that told her he was not an insurmountable obstacle. That may have been the only reason she could continue moving without being crushed by the intense killer intent.
Still, he did not view this as much of a problem.
There was no concept of a “center” to his hundred or more bodies, so their senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch were all gathered together. He was aware of all those many senses, just like an insect’s brain processed the images from its compound eyes, but he could also shift his consciousness from one body to another. The sensation may have been something no human with just the one point of view could understand.
The closest comparison was to call it a system rather than a living being.
It may have been like sitting in a distant security room filled with monitors and switching between countless cameras to search for and follow one’s target.
“Is that all?”
“Is that all?”
“Is that all?”
His right hands formed guns.
More than one hundred index fingers aimed at Hishigami Mai. With Mai at the center, they seemed to form a giant flower or firework.
A single shot had the power of an antiaircraft gun capable of shooting down a strategic bomber ten thousand meters away, but over one hundred of them turned to explosive pressure and shot toward her from every direction.
In addition to the numbers and strength, Saiki Kazu had the power to predict the future. There was not even the slightest chance he would miss.
“Is that all the fragile power of good has to offer, Hyakki Yakou?”
“Is that all the fragile power of good has to offer, Hyakki Yakou?”
“Is that all the fragile power of good has to offer, Hyakki Yakou?”
“Tch!! I’m! A! Freelancer!!”
Hishigami Mai dodged left and right in living, flowing lines, but her efforts were not rewarded.
A portion of the scenery distorted and the very space around her was compressed.
But it was not enough.
She was one of the abominable Hishigami Women.
One second before the direct hit, Mai’s right arm plunged into the chest of a nearby Saiki Kazu and swung him around to use his body as a shield.
“You might be a monster that uses some strange Youkai, but I can restrain your attack using your own power. It’s like the unstoppable force and the immovable object. And amusingly enough, there are more than a hundred of you standing all around here! I can grab as many of you as I want!!”
More and more cursed shots flew her way as she yelled back at him.
Before the Saiki Kazu being used as a shield could lose his basic shape and fall apart, Mai would run to the next Saiki Kazu and acquire her new shield. Then she repeated the process. Using up the shields both secured her own safety and slowly wore down the numbers of her enemy.
It was nightmarish and grotesque, but it was the optimal answer that killed two birds with one stone.
“I see. It would seem the same technique will not work on you forever.”
“I see. It would seem the same technique will not work on you forever.”
“I see. It would seem the same technique will not work on you forever.”
The exact same words came from the countless mouths of the countless Saiki Kazus.
It even came from the unconcerned expression of the one that was falling apart as Mai used him as a shield.
“Then I suppose I should move on to the next one.”
“Then I suppose I should move on to the next one.”
“Then I suppose I should move on to the next one.”
It happened before she could put her guard up.
“Five: When cornered, Saiki Kazu explodes, spreading a curse.”
“Five: When cornered, Saiki Kazu explodes, spreading a curse.”
“Five: When cornered, Saiki Kazu explodes, spreading a curse.”
Mai swung her right arm as hard as she could. The “shield” slipped off of her arm and flew into a group of several Saiki Kazus like she was bowling. The slender body swelled bloodily out around the chest wound and burst like a water balloon. A red mist spread in every direction, corroding all of the bowling pins.
(I can’t use him as a shield anymore. I guess I’ll have to reduce his numbers by inducing chains of explosions like a puzzle game. If I time the explosions right, I might be able to alter the course of his attacks. But…)
“Dammit! Are you really drawing out the power of a Youkai!? You aren’t just making it up as you go along, are you!?”
Those words seemed to give Mai a sudden realization.
“Is that it? I can’t tell what Youkai you’re using no matter how much I think about it. Everything you’re doing looks like you’re adding in whatever powers would be convenient at the moment. What you’re doing is fundamentally different from all the Packages and other techniques of our small field. What you’re doing is-…!!”
“Saiki Kazu is a symbol of impurity, so merely touching him will curse you.”
“Saiki Kazu is a symbol of impurity, so merely touching him will curse you.”
“Saiki Kazu is a symbol of impurity, so merely touching him will curse you.”
All direct attacks were off limits.
Mai clicked her tongue, pulled her suppressor-equipped handgun from her boot, and pulled the doll-shaped wooden charm from the pocket of her hot pants. She swung the wooden charm in a vertical line as if passing it through an invisible card reader and space split apart. A Shikigami shaped like a girl in a short kimono stepped out.
This was the Deadly Dragon Princess.
Mai had always said that using this paranormal power meant she had 100% lost.
“Is this all that the fragile good has to offer?”
A single Saiki Kazu seemed to act as the representative and spoke without moving his lips.
As before, he worked to corner his target.
“When will you demonstrate powerful justice, Hyakki Yakou?”
Given the situation, not even flying guaranteed our safety. In fact, the open sky made it easier for him to shoot us with his projectile weapon. However, randomly descending to the earth would only get us attacked by the countless Saiki Kazus.
Where could we land? Who could we ask for help?
“Succubus, land in those woods! Hyakki Yakou’s leader should be there!!”
“Ehhh!? They do kind of have a huge grudge against me for that Euro Security Force business, you know!?”
She immediately complained, but she seemed to understand that staying here would only get us shot down by Saiki Kazu. She reluctantly did as I said. The Umbrella and Lantern shut their mouths and did not utter a peep after hearing the term Hyakki Yakou.
I found a very strange scene there.
First, there was Hafuri. I had known her as a girl of about ten in a kimono, but standing next to her was another Hafuri who had grown into quite a sexy body. A closer looked showed thin threads connecting the young Hafuri’s fingers to the other one like a marionette.
Then, there was the Aoandon. She was sitting on the ground like a feeble girl, but her mouth and entire kimono were colored dark red with…
Ugh. Is that my…
“Uuh! That’s not something a high school boy should be hearing!!”
“What am I supposed to do…? Thanks to you, I can’t use any of my one hundred or more paranormal powers! What am I supposed to do now!?”
“Ahhh!! Don’t run up and hug me like that!! It’s disgusting! Is all this sticky stuff my-…ahhhhh!!”
“I know exactly what I can do that you’ll like the least. After all, the story of Jinnai Shinobu is one of the ghost stories I was made from!!”
A blue light shined in her eyes as she rubbed her cheek against me.
She hasn’t had a change of heart at all.
All that’s changed is the upper limit of how much she can harm people! She still fully intends to crush me! This is like reverting a three meter man-eating tiger to a cub the size of a stuffed animal!!
And while I’ll admit she is something like my child created from the Zenmetsu Village incident, how does that make it my responsibility and no one else’s? My uncle and the Hishigami Sisters were there too! Not to mention Madoka-san! Especially Madoka-san! I need to speak with her later!
Another Youkai seemed utterly shocked.
The Kaeshigami wore a farmer’s outfit and most of his face was hidden by the hat with a giant eye drawn on it.
“What is it, Aburatori?”
“You are Jinnai Shinobu, aren’t you? But you…”
“I don’t know the details, but you don’t have to worry. I haven’t forgotten about you, Kaeshigami-san.”
“Ahhh!! What’s the matter with you, old man!?”
I already had my hands full with the red-stained baby, but now an emotional old man was clinging to me. The world had grown too psychedelic for me!
“Succubus, Succubus!! You embrace me too! Help!! I need some normal sexiness to average this all ouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuutttttttttttt!!”
“No, thank you. Helping people is just disgusting. I am a demon, you know?”
Meanwhile, (the small) Hafuri placed a hand on her forehead and gave an exasperated sigh.
“Sigh… Why are you even here?”
I spoke the name while pushing away the old man and the Aoandon’s face, which was covered in (my) blood and gore.
“This isn’t going to end without doing something about him. Hishigami Mai is fighting him now, but who knows how long she can last against that monster.”
“I know. Fortunately, all of our Top 5 are still available. If I send them in, we can settle this in a quick-…”
“No!! If you do that, this village will be wiped from the map! You might be fine with that, but that might as well be the end of the world for me!!”
“Then what do you suggest we-…”
Hafuri trailed off as a solid sound was followed by a canine Youkai flying in and embedding itself in the humus.
“Th-that was an impressive forkball. It really dropped right on down…”
“Only Hishigami Mai would do anything this crazy.”
Hafuri crouched down and pulled the Youkai from the humus. It was the Sunekosuri that was always with Mai (and was almost constantly worried).
“Since you were thrown directly here, I take it you have some kind of urgent message. You can omit the formalities. What happened?”
“Th-that’s right! Mai-san asked me to tell you what she figured out about Saiki Kazu! Woof, woof!!”
After receiving Hafuri’s permission, the Sunekosuri seemed to stand at attention in the girl’s hand.
“Unlike a normal Package, Saiki Kazu does not seem to be borrowing an existing Youkai’s power or traits.”
“Is he using his own stress and mentality like the Illness Magic?”
“No. He has crossed the borderline of humanity to become an inhuman paranormal being.”
What did that mean? Had he erased every last one of his worldly thoughts to become a sage or something? Or had he used excessive pride or hatred of the human world to become a Tengu?
My body tensed up when I started thinking of those stories from picture books.
Wait. Don’t tell me…! But it couldn’t be!!
“In other words, rather than using an existing Youkai, he is creating a brand new Youkai. You could say he is using his own flesh and blood to build up a Youkai we could call [email protected] KAzU.”
I could not speak another word for a while.
However, the clock was still ticking. The battle between Hyakki Yakou and the Aoandon’s group and the battle between Hishigami Mai and Saiki Kazu were both still underway. I couldn’t just ignore reality. I had to force my mind to think about this.
“That would explain it,” I somehow managed to say. “That would be why I couldn’t find an appropriate Youkai no matter how much I thought. Of course I couldn’t. There wasn’t anything to find in a Youkai encyclopedia or an occult-obsessed website. He was creating it himself!!”
“Akki Rasetsu was aiming for something similar: transforming the human body into a Youkai. But they were trying to fuse with an existing Youkai. They were never arrogant enough to try to create a brand new one.”
“Hmm.” The Aoandon sounded indifferent. “But I’m a blue Oni that a Youkai illustrator in the Edo period made up to represent all the mysterious phenomena said to appear at the end of the Hyakumonogatari. There was no academic value to the claim, but that illustrator was simply too well-known. The idea spread and it became known as the truth. That illustrator also invented quite a few other Youkai. It’s said over a third of his famous illustrated Youkai scrolls were his own inventions.”
Coming up with a Youkai, creating it, and mixing it with others.
The Dodomeki, the Hossumori, the Mokugyo Daruma, the Gotoku Neko, and the Aoandon. There were a surprising number of Youkai that became known because that illustrator had invented them. …In more recent years, similar legends were told about an extremely famous Youkai manga author.
Of course, since Youkai illustrations were often used as satire of society or the current age, no one saw any problem mixing in invented examples and it was often seen as a type of humor.
“Are you saying Saiki Kazu can invent Youkai on that same level? This is more than putting a made-up Youkai in an encyclopedia. He’s successfully getting everyone to accept them to the point that they have the same presence as a mountain god or sea god that’s been worshipped for millennia. He can do all that artificially!?”
If so, he was the cruelest creator.
The Aoandon had used unfair powers in her direct confrontations, but she had only been creating infinite phenomena from a finite stock. This man was different. As a creator, he could create whatever he lacked whenever he needed it. There was no trick here. He was an infinite being from the beginning.
The Aoandon was the ultimate system, but she had been abandoned after release. Saiki Kazu was a system receiving update files every second.
Did he even have a weakness? Even if he did, wouldn’t he have already patched it?
“Mai-san is doing everything she can to disturb him, but she is being pushed back because he can overwrite his powers and traits however he likes. She says there will be no stopping him once he crosses a certain line.”
“Does that mean we could overpower him with the Top 5 if we acted now?”
Hafuri’s words brought an unpleasant chill to my entire body.
At this rate, the most powerful five and the greatest Saiki Kazu would clash at full power. What would happen to Noukotsu Village? What would happen to the village where I was born and raised, where Madoka, Nagisa, and the others were collapsed unconscious, and where the Zashiki Warashi, Yuki Onna, and other Youkai were waiting out the disaster?
And even then, there was no guarantee they could defeat Saiki Kazu.
What if they couldn’t?
What if even Hyakki Yakou wasn’t enough?
The Aoandon…no, the community that was now centered on Saiki Kazu would not stop with the destruction of this remote village. I only had to remember what had happened on that casino-covered Gold Mine Island. The CIA had been planning to escape the country lest they be caught in the destruction of Japan triggered by something this group would do.
We had stopped the Aoandon, but we could not ignore Saiki Kazu who was continuing where she had left off.
We had to stop him here, leaving not even a hundredth of one percent chance of that happening.
But I knew that was being idealistic.
Realistically, how were we supposed to fight him now that he had grown so inhuman? How could we tear victory from his grasp? He could create brand new Youkai and overwrite his own traits and abilities whenever and however often he wished. He might not stop even if we crushed his heart and chopped off his head.
“Yes, that’s right. He overwrites and fills in his traits and abilities. He drags them along and connects them. If he can do that…”
I pictured a group of vainly spinning gears in my mind.
At the moment, the entire system was dead because the gears were not fitting together properly. But everything I needed was already inside the box. If I could only adjust the positions of the gears so they fit in place…
“I saw this somewhere… Where? It wasn’t necessarily recently. After all, I traveled ten years into the past. Remember. Flip over your box of memories. What is it this on the tip of my tongue? Where did I see it?”
I bit my thumb and the flavor of blood allowed me to search through that external storage.
That was when the image returned to the back of my mind.
In the parlor, the Zashiki Warashi, Nurarihyon, and Kasha were sitting in a circle chatting. They were talking about their treatment in a summoning RPG and how the Zashiki Warashi and Yuki Onna appeared so often. And in that discussion…
——It sure is trouble when cultures combine or when you’re mixed with or identified with another Youkai.
“That’s it! That’s it!!” I shouted.
“If Saiki Kazu is a perfect and faultless Youkai, then we just have to drag him down from that throne! We just have to mix him with another Youkai to mix together their explanations!!”
There were examples of this happening.
For example, the Japanese Youkai known as the Ubume and the avian Ubume from China. Or the Dakini-Ten which was a goddess riding a jackal in India yet rode a fox in Japan since there were no jackals in Japan. There were even Youkai and divine beasts that people started mixing together because they had similar names, colors, or shapes!
And I already had an idea of how to mix together those existences.
I had experienced it myself, after all!
“Hafuri, can you use your time travel Package? The one that uses the Kudan’s prophecies.”
“Wha-? How do you know about one of Hyakki Yakou’s greatest secrets…?”
“It doesn’t matter!! And don’t try to tell me you can’t. This is the second version of this battle. After defeating Tselika so quickly, you have to have taken far less damage this time around! If you could use it on the first go around, there’s no way you can’t now! Get it ready if you don’t want Saiki Kazu to ruin everything!!”
It was the same as me accessing “his” memories from this external storage.
When two of the same person existed in the same space, the effect remained even if one of them died.
That Jinnai Shinobu and this Jinnai Shinobu had to have been almost the exact same existence, so the only real difference was the memories.
But that was enough of a threat. It was a great irregularity involving a time paradox. Plus, it was directly linked to memories and personality. What would have happened to my mind if I hadn’t been able to access it properly and it was nothing but noise?
It didn’t matter what was held inside the external storage.
Two versions of the same person existed in the same space. One of them died and became a ghost-like external storage. It was not either version of the person that mattered. It was the invisible thread connecting them. If it was carelessly messed with, couldn’t even the most powerful foe be torn apart from within?
And we could reach that position with a time paradox.
First, we had to use time travel to make the same individual exist twice in a single world. If we then defeated one of them, we had a chance of damaging Youkai [email protected] KAzU who would not budge no matter how much we attacked him from without.
“Hafuri, I have a question about that big…um, doll? Who created it and how?”
“The Illness Magic User. He combined thousands of types of fungi to create a perfect copy of a human on a physiological level.”
“I don’t care if it’s a rush job, it only has to look right. In that case, how long would it take to make one of those?”
“I would have to ask him directly to know for sure. However, this one was originally meant as an artificial surrogate mother with my traits built in. It would have been extremely carefully made to ensure the next generation leader for Hyakki Yakou could be born without issue.”
“The Illness Magic also creates copies of himself to confuse the enemy. If that level is sufficient, I believe he can design one almost immediately.”
That meant we had the time travel and the decoy copy forcibly made to match Saiki Kazu.
We only had to send the fake copy (which was technically something like a straw doll used to curse someone) into a different timeline a few seconds different from our own using the time travel Package. If we then destroyed that copy, the perfect Saiki Kazu would begin to access something. If we interfered, severed the thread between them, and filled it with noise, his mind would overload. Even if that did not defeat him, Hyakki Yakou’s deadly techniques could likely defeat him while he was standing defenselessly in front of them.
We could end this without creating a long, hopeless battle that was no different from negating a nuclear blast with another nuclear blast.
I could clearly see the path leading back to my normal life!
A moment later, I heard a deafening explosion in the distance.
“That was where the Illness Magic is fighting,” said Hafuri.
The battle had not grown as chaotic as before due to the rapid elimination of Tselika’s influence, but it was still an all-out war. Countless battles were underway all over the place.
In other words…
“If he is to come help us here, it seems he needs to settle his own battle first.”
Part 7 (3rd person)
The situation could easily be described as a chaotic, but if someone had been able to compare this second round to the first one, it would have looked quite organized.
The Top 5 maintaining their sanity and cooperation helped more than anything else. Simply put, Hyakki Yakou had successfully followed their initial plan for the battle.
The Illness Magic User wore the black special combat uniform of a SWAT member.
The Venom Clairvoyant had her eyes covered with a red cloth and wielded two old German handguns.
They stood back to back in the gold-dyed rural landscape.
They fought on the same side as intended by the identical family crests they bore.
“The Aoandon’s presence has vanished.”
“And Saiki Kazu’s has grown instead.”
“I see no sign of their hypnotism breaking.”
“It will not break unless it is actively broken. But in this case, it was caused by the Aoandon’s paranormal powers rather than the academic idea of hypnotism.”
“If they lose consciousness, it will end there. It is the same as the flames of a lamp. With nothing to reignite it, it only needs to be extinguished the one time. No matter how much fuel remains, it will never resume burning.”
When he heard that, the Illness Magic User stared straight forward.
He looked to the greatest foe among the enemy group before them.
“You’re so great. You’re so cool.”
It was the Byouki User.
The girl wore a short, yellow China dress, a jacket with cat ear decorations on the hood, and bandages seemingly placed randomly along her face and one leg. She used a Byouki, a variation of Kodoku. That fear was automatically mass-produced to the level required to kill her target.
He had supposedly defeated this girl once already.
If not for the Aoandon’s interruption, he might have saved this soul.
“Ah ha ha! Ah ha ha ha ha ha!! Why? Why do you have everything? Like a companion to stand back to back with!? I…I’ve fallen so very far and I’ve never – not once! – found anything like that!!!!!!”
Black shadows stood up as she screamed at him.
Each one was a symbol of disease and pestilence. A scratch from one of their claws would cause one’s entire body to foam up, rot away, and have its protein boiled from within by an intense fever.
But even as hundreds and thousands of the Byouki surrounded him, the man’s expression did not change in the slightest.
“I already gave you my answer.”
The Illness Magic User had not been anyone special.
He had simply been given a home when Hyakki Yakou had taken him in.
So if this girl had been given a home and a symbol to bear, she may have been able to bring an end to her chain of despair.
“Ah ha ha. I didn’t get it. None of it got through to me. I’m dumb, after all. I never seem to catch on. Everyone loses patience with me. Ha ha. Ah ha ha. I really am hopeless. Completely hopeless…”
“Then I will tell you as many times as it takes for you to understand.”
With the sound of electricity running through a neon tube, a glowing white blade grew from between his index and middle fingers.
“What will you do?” asked the Venom Clairvoyant. “Request support from the bombers flying overhead?”
“Unlike before, I do not have laser guidance from Hishigami. The fuses may be removed, but who can say where in the village they will land.”
“Then what will you do? Won’t you be pushed back by the infinite Byouki welling up from the surface of the earth?”
“Venom, lend me your ‘eyes’. …That pitiful girl is not even worth killing, so I will settle this here so she can recover.”
When the blindfolded shrine maiden heard his brusque words, she sighed while still back to back with him.
“Oh, so we’re still doing this your way, Onii-chan? And how am I supposed to react when you’re so attached to a girl more than twelve years younger than your sister?”
“Did you say something?”
“Sister, I’ve been thinking this for a while, but a woman past the age of twenty-five really should not be calling her brother ‘Onii-chan’.”
“So you did hear meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!”
A short distance away, the Oomukade confronted Ranzono Sachi.
A bell-like voice spoke a single word.
That was enough for the earth of the surrounding paddy field to swell up. Youkai larger than a light vehicle burst out. They were mostly strange and grotesque animal-types such as the Tsuchigumo, Uwabami, and Gama, but that may have been due to Sachi’s own special trait.
(That Jinnai Shinobu boy I met in Noukotsu Village had this same ability over an extraordinarily wide range, but in exchange for being limited to animals, Sachi can consciously control it and give it some level of directionality. …She seems to be summoning them. You really could call her a summoner right now.)
He sounded so concerned because the Aoandon’s lingering hypnotism remained even if the archdemon was gone. Endlessly summoning Youkai without any kind of sacrifice or ritual was essentially a tactical weapon itself. If a medium or shaman had known of this, it may have been enough for them to direct a curse of hatred her way.
The Oomukade could not ignore this.
He could not carelessly let anyone see her. He had to seal this power away and prevent anyone from using her. He wanted to prevent her life from being manipulated for someone else’s benefit any further.
“Can you hear me, Sachi?”
She did not respond. Countless Youkai surrounded her with the sounds of scraping metal claws. They lined up like shogi pieces.
They were prepared to defeat their enemy, the Oomukade.
Oddly muddy eyes still trapped by hypnotism turned his way.
The white rose corsage on the side of her head swayed weakly.
“I will…protect my friends…”
“So will I, Sachi.”
“I will create a world where we can all be equal. To do that…to do that, I will do anything.”
“You don’t need some special world. The centipedes and spiders only needed to live secretly next to people’s houses. No one needed to notice them. That’s all there was to it.”
The Oomukade gathered strength in his giant body.
That Youkai had begun as a single insect, but legend had it he had devoured a clan of dragon gods and driven them to the verge of extinction. He was a Youkai that ate Youkai. And when he had eaten a Byouki to protect Sachi, he had begun to take on the traits of Kodoku, the technique that had countless venomous insects and ferocious beasts fight to the death.
Ranzono Sachi had summoned quite a few Youkai, but he would not lose so easily in a pure competition of strength.
But that itself was a problem.
(My poison is too strong.)
His giant maw snapped together from the left and right and a strange purple fluid dripped down.
(This will do more than paralyze Sachi. It will kill her. Yet I cannot stop her through brute force either. There is nothing I can do like this.)
Aware of that, he calmly moved his thoughts along.
(Then I need to weaken my poison.)
He would do whatever it took to save this girl.
(Fortunately, Kodoku gathers all of the poison and curse into the final surviving insect or beast. …To put it another way, one’s poison and curse are taken away when they are eaten. Tsuchigumo, Uwabami, Gama. I’m sorry, but I will be using you here. Eat my body and take away the excess poison I carry.)
If he could weaken his poison, he could knock Ranzono Sachi out without killing her.
If she passed out, the unnaturally summoned Youkai would return to their senses.
That would solve everything.
There was no guarantee the Oomukade would survive being eaten. The more he was eaten, the more power would be taken from him, so it was possible he would not have enough strength left to heal his wounds.
But he did not care.
Even if he misjudged his strength and got himself killed, he would still be able to save Ranzono Sachi.
He only wanted to leave her with the possibility of exchanging truly warm words with the children she had met in this village instead of being drawn to that blue Oni like a bug to a bug zapper.
As long as he could save his friend, he did not care what happened to him.
“Come, Sachi!! Your enemy is right here!!”
As the two of them glared at each other, they crossed a line. Just like releasing a drawn bowstring, he prepared to release the strength built up past the limit in his giant body. A clash between great weights was beginning.
But in the very instant before that happened…
“The Three Bugs…that is, the Upper Corpse, the Middle Corpse, and the Lower Corpse. As the night of Koshin passes, travel through the barrier of Sarutahiko and report to the Heavenly Emperor. You are bugs the size of a fingertip, yet you are foreign objects which remove the lifespan of all living things. Take the form of bullets, enter the body, and steal their strength! Three Corpses!!”
Gunshots rang out.
Normal blades and bullets did nothing to Youkai, yet bullet holes opened in the Tsuchigumo, the Uwabami, the Gama, and Ranzono Sachi’s other soldiers, and their bodies froze up as if glue had been poured inside.
The next thing the Oomukade knew, a blindfolded shrine maiden wielding two handguns stood next to him.
The bells decoratively tied to the old German handguns belatedly produced a clear ring. And those bells contained the symbol of Hyakki Yakou.
Her divinely thin coat danced with her movements.
The shrine maiden grabbed a clip of spare bullets and pushed it into the top of the fixed magazine. The bullet portion was not made of lead. Instead, it appeared to be a dried and balled up larva.
“I am the Venom Clairvoyant of Hyakki Yakou’s Top 5. To be honest, I would not normally take on this odd job without Hafuri-sama’s orders, but the Illness Magic asked me to help out if I could.”
“And what’s this? Another little girl!? And she’s even younger than the Byouki one! First Hafuri-sama and now this monster summoner. Did something happen to you, Onii-chan!? (Worry, worry)”
“Hey, so what happened to the Tsuchigumo and the others?”
“Ah!? The Three Corpse bullets are meant for use against Youkai, but I can freely regulate their destructive power. That was not enough to kill them. I only put them to sleep for a bit.”
“Could you stop Sachi’s rampage with those bullets?”
“The Three Corpse bugs originally hid inside the human body, stealing one’s lifespan. Youkai have little concept of aging, but a normal human would be killed instantly by one of these.”
“Then I’m sorry to say you are merely in the way here.” The Oomukade agonizingly squeezed out the words. “I must stop Sachi without harming her. To do that, I must weaken the excess poison in my body, but that requires allowing her Youkai to devour me. Listen. Can you stop neutralizing the enemy Youkai? This is meaningless if they do not attack me!!”
“Oh? I wouldn’t be so sure.”
The Venom Clairvoyant immediately replied in a clear voice.
The St. John's wort clasp at her chest rustled.
“It is true that securing and suppressing such a young girl might be more difficult than simply killing an adult. But this was never a place for adults like us who have too much strength already. Isn’t it most natural for children’s problems to be resolved by children?”
“What are you…?” The Oomukade suddenly caught on. “Don’t tell me you’re dragging that boy into this! And this is one of the worst battlefields this small field has to offer!!”
“The residents of Noukotsu Village have been knocked unconscious by us in Hyakki Yakou. That was to prevent the Aoandon’s group from manipulating them with some sort of paranormal power. However, some humans surrounded by plenty of Youkai managed to remain conscious. That Jinnai Shinobu is a good example.”
“Are you saying that boy did too because he was surrounded by Tsukumogami? No…”
“This is not so simple. Jinnai Shinobu is simply that irregular a human, even if he is not aware of it. The boy in question passed out along with the others. However,” continued the Venom Clairvoyant. “It is said that insects warn of coming danger and I gain paranormal inspiration by raising such things in my body. Those insects can produce a high affinity for anyone’s body and input the data on any coming danger. On top of that, the human mind is easily shaken by danger signals. When used properly, those insects can act as the ultimate alarm clock.”
In other words, all the proper information had been inputted into the boy’s body.
In other words, that boy had woken while everyone else was passed out.
In other words, that boy who knew Ranzono Sachi’s situation had not hesitated to run onto the battlefield.
A new form appeared on that paddy field: Yonesaki Hiro.
Similar to Ranzono Sachi, that boy was loved by all Tsukumogami that were based on physical objects.
“Ohh, my master!! It’s dangerous! Why are you here!?”
“No, Umbrella. You need to prepare yourself too. It looks like it’s time for Hiro-sama to prove that he’s a man!!”
The Umbrella Obake and Lantern Obake met up with the boy.
Those Youkai had fallen silent as soon as the term Hyakki Yakou had been mentioned, but that had changed as soon as they had caught sight of their young master’s face. They had left Jinnai Shinobu and the others to run toward him.
“Umbrella, Lantern. I heard everything from a bug in my ear.”
The average-looking boy in a blue sweater and beige pants spoke quietly.
“So help me out here. I’m going to save Ranzono-san.”
The Umbrella and Lantern were not the only Youkai with Yonesaki Hiro. A sash slithered like a snake, a stone mortar walked on short arms and legs, a giant wooden board of unclear use fluttered through the sky, and an empty suit of armor clanked as it walked.
“We need to help Hiro-chan.”
“We have your back, so you do what it is you need to do!!”
Altogether, they were Tsukumogami.
The Yonesaki family repaired old tools and when their skill as craftsmen allowed a tool to live for one hundred years, it gained a will of its own like this. The Youkai repaid the family by swearing loyalty to every consecutive generation.
Meanwhile, hypnotized Ranzono Sachi stared at these new targets with her muddy eyes.
Her summoning voice left her lips.
The rural ground was destroyed and a great variety of Youkai appeared. With Sarugami, Baku, Takebunkani, Tesso, and more, there was everything from a giant monkey that simply abducted and killed people to a swarm of mice that devoured all documents.
Young gazes collided and several Youkai stepped forward on both sides.
Two voices cried out in unison.
A deafening sound of collision followed.
The heavy furniture such as cabinets and mortars dropped down on the Sarugami that swung its powerful arms and the giant Takebunkani that was protected by its thick carapace. The animal Youkai responded by swinging their arms and legs to send the tea table and chairs flying.
“We will make sure Hiro-chan wins!”
“Don’t bring shame to our master! Charge!!”
Even when they were knocked through the air or fell to the ground, the large plates and metal pots did not stop fighting. They had originally been normal objects, but they would not break so easily now that they were Youkai. They quickly got back up and charged right back into the fray.
“They might be Youkai, but they’re still just furniture,” mechanically said Ranzono Sachi. “While there are a few exceptions like the mortar in the story of the Crab and the Monkey, they generally do not have the ability to kill other Youkai.”
It had likely only been a small flame to begin with, but those negative words had been broadly interpreted from without.
“On the other hand, I have plenty of deadly Youkai among my friends. I can call as many of them here as I need, so I can’t lose. I will create a world where my friends will be accepted as equal!!”
And there was one Youkai that was truly deadly to Tsukumogami: the Tesso.
That Youkai had begun as the grudge of a high priest. According to legend, it had eighty-four thousand mice under its command and had eaten through all of the sutras and Buddha statues in Enryaku-ji, so it was the ultimate enemy of a Tsukumogami made of wood or paper.
“Kyah! Kyahhh!! This swarm of mice is biting me!!”
“Keep fighting, Lantern. If this gets too dangerous, then you escape into the sky!!”
“What about you, Umbrella!?”
“Paper umbrellas have long had their paper replaced. Did you really think I would fear having my paper broken after all this time!? Let’s do this, mice!!”
The sound of chewing continued.
It was the sound of the century or older Tsukumogami being eaten through.
Listening to it should have put Ranzono Sachi into a victorious mood.
Her heart had been as flat as the calm sea, but a slight ripple appeared there.
Or so it seemed to her.
(Why am I…happy…when I’m hearing…the screams of Youkai…?)
That question came to mind, but it vanished before she could find an answer. That prevented her from continuing down that line of thought. A vague unpleasant lump lurked in the back of her mind, but she did not know why it was there.
As a result, she focused on repeating the same action.
“Come, come, come, come.”
Each time she spoke the word, even more Youkai burst from the ground. They were all monsters based on bugs or reptiles. A normal human would have difficulty looking at just one of them, but this was a great swarm. Ranzono Sachi narrowed her eyes as a part of that grotesque scene.
“Gyaahhh!! It hurts!!”
“Bear with it. Our masters can fix us even if we break!!”
“But it hurts! I’m scared!! But…but I’ll do what I can for Hiro-chan’s sake!!”
Those screams did not allow her to comfort herself in the cradle of thoughtlessness.
These were the screams, cries, and shrieks of Youkai. They came from the furniture Tsukumogami instead of the grotesque spiders, snakes, and other animals, but they still shook Ranzono Sachi’s mind bit by bit. The flat water’s surface was now covered in the countless waves of a stormy sea.
She was the one causing it, but while hypnotically trapped, the thought of letting up on the attack never occurred to her.
Instead, she set her sights on Yonesaki Hiro, the symbol of all those standing up against her. If he had not come here, she would not have had to attack these Youkai, so he was the cause. Her mind had been remade to think that way.
“Stop this!! Don’t you understand? You can’t defeat us like this! No matter what you do and no matter how much you struggle, you can’t defeat my friends!! So leave! Stop pinning impossible hopes on them and forcing them to work needlessly!!”
“They won’t lose.”
“My family won’t lose.”
He answered immediately.
It was a ridiculous hope. Many Tsukumogami were being harmed in the name of that hope. Realistically, most of the Tsukumogami could only tackle their enemies and barely any of them could use a paranormal power such as a curse. And their destructive ability corresponded to their original weight. The heaviest of them was the stone mortar, but not even it could crush the Sarugami or Takebunkani with a direct hit.
In other words, they had not even the slightest chance of winning.
The more they fought, the more they would be worn down and the greater the damage to the Tsukumogami.
But then a great tremor of the earth overturned that assumption.
When Ranzono Sachi looked over, her eyes opened wide.
A new object Youkai had appeared, but it was not a simple piece of furniture such as a cabinet or tea table.
It was an entire thatch-roof house.
The wooden structure had to weigh at least several dozen tons and it slowly approached like a dinosaur.
Was Ranzono Sachi familiar with a Youkai known as a Mayoiga?
It was heavy and thus slow, so Yonesaki Hiro’s side had only needed to buy enough time for it to arrive.
And a Tsukumogami’s tackle was as powerful as its original weight.
The stone mortar fighting on the front lines had only been around fifty kilograms.
In that case, the Mayoiga’s attack would be fifty to one hundred times greater.
It roared like an enraged bull and charged forward.
After a deafening sound of impact, the giant monkey and crab monsters were thrown into the air like some kind of joke. Instead of attacking an individual enemy, it seemed to be tearing a great line through the entire enemy formation.
“Your friends may indeed be strong, Ranzono-san,” said Yonesaki Hiro, the boy who had trusted that the Tsukumogami would endure until this moment. “But my family is even stronger! They won’t lose to anyone!!”
Ranzono Sachi’s already stormy heart was flipped over like a soup bowl falling victim to a mischievous cat.
All of her emotions burst out and she shouted in an explosion of rage.
“Get them!! Everyone!!”
“Mayoiga, keep pushing forward! Jatai, Kosode-no-Te! Give me a hand!!”
During the second collision, Yonesaki Hiro spread his arms horizontally and a Youkai made of cloth wrapped around each hand.
Then something frightening happened.
After an especially loud footstep, Yonesaki Hiro rushed forward and beyond even his own formation of Youkai. He was personally bringing the fight directly to Ranzono Sachi.
It was the most foolish of foolish plans.
In shogi, he would have been sending his king from the protection of the golds and silvers to directly attack the enemy pieces.
But the surrounding Tsukumogami all moved at once without exchanging a single word. The used all their strength to hold back the animal Youkai such as the Baku and the Tesso that were making a focused attack on their greatest weakness. They continued pushing forward and, for just a few seconds, created a path as if parting the sea.
They knew that was how a man would act.
They knew their master would not be able to just hide at the back.
They had known perfectly what Yonesaki Hiro would do.
This went beyond friends or comrades.
Yes, it was almost like they were family.
Before Sachi could summon even more Youkai, the boy moved right up to her. He held a fist in front of his face like the boxers he had seen on TV, but he was not trying to punch her.
A sash was wrapped around his fist like a bandage, but as soon as he held his hand forward, it stretched out and wrapped around Ranzono Sachi’s neck.
He swung his other hand and the cloth wrapped around it spread out. By the time Sachi realized it was a kimono, it had fallen over her head and covered her up. More than just having trouble breathing, most of her senses were now trapped in darkness.
Summoning did not work if she could not utter the summoning words.
Unable to aim or speak, she could not use her ability properly.
Her carotid artery was being compressed more than her windpipe, so her mind began to flash in and out like she was caught in a judo stranglehold.
But even then, her objective grew to an unnatural size inside her heart.
(I will create…a kind world…for all the Youkai…)
But in that darkness, a tiny question briefly entered her mind.
What was she going to do once she made everyone equal?
She had a feeling someone’s smile had been there. She had a feeling someone had come at her head-on when she had been crying and shouting. She had a feeling a boy had seen the true face no one had ever accepted and called it pretty.
Because those thoughts had reached her as her consciousness faded, she was not sure if the voice she heard in the darkness was real or a figment of her imagination.
“Don’t worry, Ranzono-san,” the voice said. “I’ll save you!!”
After hearing that, consciousness slipped from the girl’s grasp.
A cold wind blew between the two opponents: the Illness Magic User and the Byouki User.
The surrounding battles were gradually coming to an end. Most of them were ending in Hyakki Yakou’s favor. With less of a burden on the Venom Clairvoyant, she could divert more of her resources this way.
In other words, the accuracy of the “eyes” borrowed by the Illness Magic User increased considerably.
His glowing sword had been slicing through the countless Byouki shadows as they automatically appeared, but he started doing far more than that.
After a great sound, his body slipped between the countless Byouki and shot like a missile toward the girl using them. He no longer had to spend time defeating them before advancing. He took the quickest route to her. It was true the Byouki would automatically calculate out the number needed to kill its target and produce the necessary amount. That meant no human or Youkai could defeat the Byouki User, but the arrangement of Byouki was not even. The calculation was for how to win by sending all of the created Byouki toward the target and cutting off their escape route, so she never would have expected the target to slip through that checkmate arrangement.
However, he slipped through the gaps.
By moving right up to the Byouki User, he could ignore the overwhelming numbers. It was much like using a sharp icepick-like blade to stab through the gap in the joint of a thick suit of armor and destroy the enemy’s weak point in a single blow.
(When it comes down to it, we both wield paranormal power.)
Their gazes collided head-on.
It was like a copy of a past photo. The same result occurred each time. In the trials by ordeal of an older age, it was believed that god would side with whoever was in the right. In that same way, it was plain as day who would win here.
“I know better than anyone how to save you. I would never make a mistake here, in this moment!!”
A white blade roared and stabbed into the source of the black disease.
That was a holy blade that sliced through one’s evil heart without harming the body.
Using a portion of the power of a heavenly god who had begun as a vengeful spirit that had threatened Kyoto, the Illness Magic specialist saved the girl.
The surrounding battle had come to an end.
The Illness Magic User was free.
There was no more need to hold back.
Hyakki Yakou Leader Hafuri brought something like a small microphone to her mouth and gave her command.
“Illness Magic, use your power to create a copy of Saiki Kazu. The accuracy can be low. The bare minimum requirement is that it be recognizable as him.”
I heard something like a twig being stepped on and then a large mass grew up from the ground like fast-forwarded footage of a bamboo shoot’s growth. It started as a white pillar, but it began to crumble and formed detailed features. Various colors of decomposition formed the hues of the hair, skin, and clothing. I watched it transform into the ventriloquist-like man in a dark suit.
“Is the time travel Package ready!?”
“Send it five seconds into the future. If that makes the world or destiny or whatever think there are two Saiki Kazu’s in the same timeline, we’ve won. Once we destroy the fake doll, the residual data with no place in this world or the next will become something like external storage and begin linking to Perfect Youkai [email protected] KAzU. That will be filled with noise, which will give us a chance to win!!”
I heard a sound of scattering sparks and then the fungal doll of Saiki Kazu vanished into thin air.
Five seconds later, this would all be over.
“Leave it to me, boy.”
After an even more violent sound of sparks, Saiki Kazu’s model reappeared in this world.
We had no reason to wait.
After a great roar, the doll was utterly smashed to pieces.
Part 9 (3rd person)
Saiki Kazu’s heart felt a shock like a stake had been driven through it.
He supposedly existed as dozens of bodies at once, but every last one of them tilted its head. As if synchronized ahead of time, the same change came over them all.
And that way of thinking brought a certain idea to mind.
“Synchronized? It can’t be…”
“Synchronized? It can’t be…”
“Synchronized? It can’t be…”
The situation accelerated.
A false silver sandstorm filled all of his senses. A headache and nausea overwhelmed all else. His sense of up or down was lost and his mind was too disturbed to even try to calm his confusion.
Beyond the silver sandstorm filter, Hishigami Mai threw something toward one of his bodies while on the verge of being cornered herself. It may have been a grenade and it would not have been a real problem even if it was, so he caught it in one hand.
It was a satellite phone.
It was apparently already connected somewhere. The pain filling him only made him more expressionless as he brought the phone to his ear and heard a young girl’s voice.
“Surrender. You have three seconds.”
Those words were enough for him to understand.
This organization, this field, this society, and this nation had been built up to the point that they could defeat Youkai [email protected] KAzU.
The fragile good had been eliminated and a powerful justice had been set up in its place.
Once upon a time, there was a young assassin. He had been trained that way by a large criminal organization. A certain police detective had said he would rescue the young boy from that hellish world, but fate had a twisted sense of humor and he was ordered to kill that very detective.
Simply destroying a great evil was meaningless.
If the fragile good was not eliminated and a powerful justice was not set up in its place, the cycle of tragedy would continue.
That man, who like a ventriloquist never moved his lips, changed his expression ever so slightly to form a smile.
This was not what he had planned. He had intended to use the Japanese DNA Standard to forcibly strengthen all one hundred fifty million of them like hammering a nail into a straw doll. If that had required betraying the Aoandon in the very, very end, he would have done so.
But if the result was the same, he could hardly complain about reaching it along a different path.
Thus, he had no regrets.
The promised three seconds passed and Hafuri spoke to someone other than Saiki Kazu.
She spoke the words of death.
A moment later, Hishigami Mai’s right arm pierced through the center of his chest.
The destruction of the one equally affected every single Saiki Kazu. Just like hammering a nail into a straw doll, an identical hole appeared in all of their chests.
Instead of damaging the hardware, this was more like the software damage of throwing a laptop on the floor to destroy the data inside. The damaged data spread through the network known as Youkai [email protected] KAzU, spreading fatal errors all the while.
“Any last words?”
He did not answer Mai’s question.
He silently dissolved into something like silver sand which vanished into the wind. The phenomenon seemed to contain the message that someone who had abandoned their humanity was not allowed a human death.
The enemy had nothing at all left to say.
The Hishigami Woman decided the man had left the world satisfied.
Part 10 (3rd person)
At a police hospital in Tokyo, Detective Uchimaku Hayabusa groaned on a bed without any knowledge of the battle being fought over the fate of the country.
He had been hospitalized after taking three bullets to the upper body in the firefight to end the incident involving Amagoi Haruka, aka PSI_ver_RAIN, the self-styled psychic middle school girl.
The swimsuit girl named Hishigami Enbi sat in the bedside chair while peeling an apple with a ghastly look on her face. …Just to be clear, that is not a misprint. Her face was just a little too Hannya-esque to be called joyful.
“Okay, your cute Enbi-chan is going to do her best to pamper her spoiled detective☆ …Huh? This isn’t working right… Okay, okay. I’ll have you saying ‘ah’ before long now. Eh heh heh. …Dammit, just peel already!!”
“This is why they shouldn’t give knives to idiots! It’s scary!!”
Uchimaku Hayabusa really did have tears in his eyes as he shouted back at her.
After a knock at the door, a large man stepped inside.
It was Sotobori Gaku, a detective in the organized crime division who specialized in large criminal organizations.
“Hi, Hayabusa-chan. I hear you ran into some political trouble and got yourself some medals of manliness.”
“Only you organized crime people brag about scars these days. And it’s why you people scare the rest of us. I hope these gunshot wounds heal up properly… I believe in modern cosmetic surgery!! Ow, ow, ow, ow!!”
“C’mon, don’t waste this chance! You should leave the scars!! Japan’s police like to solve our cases more smartly, so a policeman with three holes in his gut is a dying breed. You should set your sights on having at least seven scars!”
As he spoke, Sotobori set a paper bag down on the side table.
“Hey, Heavy Tank, what’s in that bag?”
“Just a little something to make your stay more enjoyable. When you’re holed up in the hospital, nothing sounds better than a greasy burger, right?”
“You idiot! I have holes in my stomach, remember!? I can’t eat something like this on the first day after the surgery!!”
“That’s too bad. Guess I’ll have to eat it.”
“You monster!! Uuh…just the smell is stimulating my hunger like normal. I feel like I’m staring at a full course meal through metal bars…”
Sotobori ate the burger and drank a soda, but since that was not enough to drink, he had to head over to the vending machines.
While he waited for the blended coffee to fill the paper cup, he heard a footstep directly behind him.
He casually turned around, but then his eyes opened as wide as possible.
An assassin of around ten stood there.
No one had believed him when he had told the police that this was the true killer of a certain old detective.
More than a decade had passed since then, so that assassin could not possibly still look like that. Sotobori knew that mentally, but something else refused to let him reject the idea.
He knew for certain that this was him.
The boy’s small lips moved ever so slightly.
At first, Sotobori could not tell what he was saying and was not even sure this was something capable of producing a voice, but the voice gradually reached his ears.
“Be prepared. Youkai [email protected] KAzU will return once you have forgotten. That is how he assembled his own body. So always be prepared in every way you can think of. That is the one and only way of keeping Youkai [email protected] KAzU sealed away.”
That was the limit.
The assassin of about ten vanished like a crumbling sand sculpture.
Someone who existed all across Japan, ignoring the concept of an alibi, may have just vanished all at once.
A certain man simply wished to eliminate the fragile good and set up a powerful justice in its place.
His story ends here.
But if arrogance should ever again run rampant in this world, that monster would reappear as many times as necessary.
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