The Zashiki Warashi of Intellectual Village:Volume8 Epilogue
Wearing her Yozakura suit, Hishigami Mai climbed out of Mikuchi-sama and onto the dog square at the peak. Several large transport helicopters had landed on the late night snowy mountain.
One of them contained a girl of about ten in mourning clothes and surrounded by bodyguards.
“Is it over?” asked Hafuri.
“I defeated Hishigami Shikimi myself, but I wasn’t the one to end it.”
Mai spat out her answer and asked a question of her own.
“How are things ‘outside’?”
“As previously reported, the zombie outbreak ended at exactly the same moment in every affected city around the country. There was no major damage and all the zombies and people killed by the zombies have recovered.”
“But since we have this common understanding, I’m guessing we all still have our memories of the zombie outbreak.”
“Most of the normal people only have vague memories of the zombie outbreak beginning and coming to an end, so I expect some social unrest to continue for the time being. And the truth of this would be difficult to make public. We can’t have Hyakki Yakou’s techniques spreading like some kind of scam.”
“So does this mean a Mr. Tanaka who became a zombie will retain his memories of being killed by a Mr. Yamada who was still human? Even if there’s no law to cover this, it’s probably going to strain some relationships.”
“I’m more worried about large-scale con artist groups or cults showing up to take advantage of the social unrest. If that happens…”
“Sure thing. If you’ll pay me extra, I’m more than willing to run out and do some damage control.”
A short distance from Hishigami Mai and Hafuri, the Sunekosuri named Ohatsu looked around on top of the pure white snow.
The tension of the hopeless zombie outbreak had entirely relaxed and a Hyakki Yakou without Majina filled the scene around her.
That was when she realized it was truly over.
An era had come to an end.
Another small canine Youkai ran over, but Ohatsu resolutely rejected him.
“Do you really think I would beg for my life?”
“I am from the true Hyakki Yakou! I am a comrade of the darkness that built an entire era with Majina!! I will take whatever punishment our failure has earned me. Take me wherever you wish and chop off my head with delight!! The victors may build a new era atop my corpse!!”
She did not try to ingratiate herself to him.
She would proudly accept her punishment with no attempt to negotiate.
But when the Sunekosuri was faced with that will of steel…
He squeezed his eyes shut and yet still could not prevent the clear tears from spilling out.
Ohatsu gave an exasperated sigh.
“Is that pathetic reaction all you can manage when your spouse is prepared to accept her death?”
“I don’t care. I don’t care about that!!”
He shook his head and drowned her out.
“It’s true I can’t forgive what you did. You spat on Hafuri-sama, dragged countless innocent people into this, and plotted to overthrow the country. Destroying you was the obvious answer and we should probably be celebrating this conclusion.”
But the Sunekosuri turned all of that around.
“But I’m just so glad you’re alive!! That’s all I care about!!”
Ohatsu did not say anything more.
She briefly narrowed her eyes. After being separated for so long, the two Youkai moved in close just once.
“If only you could be that honest, young lady,” said Hishigami Mai.
“About what?” asked Hafuri with a frown.
“Ohatsu began working with Majina because she felt she needed a connection to the leader of Hyakki Yakou if she was to create a system to prevent humans from hunting down harmless and powerless Youkai. In other words, it was to protect her husband and son.”
“Hm? What does that have to do with me?”
“One question: what was Majina and Mei’s goal?”
“As reported, to prevent a worldwide disaster brought about by the Hyakki Yakou Prototype Ver. 39 Zashiki Warashi…no, the Bloodstained Zashiki Warashi.”
“That was the means, not the goal.” Mai gave a simple rejection. “The Bloodstained Zashiki Warashi was certainly a major problem, but they had another fear. A Zashiki Warashi is an unstable Youkai with an easily broken balance between fortune and disaster. And Majina and Mei knew of someone much more sensitive and delicate than a pure Zashiki Warashi.”
“You don’t mean…”
“They knew of a half-human, half-Zashiki Warashi. In other words, you. Your existence is unprecedented, so no one knew if you would bring great fortune or great disaster. Would you become a Bloodstained Zashiki Warashi or would you become something even worse? That was a distinct possibility and there was only one way to fight against it: reveal every last detail of the Zashiki Warashi species, even if it meant altering his wife’s body and even if it meant digging up the techniques from Hyakki Yakou’s prime that they so despised. That was the only thing they could do in the hopes that they could remake you into something harmless instead of taking your life if their fears were realized.”
“The Hyakki Yakou that Majina wanted was apparently an organization in which humans and Youkai could coexist. In that way, even the Bloodstained Zashiki Warashi was a useful specimen and creating a happy life for a half-human, half-Youkai like you would be the ultimate judgement of their organization and a lesson to the world. So as they divulged the secrets of the white and red Zashiki Warashi, they were hoping they could approach the workings of something as truly irregular as a half-human version.”
Hafuri fell silent for a moment, but she finally shook her head.
“That is all speculation. They were nothing more than a cruel system. What proof do you have that personal feelings like that were lurking below the surface?”
“Why do you think he gave his wife such a meaningful name? That name is a sign of the resolve to ‘wander’ between the white and the red Zashiki Warashi. And all so that the three of you could live as a happy family in the end. His wife was the journey of hardship, so her name means ‘wander’. And you were the goal, so your name means ‘celebration’.”
This time, the lonely girl named Hafuri fell truly silent.
However, that did not last long either.
But not because she had opened her mouth. It was because new footsteps approached on the snow.
The Zashiki Warashi in a red yukata was with him.
She was the Hyakki Yakou Prototype Ver. 39 Zashiki Warashi…no, the Bloodstained Zashiki Warashi.
“You didn’t think about trying to escape us?”
“I thought about it countless times, but I couldn’t imagine how I wouldn’t just get caught in the end.”
He gave a weary sigh before continuing.
His face twisted as he looked to Hafuri…no, to the girl in mourning clothes.
“Plus, Majina asked me to do something at the very end. He asked me to look after his wife and daughter. I couldn’t just turn my back on that.”
He had said “at the very end”.
That man had been Hafuri’s greatest enemy and her father. Even without a detailed explanation, the ten year old girl concluded that she would never see him again.
The blond high school boy continued while bowing his head.
“There is nothing for you to apologize for. Ending the nationwide zombie outbreak and returning alive is more than enough.”
“Right, right,” casually cut in Hishigami Mai. “And it isn’t like Jinnai Shinobu didn’t manage anything. We may not have made it in time for Majina, but Hafuri’s mother just barely made it.”
“A Zashiki Warashi sticks with its family. With Majina gone, there was a chance the Ver. 40 would just vanish. …But it didn’t happen that way. Youkai seem to naturally take a liking to Jinnai Shinobu and that trait must have kept her from wandering off. That’s what gave us the chance we needed to reconnect her to you.”
Hafuri looked back in the direction Mai pointed with her thumb.
Standing in the pure white snow was an even purer white Youkai. She was the ideal form of the Zashiki Warashi. She would simply protect whoever was set as her master. The sexy Youkai could do nothing more than that, but this still meant the girl was no longer alone.
Their gazes met.
Hishigami Mai placed a hand on Jinnai Shinobu’s shoulder and they left along with the Ver. 39.
They left the mother and daughter alone.
Just before they left, Mai had a thought
(We never did find Hishigami Shikimi.)
The current Hyakki Yakou was still searching through Mikuchi-sama and Bozen City, but Mai doubted they would find her.
That woman was the founder of the Hishigami line.
She specialized in destruction and she was feared more than anyone, but she had clung to this world for a thousand years in the simple desire to just once be useful to someone and receive their thanks.
Mai could only assume the woman would continue travelling from darkness to darkness as she always had.
The suspect was dead.
Serial murders based in old traditions and modeled after ceremonial sacrifice had occurred at the dog square on the peak. Traces had been found of the missing people having been restrained and imprisoned. Further investigation was required.
Just as Uchimaku Hayabusa finished using his laptop to write up and send a report, a young man slowly approached from the distance.
Hayabusa closed the laptop and stood up.
“Sorry about asking to meet you so late.”
“It’s fine. I would have been bored stuck in the guest room. Plus I doubt they will send out any more planes in this snow. If you would like, I can make a call and have a room opened for you in a Hishigami-owned hotel. I will be doing the same for myself, so I would only be doing it for you while I was at it.”
“No, I’ll just sleep here and wait for morning. I’m used to saving money like that.”
The man in Japanese clothing laughed and narrowed his eyes.
His named was Hishigami Kyou.
He was one of the primary managers of the Hishigami Group, Japan’s greatest general trading company. He was also a member of the Hishigami Men and was third in line to the main Hishigami family.
He was not someone one would expect to see in a local airport lobby so late at night when flight after flight was canceled. Even if he had been waiting in the luxurious guest room that normal people could not use and usually did not even know existed. If this man wished for it, he could have every last airport employee working like crazy to clear the entire runway of snow and send out a charter plane with the Hishigami crest on the tail.
“I heard what you said, so I honestly just wanted to speak with you.”
“I am honored.”
“No need to be so formal. You are a government worker, so you put food on the table using the taxes removed from normal economic activity. You do not rely on the economic world, right? Paying taxes is a duty, not a right.” Kyou spoke simply. “You are working with…yes, I believe it was Enbi. The Hishigami Woman that specializes in other humans. If her talents were to blossom, she could erase a full fourth of the earth’s population. There are some that wish to let that potential blossom in order to resolve global warming or the energy crisis, but you have done an excellent job of restraining her. Perhaps I should avoid saying this as a member of the main Hishigami family, but I respect you as an individual.”
“You did not make an appointment because you happened to be in the area, right? What is it you wanted to discuss with a man you have never met? If it is something reasonable, I will answer in kind.”
Uchimaku Hayabusa shrugged his shoulders just once and slowly inhaled.
“Hishigami Kyou-san. This might not be something a police officer should say.”
“What is it? Are you reaching your limit as far as handling Enbi is concerned? If so, I can provide some reasonable assistance in naturally removing her from you.”
“No, it isn’t that.” The detective sounded like he was raising the white flag. “I want to punch you right in the face. That’s what this is about, you son of a bitch.”
Hishigami Kyou looked taken aback.
A moment later, a solid sound rang out and the man in Japanese clothing was thrown to the floor. Uchimaku Hayabusa grimaced as he looked down at the man. It almost looked like his own glass skeleton had shattered from the blow’s reactionary force.
He had just done something that rejected his entire lifestyle as a policeman.
He understood that, but he continued onward.
“You have so much! So very much!! You receive so much fortune that it’s overflowing!! So why don’t you give any of that to Enbi and the others!?”
“Do you know nothing of the Hishigami-…”
“Oh, I know,” cut in Hayabusa. “I know all about your rules concerning the Hishigami Men and Hishigami Women! And I know there’s some truth to it even if there’s no real proof. Enbi – and Mai and Shikimi too – live in a world that brings tragedy, not comedy.”
“It’s true they’re monsters.”
Uchimaku Hayabusa clenched his teeth and forced out his voice.
“But you’re the ones that made them into monsters!! If you had reached out to them even a little and had shown them at least the kindness of holding and comforting a newborn baby, they wouldn’t have turned out like that!! Can the Hishigami Men really look down on the Hishigami Women? You unilaterally harm them, yet they continue forward in that frightening darkness! Is rejecting someone just because they’re a little creepy your idea of ‘reasonable’!?”
That was all he managed to say.
Several dull sounds filled the lobby.
However, they were not the sounds of Uchimaku Hayabusa’s fists raining down on Hishigami Kyou.
Instead, they were the sounds of dull impacts reaching the detective’s cardigan-wearing torso.
The great sounds were almost explosive in and of themselves.
Uchimaku Hayabusa did not know what had happened.
It was not from his stomach and not from his lungs either, but he felt some unknown substance flowing backwards through his body.
The impacts caused several organs to convulse and wriggle and all strength left his legs and waist. He collapsed to the floor. As Hishigami Kyou slowly stood back up, several young woman wearing special suits that covered all of their joints surrounded him.
Those soldiers seemed to have appeared out of thin air and their fists had struck him like curving laser beams. The lines of light were colored red, blue, and yellow.
They were dressed in the same kunoichi-esque outfit as Hishigami Mai.
The protectors on their right arms bore the Hishigami crest and what may have been their individual name.
“Wha-…? Are they…Hishigami…Women…?”
“Of course not. I would never make such an unreasonable choice.”
Hishigami Kyou brought a hand up to check on his swelling cheek, but his expression remained entirely calm.
“However, they have had a portion of those traits artificially implanted in them. They are not Hishigami Women, but they can do the same things. The level of their abilities has of course deteriorated somewhat, but they will not leave my control. Their hair and eye color may look strange, but that is probably due to the Youkai medicine they’re using. I’m not entirely sure why their hair grew white on top of that, though. This is the furthest limit of what we can consider ‘reasonable’.”
Hayabusa tried to say something, but he could not gather his thoughts. He simply raised his unfocused eyes from the floor and Hishigami Kyou calmly asked him a question.
“So what did you want to do with the Hishigami Women?”
The man sounded puzzled.
In that instant, Hayabusa’s thoughts focused in on a single point and he used his clear mind to respond.
“I want them to be happy. No, I want to make them happy…”
He was unsure if his lips or throat would even move, but he used them to squeeze out the words.
“I want to give that girl a normal life…where she doesn’t need to fear anything, doesn’t need to act tough, and doesn’t need to hurt anything. I don’t want her to restrain herself so much. I want her to live happily as she grows more and more. It is my duty to fight all of you who are trying to rob her of that normal life…”
That was the limit.
His consciousness vanished like a thin thread had snapped.
For a while, the man who controlled it all squeezed his eyes shut as if savoring the flavor of some coffee.
“What is it, Zei?”
“Why did you take the first punch yourself? If you had given us freedom to move a little earlier, you would not have needed to bear that pain.”
Hishigami Kyou opened his eyes again and smiled with enjoyment on his lips.
He gave a glance to Zei, Akane, and Ran, the three peerless weapons standing around him.
“It is true we only act in a reasonable fashion. If the world is heading in a cruel direction, we must be dyed in those same colors. That is what the Hishigami Men are. Our hatred of the Hishigami Women is nothing more than a reflection of that tendency of the world.”
“But this is interesting. If a youth like him would support the reasonable side of this country…no, of the world, perhaps even we could live a life of joy and pleasure. He embodies a form of ‘reasonable’ that grows angry for the likes of Enbi and Mai and who would stand up for the entirety of Hishigami.”
The woman named Zei did not protest.
The young man in Japanese clothing slowly sighed while beautiful women surrounded him like faithful dogs.
“Treat him with care. Ensure that he finds a reasonable and pleasant morning when he wakes up.”
“Understood. What about the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department?”
“Of course we aren’t going to contact them. Why would I nip this wonderful form of reasonable in the bud for no good reason? And settling incidents like these out of court is still a perfectly reasonable choice.”
“Then that is how we will handle this.”
“I do wonder if he has realized that it is my duty to make a certain person happy and to fight all those who would get in the way. And if one viewed that conversation through the reasonable lens of normal society, you cannot help but misinterpret it as him asking our family to give him the girl’s hand in marriage.”
“If I might say so, are you enjoying this because he does not understand the gravity of what he is doing?”
“Ha ha! That is quite a unique opinion for someone with such love for all things reasonable!!”
The train only ran five times a day.
Jinnai Shinobu and the Zashiki Warashi caught the last train of that hopeless schedule and sat in the train seats with their shoulders together.
If Majina had been telling the truth about the Bloodstained Zashiki Warashi, then there was no guarantee the two of them would be freed. It was even possible they would have been buried as enemies of society, but that had not happened. Hafuri may have inherited Majina’s desire for human and Youkai to coexist and that may have slowly changed the organization of Hyakki Yakou.
“I can’t believe this…”
“That you remember everything that happened when you were a zombie. Sure, it was an extreme situation, but I said a little too much and now I kind of want to die…”
“Yes, yes. I do recall you throwing someone in a cage, dragging her around outside like a part of a freak show, having her eat a handkerchief and half-eaten ham, remote controlling her with a cellphone and smartphone, and even sending her tumbling down some stairs while still in the cage. Right, Shinobu?”
“Hold it right there, Zashiki Warashi! This is about train etiquette! You can’t perform a pile driver inside a shaking train car!!”
Shinobu put up a desperate resistance when he nearly fell victim to a wrestling technique, but the Zashiki Warashi was not being serious. She only pouted her lips and spoke as they returned to their seats.
“But, Shinobu. Now that I think about it, your logic doesn’t really hold up.”
“It may be true that the whole ‘Onee-chan’ thing was an illusion of what I wanted to be. It may be true I’m really just a normal girl and an immature soul that stands on equal footing with you.”
As she spoke, she gently took the boy’s hand.
“But that just means I can fall in love like a normal girl. I don’t think it means that love is limited to you.”
“Don’t be silly. Do you think all the world’s romance is reliant on some red string or on destiny? Nine times out of ten, actual love is the result of the mood or the atmosphere giving one last push in the right direction. In other words, say what you like, but whoever calls dibs first is the winner. And who could possibly get there before me?”
“Your heart really has grown pitch black. I feel like I need to wash it clean.”
“You’re just too pure.”
Jinnai Shinobu sounded exasperated, but he still squeezed her hand back and smiled.
“But don’t ask about the tenth time out of ten, Yukari.”
If the story of the Bloodstained Zashiki Warashi was true, the world would end before long.
A true disaster would arrive that made the battle with the Aoandon’s group and Majina’s zombie outbreak look like nothing. A hopeless future was coming to burn the world to the ground.
An inevitable fight awaited these two after that.
But for the time being, they could remain happy lovers.
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