The Zashiki Warashi of Intellectual Village:Volume8 Prologue
You might be surprised to hear it, but the Zashiki Warashi cried pretty easily.
It mostly happened when her hobbies or entertainment were taken from her. For example, when the house’s internet connectivity was annihilated by a router problem or when my dad got mad and locked all the video games in the storage shed out front.
However, there was one incident that had left an impression on me.
I think it was back when I was in the fourth or fifth grade of elementary school.
I got into a pretty serious argument with that Good-for-Nothing Youkai. No, thinking back on it, I may have just yelled at her without listening to anything she was trying to say.
The fight had been started by something pretty simple: when I got back from school, my toy robot’s body was broken clean in half. Based on what my mom and gramma told me, it was obvious that Zashiki Warashi had knocked it from the shelf, but she refused to admit to it. I had thrown a tantrum without listening to anything that Indoor Youkai tried to say. Of course, it had only lasted half an hour at the most.
But that was when she had cried.
Yes, I’m talking about that sexy Youkai in her red yukata.
I’m talking about that “Nee-chan” who was twice my height…well, maybe not that much, but who was at least two heads taller than me.
Like a kid abandoned in an unfamiliar city, she had crumpled up her face, opened her mouth wide, rubbed the reddened corners of her eyes with the backs of her hands, and bawled. Her voice had echoed through the house to the point that a police car or fire truck siren probably would have been less of a racket.
When I saw that, I began to wonder something.
That Zashiki Warashi had been around since before I was born – in fact, probably for centuries before I was born – and yet I began to think she might not be a fully grown adult.
I began to think she wanted to grow up and be seen like an adult just like the rest of us kids.
So I decided not to make her cry like that again. There are different kinds of tears, but I didn’t want to see this kind again. …Of course, it did turn out that Good-for-Nothing Youkai was indeed the culprit behind the broken toy robot, but that’s a different issue altogether.
I sat on the ground, leaned my back against the wall, and slowly exhaled.
I looked up toward the heavens.
I couldn’t help but smile when I saw the heavy-looking clouds dropping fluffy snow.
Why had that come back to me?
But remembering things like that wasn’t so bad from time to time.
When I filled my lungs with air, I detected the strong, festering scent of rusty iron. An awful stench resembling roasted bile was mixed in. I never wanted to look back down again. I was surrounded in every direction by a scene of hell, so there was no mental respite no matter where I looked. The walls and ground were splattered with hopeless colors of red, black, and purple. Thanks to that, I didn’t have anything left in my stomach to vomit up.
So give me just a bit of this.
Let me indulge in my memories just a little as a reward for living long enough to reach this moment.
…Really. How did the world grow so red?
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