From the shadows of the rock pillars growing in the limestone cavern-like structure of the cave, I watched the march of the spiders.
The small ones were the size of a human baby, and the bigger ones must have been as big as a hut.


 ”They are heading toward the surface.
Probably to intercept them.
Should we follow them?”

 ”If we follow them, we will automatically join our friends on the surface, right?”


 It was an expected situation, a natural choice.


 We already knew that the passageway that Hayama used to sneak into this den had already been filled in almost all cases.
In order to prevent the possibility of escaping from the den, youkai's den extermination method is to destroy escape routes other than the entrance to the den in advance.
Naturally, the only way for us to escape was to head for the only entrance and exit.


 ”I know, but we can't do it…”


 Escaping from the den before the raid? Of course, it's impossible.
It would be a dream come true to take two brats and go above the surface while fooling the youkai in the den, unless there was some kind of commotion.
They would be noticed immediately, and a large number of newcomers would appear from the side holes, and we would be surrounded and exterminated.


 However, we cannot be too careful even if we meet our allies at the upper levels.
Youkai are cowardly and vile.
They use the people they catch in their dens as traps.
Therefore, it was very likely that they would attack us even if they found our presence.
Just like “Don't even think about whether it's a trap or not.
Let's just kill them first.
If it's not, it's not.” These are the words of one of the first seven exorcists, Kannin Shonin the Monk, who was very kind.
Hey, monk, where did you leave your humanity?


 (I wish I could get in touch with Kizuki's servants who come downstairs, or with Ayaka or someone like that.)


 If it is Kizuki's men, they won't attack us immediately.
Ayaka, too, is a good candidate for the kind of lenient nature that would make herself a hostage and forced to play Harabote.
The question is whether we can actually make contact.
Ayaka, in particular, is mainly armed with a bow and arrow, so there is little hope that she will come to the front line.


 ”Tsk, I can't complain all the time, can I?”


 At any rate, there is nothing we can do without taking action.
After confirming that the spiders have passed, I step back.
Then, I reach a corner behind a rock, keeping a watchful eye on my surroundings.


 ”Hey, is everything okay…?”

 ”No, idiot, you don't have to deactivate it.
Just hold my arm and we'll get it shared.”


 I scold Shirowakamaru in a low voice as he deactivates the effect of the matagama in his arm.
The person holding it and the person touching the bearer are invisible but can see each other.
Touching his hand is enough.
In fact, the girl at my side found Shirowakamaru silently.


 ”All right, keep hold of the matagama.
…Then, we'll go down that passageway over there without making a sound.”


 I take the lead, and we start to head down the den, hand in hand.
Along the way, I give them hand signals to stop, turn right, turn left, and so on.


 The footholds in the cave were not very good.
It was obvious that it was intentional.
The many obstacles and barriers were designed to delay the advance and to set up hideouts and traps.


 'Watch out ahead.
There are strings being stretched.'


 I halt at the warning.
Shirowakamaru looks up at me as if to ask what is wrong, and I tell him by pulling out a gorilla-sama's dagger (tantō) engraved with a cherry blossom from my waist.


 The light is dark, perhaps because of the trap.
And there's a spider's thread, as thin and transparent as possible, which swings when it is shaken.
The problem was the swaying.


 ”Haha, really? It won't cut through that?”


 The sharpness of the Dagger (tantō), which must have been trained through many curses, is incomparable to that of cheap ones.
Most things can be torn apart just by touching them with this Dagger (tantō).
And if it only shakes when the blade is applied, even though no force is put on it…


 (So, a few of the members of the raiding party who proceeded unnoticed here would become dice steaks…)


 What comes to mind is a certain shooting game about a zombie virus in my past life.
The first movie version had the best atmosphere of the original.


 'It is better not to cut the thread.
The trap is set to explode the glued rock surface as it is severed.'

 ”Vietcong, huh?”


 A previous life's version of a wire trap with a hand grenade? Whatever it is, it's a vicious trap.


 ”We can't go through a wall too…”


 I glanced at it and saw a spider web made of sticky threads.
Once it touched you, it wouldn't come off, and the more one struggled, the more it would entangle and constrict them.


 ”I have no choice but to go through the gap, but…
I wonder if it's possible to make a loophole and set up a trap.”

 'I see.
I'll check it out.'


 A bee shikigami gets down from my shoulder and walks between the threads to check if there is a trap or not.


 '……I think you can somehow get out of here by crawling along the path.'

 ”Here, huh? It's a little tough…
but there's no other way.
Okay, I'll lead the way.
Follow me.”


 And we start crawling forward on the ground.
We crawl carefully along a path of about a hundred steps or so so that we don't get hurt.
More precisely, to avoid getting hurt and bleeding.
After all, spill blood in a place like this, and we'll attract the monsters in no time.


Almost there….!!!?


 It was just before we were through the wire trap made by the spider youkai monster.
I quickly gave a hand signal to stop.
Only a few seconds later, it appears.


 (This is a big one…!!!).


 A youkai, a large spider that would be one of the top spiders…
a youkai, a female spider, emerged from a side hole and proceeded down the passage…
and then stopped.
Eight eyeballs were staring at us, at where we were.




 Shirowakamaru almost screams as he makes eye contact with the youkai, but I stop him by clamping his mouth down.
I then make him put his head down by the way.
After all, the youkai using eye technique, you b*stard…!


 'It seems to make the person who makes eye contact with it confused.
Perhaps the monster sensed a faint presence.
Please bear it calmly.'

 (I will do so even if you don't tell me…!!!)


 Patience was the key in this kind of battle.
The monster also can't jump into this place because of the wire trap.
No, it seemed that it was not completely sure of our presence in the first place.
Still, the eye technique was supposed to be used to search for the intruder who may or may not be there.




 The female spider clacks her chelicerae, tilts her head and looks around.
She stares this way and that as she looks around.
The female spider looks around and around, wondering where else it might be hiding.
But it does not last long.


 A distant thunderous sound shakes the cave.
Sand and gravel fall from the ceiling.
As if inspired by this, the spider clicks her chelicerae again and disappears into the passageway leading to the upper levels, followed by another spider.


 For us, we did not move until we had counted to a hundred.
I heard a tremor, but I didn't move.
Then I looked around, made sure there was nothing there, and finally let out a deep sigh.
At the same time, I drag the boy out of the wire trap and finally release his mouth.


 ”…!? Haa~, haa~, haa~…
It's painful, you know!?”


 Shirowakamaru is angry while breathing hard.
It was obvious that his blushing face was not caused by embarrassment.
He must have been in a lot of pain.
Nevertheless, at that distance, even the sound of his breathing could be detected.
It could not be helped.


 ”…Be quiet.
They'll notice us again.”


 Shirowakamaru and I looked at each other at the same time as he spoke for me in his childish voice.
The little girl who had followed us out of the wire trap was staring at us with a blank expression on her face.
Her voice was clearly irritated, even though she had no expression on her face.


 ”I guess we don't have much time, let's move on?”


 But then, this girl spoke, is this girl speaks normally? …I mean, she had been silent or whispering the whole time and had only spoken to Hayama, so Kikyo's sudden remark startled me, and probably Shirowakamaru, who froze beside her, did the same.


 ”Oh, yes…
You can complain all you want later.
Just be patient now.”


 I was the one who regained my composure first, and I responded by agreeing to the content of the message, regardless of how it was phrased.




 The boy grits his teeth and looks like he wants to say something, but he swallows it and falls silent.


 ”Okay, let's go then.
I'll lead the way…


 I said that much, and the next moment I pulled out the Dagger (tantō) at my waist.
Then I threw it at Shirowakamaru.




 Shirowakamaru was startled by the Dagger (tantō) being thrown at him and involuntarily backed up.
And then…
with a snatch across its white cheek, the blade of the dagger (tantō) pierces the face of the kappa that appears from behind him.




 ”Tsk, let's run!!!”


 The screams of the dying kappa, which could not be killed instantly, roared through the cave, and I pulled Shirowakamaru and the others and started running at about the same time.





 Suddenly, kappas appear from everywhere behind the rocks.
I hit a few that appear in front of me, knocking them unconscious, and then run as if to weave my way between them.
There was no time to retrieve my treasured Dagger (tantō).
Oh no, could they see us…!?


 ”That's impossible! Not only visual acuity but also a sense of smell can’t fool them…!?”


 I look behind me to see the kappa approaching from behind, and my eyes widen.
I now know why they can see us…
or rather, recognize us.




 Shirowakamaru noticed my gaze and followed it as he ran.
And he noticed it too.
The reason for this situation, the culprit.


 ….a red line hung from the boy's leg.




 The boy looked stunned, as if he had no idea what was going on, and then seemed to notice the dull ache as if it were a new pain.
The cut on the thin, really thin, shin of his leg, which he probably got at the moment we went through the wire trap, could not have been felt even in the tense, adrenaline-filled state.
Of course, the amount of blood that flowed was really small, but the living blood of a boy with such a high quality and quantity of spiritual power was a treat in this den…




 One moment our gazes crossed, Shirowakamaru's face was drawn in despair, and the next he was on his feet, tearing off the matagama at the base of his neck.
Then he shoved it at me, and if anything, the girl in his other hand, too, and ran off alone, frightened and mad.


 ”You idiot…!?”


 I clicked my tongue at the boy's outburst as he ran alone in the opposite direction while screaming like a baby, and I immediately pushed the matagama to the girl.



 ”If you don't want to die, take it and hide…!”


 I ordered the bewildered girl in a simple manner, and then I forcibly exerted my spiritual power by strengthening my legs, which were still trembling from the spider venom.
And then I sprinted.


 I kick down one of the kappas that are approaching Shirowakamaru from behind and smash another one's face with my elbow.
Then I reach out my hand and…


 ”…!!? Wait! Stop!”

 ”What!? Huh!!?”


 The next moment, Shirowakamaru's foot sank.
I quickly grabbed Shirowakamaru by the collar of his clothes and pulled him out of his half-sunken body.


 'Snap, snap!!'


 I kicked the spider in the face as it tried to bite Shirowakamaru, who was about to fall into the pit that I had created by disguising the cracks in the cave with soil and thread, and released it into the bottom of the crack without catching it.
The ground spider screamed and disappeared into the dark bottom of the crack.


 ”Are you all right!?”

 ”What, ah, aah……!!?”


 The boy, who was saved in the nick of time, answered my question in confusion and bewilderment.
I turned around to see him.


 There was already no escape.
The kappa was half-encircling us, making menacing cries.
The cliff ahead, with no bottom in sight, was probably five or six feet (1,6m) high.
I might be able to leap if I were alone, but it would be a bit difficult with the brats on my back.


 ”This is bad.
We are trapped.”


 With a cluck of my tongue, I realized that we were in a bad situation.
Cliffs in front of us, dozens of kappas behind us, no weapons, we're trapped.


Why did you…!?”

 ”Don't let go of my hand without permission.
You know how hard it is to find you when you're lost?”

 ”Are you kidding me!? Why did you come here!!? If you had stayed hidden…!”

 ”It's the job of the parents to take care of the kids!”


 I answer Shirowakamaru who is screaming desperately, cowering his shoulders.
I answer him with a shrug of the shoulders.
…Well, it was an order to secure his safety when the upper entrusted him to me in the first place.
Now, the question is how to deal with the kappa who is closing in on us without weapons…


 'Here, servant…'


 Suddenly, a bee shikigami appears flying in front of me, and throws me a dagger (tantō).
It seems that she had unknowingly retrieved the gorilla-sama's Dagger (tantō).


 ”I'm in your debt.
I would have been killed if I lost it.
I guess it's a little better now, huh?”


 I hold up my Dagger (tantō) and stare ahead.
There were the kappas approaching little by little…
with throaty smirks on their ugly faces.


 ”H-hey ……”

 ”Hey, you little brat, hide in the back.
…Still, why? There's always a crisis of this size…”


 I answer the trembling voice from behind me with a calm and easygoing attitude.
In reality, I had no time at all.
Well, let's see how far I can handle it…?


 And as soon as I set up my Dagger (tantō), all the kappa that were facing us attacked us at once, But the …
next moment, there was a thunderous sound in the den.


 ”…!? What?”


 A tremor of unparalleled intensity reverberated through the cave.
It was so violent that not only we, but even the kappa, stopped and found it difficult to maintain their posture.
And then…


 ”This is bad…!? Protect your head!”

 ”Huh!? What!!?”


 A moment later, the ceiling of the cave collapses.
We rush to protect Shirowakamaru from the falling debris.
Some of the falling rocks fell on the crowded kappa and crushed them.
The screams of the confused monsters, and a cloud of dust blows into the cave.
In my arms, I protect Shirowakamaru.


Cough, cough!? What the hell has happened……?”


 I muttered to myself as I coughed into the dust that filled the cave.
And the answer came soon.


 ”Hmm? I guess this girl's body can be used to a certain extent if she grows up.”


 Suddenly, a cute, yet arrogant voice echoed in the cave.
In response, I stare at the front, stunned.


 The dust settles and a figure stands out in the dimness of the cave.
The shadow of a tall, curvy woman appears.
Her silvery hair and piercing eyes, coupled with her upturned mouth, give the viewer a strong and bewitching impression.
Around her neck hangs a shining necklace.


 No, what was more remarkable was the tail.
Yes, it was the “seven” fox tails.
Is she…


No, wait, those eyes are…”


 That youkai who suddenly appeared through the cave ceiling…
why is she here? Or why is she awake? I was about to ask the question, but I noticed the discomfort and immediately came up with the answer.


 The most different thing was…
the color of eyes.
The fox creature, and the fox girl, had blue eyes that shone like lapis lazuli.
However, now, the color of the eyes of the one who reigned before me was different.
Cherry-blossom colored, bright cherry-blossom eyes.


 I knew those cherry-blue eyes well.
Those eyes, that glint in their eyes, were definitely hers.
In other words…!


 ”Oh, my, oh, my, have you been in such a place? It's really hard to find a lost child.
Don't you think so, Tomobe?”


 So declared the princess of Kizuki arrogantly, through the white fox's proxy and through a horrifying forbidden technique…

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