Of course, it was also according to Aoi's calculation.
Her offensive continues as if she is going to fold up.


 ”Now, go!”


 It was a sign.
Countless seals appeared from the cuffs of Aoi's fox's robe, and they stuck to the bloodstained body of the deformed one by one without any space.
The white seals stick to cover the wounds and turn red.
They forcibly put a lid on the growth of the tumor swelling from within him.
Literally seals it.


 …This seal charm, which Kizuki Aoi has painstakingly applied a curse to one by one, is a high-quality one that can seal even a bad “great youkai”.
The performance of the charms is due to Aoi's high skill, but also to the fact that they are made with the best curse tools from the Tachibana Trading Company, including the paper, the brushes, and the ink.


 The seals were highly efficient and unprofitable as disposable consumables, and there were about 1,000 of them.
Some of them were cut and burned by the quick counterattack, but most of them still caught the deformity and attached themselves to his body, binding him with an invisible force.
And they blocked the power of the youkai that engulfed him.


 As if to stop him, the divine hawk clamped down on the deformity's head and body with his claws, physically blocking the deformity's movement completely with his mass.
The deformity roars in resentment at the hawk's feet, but he is unable to do anything.


 ”Well, it only buys time, I guess…”


 Aoi's soul mutters, looking at him who has been somehow sealed up at last.
She murmurs with certainty.
In fact, the seals that were attached to his whole body and restrained him were burned, corroded, and turned into dust, one by one.
The more reddish the seals are, the more priority is given to the ones stained red with his blood…
So, the hawk puts more of his weight on them, but the effect is doubtful.


 After all, the curse of the abominable fallen earth mother goddess, even a few drops of blood from the retina could have such a great effect on the seals…


 ”It won't last half a minute, no, not even half a minute.”


 Considering the effort, time, and assets she had invested in this project, the result was a huge loss…
but she was fine with that.
For Aoi and her friends now, this short time is worth a thousand dollars.


 …And the time has come.
The roaring deformity, struggling to break free from his restraints, is momentarily silenced.
In silence, the red eyes peering through the clasps saw something.
He stared at it.


 ”Purge it, cleanse it…
quench its raging anger, calm it….”


 In the darkness, the words of celebration and repose echoed through the cave.
The words reverberated, directly to the soul, and seemed to seep into it…


 ”R-Repose it, protect it, give it happiness, O Spirit of the Heavens…
and turn it into the peaceful soul…”


 The figure slowly approaches the deformity, trembling, but saying the words of the prayer in a beautiful voice.
Then the deformity recognizes the figure and growls slightly.


 It was a groan of sighing and astonishment.


 ”Comfort the deity, I offer here a kagura dance……”


 Dressed in a woman's purple kimono, a fan held out, the boy…
Shirowakamaru stood before him with a tense expression on his face…


* * *


 Kagura dance…
is literally a dance to entertain the gods.
To be more precise, it is a ceremony to calm the soul of the inviting god by dedicating a dance to them.


 Shirowakamaru, fan in hand, also dressed in a woman's kimono, begins to dance in a girlish voice.
The boy sings and dances the kagura dance of the Fuso dance of the Renge school protected by Enrei-ji…
which was taught to him when he was a child.




 The boy's voice was trembling while he sang in a pure tone that reverberated.
As he sang and danced, the boy's mind was filled with the filthy memories of his time living in the temple.


 The fact that he was trained in this dance at the temple was a sideshow in itself.
Because of his girlish appearance, he was made to wear Miko's clothes and makeup, and dancing in front of many people was just a spectacle, and when the dance was over, he was usually taken by the hand and stripped of his costume.
The boy had no good feelings toward this dance.
He had no prayer for the songs.
He had only danced mechanically and had not even done so since he was taken to Kizuki's family.
In fact, he was relieved that he had no chance to dance.


 But then…
the boy had never thought that he would be dancing in such a place.



 ”….Your movements are stiff.
You need to be more smooth and soft.”



 The boy grits his teeth at the eerie snarl, and the whispered voice behind him instructing him.
He grits his teeth out of humiliation and frustration.
He grits his teeth, but he can't…
After all, there was no time for that.
So, the boy dances silently, doing as he's told.


 Gradually the roar becomes quieter and quieter…


 ”Yes, that's good…”


 Kizuki Kochou takes one look at the boy dancing in front of her and murmurs.
With her legs broken and limp, she is dressed in white underwear.
But she has put the kimono on the boy.
It is not the right size, but it had to be done.
Compared to her soiled appearance, her own kimono is somewhat better because it is made of better material.
The other person is a person clothed in divinity.
If they are going to appease him, they should not be rude.


 She, too, summons a flute from a deck of charms in her hand and begins to blow it.
The flute, which was sealed in the package her granddaughter handed to her before the battle began, was also a curse tool obtained through the Tachibana Trading Company.


 The improvised kagura rituals using ready-made people and tools, however, had an effect on the deformity which had been exhausted by the battle with Aoi.
The deformity, which had been trying to resist the seal so much, quietly begins to fall silent.
In a doze, his eyelids begin to sleep slightly.
Sleepiness consumes his spirit.


 (So far, so good.
The problem starts here.
The divine energy must be sealed well…)


 Aoi has physically cut off his aspect as a youkai, and wear him down, and make his divine energy grow with kagura instead, and at the same time, they lead him to sleep and calm down his sleepiness.
Then, they seal the requited divine energy…
that was their aim.


 In Fusō-kuni, the purpose of the kagura rituals was not to entertain the gods, but rather to placate them.
These deities were often fickle and brought misfortune to the people, so the dance was created in various places as a way to appease them.
Over time, Fusō-kuni developed their own unique rituals that sought to bind, humiliate, and subdue the gods, incorporating surrounding villages and communities into their practices.
The role of the shrine in Fusō-kuni was to contain, confine, and control these disempowered deities, ensuring that they did not cause further harm to the people.


 This is why Kagura dance is used…
and as if waiting for him to calm down, Aoi sends off a sign and forms a technique.
The sign flying in the air form a boundary when they come to rest in five places as if they were connecting the five elements.
It is a technique to seal only the divinity that is nestled in the person's body.


 It was an extremely difficult task.
Ordinary people wouldn't understand this.
Besides, it would be a laborious task to separate and seal the human, youkai, and divine energy swirling around his body.
Just as it takes a great deal of time and effort to distinguish between cancer cells and normal cells, which are scattered and mixed together like a mosaic, it would be a hundred times easier to seal up the soul of a person in its entirety than to do such a thing.
In fact, if this were the leadership of Fusō-kuni, they would have sealed or killed the servant without any hesitation.


 But, for Aoi, this was an unthinkable choice.
For her, the first and foremost priority was his life.
For that purpose, Aoi would have sacrificed her own life and others' lives.
And in fact, the soul possessing the fox, which is only Aoi's soul, carefully separates the factors of human, youkai, and divine that are entangled in him, while cutting down his soul.
Then, she seals in the youkai and the divine element…


 ”…!? It's not so easy, is it!!”


 The work of cutting up and separating the souls required a great deal of mental strength even for Aoi.
Failure is not allowed.
And if she cut too much, it would break her soul.
Or he would lose his life.
And she, as a soul, did not have much time left.
This is why it was so difficult.
Sweat poured down her forehead in nervousness…
but she still manages to do a perfect job.
She had already finished cutting 30% of the souls.


 Yes, things are going well.
If things continue as they are, there will be no problems.
Yes, if she keeps it up.


 ”Do all things work that way…?”


 A moment later, Aoi, who had been concentrating on the sealing ritual, finally noticed the presence.
At the same time, the blade of wind is wielded, but…


 ”No effect? …No, this!!”


 Aoi looks doubtful and bites her tongue at the same time, because there is not a single sign that it is coming from the darkness to attack her with a single swing of the fan, which can easily kill a medium youkai with a single blow.
She had already realized who is it.
And the reason why her attack did not work…


 ”This is a kappa…!?”


 Kochou is startled and exclaims in shock as countless figures appear out of the darkness.
At the same time, she is puzzled as to why they have appeared after all this time.


 On reflection, it is quite natural.
Tsuchigumo had summoned them, and everything he had burned down had belonged to Tsuchigumo.
It is obviously funny that there is not a single one of them until now, even though they are intercepting the exorcists on the ground.
No, in fact, the spiders simply arrived before the kappas.
Besides, the kappas were simply too slow and came too late.


 And it's no wonder Aoi's attack didn't work.
The blade of wind is a spiritual art, it can't work on kappa.
No, that's not important.
The problem is…



 ”…!? No! Keep dancing!!”


 Kochou cries out as the roaring begins again.
Shirowakamaru, who has also noticed the kappa's presence, stops his movement.
Having stopped the dance, the deformity is about to wake up again and start his rampage.





 At the same time, kappas begin to run at once.
There were several hundred of them.
There could be twice that many if it were to include those following them.


 ”Don't you dare underestimate me! You d*mn amphibians!”


 With a word of disdain, Aoi waved her fox tail.
The fox tail swept away the countless debris that had been scattered all over the place by the rampaging spiders, the divine hawk, and the youkai mole, scooping them up from the ground.





 The impact caused by the tail's twisting causes countless pieces of debris to hit at high speed, tearing apart the leading group of kappa.
Their heads were blown off, their stomachs were taken away, their legs were torn off, and their bodies were cut in two.
The kappa, numbering more than fifty, was reduced to a lump of flesh and killed with a single stroke.
However, the kappas do not stop their assault.
It made Aoi claps her tongue.


 ”I won't let you do it!”


 With that voice, the kappa, which was closing in on Kochou, was cut down by a figure that appeared from the side.
He stands in front of Kochou with a dagger (tantō) and confronts the kappa.


 ”Who are you…!?”

 ”Tomobe-san, I'm returning now…
Wait, what happened!?”


 The hidden group young man who came back late after Aoi is puzzled when he finds the figure of Kochou.
He also feels confused because he doesn't know what's going on.


 ”You'd better stop those monsters.
Unless you want to save him.”

 ”Huh!? What…
do you mean, no way!?”


 The boy is puzzled by the white fox's words, but the next moment he is astonished to see the deformity being held down by the divine hawk.
The circumstances are unknown…
but given the situation, Hayama could think of no other explanation.


 And when Hayama sees Shirowakamaru, he is sure of the condition of the servant he came to help.


 ”Don't look away, they're here…!”



 Hayama was stunned for a moment, but Kochou's words brought him back to his senses, and he attacked the approaching kappa.
He slits the throat of one of them and kicks one in the face with the stones and gravel under his feet.
The third is cut down when he kneecaps it in the stomach and turns it over on its back.
They were brilliantly executed, hitting the target with a minimum of movement, as is typical of the Hidden Group member.
But it was not enough to stop the wave of kappa.


 ”I guess I'll just have to be prepared for this…”


 Shirowakamaru and Aoi were essential to save him here.
They could not be lost.
Aoi had limited spiritual power and could not move due to the sealing ritual, and Shirowakamaru had no power to fight.
And Hayama, who came to the rescue, could not fight all the kappa by himself.
Therefore, in the worst-case scenario, Kochou decided to use herself as a human sacrifice.
She knew that she would be very attractive prey for the kappa.


 ”Tsk, that's so foolish!”


 With those words, Aoi again attacked with debris in support of the sealing ritual, using most of her consciousness and power for the ritual.
Once again, the green monsters die as their limbs are blown off by the dozens.


 But it does not stop.
They cannot be stopped.
They can't stop them.


 Now, the lead group closes in on Kochou and the others.
Hayama quickly rushes in front of Kochou and stands in the way of the kappa.
But it is only a desperate attempt.
Hayama and Kochou prepare themselves.
They are prepared for their own miserable fates that will soon follow, clenching their teeth.
To buy time.
And then…



 ”!? What are they doing!!?”


 Their resolve was betrayed.
Kochou and Hayama were stunned to see a swarm of kappa passing them by as if they had never existed.
Of course, it's not surprising.
Both of them have spiritual power, and Kochou is a great treat that no other youkai would leave alone.
But why!?




 And now Shirowakamaru was the only one who was astonished.
Because he was the one the green monsters were after.
Drooling, as if led by something, the kappa flocked toward him as if they were being guided…!


 ”I won't let you!”


 Immediately Aoi gouged the ground with her fox tail.
A huge bedrock as big as a residential house was dug out of the ground, and it spun and plunged toward the kappa.
The rock slammed into the following group, crushing the first ten or so kappas.
A dozen or more were crushed lightly.
it can't stop them.





 The kappas keep pushing forward, ducking in from either side of the fallen bedrock or leaping from the top of it.
They are pushing forward with all their hearts, without looking aside.
Less than ten steps had already passed between the boy and the monsters.




 Whoever said those words, Shirowakamaru, cowering in fear, could not move.
It was impossible.
How could a child make a proper decision in front of the countless monsters that were staring at him and rushing toward him? In fact, even if he ran away, the kappas could overtake him in an instant.
The boy remembers well the sight of the fallen ones who had jumped on him from behind in the forest.
And he realizes that there is no escape now.




 The lead kappa leaps at him head-on, showing its mismatched dirty fangs.
The boy almost instinctively protects his head.
But it is a pointless gesture.
The force of the kappa's jaws would crush the boy's skull with its arms.
Now, he falls backward.
He curls his body.
And he braces himself for death.


 …However, the moment the boy was prepared for never came.




 Slowly, fearfully the boy opens his eyes.
And the boy realizes.
He finds himself in the shadow of something huge.
And looks up.
To see what it is.


 ”Huh? …It's a lie, right?”


 It was Aoi who muttered words of confusion and astonishment.
Then, she took a glance at the boundary she had formed, turned her gaze back again, and opened her eyes.
She was in disbelief at the situation in front of her, and she was absolutely mortified.




 The kappa that had jumped on Shirowakamaru grunts a little in mid-air.
To be precise, the kappa was caught in the side of its head, and it let out a small scream on the spot.
The kappa struggled in confusion, not knowing what had happened.
And then…




 The sound of flesh being crushed was heard and the kappa was severed in two by the fangs…
With a thud, the two chunks of flesh roll to the ground.
Shirowakamaru stared at the scene in stunned amazement, and then looked directly at the being who had caused it.
It was the horribly ugly being covered with bloody marks all over its body.
Then Shirowakamaru muttered…


 ”Big bro…


 At the boy's words, the deformed monster's eyes narrowed.
They were calm eyes with a clear reason, like a human's…

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