This world is always difficult to live in, and happiness does not come to those who wait for it.
Fate is cruel, the world is ruthless, and misfortune comes one after another to those who suffer.


 That is why he heads home with a hoe on his back under the cold and snowy sky.
He worked from early in the morning until late in the evening, and went home in silence, feeling tired all over.


 It was inevitable.
His father, who was the main pillar of the family, could no longer work in the fields.
He could no longer pick firewood or gather wild vegetables.
Losing one of his legs, there was no way he could work in the field.
So he has no choice but to take his father's place.


 ”…It's already snowing!”


 The words he mutters are full of resentment.
With a poor harvest due to the cool season and the cold wave that came earlier than usual, most of the small harvest went to tribute and crop fees.
The harvest of nuts, mushrooms, wild vegetables, and miscellaneous ones in the mountains in early autumn was unsatisfactory.
So, the reserves for this winter were too small…
That is why he worked so hard with his father in the winter, and continued to work alone after his father became unable to work.
He had no choice but to work.


 If he couldn't, he would starve to death.
And the question, do people in the rural areas have the warmth that people in the capital city do have? Such a thing is an illusion.
At least in this world where people are always afraid of famine, disaster, and youkai, there is rarely anyone who will extend a helping hand to others even if they are starving.
Because everyone is struggling to feed himself or herself…




 He resumes his steps, gritting his teeth in frustration.
It is no use being dissatisfied with his current situation.
In his previous life, complaining would not have helped in this world.
The government only cares about the annual tribute.
They don't care what happens to the peasants in the remote villages.
They don't care if they cry or scream.
So there was nothing else to do but to work…




 Then he resumed his steps to a rice paddy near the entrance to the village and saw it.
Three small children were gathered on the bank of the rice paddy, making some kind of noise.
Recognizing their back figures and hairstyles, he turns toward them questioningly.


 ”H-hey, brother! Catch it properly! It'll run away!”

 ”I know! But it's so slimy…!?”

 ”Whoa!? It's coming this way!?”

 ”What are you doing? You guys?”



 At his words, three small children, two boys, and a girl turn around at once.
They are surprised.
The man knew them well.
They were his precious little brothers and sisters.


 ”Hey, hey, you're getting your clothes all muddy…”

 ”Brother! More importantly, please help!”


 He is a little dismayed at his younger siblings who are covered with mud and their feet in the rice paddies, although it is no problem because the rice harvesting has already been finished, his eyes widen immediately after he hears his sister's call for help.
The reason is that his sister was holding a weather-beaten loach in her hand.
It was a very fat one, too.



 ”D*mn it, don't let it get away!”


 The loach slipped out of his sister's hand and tried to escape into the mud of the rice paddy, but he threw away his hoe and caught it with both hands.
The way he caught it was as if he was his father's enemy.


 It was natural.
As they say “one rabbit, one loach”, it is said that a loach has as much nutrition as a rabbit.
Of course, in reality, it is not that much, but it is a valuable source of protein in this cold village.
To let it go was out of the question.


 After a long struggle and with his clothes stained with mud, he manages to catch a loach and throws it out of the paddy field.
The loach thrashes about on the snow-covered ground, but there is nothing it can do to save itself.
When it was losing its energy and slowing down, the two brothers swarmed in and caught it.


 ”Gotcha! I got it! We did it!”


 His sister was so excited.
When he asks her to explain, she explains excitedly.


 Apparently, she and her brothers had been searching around the village for food, hoping to help their parents and themselves.
Unfortunately, they did not find anything edible, but on the way back they found a loach swimming in the paddy field and the three of them rushed to catch it.


 ”Big brother, you're amazing! Even the three of us couldn't catch it! Ouch!?”


 The little sister praises her eldest brother for dragging the loach to the ground, but is immediately poked by him.
The same goes for the two little brothers.
That's natural.
It is too dangerous for the three of them to go around the village without permission.
After all, their father was attacked by a youkai just a few days ago.
And the youkai has yet to be killed…!


 Now, the three younger siblings listen to his sermon with trepidation.
The youngest sister pats her head and half cries.
But in the end…


 ”I'm glad you feel that way.
Don't do anything dangerous, okay? I was really worried about you.
What if something happens…?”

 ”But, ugh…”

 ”But big brother is out.
You're a cunning man!”

 ”I'm your big brother.
We're not the same age.
Different years.”


 The younger sister moans and the younger brother retorts, but he brushes it off.
In fact, the difference in age between the second son and the first son is three years, and the third son and the first daughter are older than the second son.
Three years is a big difference for a child.
And the eldest son had more wisdom and discretion than his age.
It is outrageous to treat them the same.




 He looks at his youngest brother, who is hanging his head down foolishly, and he lets out a small sigh.
It was true that what his younger siblings were doing was dangerous.
However, he also could not ignore that feeling.


 ”…Don't go near a village like this again.
Come on, wipe the mud off your clothes.
We're going home together.”


 With a helpless expression, he watches as his siblings break into smiles.
Despite the mud that clings to their clothes, he can't help but think how wonderful they are.
He approaches them and begins to wipe away the dirt, determined to ensure that they are not dirty before entering the house.
After all, he couldn't bear to see them come inside covered in filth.


 After that, the two brothers grab a loach, the sister holds his hand, and the four siblings go back to the village.
He goes to the door of his house with instructions to wash his hands with water from a jar stored in the back of the house and to remove the mud from the loach.
This is because he wants to report to his parents about the results of his brothers and sisters, not to mention the reward for today's work.
They would be a little happier than usual, since they had been through a series of misfortunes recently.
With this in mind, he is about to knock on the door to tell them that he is coming home when…
he suddenly stops himself.
The reason was not so important.
It was because there were voices inside the house.
His parents were talking.


 ”…Dear, are you all right?”

 ”…Yeah, they say there's no danger of festering.
I'm lucky.
The wound will close in the near future.”

 ”I see, that's good to hear.


 What are they talking about? He thinks and listens for no particular reason.
It was a mistake.
It was a failure.
Then, it was right, and it was a success.




 ”..How could medium youkai be in a place like that? And there is a rumor among the village leaders.
There might be a person who has spiritual power in this village.

 ”Don't talk about it.
It's just bad luck.
I'll take care of all of you.”




don't say like that.
You were the only one who accepted me when I came to this village with my baby boy.
After all, if that child ◼️◼️ is…, I can't bother you anymore.”

 ”Stop it.
Don't be so hard on yourself.
You're my wife and ◼️◼️ are my brats, just like other kids.”




 ”But he's…! Even me…
but…! Uuuu…”

 ”It's okay.
It'll be all right.
Me too, I'll do my best at the housework, okay? Even ◼️◼️ is working like a first-born son.
He's a really good kid.
So don't worry, I'm sure he'll make it through this winter…”


this is when he realized.
He realized that he didn't belong in this family.
Maybe he's…


 ”…? Big brother? What's wrong?”


 The voice from behind him made him turn around fearfully.
There is Yukine, his little sister, tilting her head and looking at him curiously.
When their gazes meet, she smiles at him.
The younger sister who adores and trusts him as her brother.
But he can no longer smile back at her.
There is no way he can.


 ”……? Big brother?”


 Because to this family, he is nothing but a plague, a parasite, an abomination to be shunned, so, so…


* * *


 With tremendous force, he emerged from behind the countless seal charms, repelling the divine hawk that was closing in on it, and shattering the ritual boundary erected by Kizuki Aoi, who was possessing the seven-tailed fox.
hiss gruesome figure, drenched in blood, appeared before them, moving on all fours.


 Everyone present looked at him speechless.
They look at him, wary.
Tense, so as not to miss his next move.
And silence flows through the underground space.





 The silence is broken by a green monster.
The upper half of the kappa's body, which had been ripped in half and its organs riddled with guts, was still crawling with a strange, monster-like vitality, trying to get close to Shirowakamaru, ignoring the situation at hand.
It was hard to believe that it was so fast even though it had lost half of its body.
It might have reminded some people of a cockroach.






 Immediately afterward, with a crunching sound, the black creature crushes the head of the creature approaching Shirowakamaru with his front hooves.
The crushed head is fatal even for a kappa, and the kappa convulses and dies.
Shirowakamaru is frightened at the end of such a kappa, and looks up fearfully.




 With a small gurgling sound, the black creature silently looks down at Shirowakamaru.
The pupils of his eyes peeked out from between the countless seals.
Involuntarily, the boy is glued to his eyes and freezes.
No, it was actually a kind of binding art.
But the eyes were obviously unusual.
As if they looked into his soul…


 At the same time, however, the fear and anxiety in the boy's chest disappeared.
Perhaps it was because he instinctively sensed that there was no malice or hostility in the way he looked at him.
Because of his circumstances, the boy was particularly sensitive to the feelings of others.





 With a squint of his eyes, the deformity turned away from the boy and looked at the front.
Looking at the numerous green monsters.
At the same time, the boy falls back.
He falls on his buttocks like a threadbare doll.


 But that doesn't matter to him, because he is still standing on all four legs.




 The kappa's army takes a step back under the sharp gaze of the boy's replacement.
They flinch.
They are dismayed.
If it were the “origin” of the kappa, the existence in front of them would have been too different for the kappa, who is just a terminal of youkai and a group of altered individuals.
They were literally in a different 'phase' of existence.


 So, they are convinced.
They are convinced that the being in front of them is something they cannot control.
It was not someone they could make an enemy of.


 Drawing this conclusion almost instinctively, the army of kappa turned around in unison, ignoring the command that appealed directly to their brains.
They fled.
They tried to flee.
Yes, they were trying to escape.




 But he showed no mercy to the fleeing kappa, who turned their backs to him.
The next moment he opened his jaws wide and unleashed a torrent of flame.
Hundreds of kappa were instantly engulfed in the fire.



 ”Madam Adviser!!”


 Naturally, Kochou and Hayama, who were isolated in the crowd of kappa, were also engulfed in the fire.
Hayama hurriedly tries to protect Kochou, but…
the next moment they are taken aback.

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