I curse under my breath, but reality won't change.
At any rate, I couldn't just go on like this for the rest of the day.
If I did nothing, I would suffer all day long from the intense pain that would transform my body from the inside out.
It was no time for escorting.
I had to feed the spider once in a deserted place before guarding the main character's room.


 ”Hah, that b*stard will probably bow down and be happy.
You piece of sh*t…!!”


 I clicked my tongue and went down the corridor to the toilet where I was going to feed the spider…
that was enough for it.
The empty corridor is poorly lit, and because of the cloudy sky, neither the light of the stars nor the moon did not reach the hallway, so the back of the hallway was shrouded in eerie darkness.


 It seemed to suggest my future destiny, and I couldn't help but feel an inescapable sense of anxiety and impatience…


* * *


 ”…So, what are we going to do about it, Miss?”


 The maid, after confirming that the detestable lower-class man had completely left, turns to her master and asks her.


 ”What are we going to do?…”


 However, Tamaki, who tried to respond, immediately choked on her words.
She also knew that it was just a stall tactic.


 It all started when Tamaki and her friends heard that a guest of the Tachibana Trading Company was going to visit the village.
As soon as they heard the news, Tamaki and Suzune noticed something unusual about their other friend, whose face turned blue.
They questioned their friend who was about to run away at night, and finally, their friend gave up and told them the whole story.


 The story was shocking, and while it couldn't be said that their friend was innocent, they couldn't abandon their friend.
Winter is coming.
Even if their friend escaped from this village, their friend would inevitably freeze to death in the blizzard of the northern region, and there was rarely anyone in the outside world who would shelter a half-youkai, hard-bitten, pathetic friend of theirs, or sell their friend things.


 It was clear that if their friend wanted a place to sleep, a place to live, firewood, and food for the day, their friend would have to commit a crime, and they did not want to put their friend in such a situation either.
they hid their friend.


 While Tamaki could trust her father and brother, no matter how merciful they were, they were still responsible for the village.
If things got bad, Tamaki and Suzune would have to hand over their friend and but, they didn't want to involve their friend in the crime.
And there was a possibility that secrets would leak out.
The more people who share a secret, the more likely they are to find out.
So, following the advice of their friend, Tamaki, and Suzune created a hideout in a remote corner of the village's mountains to shelter their friend.


 It was only supposed to take a few days.
If the Trading Company left the village a few days later, their friend should have been free again.
However, the situation was worse than expected when the trading company was stopped due to the damage caused by youkai outside of the village, and even a group of exorcists visited the village.


 In a hurry, they secretly brought food and supplies to the hideout in the middle of the night, trying to wash away the dirt from the road at the hot springs so as not to be noticed, and that's when the encounter with that servant happened.




 Remembering this, Tamaki blushed as she hugged herself.
It was probably a complete accident.
She knows that.
Still, when she recalls that moment, she can't help feeling a little hazy with shame.
She has been told many times that she was embarrassing and unladylike, but this time…
even she can't help being embarrassed.


 After all, she had been seen literally naked.
At that time, she felt as if she was being stared at intently by the man, especially at her chest and between her legs, with her sixth sense as a woman.
She didn't feel any unpleasant sensation, and when she thought about what happened to him after that, it might have been just her self-consciousness or her imagination…


 ”Well, I deserved it.
That's why I had been told to at least wrap a cloth around my body.
…Well, in other words, it's a blessing in disguise.”


 In a way, she was indeed lucky.
Thanks to that incident, she owed the servant a favor and was able to accompany him in his activities.


 When she heard that the exorcists were going around the outer edges of the village to check the boundary, she and Suzune had no choice but to prevent them from doing so or to accompany them.
Otherwise, their friend would have been found without knowing anything about it.
Even if their friend was not recognized as a criminal, there was no telling what would happen to the half-youkai who hid in the secluded area.


 And, as a result, thanks to the presence of Tamaki and the others, their friend was able to escape without being chased when the commotion broke out.
If it weren't for Tamaki and the others, Kizuki's servants might have pursued their friend instead of returning to the house.
The fact that the safety of the nobleman and the others came first was a major reason why their friend was able to escape.


 ”That servant has some sort of standing, it seems.
Since we can threaten him after what happened the other day, we should be able to move at will to some extent.
We'll make the best of it.”

 ”Suzune, don't talk like that…”

 ”Miss, please don't be so naive.
If this were to become public knowledge…
you know what could happen, don't you?”


 If it became known that they were hiding a half-youkai with a bounty, what would happen…? In fact, Suzune had initially suggested to her master that they mobilize the men of their village to capture and turn in that half-youkai.
But the young lady in front of her was anguished but dismissed the idea.


 Even though she knew that her friend had committed some crime in the past, she could not abandon her friend.
She didn't want to believe it and she couldn't.
That her rough but easygoing friend had committed a crime and so on…


 And thinking of the worst possible consequences of being captured, the Hotaruya's young lady tried to protect her friend somehow.
Even though she knew it was a foolish act, she could not let it go.
She was too kind-hearted.
And because they had grown too close…


 ”Well, I'm not going to talk about it now.
It's all in the past…
But anyway, that idiot! Making a fuss on his own! Now it's difficult for us to move around!!”


 Suzune spits at the source of the commotion, half-youkai, in a disgusted tone.
Even though they were desperately trying to cover up everything, why did he have to add fuel to the fire? If he was hiding, he should have just stayed quiet!


 ”T-There must have been a reason for it.”

 ”Miss, you're too kind!! …It's true that he's an idiot, but he's not stupid.
Even so! I'm still angry!!”


 The maid continues to grumble and curse like she's spitting out a curse.
Tamaki, on the other hand, smiles bitterly at the situation, but at the same time, a mysterious expression appears on her face, revealing her worries.


 ”I'm sorry? I'm also causing trouble for Suzune…
that even though I've ignored your advice, you've cooperated with me…”

Miss, I've been getting into a lot of trouble with you and him.”


 Suzune says mercilessly in response to her master's apology, glaring at her.
At her reaction, Tamaki shrinks and is afraid.
Looking at this scene, it is hard to tell which of them is the master…
but of course, there is a clear distinction between public and private matters, at least for Suzune, and she only openly declares her feelings when no one else is around.


you're willing to help me, right?”

 ”I don't think it's better for a friend to be killed…
So, I don't want to give up on this.”


 The maid mutters, seeming displeased and reluctant, but ultimately appearing somewhat regretful.


 ”Anyway, it's a ship I've boarded once.
I won't get off now.”


 The maid's words were a declaration that she would not betray her own principles, and that she would not abandon her master and her friends.


 ”…If anything happens, it's my responsibility.”


 So, too, Tamaki declares.
If something happens, she will protect her loyal friend.
It may not be worth mentioning now…
but even so, she dares to make it clear.
In a sense, Tamaki intentionally made it clear, with a surprisingly serious and sincere attitude.


 ”…Hehe, don't talk so seriously.
You made me laugh, Miss.”

 ”Huh? Was that supposed to be funny?”

 ”When you're too serious, it can be funny.”


 Although Tamaki didn't understand this kind of sensibility, maybe that's the way it is.
In any case, the heavy atmosphere that had dominated the room until a few minutes ago had somehow faded away.


 ”Well, there's no point in looking back forever.
Shall we think about the future?”

There's no point in looking back forever.
Oh, by the way, Suzune…”


 And here, the young lady of the Hotaruya family remembers.


 ”Hehehe, I actually got some snacks in the kitchen for dinner.
How about it? Wanna eat them with me?”


 With that, Tamaki pulls out a Nanban snack from the snack box.


 ”What is this…?”

 ”I think it's called a cookie or something? It's a kind of Nanban rice cracker.
It tastes a little sweet.”


 It was a baked pastry made from leftover flour that had been prepared as sandwich dough.
It was the remaining gift from the old maid of the Tachibana Trading Company, who borrowed the kitchen and served it to the maids of the mansion as a gift.


 ”Oh, that sounds interesting.
Shall I have it with tea?”


 Suzune says and stands up.
She probably goes to the kitchen to get the tea.


 ”Would you like some help?”

 ”Please, Miss, stay there like a young lady.
It's hard for the people below to work with a person like you.”


 A boss is still a boss, even if she's nice.
For the subordinates, it's a bit of a strain to have to deal with someone who keeps showing up unexpectedly over and over again, leaving them no time to relax.


 ”Now, if you'll excuse me…”


 Suzune then leaves the room, heading towards the kitchen through the dimly lit hallway.
Her expression is grim.


I won't let them take it away from me again.”


 There was a hint of anger in the maid's words.
Yes, she was indeed angry.
At those people who had come to her place.


 ”It's all karma.
Exorcists are….”


 She never forgot that.
For her, the exorcists were the object of her hatred that had taken her beloved brother away from her.


 Her big brother, was always so kind to her, always coming up with new games to play, and working so hard alongside their parents to feed them with what little food they had.
She didn't understand how difficult it must have been for him when she was young, but now, she did.
And because of that, she realized how foolish and selfish she had been to ask for more…


 And yet, despite all of that kindness, her brother ended up sacrificing himself for their family…


 ”..!! So hateful!”


 The girl grits her back teeth and spoke the words with an intense emotion that could have been mistaken for a curse if she had possessed the power.
Her face contorted with anger.


 The last thing she sees is her brother being taken away by the exorcists and their black-clad underlings.
Unsure of what to do, but driven by a vague sense of anxiety, she instinctively understands that she will never see her brother again and calls out his name.
She also runs to him.
But the black-clad underlings blocked her way and she couldn't reach him.


 It had been so long and she was so young that she couldn't even remember her brother's face clearly anymore.
She can't even remember the last words he said to her when he turned to look at her.
There was no time for that.
And now she will never know.


 And as far as the fate of those who are bought by the exorcists is not good.
Even in this village she heard rumors and did her own research.
It is well-known in the area how the Miyataka and Hiyogami families treat those with spiritual power who have been purchased.
Even if they weren't, it's easy to see how easily disposable these servants and hidden group men can be…
She's no fool either.
She does not believe that her brother is still alive.
So, it is easy to imagine that he would have been used as an experimental animal long ago or eaten by youkai, or whatever the case may be, it would not have been a good end for him.


 She knows.
She already knows.
There's nothing she can do about it now.
She doesn't even know where his grave is.
And even if there is a grave, it's not certain that his brother's body is really buried there.
No, there might not even be a grave…


 ”So I won't let them take it from me anymore.
I won't let them take it from me again…!!!”


 With firm determination, the young girl spat out her words.
Certainly, her foolish friend had committed a crime.
He must be a nuisance.
She should try to persuade her master, and if that doesn't work, she should inform her Lord or some other adult.
But Suzune could not go through with the choice because she felt guilty for not being able to save her big brother, and now she is glad that she did.
It was out of the question to have that friend taken to the exorcists' headquarters.
Suzune believed that no matter how much of a troublemaker he was, he wasn't that deeply involved in any crime.
That's why she hides her friend…


 At least, she didn't want to give up anything that she currently possessed to those people…


* * *


 ”Oh, oh, oh, this has become quite an interesting situation, hasn't it? I knew I was right to follow him.
Really, it's always such a pleasure not to be bored when I'm with him!”


 The demon (oni), who has been listening to literally 'all the conversations' until now, lets out a small laugh.
With a laugh, she walks down the corridor of the house with dignity.
On the way, several maids and guards passed by, but none of them noticed the demon's presence.
The demon's concealment was so perfect that no one noticed her presence.


 Now, after receiving a smoking pipe, a bottle of shochu (Japanese distilled spirit), and an egg at a hot spring, she passed through the garden of the house where many guards were passing by.
Not a single person looked and laid eyes on the beautiful monster with flowing blue hair.
For a demon who had escaped legendary exorcists while her bowels overflowed in the past, this was no big deal.


 Walking at a leisurely pace, the scenery around her shifted from the house to the deep forests of the village before she knew it.
She skipped along the roadless path with her clogs as if she were parading along a paved road.
She hummed and leaped over the rocks that even a grown-up would have to struggle to climb.
Well, her muscular strength and leg strength were obviously not human.

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