At the summit of Yonaki Mountain, Kizuki Keiharu, the head of the Rikyushu group and an accomplished exorcist, sat quietly on a folding screen.
He wears a mask like his servants, but unlike them, it is faceless, providing no opening for him to see through.
However, because of his blindness, it does not hinder him, for his other four senses – hearing, smell, touch, and taste – are exceptional, extending far beyond the limits of human capabilities.


 His ears can detect the slightest sounds of a beast from miles away, while his sense of smell can detect countless scents at once.
His touch is so sensitive that he can sense the density of the air and identify hidden objects, while his taste can even discern the flavor of distant beings in the air.


 With his senses extending two ri in radius, equivalent to about 8 kilometers or 4.97 miles, he can detect any threats instantly within three towns (about 300 meters or 984.252 feet), unless they are skilled at concealment.
This remarkable ability has saved the lives of many of his allies by allowing him to foil the vile traps set by monsters using disguises, ambushes, and other malicious tactics.
Now, once again, he employs his extraordinary senses to pinpoint a threat beyond the horizon.


 ”The number is 300, 400…
will it increase further?”


 Keiharu muttered to himself.
Despite their attempts to remain stealthy, the monsters lacked intelligence and reason, making it easy for Keiharu to accurately determine their location and threat level.
So, Keiharu's detection ability can uncover their location and threat level with extreme accuracy.
And according to his senses, there are nearly a thousand youkai, including medium youkai and…
several great youkai among dozens of others.


 ”Are they the ones who were requested by the Kunimori (Court)? It's fitting timing, but…”


 Damage reports have been coming in to Eastern Strike Force on a daily basis, and based on the changes in date and location of the damage, it was expected to reach this area around today or tomorrow.
However, this is a much larger group than anticipated.


 It is easy to intercept them from here, probably 90% of them can be taken out.
The problem is that the remaining 10% could escape.
If attacked from afar, they may flee like spiders.
It's one thing if it's a foreign land, but it's not appropriate for the Imperial Court to do such a thing in its territory.
If they do it, they must take out every last one of them.
This is the pride of a person who makes their living as an exorcist.


 Therefore, Keiharu does not dare to leave them alone.
He releases the shikigami as messengers and waits for the monsters to approach the village's boundary.
And then the time comes.




 As a group of monsters came near the village's boundary, the lead ones touched an invisible boundary and burned up, screaming in pain.
This scared the rest of the monsters, and they backed away.


 At the same time, another group of monsters had their feet turn reddish-black.
By the time they realized something was wrong, it was too late.
The curse that Keiharu had set up in advance was activated.
They were caught in the mud and began to sink and melt away.
Their inaudible screams disappear as well…


They're dispersing.”


 Keiharu noted.
Although one group had been eliminated, but another is closing in.
As far as he can detect, the monsters on the ground seem to have split into dozens and dozens of groups and are coming at him from multiple directions.
Are they trying to prevent themselves from being annihilated in one big move, or are they trying to weaken his ability?


 ”Useless thing.”


 Keiharu dismissed the youkai's tricks with a cold shoulder.
He believed it was foolish to think that Kizuki's exorcists could be defeated by such small tricks.




 The next group of youkai charged towards the village's boundary, led by a large, beast-like youkai.
They tried to break through the boundary with brute force, but failed miserably.
Keiharu knew that no ordinary youkai could penetrate the village's sturdy boundary, so he wasn't surprised.
Therefore, the youkai just kept slamming their bodies against the boundaries in vain and getting burns on their skin


 In response to this attack, Keiharu swiftly launched an attack, using his shikigami paper confetti to shred the youkai into pieces.
At the same time, he sensed a presence underground, but his four senses were prepared for any threats from below.
He used his Earth Manipulation Technique to excavate the ground, exposing grotesque earthworms, moles, badgers, and rats.
They were quickly engulfed by curse charms, which caused them to catch fire and writhe in agony before finally falling silent.


 As Keiharu concentrated on his next move, he caught a faint smell in the air.
Youkai birds were hiding in the clouds, waiting for an opportunity to strike.
But Keiharu wasn't about to let that happen.
He condensed the water in the clouds and drowned the youkai birds in their throats, causing them to struggle and gasp for air before being sucked into the ground and falling to their deaths.


 Keiharu's techniques may not have been particularly advanced, but they were effective.
He believed in using only the necessary amount of power to conserve his spiritual energy.
He didn't need to use big techniques to handle small youkai or medium-sized youkai, just as there is no need to use a beef knife to handle a chicken.
He knew that spiritual power was finite, and he wanted to save it for when he really needed it.
That's how a true specialist in youkai extermination fought.


 (Still, they don't seem to be retreating.
Or rather, they are well organized.)


 Keiharu was able to notice the anomaly because he had no intention of letting them go from the beginning and because he couldn't let them go.
They seemed to be well-organized and determined, lacking the instinctual behavior that was typical of their kind.
Despite having already hunted hundreds of them, not a single one had attempted to flee from the area.


 As a side note, there were two types of youkai groups.
The first were the spontaneous swarms that attracted each other, with no clear leader and prone to cannibalism.
The second, however, was led by a powerful and cunning youkai, who controlled the group with force and fear.
This group was far more dangerous than the former, boasting immense physical strength and wielding strange techniques.
They were an organized force, not merely a pack of beasts following their instincts.
It was akin to a night parade of one hundred demons, and the worst of them was the army that had caused the great war of the past, whose ringleader remained imprisoned deep underground in the capital's prison…


 ”What's the situation?”

 ”Lord Uemon.”


 Feeling the presence rapidly approaching from behind, without turning around, Keiharu calls his nephew's name.


 Kizuki Uemon arrived on the scene, dressed in a casual kimono, having just received a report from the shikigami.
It was unusual for exorcists to go on a youkai extermination mission without proper attire, but Uemon seemed unfazed by it.


 ”How many are left?”

 ”Only a few thousand, and we're exterminating them without any problems, but we haven't found their leader yet.”

 ”Is that so?”


 Uemon surveyed the area, sensing a lurking presence in the dense forest.
He watched as the youkai army slowly diminished in number under Keiharu's curses, one by one disappearing into the shadows.


 And then it arrived.


 ”From the southwest, five great youkais are coming!”


 Keiharu muttered as he sensed the youkai's aura.
Uemon squinted his eyes at the indicated direction.
Then he opened his mouth.


 ”Hmm, then, the real target must be on the opposite side.”


 Keiharu nodded his head without surprise at Uemon's estimation.
It was a very natural decision for exorcists.


 ”All right, I will take over this place.”


 Uemon's words were reasonable.
Keiharu was the most skilled member of the Kizuki family's Eastern Strike Force clan.
Therefore, it was inevitable that Uemon would receive the miscellaneous youkai.


 ”Kibi will take a little longer to arrive.
So, we can't expect anything from the hidden group and servants.
We'll have to handle this ourselves.”

 ”That’s right.”


 Uemon agreed with Keiharu.
Kibi is more of an exorcist type, and even if they hurry to build a line of defense, the hidden groups and servants will not be able to do so in time.
It is precisely because Uemon specializes in strengthening his body that he has arrived so early.


 ”Then, leave it to me.”


 Uemon steps up to take on the approaching crowd of monsters as Keiharu rushes to find the great youkais.
Through the corners of his search network, he senses the immense energy of the youkai rapidly approaching the village.
Keiharu then activates a series of curses that he had previously set up along the path of the great youkai's approach, using his scouting network to guide him.


 The earth manipulation technique rots the soil, causing the ground to collapse underfoot.
The wood manipulation technique sends vines shooting out from all directions, restraining the monsters.
The fire manipulation spirit technique ignites the surrounding area, turning it into a blazing inferno, while the water manipulation technique causes water to overflow, engulfing youkai in a ball of fire.
The techniques are unleashed in rapid succession.


 ”Are the curses ineffective…!?”


 All the curses Keiharu had put up were meaningless in front of the monster.
None of them seemed to have any effect.
The creature charged forward without stopping, resistant to curses.
And then…




 The evil entity forcibly broke through the invisible boundary protecting the village, causing a quake-like roar and a shower of sparks.
It paused for a moment, perhaps due to a small part of the boundary rupturing, allowing it to invade the village.
However, it roared and then sprinted forward.


 ”I won't let you go!”


 Keiharu strengthens his legs with his spiritual power, charging forward to block the path of the monster.
The impact of his landing caused the ground to gouge out and dust to fly about, but he did not care.
He ran forward, drew his twin swords and stood in front of it, sharpening his senses.


 ”Wha!? What is this…!!?”


 As Keiharu focused on the monster charging towards him, he suddenly sensed a faint presence of youkai energy from far behind.
With his sensitive senses, he couldn't help but be surprised and quickly turned his consciousness to the back, towards the source of the energy.





 But his momentary distraction proved to be a fatal mistake as the earth shook with a deafening roar, jolting Keiharu back to reality.
He had made a grave misjudgment, and it was too late to rectify it.


 Immediately after, the monster in front of him opened its jaws wide, splitting them apart.
And in that split second, countless youkai that had been lurking inside its mouth, disguising their presence, pounced out and attacked the blind old exorcist standing in front of it.


* * *


 The main character of “Firefly of the Dark Night (Yamiyo no Hotaru)”, Hotaruya Tamaki, awakens his supernatural power at the shrine where the local god of the land is enshrined and sealed.


 This ability is extremely powerful in this world, but at the same time, it is also incredibly dangerous.
Because of this, he is plagued with misfortune.


 In many of the bad endings of “Firefly of the Dark Night,” the main character is kidnapped, sealed, or restrained by the heroines, partly due to his power.
Or, to be more precise, he is forced to do so in order to obtain his power…


 ”Funso kōju (焚俎篝授)” or “Senman Funso Kōju Tōyami no Noroi (千万焚俎篝授灯闇之呪)” is the name of the unique ability possessed by the main character of “Firefly of the Dark Night (Yamiyo no Hotaru),” Hotaruya Tamaki.


 The word “senman” means everything in the world, “fun” means to burn, in other words, to throw fuel into a fire, and “so” means to sacrifice.
Together, the phrase represents a curse that gives the power to light up the darkness with a fire in exchange for offering sacrifices.
Well, there are few opportunities to get close to the essence of this curse in the work, and it is only provisionally named in one of the routes.


 From the appearance of the kanji characters, it is obvious that it has a bad atmosphere, but it would be a waste of time not to explain it now.
In other words, it is.
The unique ability possessed by Hotaruya Tamaki is the strengthening of oneself by offering sacrifices.
And those sacrifices are spiritual energy, youkai energy, divine power, spiritual veins, spiritual power, youkai, and divinity.


 The conditions for activation are quite strict, but if sacrificed to him, exorcists will become mere human beings, and youkai and divinity will fade away from existence itself.
The source of the spiritual vein itself will dry up, and the land will die out.
If it is done to a human, it will take away their life force, turning them into a mummy.


 In other word, the main character of this story has the ability to absorb, break down, and digest the powers, abilities, and authority of his opponents using their own spiritual energy


 In fact, according to the creators, these are only a few of the aspects of the main character's powers.
There are still hidden abilities that are not described in the work and there are still hidden abilities that have not been revealed.
However, even within the limited range of revealed abilities, it is clear that this power is incredibly strong, dangerous, and even lethal.


 If it is just a bunch of youkais, that's fine.
But this ability can be applied to exorcists, to ordinary people, to deities, to spiritual veins, and so on.
What it means is terrifying.


 If he randomly consumes the spiritual power of exorcists, the result would likely be disastrous.
For example, the main character mentioned in this context, caused a mountain of corpses when he first used his powers.
Moreover, many of the deities in this world are sealed and unable to escape, making them easy targets for sacrifice, which could yield unimaginable power.
Besides, if the spiritual veins are depleted, the effects will be enormous.
In fact, the main character is in trouble when this power is activated for the first time in the first event of the story.


 It all starts when the main character narrowly escapes an attack on their village, where his family and fellow villagers are being killed one by one.
Seeking refuge in the most sacred shrine in the village seems like a safe bet, but the boundary surrounding the village is breached, leaving the main character about to be devoured by youkai.
Just as all hope seems lost, the main character's dormant power suddenly awakens.
However, this awakening leads to a major misdirection.


 I'm fooled by the fantastic and divine effects and sound effects in the story.
It seems as if the gods of the land and the spiritual veins have given the main character powers, but this is not the case at all.
The production team is being frank, but the main character's unusual ability, awakened by a survival instinct, simply destroyed the source of the land gods and spiritual veins.
The BGM, which sounds like a melody played by the Youkai spirits, is actually the death scream of the land gods.
In fact, the land gods only hold grudges against humans, and there is no way that the spiritual veins have any kind of will.
It was all the result of the main character forcibly taking them by force with his unusual ability.


 If what was consumed were high-quality spirital vein and land gods right after the Harvest Festival, then it was truly a feast.
So, at that moment, in exchange for killing her hometown, Hotaruya Tamaki has come to possess an enormous spiritual power in his body.
The spiritual power he took in at this moment is enough to last until the latter half of the work, except for the event in which he is not sure to kill the babes nestled in the basement of the capital.


 Of course, if such an act of killing his hometown were discovered, it would not be easily forgiven.
In the original work, all the residents died, and even after the village was abandoned, the residual spiritual power remained for a while, so the truth did not come to light immediately.
Even if it were discovered, it would be considered irrelevant in that situation, so there was no problem.


 (On the other hand, it would be problematic if it deviated from the original work…)


 I ponder as I walk along the paved stone steps up the hill behind the village headman's residence in the Hotaruya village, which is decorated with beautiful autumn leaves.
I make a face under my mask as I keep the shrine maiden leading the group in my sight.


 In the original work, the main character's monstrous and dangerous abilities did not come to light immediately because all the residents of the village disappeared without a trace.
But what would have happened if they had lived and the village had survived? There is a possibility that the main character will not awaken to his power, and even if he does, it will be extremely troublesome.


 First of all, the anomaly of the spiritual veins will surely be discovered.
After all, peasants are sensitive to the changes in their land.
And it is only a matter of time before a team of investigators comes to find out the cause of it…
Of course, it goes without saying that there is a risk of being imprisoned if viewed as a threat by the imperial court, and if he becomes famous, he may attract the attention of the Minister of the Left.
Moreover, if the main character kills the land, what kind of emotions would the villagers and their families have towards him? It would be more than enough reason for him to fall into darkness.


 And this explains why many crazy heroines drugged him, cut off his limbs, and kidnapped him.
Their lack of morals and perverse desires are the main reasons, but for them, these actions were necessary.
If his ability was activated, he would not only be hunted down by the imperial court but could also lose his own abilities.
With other competitors, that would be the end of him.
Therefore, the main character is forced into a tragic bad end.



 ”Why the constant sighs? Don't tell me you're unhappy with your job already?”


 The maid who was climbing the stairs beside me spoke with a sharp tongue.


 ”Oh, no, it's nothing…
But this is quite a climb, isn't it?”


 We had already passed through the fifth, or rather the sixth, torii gate, which also served as a boundary.
I have already lost count of the number of steps we have climbed.
My legs are getting tired, too.
It was quite a steep incline for these stone steps.


 ”There are a total of 888 steps.”

 ”That's quite something…”


 No wonder I was getting tired.
The guards accompanying us were also getting fed up.


 ”How pathetic.
It's the young lady who's struggling the most, and yet you can't even handle it? Show some spine if you call yourself a man.”


 The maid scolded me contemptuously.
And looking at the Hotaruya's young lady leading the way, I can't refute her words.


 A young girl in a shrine maiden's outfit, which is not easy to move around in, carrying a load on her back, a broom and a bucket of water in her hands, as she climbed the stone steps.
It was definitely much harder than me.
In fact, she was sweating and breathing heavily.


 As a side note, there is no fixed priest or priestess at this shrine dedicated to the local deity.
The only person who is the caretaker of the shrine is a member of the Hotaruya family.
And according to the setting, the local government chose a provisional shrine maiden from the village's young girls before the harvest festival each year.


 ”A few months before the festival, the young lady is supposed to start her duties as a shrine maiden.
Part of that is to go to the shrine to purify it.”


 On the day of the Harvest Festival, she will dance the (Shinto music and dance) and sing the dedicatory song.
However, after the solemn part is over, the villagers will celebrate the harvest with a boisterous party.
When Kayo and the others visited, they apparently brought a large amount of food from outside the village for the feast.


 ”Regrettably, we have to downsize this year's festival as we have a considerable influx of guests to accommodate.”


 Suzune glares at me reproachfully.
Oh, there will be many guests this year.
Even the food stocked up on is now disappearing into the bellies of the guests.


 ”You shouldn't say that.
We're dealing with youkai, so there's nothing we can do.”


 To Suzune's criticism, the young lady in her shrine maiden's outfit spoke up in defense.
She looks down at us as she climbs the stone steps.


 ”Please be careful, Miss.
Look straight ahead while climbing the stairs.”

 ”I'll be fine.
I can handle thi—Whoa!?”


 Suzune replied confidently, but her words were quickly proven wrong as she slipped on some leaves on the steps.
With the weight of her luggage, she nearly fell backwards.




 I quickly strengthened my body with my spiritual power and jumped seven steps at once to catch her from behind.
It would have been too much if she died from falling down the stone steps by mistake.
I didn't want to end up in a situation like that.


 ”Are you okay!?”

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