Hikorokurō is slightly shaken by my determined words.
After surveying the area, he clicks his tongue and pulls his comrades with him.

 ”D*mn it! Don't screw this up! …Let's go, you b*stards!”


 ”Are you serious? Are we really leaving it to them? Can we trust them…!?”

 ”Annoying! Just run! We'll deal with the monster with another monster!!”

 While remaining cautious, the soldiers quickly begin to withdraw from the area.
Myself, Iruka, and even Kamui simply glance at them.

 ”…Hmm, surprising.
You're not laying a finger on them, huh? Is that okay?”

 ”Priorities, my friend.
After dealing with you all, it's easy to dispose of weaklings like them who don't even have resistance against curses.”

 Kamui mocks me in response to my question.
It's probably true.
Considering Kamui's demonstrated abilities and powers, it would indeed be too easy.
Hikorokurō and the others wouldn't stand a chance.

 ”To think you can easily dispose of us is nothing but arrogance.”

 ”You think a cornered rat will bite a cat? No, more like a dog than a rat…
Well, whatever it may be, do you really think you can buy time with such a feeble bluff?”

 And once again, Kamui observes me and smirks.

 ”It looks like you've run out of weapons.
Iruka, who has monster arms, is one thing, but without any weapons, can you really challenge me with just your bare hands? I believe you've understood that much from our previous exchanges…
Yet you still intend to fight?”

 ”Do you think it's just a bluff? I still have the secret weapon you mentioned, you know?”


 Kamui becomes quiet after hearing my response, which was meant to provoke and challenge him.
Even though I expected a reaction, Kamui chooses to remain silent.

 (That's natural.
He himself were afraid of it.)

 No matter how powerful Kamui's abilities may be, it would undoubtedly be quite a challenge to capture me, who has transformed into a youkai through the influence of that d*mn earth mother goddess.

 Of course, I anticipated that Kamui would be careful after falling into traps twice before.
However, I also want to silence him so the soldiers can flee quickly instead of wasting time.
Besides, it would be smarter to take the lead and launch a fast attack before the situation changes in his favor.
Anyone with a bit of common sense would grasp this idea.

 …And Kamui indeed possessed the intelligence and rationality to arrive at that answer.
So I understand.
That action.
It's somewhat easier to anticipate the behavior of a rational person than that of a madman.

 ”…One must enter the tiger's den to catch the tiger's cub, huh?”

 Quietly, as if making up his mind, Kamui murmured.
It's coming.
I, and Iruka as well, await Kamui's next move.
We prepare ourselves to respond to any action.

 And then it happens.
Suddenly, Kamui comes charging towards us, using his youkai powers to enhance his physical abilities.
In an instant, a powerful rush of water gushes out from his dark shadows, coming closer to us.

 ”D*mn it, this is unexpected!?”

 I couldn't help but shout at the attack that exceeded my expectations.

 Presumably, Kamui had stored a copious amount of water from a waterfall or something similar within the darkness.
What fills my field of vision is indeed a wall of water, a turbid current, a tsunami.
It's impressively well-prepared…!!

 ”Move! Get out of the way!!”

 Iruka pushes me aside.
And what follows is a roar.
The third roar had less power compared to before, but it was still sufficient to push back the approaching wall of water directly in front of us.
Like a biblical tale of parting the sea, the tsunami is torn apart, passing by us on both sides.

 However, that was within Kamui's expectations, and it went exactly as planned.
He calculated that Iruka wouldn't be able to continuously unleash his roar due to the strain it puts on her.
With that in mind, Kamui launched his attack to induce wasted shots.
And when our attention was focused on the front, he aimed for our blind spot.
In other words, what I'm trying to say is…!!

 ”Of course, he'll come from behind…!!”

 In the next moment, I had turned around, facing Kamui who had circled around from the shadow of the turbid water.
Iruka, who had read Kamui's actions just like me, despite coughing up blood, unleashed her wolf arm and claws.
Like grasping mist, they passed through Kamui.

 ”I'm sorry, but I don't have time to deal with you!”

 As Kamui spoke, over ten youkai insects emerged from him.
It appeared that these were the remaining youkai from the attack on the capital!


 Iruka swiftly slashed two or three of them with her claws, rendering them powerless.
But the remaining ones leaped toward her, drawn to her spiritual power and youkai energy.
Iruka was at her limit in dealing with them, and support from me was no longer possible.

 ”D*mn it…!!”

 ”I caught you!”

 Without any delay, Kamui closed in on me to capture me, gripping my wrist and spreading the darkness as if to devour me.
He had a victorious grin on his face, taunting me.

 ”Sorry, but our little chase ends here.”

 ”I'm glad you came in such a state.
I won't miss this time.”

 I responded to Kamui's declaration of victory with a wry smile.
And immediately, I take out what I had concealed within my pocket.

 And it was four flash bombs.

 ”What, you b*stard…?!”

 Kamui seemed to immediately understand what I had threw out and its significance.
He stared at me with a look of astonishment.
Unable to believe it, he kept staring.
Sorry, but there was plenty of time for speculation…!!

 In the next moment, all the flash bombs detonated, enveloping the surroundings in blinding light.
I closed my eyes and swung my fist, empowered by spiritual strength.
The punch struck Kamui's face, probably right where he was.

* * *

 The plan had three stages.
It aimed to reveal Kamui's true ability.

 Even the specially crafted Dagger (tantō) from Gorilla-sama was ineffective, let alone shooting him in the head with poisoned arrows before he activated his ability.
However, Iruka's loud roar had some effect.
This suggested that Kamui's physical body might not be his real form.

 Furthermore, Kamui's ability to manipulate shadows and darkness was an important element in uncovering his true identity.
Both Iruka and I observed the battles so far and made rough guesses about the trick behind it.

 And it seems that those predictions were correct.

So, you were transferring your true body to the 'shadow', right?”

 I asked Kamui, barely able to breathe, as I leaned against a tree trunk for support.
Kamui, on the other hand, glared at me while covering his face.
His mouth was cut, teeth broken, and blood from his nose was dripping, staining the snowy ground.
He appeared to have a concussion, and his walking and focus were unsteady.
He couldn't temporarily disappear and magically heal his injuries like he used to.

 Of course, that was expected.
When my fist made a direct attack on Kamui's face and multiple flash bombs simultaneously exploded in various directions, the shadows that should have appeared on Kamui completely disappeared.

 When Kamui's body was slashed or shattered before, I definitely saw it.
The shadows remained unchanged, regardless of the state of his physical body.
It remained in the form of a intact human figure, even when transforming his body like amorphous mist or liquid.

 'The shadow is the true body…
No, that's slightly different.
It's more like a curse that binds the body and the shadow together.
Usually, the shadow is controlled by the person, but in this situation, if the physical body is destroyed or changed, as long as the shadow remains unchanged, it will eventually return to its original shape.'

 The hummingbird that had perched on my shoulder proclaimed with a mocking tone.
Conceptually, shadows have long been associated with the connection to the dark night, the underworld, and being a person's other self, their doppelgänger.
And if the shadow sticks to a person's body, any harm to the physical body can also be balanced out.

 Interestingly, if the shadow that normally follows people suddenly vanishes, what would occur? The result is the sight of the Ezo continuously bleeding in front of me.

 However, the most noteworthy aspect of this trick is its safety.
Once the essence is fixed in human form, any physical or mental transformation due to youkaiization, like in the case of Iruka, is stabilized at a certain level.
Certainly, Kamui actively utilizes his ability in this battle, but the physical and mental erosion caused by youkaiization, like what I and Iruka experience, is hardly noticeable in our conversations.

 ”Hmph, that's quite convenient…
Cough, cough! I envy you, really.
It makes you despisable.”

 Iruka, who had taken care of the youkai insects, grumbled with a hint of annoyance mixed with her cough.
As someone who had undergone a youkai arm transplant, and was troubled by the erosion of youkaiization, it was natural for her to feel envy towards Kamui's abilities.

 'In a way, this youkaiization technology is fascinating.
I find it really interesting.
I wonder what could be the foundation of youkaiization? The shadow youkai phenomenon is quite rare and hard to find.
I would rather capture one alive so that I can thoroughly study it.'

 The hummingbird laughed cruelly, to the point that it sent chills down my spine.
Iruka, who considered him as an ally, and even I, frowned a bit.
While frowning, I looked back at Kamui in front of me and issued a warning.

that's the situation.
The secret behind your trick has already been revealed.
The tables have turned.
What will you do? It won't go as smoothly as before.
Once we know the seed, there are countless countermeasures.”

 My words were partly true and partly a bluff.

 Indeed, I knew the secret behind the trick.
If I chose the right means, I could come up with various countermeasures against Kamui.
Well, at least in theory.

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