Noticing the shift in the atmosphere, Tamaki became slightly frightened but still explained to us.

 ”Can you tell me when it happened in terms of the timeline? Was it before you met Botan?”

 '(゜▽゜*) I guess that was during the Haitei Raoyue!'

I think it was the third room I entered? Yeah, it was a room I encountered well before meeting Botan-san.”

 Both Botan and I seemed to have a suspicion after hearing her explanation.

 ”So, you encountered Shishimai in 'Mayoiga' shortly after getting lost, right?”

 ”Y-Yes, but…”

 ”What was the characteristic of the room where you got lost initially?”

 ”Huh? Um…
It was an indoor room, similar to this one.
It was a small study with a writing desk and cushions.
There were hanging scrolls and a brazier too.”

 ”…And there were no youkai or creatures of that kind?”

But when I rushed out into the corridor to find an exit, I was attacked.”

 Botan chimed in from the side and Tamaki recalled the details of the situation and answered.

 'I see, so you encountered that entity.
Hohoho, how ironic, as they say, the darkest place is right under the lighthouse.'

 ”Is that sarcasm? …Well, it seems like you've found the clue, servant.”

 Botan chuckled at Hummingbird's cheerful laughter while I gave a strong nod, agreeing with the conclusion they reached through analyzing youkai psychology.
I had also cross-referenced the information with the original work.

 I see, so that's what happened.
It makes sense that 'Mayoiga' revealed Shishimai Asami as the hidden card at that moment.

 ”Well then, shall I use this?”

 Saying so, Botan leaned against the wall and took out a small compass.
She then wrapped something around the red-painted tip of the needle.

 ”Animal fur?”

 ”I managed to pluck some during the close combat.”

 Tamaki tilted her head in confusion, and Botan answered matter-of-factly.
Apparently, she had borrowed some of Shishimai's mane-like hair during their battle when they entered the gate.
It served as a catalyst for the curse of finding things…
The needle of the compass, originally pointing north, was now indicating the direction Shishimai had vanished to.
The needle was slightly moving, suggesting that she was likely still on the move.

 ”…Are we planning to pursue her?”

 Having grasped the rough direction of Shishimai's whereabouts, Tamaki looked up at me with a tense expression and asked.
There was a sense of determination in her gaze.

 ”Oh, no, we're not going after her.”


 'Σ(; ゚Д゚) Huh!?'

 Tamaki was taken aback by my brief response, and even the spider-youkai seemed surprised.
Well, can't blame them.

 ”Um, well…
Then, why did you use the 'Curse of Lost Items'?”

 ”Simply put, it's to go in the opposite direction.
…Let's go.
Hey, why are you still patting your butt?!”


 Tamaki asked the question, and Botan answered.
After the answer, Botan commanded the bear-youkai to carry her.
The teary-eyed bear-youkai reluctantly complied, holding Botan in its uninjured arm.
'(*゚∀゚) Even if I get hugged, it's okay, Papa.'—No, I won't do it

 ”…Thank you, Miss Tamaki.
Thanks to you, we see a glimmer of hope.”

 'It's not an easy fight, though.'

 ”It's just a usual thing…”

 I expressed my sincere gratitude to Tamaki, who provided the breakthrough.
Meanwhile, I casually brush off the old man's words.
It was a really belated revelation.

 ”Um, um…!? Sorry, I can't keep up with the conversation.
What's going on, exactly?”

 Tamaki, left behind and unable to follow the conversation, asked for an explanation.
The old man and Botan seemed to want to say, “She's slow” but that would be harsh.
After all, the protagonist isn't exactly an exorcist.

 ”I apologize for being unclear.
In essence, it means…
to go and express our gratitude to the one who prepared this welcome for us, so to speak?”

* * *

 As mentioned before, powerful abilities and supernatural powers often come with constraints, conditions, and weaknesses as a price.
One of the constraints in Mayoiga's abilities is that “the one who is lost cannot determine the first room they enter.”

 Now, consider this: Many people were drawn into Mayoiga this time.
Out of all of them, Shishimai contacted Tamaki first…
Is it just the protagonist's plot armor? Well, even if that's the case, there must be some reason on Mayoiga's side that causes the protagonist's plot armor to activate.

 And then, there was the ambush during the transition…
In the novel version, it happened just when the protagonist was trying to escape, but this time it's different.
Despite Tamaki having already broken through to a connected room, why would Shishimai need such a powerful ambush?

 No, undoubtedly, Mayoiga had a reason to set up that ambush.
I deduced the answer from fan-made videos on the video-sharing site.

 ”So it means 'there's no place like home'…!!”

 While the bear-youkai rushed forward, Botan shouted as she released a curse.
The curse sealed the movements of the tooth-exposed flying head right in front of us.
The bear-youkai then jumped in and beat the spasming flying head to death.

 ”Well, something like that…!!”

 '(>ω<.) It's a long, long journey!!

 I, too, immediately flung open the sliding door to the side and swept the legs of the pure white doll-like monster, causing it to fall.
I kicked its face as it tumbled down, silencing its bizarre cries with physical force.
Silenced, we abandoned its remains and continued running down the dim hallway.

 ”Huff, huff, why are there so many youkai here now? When I passed through here, there weren't any at all…!!?”

 Tamaki, who was running at the end of the group, was taken aback as she glimpsed the scattered remains of various youkai on the floor.
Apparently, she was surprised by the fact that so many youkai had been lurking in this room.

 Of course, the reason was clear.
Mayoiga intentionally hid the youkai in this room and let Tamaki pass through.
That's to be expected, as it was the top priority for Mayoiga.

 Even for Mayoiga itself, it must have been a surprising turn of events.
Who would have thought that exorcists would suddenly encounter its core room among countless other rooms?

 ”Obviously, they'd send Shishimai at her!!”

 While cutting the throat of the youkai in front of me, I spit out those words.
Yes, it all began by chance, but everything that followed was inevitable.

 Given Mayoiga's nature, a straightforward one-on-one showdown wouldn't be its strong suit.
It might be fine against a group of ordinary youkai, but among the calamity youkai, it would belong to the lowest tier.
It might even be at a disadvantage against a great youkai.

 I don't know how much Hotoya Tamaki's abilities were known to Mayoiga, but with some common sense, it would be clear that she had no chance of winning a fight.
Even if Mayoiga were to mobilize its minions, engaging in a battle in its core room would be something it would avoid.
It would be more reasonable to deceive her and drive her away as far as possible.

 That's probably the reason why Shishimai Asami was sent to Tamaki…
and the reason she attacked back then.
Who would have thought that the destination of the teleport would be near its own core room?

 Whether it was pure chance or something, I don't know, but Mayoiga couldn't overlook it.
It might have been a little hasty, but they say that the swift outdo the slow.
Mayoiga must have player its cards before it was too late.
Though, the result may have been a double-edged sword.

 ”Nevertheless, it seems you're quite flustered as well!!”

 '(* >ω<) I'm thrilled!!'

 While cutting down the Ittan-momen flying around from the bedding shelf one by one with Teguruma and dagger, I retort so.

 ”Flustered? What do you mean?”

 ”Because the attacking youkai are obviously too many!!”

 As I shout that, I fling a handful of pebbles with a slingshot at a blue-purple monster that seems to be lurking in the mansion, rushing at full speed from behind.
The face with a strange expression had unnecessarily large eyes, making it easy to hit them dead on.


 Covering its face and screaming, it still charges, so I meet it head-on.
We clash, it lunges, and just before it runs me over, I bend my body backward and use Teguruma to cut off its legs.
Its shoddy figurine-like body loses balance and it crashes face-first into the floor.
Just to be sure, I go for its neck, aiming for the spinal cord to finish it off.

 Whether it was the stalker from the Art Club whom I kicked to death earlier or the blue, human-shaped deformity I just killed, I knew the original sources.
They were supposed to be minions confined to specific rooms, not attacking randomly from everywhere.

 ”This guy…
is probably hurriedly gathering youkai from the nearest room and throwing them in.”

 '(´・ω・`) I feel like it's giving up.'

 Yeah, it must have panicked because we were advancing toward it.
The attackers lacked unity, and they seemed to be a hastily assembled army that didn't even consider room compatibility or tactics.

 (If they're trying to stall for time, we just need to keep pushing forward…!!)

 As if emerging from the darkness, a slender, Nanban black dress-wearing monster appears, and I bisect it with Teguruma the moment it arrives.
Stepping over its remains, we continue to press forward.
Giving Mayoiga even a second longer than necessary was not a wise move.

 ”Tomobe-kun, the room next to us…!!”

 '`(*>﹏<*)′ This stinks!!'

 ”Wha!? What!?”

 The protagonist and the spider warn me.
Before I can grasp their meaning, the sliding door and the wall are blown away, and it appears.
A red-black mass of flesh, emitting a foul odor that fills the room.
A face with sagging flesh reflected in my vision.
And then, a fist, a backhand, is swung.


 I swiftly kick up the pale-skinned member of the Art Club (no.
2) who was right next to me.
With a wall-like slap, they turn into minced meat and embed into the wall.
Good job!!


 ”Looks like another troublesome one.
'Nuppeppo,' is it…!!”

 'φ(゜▽゜*) Fluffy-fluffy!'

 Tamaki, who was cutting through the clinging feathered creatures, is dumbfounded, while Botan grits her teeth.
The flesh doll that appeared as if to block us from here was undoubtedly not an easy opponent for us at this moment.

a youkai that is said to be the origin of the Nopperabo in my previous life.
Its body resembles a wall with haphazardly attached limbs, making it appear somewhat unstable.
Unlike Nopperabo, its face is not visible due to the sagging flesh, giving it an impression of an elderly person.

that putrid abomination twists its mouth upward.
Sadistically, it distorts its mouth.

 ”Get lost!!”

 Feeling a visceral disgust, I immediately move to deal with it.
Cutting down the surrounding youkai, I swing Teguruma grandly to take down the monster before me.

 ”Uh-oh!? It stopped me!?”

 '(○´・д・)ノ No way!?'

 The spider's threads, which had severed several youkai, are blocked when they are about to cut a third of the thick body of the 'nuppeppo.' No, it's not that it stopped them, but rather…!?

 (I see, it's like a blade disarm…!!)

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