Although the blade's edge is sharp, it can be stopped by pressure from the side.
And the spider's threads are the same…
this thing embedded the threads into its own flesh and used it to hold them down!!?



 '(* >ω<) Ukyaan!?'

 Mocking laughter, and without minding the further tearing of its own abdomen, the mass of flesh that pressed closer to me delivers a slap.
I quickly ducked, retreated backward, but was one step too late.
Even though I avoided the direct hit, my body was sent flying spectacularly towards the rear.
It slammed into the floor with force, almost crashing into a group of additional insignificant youkai.


 ”Don't get distracted!!”

 Tamaki shouts.
Botan scolds right after.
When I quickly turn around, the 'nuppeppo' has its arm raised toward Tamaki, preparing to strike.
With its pliable, rotting flesh, it swings a blow.


 Tamaki act swiftly, using her sword to shift her center of gravity, and parry the attack, protecting herself from the punch.
However, at the same time, the sword breaks.
Despite being a high-quality weapon, the continuous battles and grinding the sword with the spider's threads had worn it down.
The massive blow had pushed her sword to its limit.

 ”What!? Oh no…!?”

 Seeing the shattered sword halfway through, Tamaki is momentarily stunned.
She quickly draws her backup wakizashi, but it's too late.
The flesh on both sides of the 'nuppeppo' clamps down like an applause.
A moment later, Tamaki's body is crushed by the rotting flesh…

 ”Why are you just standing there!!?”


 Botan yells.
The bear roars.
The youkai bear's fist strikes the 'nuppeppo's' face.
The 'nuppeppo' staggers backward, its hands futilely clapping against each other.

 However, that was not the end of it.


 ”Huh!? Be careful…
It's too shallow!”

 The bear noticed the abnormality of the blow, and Botan ordered, but it was slightly too late.


 The distorted flesh youkai, despite its crushed face, struck back at the bear, not at its face, but towards the girl (Botan) held in its arms.



 It was the bear's arm that prevented the girl from being crushed.
The arm that was driven into the flesh youkai's face was then lifted to cover Botan's vision.
With a snapping sound, the demon bear's right arm broke.
The bear's powerful arm hung down in a way that was anatomically impossible.


 The bear let out a scream, but that was all it could do.
It immediately bit into the crushed face of the 'nuppeppo'.
It tore and gnawed at it, the skin pulling and stretching like rubber, blood spewing out in a spray.
The bear spat out the torn face, exposing the eyeballs and gums.

 …Its eyes had different colors on the left and right, and its teeth were irregular in shape and size.
It looked as if they were collected from different individuals.


 With blood spewing from its face, the 'nuppeppo' transformed into an enraged expression and screamed maniacally.
It struck the bear once again.


 ”Gu!? Ugh!!?”

 The demon bear caught the blow with its broken arm.
However, it still couldn't completely absorb the impact, causing the weakened girl in its embrace to moan in agony.
Distracted by this, the bear could only endure the relentless barrage of attacks from the flesh youkai.



 A cry resembling a roar, meant to bolster courage, accompanied the thrust of the Wakizashi, which deeply penetrated the 'nuppeppo's' leg, echoed.


 But that was all it took.
Slowly raising her head to the face just in front of her, Tamaki saw the torn, blood-red visage staring right at her.

 Involuntarily, Tamaki gasped in fear.
The flesh youkai distorted its bloody face in a manner resembling a frightened human's expression, baring its mismatched fangs and jaws as if assembled from different beings.


 Taking advantage of the opening created by Tamaki's distraction, the bear launched a counterattack.
With both hands occupied, the furious bear youkai charged at the 'nuppeppo' with a furious shout.
Its horn, growing from the top of its head, pierced the side of its abdomen.
It plunged deep and, with a pull, it struck the flesh-exposed face of the monster that had turned around.


 The creature formed from solidified rotting flesh would not die no matter how much it was injured, as long as it didn't feel pain.
However, the massive headbutt from the bear, already weakened and with injured legs, proved to be too much for the creature with its flesh-exposed face.
It stumbled backward, its exposed face looking foolish as it fell on its backside.

 ”'Houzan Daku-ryu (Raging Dragonquake)'!!”

 As the bear youkai retreated, with Tamaki's neck in its mouth, a shikigami composed of chaotic construction materials and flesh charged at the flesh youkai.
The shikigami roared as it twisted itself into the face without skin, blending with the creature from within like a blender, scattering flesh and blood around like a fountain.


 ”Huff, huff…
Genbu, let's go!!”


 '(・`д・´) Oh!!'

 After cutting one of the talismans received from Gorilla-sama, I ignored Tamaki's call, as I had no time to spare, and commanded the bear to retreat.
The reason for the lack of my description until now was because I was desperately fighting off the swarm of minor youkai while on the run.
The spider's response didn't matter much.

 Replacing the bear, whose arms were now useless, I led the way.
I cut down the obstructing youkai with my dagger as we pushed forward through the dark corridor.
Fortunately, the attention of other youkai seemed to be drawn towards the spectacle where the flesh youkai was spreading carnage, leaving us with fewer hindrances.

 '(´・ω・)? The equipment?'

 ”I don't have time for retrieving!”

 '(´・ω・`) Sigh…'

 The disappointed White Spider in my mind aside, the one having the hardest time was me.
Discarding equipment that could inflict significant damage on great youkai and above…
But there was no other choice.

 We continued to advance relentlessly.
The furious roars of the flesh youkai and the sounds of flesh being crushed echoed relentlessly behind us…

* * *

 ”Ugh, it's all right now, isn't it? Please stop for a moment.
It's too much.”

 How much time had passed? Our escape from the flesh youkai and the other youkai drawn to it came to a halt when the girl in the bear's embrace declared so.
I stopped my feet, and the bear put Tamaki down and gently leaned her against the wall.


 ”Please stay quiet.
affecting my body.”

 As Tamaki was set down on the floor, she rushed over to Botan.
The latter seemed to be on the verge of exhaustion, likely from the impact of the flesh youkai's strikes.
The wounds received from Shishimai, which Botan claimed to have treated, seemed to have opened again.

 ”Your wound is…
really bad.”

 'Tis a perfect bait for attracting youkai.
You should stop the bleeding immediately and continue moving.'

 '(*´・ω・) Pat, pat?'

 As I murmured, the hummingbird chimed in.
To that, Botan gave him an unpleasant glare, not directed at me but at the hummingbird.

 ”It seems affected…”


 ”Unfortunately, there's nothing I can do right away.
Miss Tamaki and servant, please proceed ahead.”

 Tamaki didn't fully understand Botan's words and questioned with confusion.
Botan made the suggestion without offering further explanation, seeking our agreement to let her rest and our permission to move forward.

 ”Isn't that…
No, it's not okay!?”

 'Tis the right choice.
Your resources and strength are limited.
Trying to move forward while assisting someone else will be difficult.
It's better for her to be a decoy and you hurry ahead.'

 Tamaki immediately rejected the proposal, but the hummingbird supported Botan's idea.
I was certain about the right choice in this situation.
Either way, she was in no condition to move any further…

 ”…Just as he said, we should make the best choice.
We'll only end up pulling each other down if we continue like this.”

 ”What do you intend to do, Botan-sama?”

 I questioned Botan about her plans, and she looked at me.
After a moment of silence, she began to speak.

 ”Let me be clear, I have no intention of sacrificing myself.
I'll stop the bleeding and recover my strength, then I'll catch up with you.
If possible, please finish the task before then.”

 While I rest, kill 'Mayoiga. Botan suggested.

 ”That's quite a demanding task again.”

 ”Coming from you, it sounds ironic, doesn't it?”

 Botan replied with a serious expression to my wry smile.
Seriously, I understand, but it's not like I willingly put myself in these tough situations.

 ”If possible, I want you to catch up later.
Here, take this.” “…?”

 I handed it to Botan.
She tilted her head, but upon receiving it, she looked at me with a puzzled expression.

 ”…Are you serious?”

 ”The task I've been given is too much for me to handle alone.
Please catch up with us later.”

 ”You really amaze me…”

 Botan expressed genuine amazement at my response.
Then, she shifted her gaze towards the injured bear who was remaining vigilant.

 ”Genbu, follow the servant.”

 Handing me a sealing talisman for the bear, Botan commanded the bear.

 ”…Aren't you going to have it accompany you?”

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