Uncertainty like black smoke, and yet such a thing had taken the shape of a person and spoke.
Inadvertently, someone gulped. “What is that thing?” That someone said.
Even the sharp eyes of the people gathered here couldn’t discern if something was hidden inside the shadows.
Its outline was even blurrier than the giant snake, and the more they tried to look, the blurrier it became.
In contrast, the white mask could clearly be seen, and if one were to infer from the position of that mask, then the black smoke of the giant snake existed in the black mist’s right hand.
Was the being before them a man or a snake? No, already, it had exceeded either.
『Good grief, time and time again. It’s bad for the heart, you know?』
But the being seemed to give no regard for the grave silence in the air, and it sighed in an exaggerated manner.
Tomoe’s eyes blinked.
Despite the mysteriously indiscernible voice that made it difficult to know the age or gender of the shadowy being sounding fed up, for some reason, Tomoe felt a sense of relief wash over her.
It was then that a sound akin to the snapping of one’s fingers resounded.
Tomoe did not see it, but it was likely the Black Mist was the one who made that sound.
In the next moment, Tomoe was surprised to find that something had suddenly wrapped itself around her, but for some reason, it had a presence similar to that of the ‘night’, and she did not fear it.
That thing which possessed the same color but had a different spiritual power gently caressed her.
“Mm, ahh… The wound is closing.”
As her whole body itched, she looked down and noted that the wounds on her were closing.
Even her exhaustion recovered to some extent.
『That should be enough to let you move.』
“Ah, yes, thank you… F-For last time too!”
Flustered, she made sure to thank the Black Mist for saving her from her earlier predicament as well.
For some reason, Tomoe felt something amiss when she was healed.
She didn’t know what the Black Mist had done to her, but it was definitely a healing ability of sort.
What she didn’t understand was why that ability seemed to resemble a skill.
She didn’t have time to ponder the topic, however, as an angry yell soon resounded.
“W-Who are you!!?”
“Since when we’re you—!?”
“Give that back!!”
When the monks finally returned to their senses, they angrily yelled.
Tomoe found the way they yelled to resemble an animal trying to intimidate a threat.
Even she could tell that the monks were terrified.
It wasn’t just because of how creepy or how imperceivable the Black Mist was.
Rather it was because the Black Mist had casually picked up the eerie wooden box that they were protecting.
『Hmm, I thought that might be the case from the presence I felt, but as i thought, this is a kind of curse.』
“H-Hey! That thing is dangerous!” Tomoe said.
And then the White Mask casually peered into the open box.
Tomoe hurriedly warned it, but the Black Mist just shrugged its shoulders… Or at least, that’s what it looked like it was doing.
When they noticed it, the stretched out giant snake that seemed to be the Black Mist’s arm had contracted.
But there was something stranger that occupied the girl’s attention.
That box emanated a presence so unnerving it made her anxious and nauseous just looking at it from a distance.
And yet now, for some reason, that eerie evil ki felt so small.
It was as though it had shrunk itself in the presence of the Black Mist.
“T-That’s impossible! Now that it’s opened, no one should be able to touch it without getting hurt!” A monk said.
“Could you be, a mysterious ayakashi!?” Another monk said.
“Y-You, just who are you!? You can’t possibly be human!” The old monk said.
But Tomoe immediately shook her head and expelled such thoughts.
As irony would have it, it was the panicked behaviors of the monks that allowed her to understand what was happening. The evil ki of the wooden box was losing.
The disdain in the black mist’s voice as it ignored everyone here was no bluff either.
Compared to the sinister aura emanated by the wooden box, the darkness the Black Mist wore was overwhelmingly dense.
It was not just an issue of color, the black mist’s ‘existence’ was also denser.
The wooden box was so terrifying, and yet compared to the Black Mist, it was like a child.
Inadvertently, everyone here found themselves agreeing with the Black Mist’s remark. The wooden box was indeed weak.
No matter how ominous it was, in the face of the Black Mist, its evil ki wavered as though afraid.
With the Black Mist entering the fray, the monks no longer cared about the girl.
They could no longer do so.
『So, gentlemen… What were you planning to do with this?』
For the first time, the human-shaped black mist looked at the monks, and asked them with a cheerful voice, but the eyes behind the white mask were not laughing.
“*Gasp…!” A monk said.
“Damn it, why is my body shaking on its own!?” Another monk said.
“The shiki won’t even listen to me!?” The old monk said.
Mixed in with those apathetic eyes that were neither hot nor cold was an overwhelming pressure.
Try as they might to resist or to confront, their bodies, the Shiki, faltered.
That was not because of their lack of skill, but because of their mental state.
Although the shadowy being had appeared before them in a strange and disquieting manner, it was his existence that truly struck fear into their hearts.
Had they been normal people, they would have likely not been this afraid.
Ironically, it was precisely because they could ‘see’ that they could know how deep that darkness was, and their legs could not help but shake.
A shadow that could erase shadows, a darkness that could devour darkness, an existence that ignored logic. That was the being standing before them.
Even as they beheld that being from a great distance through their paper dolls, the spell casters themselves were bathed in their own sweat.
Just one person looked at that abyss of black mist calmly.
With neither fear nor discomfort, her eyes were stolen as though she’d been charmed.
For some reason, a part of her instincts would not allow her to reject it.
She understood too how terrifying that existence was, and yet…
For some reason, seeing that ‘darkness’ made her relieved.
It wasn’t because it saved her from her predicament. No.
That wasn’t something that could so simply be categorized as either an enemy or an ally.
That dense clump of darkness that seemed as though it could cover everything was a much greater
That was something she’s known for a long time, that’s what her soul told her. Yes, that was surely…
“───The color of the night.”
That was the
That was the
Banish the darkness, exorcise the evil, but the night was a
That’s why there was no need to fear it so much.
『…That’s the first time I’ve been depicted like that.』
When an unexpected remark and gaze turned to her, Tomoe became startled.
And then as realization dawned on her that her mutterings had been overheard, she became embarrassed.
“*Gasp, ku, Haa! Haa!”
Thanks to the mask’s gaze being averted from the monks, however, the monks were able to catch there breath.
Although they were merely using temporary bodies and there was no life in them, cold sweat poured out of them, and their shoulders heaved up and down as they caught their breath.
The overwhelming pressure that had been bearing down on them had disappeared, no, it had been lifted, as though their actions and words were of no interest.
『…But it was an interesting depiction, young lady. Now, onto the problem. How many boxes with the same presence do you think are around?』
This time the mask tested Tomoe, but it was done so with gentleness.
She felt that unconditional trust that believed she would be able to discern this much.
But while Tomoe may have been confused by that sudden remark, she was immediately able to understand the terrifying truth it revealed.
“T-There’s more of that thing!? You’ve got to be the kidding!”
As the girl stood up in doubt, she half-reflexively searched for traces of the other boxes.
Her eyes seemed to trace the coastline that could be seen from where they were.
As her eyes turned to the people behind her, she gazed into the nature behind them, and after covering an entire lap, her gaze returned to their initial position.
“…You actually prepared that many!? Moreover, you surrounded the entire fields! T-This has already gone past terrorism, this is just a massacre! Are you people crazy!?”
Surrounding the whole area were boxes filled with hateful evil ki, a power that the common populace did not know of.
With the girl’s knowledge and her spiritual sense, she understood exactly what that meant, and what kind of fate would await the people here the moment these people’s objectives were met.
『Oh, they’re crazy alright. In a place with no spritual defenses, despite knowing that there are people here, they scattered these many curses. At that, the only thing that would be left is the very picture of hell. Not even a proper death would be given to the people here.』
Tomoe still didn’t understand what kind of curse those boxes held, but when the white mask said that, she finally realized what it was.
Although deaths by curses varied too, they held no respect for humans.
Sometimes they would make one’s body rot even as one still lived, sometimes they would continue to torment a person’s soul even after their death, transforming them into hate.
People who did not know about spiritual power would neither be able to defend them nor dispel them.
Without her knowing, Tomoe held her Kamunagi even tighter.
『And those that have been contaminated by evil ki will be beyond human reach. Neither Garesto’s science nor Earth’s science will be able to solve or understand anything. Yes, no one can do anything, except─────you people.』
“Is that it!? That’s what they’re aiming for!?” Tomoe said.
『In one fell swoop, your name will be made known, and you’ll be able to take the main stage. And even if it doesn’t go that far, the various governments will surely want to get their hands on your power. They might suspect you to havee been behind the incident in the first place, but as long as there’s no one else other than you, who can take care of it, it won’t matter. Perhaps, that’s not exactly it, but it can’t be too far from the truth, right, gentlemen?』
With a cheerful voice, the black mist turned to them once more.
But this time that pressure from before wasn’t there.
Because of that the monks just clicked their tongues when their plan had been seen through.
“Unbelievable, these people really are rotten! You may have been expelled, but weren’t you all members of a family that protected the world from evil!?”
“Shut up, that’s precisely why! Who do you think has been saving them all this time!?” A monk said.
“That’s why this time we’ll use it for our purpose. They should be grateful!” Another monk said.
“We have a power and a history that makes all these forgivable. We’re nothing like the shameless Tsuchimikado or the Kusakabe, who prattle about some ridiculous story of hiding among the people. We have power, that’s why we should be the guardians of this world!” The old monk said.
Perhaps it was because it was Tomoe who denounced them that they actually responded.
But when they shamelessly, and matter-of-factly gave voice to their claims, Tomoe’s anger went past a peak, and she just looked at them in shock.
The mask seemed to be of the same opinion, as he snorted at them and said.
『Hmph, playing a role in your own play, while completely relying on the plans of a terrorist group. You sure talk big when you wouldn’t have even able to bring all of these to Kutoria if not for them.』
“You actually know that much!?” The old monk said.
『Even those fools and their unrealistic ideology attacked after making enough preparations. It’s a scant difference, but compared to a bunch of cowards like you, who only know how to rely on others despite fancying themselves as schemers, they’re still better off. But just a little.』
The mask laughed as he made fun of them from the bottom of his heart.
Killing intent filled their gazes at that, but even that, the mask laughed at, as though to say that they were fools for not even realizing that he was intentionally not intimidating them.
“…Huh, why does this feel so familiar?”
Meanwhile, as Tomoe watched the black mist redirect their hostility from her to him, she felt as though she’d seen this manner of mockery somewhere before.