Rewinding time a bit…
At about the time when Hayate’s group arrived in the village and when Rio was out hunting, Gon’s group did not bother repairing their cart at all and were loafing around in the guest house.
Despite it still being early in the day, they were already downing alcohol while conversing and discussing plans for the coming night.
*Bang* Suddenly, the door was blown open.
Gon and the others turned their eyes towards the door, wondering who dared to rudely intrude upon them.
There, stood a boy who had just hit puberty.
For some reason, the boy was out of breath, seeming to have rushed back into the house.
The boy was the youngest member of Gon’s group and was often treated as their maid. He was tasked with repairing the broken cart by himself.
「What is it now? Are you done fixing the cart?」
If other villagers came, it would be difficult to talk in secret.
Having their merry conversation interrupted, Gon asked in a sullen mood.
「A— Aniki! Bad news! The tax collectors came!」
The boy quickly reported his findings while gasping for breath.
「Ah? Tax collectors?」
Gon repeated dubiously.
Tax collection was an important job to financially support the country.
However, the job itself was extremely demanding, requiring one to be highly skilled in multiple disciplines.
Suitable education and the ability to perform paperwork were necessary since the tax collector needed to confirm whether the number of taxed crops were correct.
They were also generally disliked by villagers due to the nature of their job so a strong mind was needed.
Seeing that taxes needed to be collected from multiple villages, travel between them was also necessary and there existed the risk of being attacked by thieves, monsters, and wild animals. As such, possessing the strength to deal with these dangers was also mandatory.
That was why, when choosing somebody for the position of tax collector, they must not only excel in combat but also be well educated and have a firm temperament. It was an important position that many vied for, but few achieve.
In other words, tax collectors were comprised of elites excelling in both literary and martial arts.
This was common knowledge among all villagers.
Therefore, to perform yobai in a house where such a person was staying would be a little… no, it could be considered to be a completely reckless act.
「N— No, it’s just that it might be a bit troublesome. I heard that tax collectors are really strong…」
As if being overwhelmed by the pressure Gon exuded, the boy took a step back while speaking.
It was now the season for tax collection.
Therefore it was not out of the ordinary for the tax collectors to have arrived.
However, seeing that they arrived the day when Gon was prepared to execute his plan, the boy could not help but assume that it would be unwise to proceed.
It was no wonder that the boy got worked up after hearing the news.
「Ha~h, look, they have nothing to do with this. We’re still doing it tonight.」
However, Gon declared the plan’s execution with a resolute look in his eyes.
The others, however, showed hesitation in the face of Gon’s confidence.
「A— Are you serious? As expected of Aniki, to not even flinch at tax collectors…」
One of the cronies timidly praised him.
While agreeing with the crony in their minds, the other men were waiting for Gon’s next words.
「Oh? There won’t be a problem since everybody’ll be asleep. They may be samurai but they’re as defenseless as a newborn baby when they’re asleep.」
However, Gon cut down their worries in a single statement.
「Th— That’s not it, I mean, something might happen but…」
Be it samurai or tax collector, once asleep, there was nothing to be afraid of.
That was what Gon wanted to convey.
For them who were complete novices when it came to fighting, there was no way they could perceive vague signs such as bloodthirst, killing intent, and spatial awareness.
Therefore, they believed it would certainly be safe.
「Well, I’ll be the one performing yobai. Feel free to come peep if you want. But, when I return tomorrow morning, don’t be showing me any disappointed faces, okay?」
Smiling fearlessly, Gon looked at his men.
Having been indirectly called cowards, the men’s pride were provoked.
And that was not all.
They were all males in the midst of puberty.
Their interests towards the opposing sex and lovemaking were at their peak.
For them, who were weary from being constantly scorned by the girls in their village, such desires were even further intensified.
Therefore, the combination of both their sex drives and intoxication made them more daring than usual.
「Well, decide by tonight. I’ll wake you up before leaving so be sure not regret your decisions.」
Having said that, Gon continued downing liquor with a satisfied expression.
And so, came the long awaited time, night had already descended.
When all the villagers had turned in, Gon woke up his cronies telling them that the time had come.
Brimming with confidence, Gon leisurely left the guest house.
「O— Oi. What should we do? Gon-san’s already left…」
Looking at Gon’s departing figure, one man spoke in an eager voice.
「E— Even if you ask…」
*Gulp* Multiple sounds of the men swallowing their saliva could be heard.
A short moment of silence followed.
Their hearts were racing.
「Heh, hehe… I’m going.」
And then, one man suddenly stood up while muttering.
He walked straight towards the door and headed outside.
The remaining men looked at each other in darkness.
One person stood up, followed by another, and yet another; as if they were being lured by an irresistible bait, they began leaving.
It was unlikely anybody would notice them since it was currently midnight.
To witness the love scene of Ruri.
When that thought crossed their minds, none of them could go against their carnal desires.
They traversed the darkness in single file in the direction of Yuba’s house.
It was an uncivilized, foolish, and reprehensible act.
At that time, a lone figure stole up to Yuba, the village chief’s house.
The intruder went in without hesitation.
He had entered the village chief’s house once before and scouted out the objective’s location.
That was how the intruder knew where to go without losing his way.
Arriving at the door to his objective, the intruder halted his steps.
He carefully opened the wooden sliding door. *Rattle Rattle* The door audibly rattled.
Fortunately, Ruri did not wake up, continuing sleeping peacefully on top of her negoza1.
After confirming that Ruri was still sleeping soundly inside, the trespasser entered the room and quietly approached her side.
A vulgar smile crept onto his face.
When he stripped off the thick kimono which was being used as a substitute for a futon, Ruri’s body, clad in her nightwear, was revealed.
The man’s lust shot through the roof the moment he saw her defenseless figure.
Unable to endure it any longer, the man straddled Ruri and groped her body.
Sensing something was wrong, Ruri’s eyes groggily opened.
When she noticed a large figure mounting her, her consciousness cleared in an instant and she prepared to cry out.
However, the man covered her mouth.
「Don’t make a ruckus. Behave yourself and soon enough, you’ll be having the time of your life.」
The man warned her before bringing his face towards her to kiss her.
As a result of that, Ruri was able to identify her assailant.
It was the one man that even Ruri had difficulty dealing with.
During their childhood, on their first meeting, Ruri treated him like any other boy.
However, being the condescending person he was, Gon harassed her in a variety of ways. Gradually, she grew to dislike him despite having never bored any ill feelings towards anybody else.
Recently, he even had the gall to publicly declare her as his wife. It was an event Ruri remembered with bitter disgust.
「Nnh~! Nnh, Nnnhhh~!!!」
Being attacked by such a man, despair washed over her.
Although she desperately tried to break free from his restraints, Gon’s large build rendered her efforts futile.
Gon quietly clicked his tongue, having become fed up with Ruri’s resistance.
He threw a powerful punch right beside Ruri’s face.
*Thud* A dull sound resounded as his huge fist hit the floor. *Twitch* Ruri’s body stiffened up.
Gon spoke in a low voice. With a stern expression, he aimed his fist at Ruri’s face this time and swung it down.
However, Gon stopped right before his fist connected with her face.
「Should I hit your stomach the next time you start struggling?」
Gon looked directly into her eyes and spoke in a threatening voice.
All remaining strength left Ruri’s body as she lost the will to resist and her body began to shiver.
「Don’t struggle and keep quiet.」
Ruri grimaced when the scent of his breath mixed with alcohol reached her nose.
「Understood? Huh? If you understand, then nod.」
At his words, Ruri gave a slight nod.
Overwhelmed by fear, Ruri silently wept.
「Heh~ so it instantly changes to crying. Now then, shall I have a taste?」
Right when he was about to lift Ruri’s skirt—
Rio came barging in through the window with a panicked cry.
Although it was ever so slight, power began to return to Ruri’s body and a muffled scream was heard in the room.
Rio grimaced upon hearing her pained voice.
When Rio was greeted with the scene of Ruri being pinned down by a large man, Rio instantly closed the distance between them.
Gon could only let out a pathetic cry at the opponent who suddenly appeared before him.
Gon tried to turn around and intercept Rio but his arm was caught and before he realised what was happening, he was already flying across the room.
Gon briefly experienced a floating sensation before crashing into the floor like a sack of potatoes.
The air in his lungs was forcefully expelled as the whole house shook from the impact.
「Gaha— Gah, gah, ahh, ah, ahah…」
Unable to perform Ukemi2, Gon fell flat on his back and was unable to get his breathing under control.
Rio grabbed Gon by his collar, lifted up his huge body, and drove a fist into Gon’s face.
A dull gasp leaked from Gon’s lips.
However, Rio did not stop there and continued pummeling Gon’s face.
Like hell would he be allowed to faint so easily.
He would beat Gon towards an inch of his life without letting him lose consciousness.
And then at the end, he would kill him.
A torrent of hatred and negativity currently swirled inside Rio’s head.
「Ah… —ugh… Aah—」
Unable to catch his breath, an inaudible cry was the only thing able to escape his bloodied lips.
However, Rio was not finished with him yet and continued to mercilessly bash Gon’s face.
Without strengthening his body nor enhancing his strength, Rio kept driving his fists into Gon’s face while ignoring the pain accumulating in his fists.
「Don’t fuck with me!」
Tears formed in the corner of Rio’s eyes as he shouted.
Ruri cowered in fear when she saw Rio ruthlessly beat up Gon.
Had it been his usual self, Rio would have quickly sensed her fear. However, in his current state, he did not notice at all.
That was just how enraged he was.
Ruri was unable to make out Rio’s tears because of how dark it was.
All she could sense was his anger and violence; she could not understand any of the other complex emotions currently swirling within him.
Thus, Ruri could only tremble in fear at the bloodcurdling scene before her.
「Wa— Wait! Rio-dono! Any more and he’ll die!」
A voice of restraint resounded in the room where Rio was currently straddling Gon and repeatedly driving his fists into Gon’s face.
The voice belonged to Hayate.
That was obvious.
This bastard deserves it.
Hayate’s voice reached his ears but Rio ignored him and continued hitting Gon.
However, Hayate held down his arms.
「Calm down, I understand your anger, but Ruri-dono is scared!」
When Hayate said that, Rio took a quick glance at Ruri.
「That man will receive a proper punishment later, but we need still need to interrogate him. So please restrain yourself, I beg of you!」
Hayate tried his best to soothe Rio’s anger.
It was not an appeal out of sympathy for Gon.
Hayate’s expression of self-restraint was proof of that.
However, if he allowed Gon to be murdered now, Ruri’s room would be stained with his blood and it may likely become a traumatic event for Ruri.
Hayate was slightly more levelheaded than Rio because he was aware of that fact.
Deep down, he also took pleasure in seeing Rio thoroughly thrash Gon.
As for Rio, he wanted to continue hammering Gon’s face until his neck broke.
However, when he caught sight of Ruri’s trembling figure on top of the futon—
He also noticed that Hayate’s hands that were holding him down were also shaking—
Finally, Rio relaxed his clenched fists.
Rio let out a deep sigh in frustration.
His anger had still not completely died down yet; he still wanted to take it out on something.
Gon’s swollen face came into view when he looked down again. Letting go of Gon’s collar, Rio pushed him away and stood up.
Gon’s head hit the floor like a brick accompanied by a pained grunt.
His face was completely swollen and bruised creating a revolting sight.
「Hyu— Hyuhaa— Haa…」
When both Gon’s body hit the floor and the shock transmitted to his head, his breathing became ragged again.
Rio did not feel a shred of guilt as he gazed at Gon’s battered figure.
Serves you right.
In his mind, Rio cursed Gon with all his might.
「Ah… —aa, a—」
Everytime air entered his lungs, a small groan leaked from Gon’s mouth.
At such a tragic sight, Rio stared at him without a trace of his usual wry smile.
Noticing the uproar, Yuba and Hayate’s subordinates rushed into the room.
「It was a rapist. Yuba-dono, please confirm Ruri-dono’s condition first.」
Hayate briefly explained the situation to the bewildered Yuba.
「Wha— …Un— Understood.」
Despite still being in shock, Yuba quickly processed the situation and made her way towards Ruri’s side.
「The rest of you, restrain the rest of the fainted men outside. They’re accomplices who tried to peep on the attempted rape.」
Hayate proceeded to give out orders to his subordinates in a cold voice.
Hayate began treating Gon’s face using Spirit Arts.
However, perhaps it was because he was not very skilled with healing using Spirit Arts, or that it was intentional, but Gon’s face was still swollen after being treated.
From the fact that the treatment took quite a while, it was probably the former.
Rio did not feel compelled to treat such a despicable man at all.
He continued staring at Gon in silence.
Standing where he was, he could not quell the burning hatred seething within him no matter how much time passed.
Just the sight of Gon’s face would reignite his anger.
Rio closed his eyes and took a deep breath to calm himself.
He would have probably beaten Gon to death had Hayate not stopped him back then.
Hatred and anger had overtaken him then.
Rio held an abnormal amount of enmity towards the crime known as rape.
It stemmed from his childhood when his mother was raped before him.
And just now, the scene of Gon attempting to rape Ruri caused Rio to have flashbacks.
At that moment—
He recalled it.
The deep, primitive, dark instincts and desires of a human being.
Just thinking about those emotions made him feel nauseous.
Even though Rio, himself, was aware that, the part of him as Amakawa Haruto had been deliberately avoiding such thoughts.
The reason was simply because such pitch black emotions were being carried by his counterpart.
So that he would never be embroiled in such emotions—
So that he would never be dominated by such emotions—
So that he would never act upon those emotions—
That was how Rio had been living up until now.
It was a commitment he was determined to never stray from, even after all that just happened.
This had nothing to do with rationale.
This had nothing to do with morals.
The only thing that mattered was that a trash of society acting high and mighty whilst preying on the weak did not deserve to be left alive.
For such bastards who do not know when to draw the line—
That was what he thought.
Such trash needed to experience pain— No, they needed to both experience pain and learn their wrongs. However, even if they were beaten and accidentally killed, that would be fine too.
Those kinds of people shamelessly preyed on others solely to gloat to other similar trash.
They were beings who had no self-restraint, succumbing to their instincts and desires.
That was why, from now on, if such a scum of society ever dared to lay their hands on Rio or his loved ones, he would have no qualms with retaliating.
It was then that something within him broke.
On that day, something evil, something foul, was born in Rio.
It was not something as simple as bloodthirst.
It was something more profound, more sinister, more sorrowful—
However, it was suppressed through sheer willpower.
How long would it remain that way?
Rio was drawn into a whirlpool of thought before he realised it. He finally opened his eyes.
In front of him was Hayate vigorously interrogating Gon without even bothering to mask his contempt.
His love interest was assaulted by that man.
In truth, for Hayate who held a strong sense of justice, his anger was probably much more than what he showed.
Rio watched the scene with a blank expression.
「You bastard! It’s not over yet!」
Although Gon’s face was still swollen, he seemed capable of coherent speech thanks to Hayate’s treatment.
Gon shouted at Rio with such anger and bloodthirst that any other person would have recoiled.
In a voice devoid of any emotion, Rio calmly answered Gon’s provocation with a dead stare.
It was a bone-chilling stare; one that regarded its target as something less than human.
For Gon, it was an unbearable disgrace.
For his entire existence to be denied, it was the first time he had suffered such humiliation.
It was an emotion on the verge of exploding—
「OAAA!!! LET GO OF ME!!!」
Like a madman, Gon roared at Hayate who was holding him down.
Unfortunately for him, Hayate’s restraint was flawless and Gon could not brute force his way out of it.
Rio threw a word at Gon, injuring what was left of his pitiful pride.
「Ba— Bastard! You son of a bitch! It’s definitely not over yet!」
Gon scowled at Rio as if he was his sworn enemy.
However, Rio had already lost interest in Gon and shifted his eyes towards Hayate.
「Saga-dono, have you heard everything you wanted to hear?」
「Y— Yeah. This is enough.」
He shivered under Rio icy gaze.
The moment when their gazes overlapped, Hayate forgot all about Gon and almost subconsciously took a step back.
Only his dignity as a samurai was able to hold him back.
「Is that so? Then, the verdict?」
It was undoubtedly an appropriate inquiry at that moment.
However, Hayate felt reluctant to answer.
「Rape is a grave offense, even if it’s just an attempt. More so, he was caught in the act in addition to having a witness, at worst he must be prepared to be executed on the spot. But, if he’s handed over to authorities, he can either expect capital punishment or become a crime slave. As for the rest of the voyeurs, if they’re handed over, the most they’ll receive will be several lashes…」
For a person from the modern era, such punishment would be seen as barbaric.
Nevertheless, this was not the modern era. In this world, an attempt on one’s life, body, or property were commonly settled by the people without needing to involve authorities.
The sentence for the guilty ranged from reconciliation, arbitration, duels, and mortal combat. Fundamentally, the perpetrator must suffer damage equal to or greater than what their crime caused.
Even if the convict is killed as a result of their punishment, the person carrying out the punishment would not be held responsible.
Since rape was considered an extremely grave offence, its punishment was on par with murder.
Still, there existed a custom encouraging the silencing of the victim.
If the victim was threatened into submission, the perpetrator would get off scot free.
The weak could only submit to the strong.
Fools who possessed such a mindset were not few in number either.
One of the reasons behind forming communities such as towns and villages were to deal with those kinds of people, but of course, that did not mean crime could be completely eradicated.
For that reason, a national justice system existed.
However, one must be proven guilty in court before they are convicted.
Unfortunately, since most crimes were carried out in isolated locations where there are no witnesses, it was difficult to identify the culprit and prove their crime. Without the necessary evidence, judges had difficulty proving the accused’s guilt which in turn, did not make for an effective crime deterrent.
Be that as it may, there were multiple witnesses this time, in addition to Hayate’s presence, who held an important position within the country.
It was likely that they had enough evidence for the country to incriminate Gon.
As for the crime slave punishment, it was a sentence where the convicted was forced into manual labour, often in extremely harsh environments where they would more often than not, meet their end.
Such environments included mines where toxic gases were present, regions home to ferocious creatures, battlefields, and other hazardous environments. In a sense, it was a punishment far harsher than death.
「Is that so…?」
Rio had to urge to cut down Gon right where he was.
If it was only them two in the room, Gon would have already departed from this world.
However, whether to judge Gon with his own hands or to let the country judge him, was a decision best left for Ruri, the victim, and Yuba, the village chief.
If Rio was allowed to kill Gon in his rage, there was the possibility it would spark discord between their village and Gon’s village.
For the time being, it was necessary to discuss matters with Gon’s village.
At long last, Rio was finally able to quell his anger.
He did not regret beating Gon towards an inch of his life.
However, he deeply regretted being blinded by rage and openly embracing the idea of murder.
He took a deep breath, still unable to erase the feelings of remorse.
When he exhaled, Rio directed his eyes towards Ruri—
「Ruri-san, are you alright?」
As if he had transformed into a completely different person from before, Rio gently inquired Ruri about her condition.
「Ye— Yeah. I’m fine… Thank you, Rio.」
Ruri expressed her gratitude with a perplexed face.
It was the usual Rio.
Yet, Ruri shivered when she recalled the cold, merciless Rio from before.
Rio quickly perceived her fear.
Yeah, it’s no good.
She was currently in her most vulnerable state.
In such a state, it could not be helped that she would feel frightened.
「I’ve shown you an unsightly side of me. I’m sorry. Even though it’s Ruri-san who experienced the most pain…」
While showing a bitter expression, Rio offered an apologetic bow to Ruri.
「Y— You don’t need to apologize. I’m okay now…」
Despite still being afraid of Rio, Ruri still replied to him.
—Is Rio really alright?
She wanted to know, but she could not bring herself to ask him.
Even if she asked him, she was sure he would not reply honestly, because it was Rio, and he would not want to worry her.
「Yuba-san, Saga-dono. Can I entrust Ruri-san to the two of you?」
Rio informed them of his intention to leave since he no longer had a reason to stay.
He had completely lost himself in anger, made a mess of things, and scared Ruri. He wanted to quickly leave in shame.
He would only get in everyone’s way if he stayed.
That was why he would return to his usual self by tomorrow and the usual peace would hopefully return.
Rio convinced himself everything would be fine.
He vowed to protect that peace.
「Of course, you can rely on us. Please go take a rest.」
「Yeah. Leave it to us. My subordinates are questioning the others. You don’t have to worry anymore.」
Worrying about Rio’s current state of mind, Yuba and Hayate spoke reassuring words to him.
「Sorry. I’ll prepare breakfast tomorrow. Please take a rest too, Ruri-san and Yuba-san.」
Leaving a few parting words, Rio bowed deeply and departed from Ruri’s room.
Returning to his room, Rio could not fall asleep.
He lamented over the recent events, curled up his body, and trembled throughout the night.
And so, by next morning, Rio had returned to his usual self, as if everything that transpired last night had all been a lie.