『…Good control. Especially, for your age.』
The black mist said as it walked away, seemingly confident that Tomoe didn’t miss anyone.
It was curious, though, if it was actually walking or just sliding on the ground, but there was no way to ascertain that.
『At this rate, your katana is going to get mad at me, so I’m giving it back to you now.』
Although Tomoe found it a bit weird, she was still happy that she’d been praised.
For some reason, though, her katana seemed to be rejecting the black mist, causing her to make a strange expression.
“Umm… I’m happy about the compliment, but you do realize, that I’d pretty much lost until you came along, right?”
Tomoe was being humble, but that curt response just broke her heart.
At the same time, though, she realized that she wanted to hear something else, so she continued asking.
“T-Then why did you talk as though I was so amazing?” Tomoe asked.
『What do you mean why? That’s because you really were amazing. Despite not having that much experience, you immediately saw through their spell. Isn’t that amazing? 』
The mask casually said as it picked up the fragments of a paper doll.
For some reason, there was a hint of envy behind its voice that the girl couldn’t understand, but being told that the mask genuinely thought she was amazing still made her blush and scratch her cheeks.
When she thought about it, this was the first time someone other than her parents had praised her powers.
『Burn off the connection,
Meanwhile, the mask muttered some mysterious words again, and then the remaining pieces of the paper dolls were burned.
Did the mask do that to hide evidence of their existence? Or was it to erase every bit of connection they had to this place? Tomoe wondered.
But as she speculated the reasons why he might have done so, she shook herself and told herself that this wasn’t the time for embarrassment.
She needed to ask the mask the question that was bothering her the most.
“Can I ask you one more thing?”
『Make it short. I’ve already taken more time than I thought I would. I have to go to the next place…』
“Per chance, is that place the location of the curse that you didn’t burn?”
The mask turned its back on her, and Tomoe asked it with a nervous expression.
Depending on the mask’s answer, she might have to fight with this ‘night’.
『…Making you look for them earlier was a mistake, huh. This is why geniuses are geniuses. Teach them one thing, and they’ll understand five or ten things just from that. 』
Despite not knowing the true identity of the white mask, she could clearly understand the emotion within its voice, and as such, knew that there was something unpleasant mixed with it. That’s why Tomoe was able to notice.
As someone who has grasped the presence of all the curses earlier, she knew that there was a curse that remained.
She’d kept quiet until now because the monks were still around, but now that they were gone, there was no reason to remain silent.
“You’ll tell me the reason, right? The reason why you burned the other side of the beach, but left one of the curses behind.”
『…You seem to be implying something, but unfortunately, that implication only makes sense if you ignore the location of the curse.』
Tomoe had asked her question with an accusatory tone, but the response of the mask took her aback.
Reflexively, she turned around and searched for the curse once more.
When she found it and matched its position with the map of the fields inside her head…
“…It’s right at the center of the latter half of the fields, not far from the foot of that ridiculous mountain… Ah! Ahh! Don’t tell me!?”
『Yes. Normal class, 2 – B. 』
As those words entered hear ears, and the girl realized the situation, she gulped. Normal Class 2 – B. That was none other than her own class.
She was with them on the first day of the exam, so naturally, she knew their schedule.
In the first day, they were to hunt raybeasts in that area, and then in the second day, they were to climb the mountain.
Given the abilities of her classmates, it was easy to imagine them safely reaching the peak of the mountain in one day.
So they should be starting their descend on the third day.
If she were to calculate the distance they’d covered based off the time that has elapsed since the beginning of the third day, then they should be right inside the area close to one of the curses.
At this distance, her detection ability only worked with strange objects like curses.
She couldn’t even sense if there were people there or not, but it was likely that there were indeed people there.
“Take me with you!” Tomoe said.
The moment she thought that, the girl jumped at the black mist and clung to it without any shame or fear for her reputation.
The black mist surprisingly felt just like a person, but it wasn’t the time for that, so she just put the thought aside.
“They’re my allies! My benefactors! My friends!! I can’t just wait here and do nothing! So, please!! Take me with you!”
The people of that class saved her when she was heavily injured during one of their classes.
And there were people there that she’s been friends with since enrollment too.
If by some chance, they were to be attacked by practitioners like the monks just now, her classmates likely wouldn’t be able to offer much of a resistance.
Knowing that, Tomoe couldn’t just choose to stand by idly.
『Even though you were about to be killed just now? 』
The mask asked with eyes seemingly full of worry, but Tomoe immediately nodded.
Had the mask not come, or if it had been late just a little, Tomoe would have likely been killed already.
Even if it managed to save her, it was clear from the situation back then that grave wounds would have at least been left on her.
Tomoe would be lying if she said she wasn’t scared, but the thought of just waiting was even more terrifying.
It was curious what the mask thought when it saw those eyes filled with a fear different from the fear of going to the battlefield, but…
『It’s troublesome, but I neither have the time to reason with you nor persuade you. And if I left you behind you’d probably just charge in on your own anyway, and that too is troublesome, so I might as well. Besides───』
───I know all too well just how scary it is just to wait without doing anything.
Amidst the mask’s mutters, something that seemed to be the arm of the black mist embraced the girl.
The mask had given her permission to accompany him, but Tomoe didn’t have the leisure to think about that.
After all, adding yesterday and today, this would be her
“Huh? Ah, wait! Hey, I know I asked you to take me! But can you please not carry me
Although the black mist resembled nothing like a person, it still felt like one, so she was able to understand that she was currently being carried like a princess right now. Moreover, the warmth of another person and the strength that could easily lift her up made her restless.
She couldn’t help but become embarrassed every time she thought back to that boy who carried her three times in a row.
But the mask didn’t answer, and just leaped high up into the sky and set its gaze on their destination.
“Woah! That’s high! Too high!!”
When Tomoe inadvertently looked down, she found that the trees that normally stood many times bigger than humans now looked like miniatures.
Being brought to such an altitude so quickly led her to panic and shake the mask.
『What are you even saying? You’re a student that will one day wear an exoskeleton and fly. 』
“Even an exoskeleton wouldn’t be able to fly up this high this quickly!!”
『Hey, stop shaking my head. I’ll miss. 』
“W-What are you talking about!?”
『Ah, whatever, I’ve finished locking in, now,
“Huh? Wait, what are you───”
Unable to process what was happening, the girl asked the mask to explain, but before she could, a mysterious glimmer covered her and the mask, and in the next moment, they vanished without a trace───