“Seriously. He was kind of cool back then too when he told them off…”
But now not a hint of that was left as Tomoe watched him sit on the floor while grasping his legs depressed.
But when she said that, her childhood friend seating beside her and the beast seated on the other side let out amused voices.
“Kyui?” Youko said.
“Hoho?” Ryou said.
“W-What are you looking at me like that for? Did I say something weird?” Tomoe said.
Ryou grinned, while Youko’s face was brimming with interest, but the one thing they shared in common was their amusement.
“Oh, nothing, I was just thinking you’re a girl too. Honestly, I didn’t think you’d be the type to fall for the hero after being saved from a pinch,” Ryou said.
“What!? Wait, that’s not what I meant by that just now! I just though that he was really respectable before!” Tomoe said.
Tomoe vehemently denied her childhood friend’s suspicions.
She blamed her flushed face on her shock, but that just made the smile on the two grow deeper as they nodded with ‘understanding’.
“Ah, sheesh! This is all your fault! I know I’m the one who exposed you, but get yourself together, will you!?” Tomoe said.
Although it was yet to reach the level of venting her anger out on someone, when she scolded Shinichi for his pathetic appearance, he looked at her reproachfully.
Truth be told, he himself hadn’t expected to become this depressed.
“Shut it. I didn’t think I’d be this affected either, but you know… I thought for sure if something was going to beat that mask, it would be some kind of divine power, or maybe a technology so advanced that I couldn’t even imagine it,” Shinichi said.
And yet, against all of his expectations, what defeated the mask was some ‘basic’ Earth tech, at least compared to all the super powers and advanced technology. And what’s more was that it was his own Earthling sister who did it. To add insult to injury, she did it to kill time.
The legendary heroic symbol that was the mask had been defeated just like that.
That’s why he too was surprised to see how deeply he had been affected by this unexpected turn of events.
Apparently, he trusted and loved that mask of his more than he thought he did.
Though from an outsider’s perspective, that was only a given.
After all, while he might have spent the most time with Youko over in Falandia as far as living creatures were concerned, the first thing he acquired after the incident was the mask.
And with most tools and weapons breaking in his hands, it could be said that the mask was the comrade-in-arms that he’s been fighting with all this time. And yet it just had to lose in such an anti-climatic manner.
It was only a given that emotions so terrible they couldn’t be explained with the word ‘shock’ would arise within him.
“Is that how it is?” Tomoe said.
“You’d understand if you actually tried. For example, the power of that Kamunagi that’s been passed down for generations in your family. Imagine it being defeated by a technology from a completely different field that hadn’t even prepared for it in particular. The culprit is your best friend. Her reason: to kill time. To add insult to injury, she didn’t even understand the gravity of her own actions,” Shinichi said.
Now that he mentions it.
When Tomoe imagined that, her expression gradually turned for the worse, and all of the sudden, she was able to understand the indescribable, complicated emotions swirling within Shinichi.
“Also, that recognition interference ability is actually closer to your power than anything else,” Shinichi said.
It was not something developed by the advancements of Science, but a mysterious power whose concepts weren’t fully understood.
For it to be defeated by such a method, moreover, by someone she knew well…
“I’m sorry. Really. I mean that from the bottom of my heart,” Tomoe said.
“See?” Shinichi said.
That may have been the deciding factor, as Tomoe apologized meekly.
Kamunagi was a memento to her, but she also had other strong emotional attachments to it.
If it were ever to be defeated in the way Shinichi’s mask was, she would without a doubt be just as troubled.
Seeing that she was finally able to understand his plight, Shinichi nodded in satisfaction.
“…Sorry,” Tomoe said.
But when Tomoe saw that, a dark countenance surfaced on her again.
For some reason, she’s been having a guilty conscience ever since she sat here.
At first, it was because she was being ungrateful to her benefactor, and then she realized just how bad his life must’ve been in Garesto when he forgot even the matter about finger prints, and then in the end, she even tried to negotiate in a way that cast doubt on his character.
And yet despite all of that, he still accepted them.
“What for?” Shinichi said.
“A lot… And my debt with you has gotten even bigger,” Tomoe said.
She didn’t think it would be right to say all of that, so she shook her head and said something else.
As she thought of how helpless a thing it was to try and pay all of that back, a feeble smile surfaced on her.
Incurring debts in itself wasn’t what she hated, but the fact that she was in a situation that forced her to be indebted was too pathetic.
Moreover the good and the bad of the actions she took were as clear as day, and she could see that she’d messed up a lot, so she couldn’t find it in her to be as spirited as usual.
“Don’t worry, I’ll be sure to drive you hard, so hard in fact, you’ll wish you never turned to me for help,” Shinichi consoled.
“…I can see you doing that, so that’s actually kind of scary,” Tomoe said.
Shinichi was wearing that usual wicked smile on his face again. She’d seen that many times by now, but she still wasn’t used to it, and she found herself faltering before the pressure it emanated.
She knew he was just being considerate, but she still found his threat scary.
Especially since he was the kind of
It was a bit late to be saying this, but it was at this moment that Tomoe realized how right she was to describe him as the ‘night’.
“In that case, I’ll be insensitive too and ask. Why do you want to become stronger? What motivates you?”
Indeed, his nastiness knew no bounds, and he encroached that topic just like that.
The air froze—Okay, it didn’t quite go that far, but the air certainly grew heavier, and only the person who brought the question himself and his servant appeared indifferent, but their eyes were serious.
“…I take it that’s one of the conditions you need to help us?” Tomoe asked.
Shinichi had already given several conditions if they want to be taught by him.
First, they needed to suppress any evidence pertaining to his identity as the mask. Of course, they couldn’t tell anyone about him either.
Two, they weren’t allowed to ask about his strength. Their relationship as teacher and student also had to be a secret.
And three, in times of emergency, they had to follow his orders. He was by himself, so he needed maids that knew of his situation.
Lastly, he also needed them to cough up all the information they had.
“If it’s easier for you to talk that way, then you can think as you please. I won’t be able to feel like putting my back into it if you can’t tell me this much. Besides, if you can come clean to me with this, then I can more or less guess the rest… Amu.”
At long last, the shock from the defeat of the mask seemed to have finally worn off, as Shinichi spoke casually while eating the desert that he asked to be served late.
But even as he ate the melting green tea ice cream, not a hint of that innocent boy from earlier could be seen.
Right now, he really was just eating it for the sake of accumulating calories.
“…You just can’t make up your mind whether to be considerate directly or indirectly, huh.”
Tomoe felt that was his way of being polite.
His conduct could certainly be called rude, but the seriousness in his eyes seemed intentional.
Hence, if anything, it seemed as though he was being considerate of them in his own way by settling this troublesome topic as soon as possible.
At least, that’s how Tomoe saw it as she looked at him with a fed-up gaze. What a difficult man, she smiled.
“You can just tell me straight to my face that I’m twisted. Also, I hate troublesome things,” Shinichi said.
“There’s nothing good about that at all, you know,” Tomoe said.
This time Tomoe sighed with nothing but dismay.
Though at the same time she did feel like she did something somewhat similar to someone before.
“I get that it’s important for you to understand our motivation since you’re the one training us, but from how you’re talking… Don’t you already know?” Ryou said.
“Of course, he knows. He seems to have heard our conversation with those guys from the Ootsu too, and I feel like he said something along those lines too when we were being controlled,” Tomoe said.
Although the information they’d given him was fragmentary at best, it was enough for most people to piece together the whole picture.
But despite that, Shinichi quietly and firmly shook his head.
“I can more or less imagine it, but… In the end, imagination is just imagination. I want to hear it from your mouth. I want to hear it with your voice. That’s why I have to ask.”
By this point, it was starting to sound like this was less to fulfill the conditions he’d demanded from them and more for their own sake.
As though if he didn’t know their wish, their feelings, their zeal, he wouldn’t be able to train them.
──But that’s only a given, because this is basically an irreversible contract.
This wasn’t like that time with the maids, when he trained them on a whim to kill time and to repay their kindness.
He alone knew that this was something that would change their lives forever.
That’s why he had a duty to hear what kind of burden they were carrying with them.
Shinichi himself found this whole thing needlessly fastidious, though, so what about them?
“Ryou, what will you do?”
Tomoe asked her childhood friend.
She herself didn’t mind telling Shinichi, but this matter involved ‘both of them’.
Since she’d invited Ryou here, she had to respect his opinion.