“I don’t mind actually, I just don’t know where to begin,” Ryou said.
This wasn’t usually a topic he spoke about, so he had no idea where to begin.
“You can start from the circumstances that led you down that path. Though I do know that it’s related to the exorcist clans,” Shinichi said.
“…In that case, I’ll leave the explanation to Tomoe since I don’t know much about those guys either,” Ryou said.
Although he seemed somewhat apologetic when he left the job to Tomoe because of his lack of knowledge, at the same time, there was also a tinge of hatred that kept him from wanting to touch the topic.
Tomoe knew about his situation and how he felt, so she tolerated his refusal and turned to Shinichi.
“I’ll start then. Let’s start with why the exorcist clans of Japan had to exist in the first place. If I don’t start from there, the later events will be difficult to understand,” Tomoe said.
Shinichi expected this, so he didn’t even bother to nod, and just listened attentively, urging her to continue with his eyes.
Shinichi didn’t mean anything with his actions other than to show his sincerity, but his rapt attention reminded her of how ‘close’ they were earlier.
The fact that he wasn’t trying to play a prank on her this time just made that sincere gaze affect her even more.
“I’m not informed enough to know the specifics of the exorcist clans’ history, but during the times when people knew the world only in the scale of a single village, the existence of exorcists were known, and people relied on them,” Tomoe said.
But Tomoe focused and expelled all those unnecessary thoughts, then spoke dispassionately as she spoke the story that her beloved mother told her a long time ago.
“The war against demons was originally taken care of by the local schools and religions, as well as the rituals, but as time passed and the sphere of human activities expanded, so the did the demons grow more numerous and varied, but the exorcists themselves did not grow—”
—Normal people cannot see ‘demons’ unless their aura is sufficiently dense.
When people gained knowledge and common sense, the exorcists were mocked, and some of them were even labeled as swindlers.
Even the Bureau of Onmyo that once played a central role in politics was dismantled during the Meiji Era.
But of course, by then they were already nothing more than Onmyoujis
Having predicted that an era where the existence of the spiritual would not be acknowledged publicly, the exorcists then chose to unite regardless of their origin, lineage, and religion.
Although there were other various factors at play as well, such as human ambition, self preservation, the pursuit of knowledge… etc., no one could deny the necessity of the exorcists.
Because so long as humans existed, there would always be darkness in the world for demons to be born.
An existence who could exorcise those demons and maintain the balance of the yin and yang of the world was needed.
“—And so, was born the organization that would eventually become a clan connected by blood. The bonds within the clan grew stronger, but on the other hand, they became clannish, and they grew to resent any external interference,” Tomoe said.
“But the you denied yourselves first, no? Are you kids?” Shinichi asked.
“P-Putting it really simply, an emotion of that sort was… No, I’m sure something similar to a grudge must’ve been passed down… I do agree with you, though,” Tomoe said.
In the face of that remark that was as crude as it was fatal, Tomoe wryly smiled.
They couldn’t cut off their relationship with society completely, but they couldn’t exist officially either.
They exorcised demons for the sake of the world, but before long, they started thinking carnally and considered that perhaps they didn’t do it for the sake of others.
Once that reaches a peak and blows over, a group like the Ootsu, who saw themselves as special, would be born.
“But the clan has been recently paying the price for that. The clan was too tight knit with just their own relatives, so…” Tomoe said.
“So after many generations of marrying between relatives, more and more children are dying early or are being born with defects?”
It was a topic hard to say for a girl, so she stammered, and Shinichi finished her words for her, while doing his best to maintain a neutral expression.
“You sure are informed,” Tomoe said.
“When a clannish and exclusive group
“Indeed,” Tomoe nodded in agreement. “Ironic too.”
After no longer concerning themselves with the outside other than for exorcist work, they started arguing among themselves.
Despite being united as a whole, they couldn’t avoid the mundane struggles for power.
It is said that a faction is born when three are gathered, but despite intentionally keeping their distance from society, the exorcists ended up creating a microcosm of society.
Moreover, since they were in an isolated space and with a common sense that only proved common among each other, their conflicts were more unconcealed, more cunning, and uglier than modern society’s.
That’s why regardless of the changes ‘outside’, they continued having political marriages.
They tried to improve their blood by selectively breeding like that, but unfortunately, the only thing waiting for them was the limit of their own blood.
“Ahh, but that’s… So, in other words, that’s the reason why?” Shinichi said.
Of course, there was nothing funny about this to these two, who were born precisely because of this history.
As such, not even Shinichi dared to ask directly.
“Yep, that’s it. The solution they settled on was to introduce outsider blood. The reason my mother was a half was also because they tried to build a relationship with a foreign exorcist organization, but because of the difference in the way the two groups thought, in the end, it didn’t work out,” Tomoe said.
“My grandmother was also the daughter of some influential guy from outside because of some political consideration. My mom’s spiritual power was strong enough, so she could keep her honor, but in the end, she still left,” Ryou said.
With their mothers being cousins and having similar circumstances, it was only a given that their friendship would deepen, and that they would become skeptical about the way the clan did things.
Although they didn’t know about it then, and they didn’t ask their mothers either, but the things they’ve overheard and the reactions of the adults around them were enough to give them an idea of what was happening.
Because of that, or perhaps because of the natural meeting that would occur between people, after they left the clan and started living normally, they fell in love normally too.
“They weren’t completely without spite, though,” Tomoe said.
“Our mothers met with our respective fathers outside and got married,” Ryou said.
Ryou and Tomoe hadn’t been told the specifics, such as what was so good about their dads or how they fell in love with them, but regardless, one thing led to another, and they got married, and then gave birth to them.
“We played together a lot before going up to primary school. It was really fun back then… I suffered a lot because of Tomoe, though,” Ryou said.
Perhaps due to embarrassment because he’d remembered a scene from the past, Ryou ended up muttering something unnecessary to hide his embarrassment, starting an argument with his childhood friend.
“W-What are you saying!? Didn’t I save you every time you cried your throat dry!?” Tomoe said.
“When did you ever save me!? You just treated me like your henchman!?” Ryou said.
Or perhaps, they unconsciously didn’t want to talk about what came after this.
But of course, when they noticed the boy laughing at them, they became embarrassed and stopped.
Either way, that was the last of their families’ happiness, and they continued the rest of the story with an expressionless face.
Confronted with harassment and unreasonable demands, they gave up on the clan altogether.
They considered running away together, but after considering that the clan might send people to pursue them and the risk of being found, they decided to live in completely different regions.
That was the last time the two families met, and they didn’t even know that each other’s parents had died until they met again at the academy.
“My mother wasn’t really the sickly type, but she also wasn’t very active. Despite that she had to live at an unfamiliar place, while doing an unfamiliar job and raising me on her own. To make things worse, the people who didn’t think well of us found us. Although they didn’t force us to go back, they never stopped harassing us. Eventually my mother got sick and passed away… Well, it’s not really that rare of a story,” Ryou said.
The usual sob story, he said in an attempt to make fun of his own tragedy.
If he didn’t do that, a different emotion might just come pouring out of him.
Shinichi didn’t say anything and just looked at him.
Tomoe also quietly hung her head beside.
“Is that your motivation?” Shinichi asked.
“Right… There’s someone who needs to pay. I hate the clan, but I hate that guy even more, so I’m going to find him, and I’m going to beat the s**t out of him,” Ryou said.
“Sounds dangerous,” Shinichi said.
Ryou tried to suppress his emotions as much as he could, but he still failed to hide the hate in his words.
Despite that Shinichi did not become upset, and his voice remained flat.
Ryou figured that he must’ve already predicted this, so he continued.
“I remember saying during the exam that I want to join the army. The reason is because the highest chance for me to fight against that guy is there. Ah, but you don’t have to worry, that guy is definitely a villain. In fact, he’s already a wanted man to both worlds,” Ryou said.
He said that matter-of-factly, but his eyes were brimming with hate, and his hands have balled into fists so tight over the table it seemed as though he was trying to hurt himself.
“Even alone though she was alone, my mother protected me. She knew what kind of fate was waiting for her, but she still gave birth to me and raised me. She left our family because she was concerned about my future.”
The problematic way of life of the exorcist clan that caused this mess, and the unsympathetic words of those people.
Ryou hated those too, but there was something else he hated more.
“My mother was so kind, and yet… He abandoned her. There’s no way I can forgive scum like that. Because of him… My mother worked herself to the bone. Because of him… She died alone!”
He never mentioned who exactly it was he was referring to, but it also needn’t be said.
After all, the one person that should’ve already been mentioned was yet to make his appearance.
Ryou’s voice was weak, but it was precisely because of that that the anguish behind it could be felt.
That’s why Shinichi ignored the blood that had begun to drip from his hand.
“I’ve been searching for him desperately all this time, and when I found out where he was, to my surprise, he was already scum wanted by Garesto, so I decided then… That one day, with these two hands of mine, I’m going to—“”
Ryou cut his words at that moment, and downed a glass of water to calm his emotions, then he shook his head as he exhaled. He’s been trying not to let his emotions get to him, but just talking about him was enough to get him emotional.