“I’m asking just in case, but what are the odds that you have the wrong person? It would be terrible if after going out of my way to train you, this ended with you saying, ‘sorry, I got the wrong guy,’” Shinichi said.
Upon being asked such a senseless question, Ryou found his face twitching.
“Give me more credit, will you? I did my homework properly. I got his DNA information from the official database when I drifted over to Garesto. I checked it several times, so there’s no mistaking it,” Ryou said.
“I see. That’s fine then,” Shinichi said.
“Huh?” Ryou said.
Shinichi was the one who raised the issue, but he accepted his answer so easily just like that.
Because of that Ryou ended up the one being flustered.
He said his motivation was vengeance, but given their relationship, it wasn’t hard to come to terms with it.
He was also sensible enough to investigate the matter thoroughly, so Shinichi was easily able to accept his answer and didn’t bother finding fault in him, but because of that this matter ended on an anti-climatic note for him.
“…Do you really not mind?” Ryou asked.
“I don’t see anything wrong with it at all. Even if that man really does have some reason for his actions, he clearly hasn’t considered enough the problems his actions would cause. That’s why I acknowledge your right to defeat him,” Shinichi said.
—Just be sure to beat him thoroughly without holding anything back.
As Shinichi spoke such dangerous words with a smile, a chill crawled up Ryou’s back.
That was true for Tomoe too, who was sitting beside him.
“I told you to stop smiling like that, sheesh!”
It was such a creepy smile that it made her complain with a cramping face.
The gap was just too terrifying with how harmless his face was.
But the person himself just laughed and didn’t give a clear reply.
“Your answer just now got you a lot of points. It’s good that you didn’t just start attacking the moment you found out where he was, and instead wholeheartedly trained because you felt the gap in power between the two of you. That calmness and objectivity is important. Don’t forget that,” Shinichi said.
When Shinichi suddenly praised him, Ryou became speechless and froze up, then he became embarrassed.
When Tomoe saw that, she looked at him with a knowing gaze, as though to say, ‘I understand exactly how you feel’.
At the same time, she wryly smiled because in just a few days Shinichi had already broken through the guard of this childhood friend of hers, who was always so guarded with people.
“I’m up next then, I suppose,” Tomoe said.
Although she was delighted to see her childhood friend having the same experience as she did, when she saw Shinichi and Ryou become quiet and look at her, she calmed from down her excitement and prepared to give her answer.
Perhaps, without her knowing, she might’ve also been delaying broaching the subject regarding her motivation.
“During the exam, you mentioned wanting to leave your mark on the world. From how this conversation has gone, I’m guessing your motivation is also your parents?” Shinichi asked.
“Yes, I want the honor of being recognized officially,” Tomoe said.
But despite saying that, she didn’t seem overly zealous about it.
That was likely because being recognized was merely a ‘means’ and not the ‘goal’ itself.
That’s why there was embarrassment in her next words, as well as a silent anger.
“As for why, it’s probably because… I need proof. Both my parents have passed already, so it’s up to me to prove that my birth wasn’t a mistake, and neither were my parents for falling in love with each other,” Tomoe said.
“…I see,” Shinichi said.
Shinichi quietly listened and thoroughly fulfilled his role as the listener here.
Hers was a motivation that came to be because she was treated as though she were a mistake.
Just how much abuse had she suffered from those people?
Having seen those people with their antiquated xenophobia just made Shinichi pity her all the more.
But even if Shinichi could easily imagine the reason behind her motivation, he could not so easily tell her that he ‘understood’.
That’s why he just kept quiet, and because of that, she made a curious face.
“…You’re not going to say anything? And here I thought you’d make a sarcastic remark for sure,” Tomoe said.
That sounded a bit too far, but he indeed seemed like the sort who would do something like that.
But Shinichi replied with a curious face as though he didn’t know what she was talking about.
“Really? It would’ve been one thing if what you wanted sought to bring chaos to the world, but while your objective is undoubtedly heavy, it was born from your feelings for your parents and your anger seeing them mocked. Both your feelings and the path you’ve chosen are righteous, so how could I find fault with them? You can take pride in that,” Shinichi said.
“…” Tomoe was speechless.
He told her to take pride in her own goal so casually it was as though he was talking about the weather.
But there was no disdain behind his words, and it even seemed as though if she couldn’t be proud of herself, he would coerce her to violently.
“S-So you’re still finding fault, after all…”
She’d prepared herself for a gentle rejection, so when he gave her that kind of reaction instead, she couldn’t help but complain like that to hide her real feelings.
But she couldn’t hide her cheeks loosening to the childhood friend sitting beside her.
That’s why Ryou let out that one word in praise.
After reuniting in the academy, they visited their parents’ grave just once.
Back then some adults pretended to be sensible and
“W-What’s with that look!? You have a problem or something!!?”
Having seemingly sensed Ryou’s meaningful gazed, Tomoe responded unreasonably, but that just made his smile even bigger, and when Shinichi saw them bickering again, a similar expression surfaced on him too.
“It’s nothing, just that… Is it okay even if that’s just within the school?” Ryou asked.
“Huh? What do you mean?” Tomoe asked.
“Even if society and this school acknowledges you, there’s a high chance that that family won’t acknowledge you. But aren’t they the ones you want to get back at the most?” Ryou said.
So far he has only come into contact with the Ootsu clan, which has already been excommunicated from the exorcist families.
But even then, just how much influence could honor in the world have on such people?
But Tomoe just responded with a face full of confidence.
“That’s fine. No matter how special and important they are to the world, in the end, they’re a minority. It’s my victory as long as the world recognizes me!” Tomoe said.
“…What a novel application of democracy,” Shinichi said.
Shinichi was astonished to see such creative perspective that even he couldn’t imagine.
But he did not see that sort of thinking for complacency, but her strong resolve to fight it out.
Yes, this was a fight against the world, both for her and for the exorcist clans. The chance of victory was low, and the opponent was enormous, but despite that, this girl would continue to put on a bold front and challenge the world at any cost.
“So cool, completely unlike someone superficial like me,” Shinichi muttered.
For a moment, a tinge of envy surfaced on his eyes at her method that was similar and yet fundamentally different.
“Huh? Did you say something?”
But the boy hadn’t said that out loud, and just said it was nothing when she asked, then as though to catch her off guard, he asked a question.
“More importantly, why did it have to be your families?” Shinichi asked.
“What do you mean?” Tomoe asked.
“The problem of your blood concerned your whole clan, and yet from the way you were talking, it seemed as though the only ones who accepted outsider blood were your mothers’ families. It also seemed as though some kind of permission had to be given,” Shinichi said.
Otherwise, it wouldn’t make sense for them to be the only ones to be treated coldly, and it wouldn’t have been so easy to bring in people related to foreign exorcists or influential people.
What was the reason that made that possible?
“Ah, it’s not like we were trying to hide it, but it strayed off topic, and it seemed like you’d just make fun of us if we told you,” Tomoe said.
“Agreed. He’ll definitely make an unnecessary remark,” Ryou said.
“In that case, I’ll be sure to live up to your expectations. Now, tell me,” Shinichi said.
Despite their justified prejudice, Shinichi happily pursued this matter.
Having unexpectedly brought trouble to themselves, the two looked at each other and sighed.
“There are three families in charge of bringing together the exorcist clans. Just one or two would cause conflict, so they went out of their to make sure there were three families in charge,” Ryou said.
“The other two are as good as dead, though. The Abe, the Tsuchimikado, and the Shinguuji. Normally, the other families would come under these three, and the three families did do well keeping each other in check, but the blood problem was especially pronounced among these three families, and it was even worse for the Abe and the Shinguuji,” Tomoe said.
“The way we saw it, they just barely managed to reach two digits in our grandparents’ generation, and that’s after combining both families’ numbers, so… Yeah. They’re done for,” Ryou said.
“In that moment, they became leaders of the clan in name alone,” Tomoe said.
Considering how even the excommunicated Ootsu had at least 30 executives – the ones gathered at that place then – it’s only a given that the Abe and the Shinguuji would lose influence among the exorcists.
“So in other words, the introduction of outsider blood was a desperate measure to turn things around. And because they were supposed to be the leading families, they were able to take a heavy-handed approach,” Ryou said.
As for the results, they pointed to themselves.
After their plans fell through, there now remained only one person from each family to carry the blood.
To make things worse, the two remaining members were a long way away from the clans, and were more hostile than neutral.
But what got Shinichi’s attention was something else.
“Wait, you’re from the Abe family? That Abe?”
Since, Ryou’s mother was from the Shinguuji family, then Tomoe must be from the Abe family.
When it came to spiritual matters, there was one person especially famous in the field.
A person who has even appeared in many fictional works, the onmyouji, Abe Seimei.
As soon as the name was mentioned, Shinichi immediately thought of him.