The customers that were able to flee from the department store were gathered at the stores and tents on the other side of the road.
The Countermeasure Department and the police lightly interrogated them and took care of them.
An earlier explosion had frightened some of the women and children, so even though they had already started to calm down, they started panicking again.
“We’re safe here already, so how about you go back to Shinichi?”
At a corner was a man holding a sleeping baby in his arms. He was waiting for his wife and his son.
Nobuhiko asked the creature by his feet in a mumble, though the intentions behind it were by no means weak.
It was as if all he could do was to beg this creature to do something.
To Nobuhiko’s dismay, ‘she’ only shook her head as if to say ‘What are you talking about?’
Nobuhiko was annoyed by that, but at the same time, he was impressed.
He had heard that the Amaryllis were as smart as humans, but he didn’t think that she would actually be able to understand his words and even play the fool like this.
“Won’t you go back to Shinichi? I understand that you’re staying behind to protect us, but we’re fine already, so please help him instead.”
His son ran off to save the people left in the building, but for some reason, he left ‘her’ with them.
What’s more is that this little creature that was usually inseparable from Shinichi did not give chase.
Rinko urged them to flee, and along their way out of the department store, the reason why she stayed with them became apparent.
After all, they were attacked twice on their way out.
It was during these two times that this girl who has always acted like a pet finally showed a hint of her wild side.
The armed thugs were no match for her who was one of the Amaryllis that stood at the apex of the Reserve.
Over 10 armed men were knocked out by her just like that.
In other words, the reason she separated from Shinichi was to protect them.
Moreover, she understood Shinichi’s intentions without needing him to say anything.
But if so, then shouldn’t her duty have been completed the moment they were able to leave the department store?
But strangely enough, she refused to leave them.
“Now that the situation has reached this point, there’s nothing I can do anymore, but you’re different, right?”
Neither his wife who left to check the situation or his son that stayed behind have come back.
Just awhile ago, even more people were able to escape the department store, but Shinichi wasn’t among them.
It seems some of them were called to the temporary HQ of the Countermeasure Department, but when Nobuhiko asked them what those people looked like, he found out Shinichi wasn’t among them either.
From time to time, thunderous roars could be heard all the way from the department store even though they were across the road.
Nobuhiko was somehow able to make himself sound calm, but deep inside he wanted to run off already.
The only thing keeping him from running was the weight of the baby in his arms.
But the amaryllis shook her head.
Then she pointed her small forelegs at the department store and moved her ears.
Nobuhiko’s irritation at her refusal to go grew stronger, but he couldn’t just ignore what the amaryllis was trying to tell him with her gestures.
He tried to piece together what the amaryllis was trying to telling him.
“…Are you saying there’s something going on with the sound coming from the department store?”
The amaryllis nodded, then she took her forelimbs and started boxing.
It seems she picked up this tidbit of knowledge from somewhere. One, two. One two. She jabbed and crossed with her left and right repeatedly, then she pointed her forelimbs at the department store again and made a large movement with her ears.
“Umm… You’re saying that those are the sounds of fighting?”
The amaryllis nodded again, then she pointed at the bag she has been riding in all this time.
Nobuhiko wondered what he was supposed to make of from that, but when the first person he could think of came to mind, he was confused.
It was unthinkable, but he still took out the picture of his son that he recently took with his terminal.
When he did, she became excited and pointed to the picture.
“…Are you saying that those sounds are from Shinichi fighting?”
Despite asking the unthinkable, the amaryllis nodded the biggest it has so far.
Nobuhiko realized that that was the reason why it was okay for her not to go.
“Are you saying… That since he’s fighting, he must still be alive, so it’s okay?”
At the very least, that’s how she thought.
It was a refreshing point of view, but at the same time, it showed just how much she trusted him.
There was a difference in the gentleness behind her eyes when she looked at Shinichi and looked at Shinji.
It was a bit late, but Nobuhiko finally realized that these two deeply trusted each other.
“You don’t think he could lose at all, do you?”
The amaryllis nodded matter-of-factly.
If this creature could trust him so much, just how strong was Shinichi?
It seems it really would be for the best if he abandoned everything he knew before about Shinichi.
“As a parent, I still want you to go, though.”
But no matter how strong Shinichi was, Nobuhiko still wanted her to go. When he said that, she pointed at their current location, looked around restlessly, and then place her forelimbs by her hips as she puffed up her chest.
“Watching over here? You’re amazing? No? Hmm… Maybe you’re trying to tell me that you want me to do your best here? No? Then maybe you want to protect this place?”
“But this place is… Ah.”
When the amaryllis told him that he got it right, Nobuhiko was taken aback.
In the end, just what was the reason behind all these commotion? The motives of the armed criminals were a mystery.
Until they could figure that out, this place was actually unsafe.
After all, for all they knew, the criminals could have mixed in with the customers and store employees taking refuge here.
When Nobuhiko realized that that was what she was worried about, he heaved a sigh.
“…Why are you and Shinichi so quick to understand these kind of things?”
“Kyu!? Kyukyuu.. Kyu?”
Unfortunately, it seems explaining something like this with gestures was a bit difficult.
If not that, then perhaps there was another reason why she couldn’t explain.
Either way, the amaryllis just made a cry and held her head with her eyes swimming.
Seeing her look adorable like that, Nobuhiko too finally relaxed a little.
But that too only lasted for a moment, before a sound resounded and the world in front of him seemed to waver.
Very quickly, Nobuhiko realized that though the shock was real, the world wavering was nothing more than a hallucination.
Then for some reason, his heart started beating quickly and the sleeping Shinji suddenly woke up and cried loudly.
The other children taking refuge also became scared and began bawling their eyes out, while the countenance of the parents fell.
Apparently, everyone here experienced that same impact.
“What… was that?”
But when Nobuhiko looked around him, he noticed that nothing here seemed to have been hit by anything.
Just what was that? That disgusting feeling that pushed up his chest.
That ghastly impulse and unease that stirred a kind of primal fear from within.
Nobuhiko knew that if not for his son in his arms, he would have surely lost his cool.
That was just how fearful and ghastly that thing was. And he knew it instinctively.
“Kyu, kyu, kyua!?”
But what really kept his cool was his sense of responsibility as a father. The amaryllis by his feet was more distraught than anyone else.
From that he knew that something must’ve happened to Shinichi.
“…Did something happen to Shinichi?”
Nobuhiko was surprised he could ask that so calmly.
In response, she jolted in surprise and became flustered, but eventually, she gave in and just nodded.
“Are you going?”
“You don’t have to worry about us anymore since we’ll be going to where Rinko is.”
That was Nobuhiko’s way of convincing this girl who still refused to act.
Nobuhiko didn’t know what it was, but he knew that something unexpected had occurred. Something grave enough to cause this small but powerful amaryllis to waver.
“Please… save Shinichi.”
Nobuhiko thought it was cowardly of him to say that, but he still said it anyway.
His son may have hated those words, but he still couldn’t find it in himself not to say them.
He had no way of knowing what happened just yet.
Perhaps there would never be a time for him to know.
But that’s precisely why, regardless how irresponsible those words were, as a dad, Nobuhiko had to say them.
It seems they were able to understand each other, as she made a small nod and ran off as fast as she could.
“Ah, there, there! It’s okay, Shinji. We’ll go to your mom, and your big brother will come back very soon.”
Nobuhiko said to the crying baby in his arms, though he seemed to be saying it to himself as well.
Then he remembered how he said something similar to a young child 8 years ago, and his expression suddenly turned bitter, and he glared at the sky.
—Why!? Why does it always have to be you who suffers from things like this!?