When Yousuke had finally left, it was like the clear weather after a storm. It was funny how it was suddenly so quiet.
“…He’s a puppy,” she said.
“Don’t say that. I took care of him too much, that’s why… Ah, my head hurts.”
When his servant, Youko, sharply pointed that out, Shinichi facepalmed.
Shinichi’s face became even more sullen when he imagined Yousuke growing a beastman’s ears and tail.
In those days, he was worried that he would become overly attached to him, but whatever bond they have must’ve weakened in the time he was gone.
“Fu fu, but isn’t this good, Master?”
At first she was planning on glaring at Yousuke if he was just going to be running his mouth again, but ‘something like that’ she could understand. He was really suitable to be the master’s younger brother.
Those were the thoughts hidden behind her words when she spoke them, but Shinichi’s response confused her.
“Yeah, that’s right.”
Shinichi spoke in a monotonous voice void of emotion before sitting right there on the rooftop.
When she looked at his face from the side, strangely enough, there wasn’t a hint of happiness on his face.
“W-What’s the matter?”
“Nothing. I was just wondering. If it’s really okay for me to be the ‘onii-chan’ he yearns for.”
When she heard those words that she couldn’t have imagined at all, she became confused. She couldn’t understand the thoughts or emotions behind her master’s words.
But she did have an idea what the reason behind them could be. Earlier, he teleported alone during his teleportation magic experiment.
Shinichi was making a face similar to what he was making now when he came back then.
She didn’t know why that was, but something must’ve happened during the experiment.
“…Where did you teleport— No, where did you go after that?”
But teleportation magic was a magic that transported one to a place with a marking.
She knew all the places that he’s visited since their return.
And of those places, not one of them should be capable of causing Shinichi to make a face like ‘this’.
“You’re wrong… I couldn’t go, since it was no longer there.”
But her master shook his head. He said the place he wanted to go no longer existed.
“Not one bit was left. Not even a trace. The park I played at with my family, the small-time candy store and super markets that we bought stuff from, the secondhand bookstore I frequently read books at while standing, the primary school everyone went to, even the ‘house’ I was raised at, not a single one was left.”
He spoke of those shocking things as if they didn’t concern him.
But after hearing him say those thing and imagining the state of the place, she shivered.
Youko wasn’t the sort to think much of her hometown.
That’s why she was able to follow him to this world. But even then she found the thought terrifying.
Imagine if the forest and rivers that she frequented with her late parents were to vanish without a trace.
When she thought of those places being turned into human cities without the slightest traces of what they used to be, she became terrified.
“I saw it in the map before, but seeing it in person was more painful than I thought.”
It’s not so strange for the ages to move considering they’ve been interacting with another world for 8 years.
But Shinichi wasn’t a part of those 8 years, so to him, it was as if the changes occurred suddenly.
“Why, something like that…”
That’s why it was unnatural. He knew and yet he still went to take a look.
No matter how much he liked to hurt himself normally, this was still too much.
And that was despite knowing that he might be able to reconciliate with his younger brother today.
“I just thought I should get rid of the dawdling me before talking to him.”
He continued to speak as if it didn’t concern him, but somewhere in his voice was mixed a color of anger as well. As if he was calmly scolding the weak him.
“If I was longing for something and spoke to him, then I might not have been able to reject his proposal.”
That’s why he had to thoroughly beat into himself the cold truth that was reality before talking to him.
“To that end, visiting the town he was born in was really useful,” he laughed.
“A home to go back to… And the place I wanted to go back to… Neither exists anymore. It was necessary to point that out. For the sake of the weak me.”
Shinichi fearlessly spoke such painful things about himself.
She felt like she’d seen that face somewhere before, and she shivered again but for a different reason than earlier.
“Now then, it should be about time we went back to my room. Or else the illusions cast will have their faults shown.”
Shinichi suddenly stood up and listlessly walked.
It was thanks to the illusion and barrier spells that the people monitoring them didn’t know that they were at the roof.
As long as they came back while the spells were still in effect, no one would notice that they’d left.
Although this turn of events wasn’t unexpected, Youko still sighed from Shinichi’s shoulders.
“…Sigh. It’s just like you, Master, but you know, when you’re going out of your way to finish off yourself when you’ve been driven into a corner, the entire meaning of stuff like rebirth becomes unclear.”
When those words leaked out of her, Shinichi was smiling just like a trickster.
That was enough for Youko to know that Shinichi had completely returned to how he was back in Falandia.
A boy who – for better or for worse – took a long term view and loved to tease people.
“Deliberately cut down your hope and forcefully narrow your path.”
“Take advantage of your desire to go against the norms and authority of society to forcefully bring your mind back to shape.
Techniques that followed such mysterious and peculiar theories were his favorite when it came to refreshing himself.
The world was vast and there were sure to be many ways to refresh one’s self, but the only who would do something like this was probably him.
“I haven’t recovered enough to be able to easily contact dad and the others just yet, though. I’m fragile in the strangest places, that’s why I’m so troublesome.”
“Yes. It was often mentioned that your ‘mind was only strong on the surface and in the roots’.”
Youko palmed her face and ruminated on the words someone once said.
“But that’s exactly what’s good about me. Although it is a fatal error as far as human hearts go.”
Despite what he was saying, he sounded as if these things didn’t concern him at all.
He realized how strange that was himself, but there was no remedying it anymore.
The fact that he genuinely thought that was a good thing meant he was beyond saving.
“Is that why you were asking if it was alright for you to be his older brother?”
“…Let’s just leave it at that for now. If you poke me there now, you’ll have something else to worry about.”
He was tacitly saying that that wasn’t all to it as he told her to drop the matter.
It was because he realized that he was no longer the same person he once was.
“I understand… Fu fu. But my skin is still cold from the evening winds at the rooftop. How about a nice hot bath this evening?”
“….You’re not thinking of entering too, are you?”
She understood what he was getting at, so she immediately changed the topic, but he immediately saw through her intentions.
That’s why Shinichi tacitly told her not to enter.
“I could at least wash your back… If I use illusion magic, I could make myself appear as a male student.”
But she was also a formidable person.
She would be fine even in the bathhouse of the male dormitory where other people were present.
Shinichi lacked common sense, so it was hard to notice, but actually she too had her own issues.
Her treatment of those whom she didn’t care about was very crude.
“Hey, stop it! I may have given up on not standing out, but I don’t recall giving permission for weird rumors about me to start circulating!”
He wouldn’t mind other kinds of rumors, but that particular kind he wished to avoid.
He was normal. That side of him that didn’t want others to misunderstand that was very much like his age.
Though for men not ‘there’, it was an unpleasant thing regardless of age.
“Huh? You sure mind some strange things, Master.”
Perhaps it was because she was a woman, but she didn’t seem to understand and made an unhappy face.
“It’s not weird at all!!”
Shinichi pointed that out and denied her accusations with a loud voice.