“S-Since when have you been here!?”
『You’re asking the wrong question.』
『The question isn’t ‘when’ but ‘where’.』
For a moment, Ryou and Tomoe wondered just how those questions were different, but Masquerade’s next words enlightened them.
『Sorry, but I’m not so ill-mannered as to send a woman home in the dead of the night alone.』
“Don’t tell me!?”
Y-You were there!?”
When they thought back to the situation before they were kidnapped, the question was indeed ‘where’.
Because the mask didn’t come here only after they were kidnapped.
『That’s right, I’ve been with you the whole time. In the elevator, in the manor… The whole time. You were sleeping really well, weren’t you?』
“Eek!!!” Tomoe and Ryou cried.
It was all too easy to imagine the crescent moon smile behind that mask as he said that, but the eyes that could be gleamed were definitely not smiling.
It was over. There was no hiding their blunder anymore since their master had been watching the whole thing from the front-row seat.
『I understand it was a surprise attack, but it really was heartrending to see you put to sleep by a low-level jutsu and be so easily kidnapped.』
The voice of the mask was as indistinguishable as usual, but it spoke with a sorrowful tone.
Ryou and Tomoe have been sweating this whole time, but now they were sweating not out of fatigue but uneasiness.
Regardless, the thought of blaming him for not saving them never surfaced.
That wasn’t because they were aware of their own failures, but because they were worried about something else.
『I’m sure it must be because my training methods were wrong. Tomorrow, no, it’s already morning… Consider yourselves lucky if you can even eat breakfast.』
“I knew it!”
Ryou and Tomoe cried out, trembling and pale.
That declaration was even more terrifying than when they were attacked by that fire earlier.
『Calm down, you’ll mess up your jutsu. Just keep it up for a little longer.』
The mask said in an amused tone, though he didn’t forget to warn them.
Ignored, Michizane blew his top from behind and shot out another demonic slash, but not only did it fail to come into contact with the mask, it even refused to approach as though it were afraid and just dispersed on its own.
Meanwhile, everyone else was frozen. They were bewildered by the odd behavior of the demon sword, that strange black mist, and Tomoe and Ryou’s familiar yet fearful attitude toward it.
『───Now then, let’s get back to the topic. Do you need
But the mask didn’t seem to care about anyone else and just spoke to Tomoe and Ryou, who found themselves glancing at each other at his question.
Seeing them unable to come up with an answer immediately, he continued.
『You can’t succeed with just you two alone, but what if you include me? Use me as you please and if you don’t use me wrong, I’ll hold back tomorrow.』
“So God does exist! Huh?”
They saw a glimmer of hope upon hearing those words, but then a puzzled expression surfaced on them.
Normally, just having him take the demon sword should ensure their victory, but he just had to say the words ‘if you don’t use me wrong’.
“…Is there still some other problem?”
“From the way he’s talking, I’m sure of it!”
They turned to Michizane and observed him closely.
The way they saw it, the problem now was that Tomoe’s jutsu was keeping them from moving and others from approaching.
Long-ranged attacks couldn’t work either because of the after-effects of Tomoe’s jutsu and the demonic blade.
Even if they did manage to get through and attack, they would still be repelled by the evil ki of the demon sword.
If there was a problem beyond that, then…
“If my eyes aren’t deceiving me, that demon sword and his hand are already…”
“No way! They’ve fused?”
They muttered those words, but they still caused caused a commotion.
His right hand, which held the demon sword, was covered with sinews like the roots of a plant.
And the hilt was sunk more than halfway into his palm. They were fused together so tightly that not even Tomoe’s jutsu could undo it. Already, this was no longer something that could be solved by a jutsu.
『Now, how will you use me?』
Upon realizing that they’ve noticed what the biggest problem was, the mask spoke those words happily and cruelly, as though to force them to make a cruel choice.
The two pairs of eyes turned to the mask in disbelief and horror.
After all, the optimal solution couldn’t be any clearer.
Though roots were buried into Michizane’s arm, they at most reached up to the middle part, so…
Just cut it.
Cut off the part that’s been infested.
Ryou and Tomoe arrived to that conclusion at the same time, and together, they gulped.
“That’s a bit…”
Ryou was hesitant, while Tomoe was speechless.
They only had pity for Michizane and didn’t actually hate him.
The only reason they were helping him because it was the best way to avoid antagonizing the entire clan.
Cutting off the arm might cause Michizane and the Tsumori House to resent them, but when the situation had gotten to this point, it would be unreasonable for the entire clan to still hold them accountable.
After all, Michizane had trespassed into the mansion of their very own clan master, took out a demon sword without permission, and just as brazenly used it.
The situation was so dire that, if anything, the Tsumori House should brace themselves to take responsibility.
That being said.
Ryou and Tomoe also knew that their inadequacies and failures were responsible for this mess.
They let their guard down and allowed themselves to be kidnapped, then they kept trying to conduct themselves properly that they never managed to solve anything, and then before they knew it, the problem had spiraled out of control.
And now, they had now choice but to push the problem onto
Moreover, it was something as distressing as cutting off another person’s arm, an act that would leave a lifelong scar.
The world guilty wasn’t enough to describe the shame they felt.
It would have been great if it was just a normal arm.
In present day Japan, hospitals with Garesto’s technology could reconnect even severed arms. Unfortunately, Michizane’s arm had already been corrupted by evil. There wouldn’t be any point in severing it in the first place if they were just going to reconnect it.
That’s why they had no choice but to cut it off, and only
No one could ever take his place.
For while he might have had a paltry amount of spiritual power, he could never be defeated by that demon inside Tomoe’s jutsu.
Tomoe and Ryou knew that much from experience.