Locked within the darkness in a space ruled by the Mask, filled with a calm gaze and words just as calm, but the meaning behind them was that of rebuke.
It was the old man who responded first, albeit only slightly.
They had meant no ill will yet the Mask showed them malice.
A twisted expression surfaced on him, but what was painful was that he could not understand the Mask’s intentions, neither the hidden ones nor the surface.
『I wasn’t saying it to you.』
But despite having noticed that, the Mask didn’t even glance at him.
His gaze remained on the smiling Mikoto, who merely shook her head in disappointment.
“Oh my, it seems I’m quite hated.”
『What a strange thing to say. Do you mean to tell me that despite your age you still believe that the opposite of favor is hate?』
“Well, excuse me, ufufu…”
That was a second serving of ‘is your age merely a decoration?’
The Mask was basically saying that he wasn’t interested in her enough to hate her, but Mikoto just kept smiling.
On one side was an emotionless being that continued to spit poison, while on the other was a woman who never affirmed nor denied anything and just continued to smile.
It was a clash between ‘nothingness’ and ‘a smile’, yet the air it engendered was surprisingly dangerous.
The old man watching that from the side couldn’t help but gulp.
Compared to this, the light-hearted quarrel and conflict at the garden was truly nothing more than child’s play.
“But why would you say something like that? It should be our first time meeting. Did Tomoe-chan say something?”
『Enough with the shameless lies. I said it right from the start. That I’ve been watching ever since. 』
“Huh… Come to think of it, why didn’t you help until then?”
Mikoto spoke in jest as though she’d just realized it, but the one who was most affected by that and trembled wasn’t the Mask but the old man.
『…I don’t know if you’re courageous, or don’t care, or just want to anger me.』
For the first time, the apathetic voice of the Mask was tinged with disgust.
Since she knew what he said then, she must’ve been there at the time.
Surely, she must’ve realized that she’d let slip that much, so she must have been acting like this intentionally.
But then again, whatever her intentions may be, it was all meaningless anyway, so the Mask increased his pressure on her.
『You wanted to know why I’m like this, Tsuchimikado Mikoto? That’s because─────you abandoned them.』
Without so much as a change in his tone, the Mask spat
Mikoto covered her mouth and smiled as usual, but the old man was sweating buckets.
He had quite the poker face too, but in front of the unchanging smile and the expressionless Mask, he just seemed too out of place.
But neither Mikoto nor the Mask paid him heed.
Perhaps, they only had eyes for each other.
“I see, so that’s why you created a space like this. So that those children won’t be able to hear anything even by chance… You’re
Mikoto smiled despite her thoughts behind those last few words.
『I make sure to take care of those under my protection.』
Unlike you, the Mask seemed to say.
Mikoto still didn’t deny or confirm anything, but the Mask didn’t pursue the matter any further.
Neither felt the need to clarify the truth here since they could more or less understand why they were acting like this; however…
───I would like to learn more about that, though.
There was another person here that needed clarification.
All eyes gathered onto the source of that voice, but the emotions within their eyes varied.
Mikoto remained calm, while the old man showed impatience, and the Mask was surprised.
That voice came from none other than the katana that he had set aside.
At this distance, there was no way for him to mistake the direction the sound came from.
And as if the katana had been waiting for him to look at it, a bluish-white light rose from it and flickered.
That light gradually turned into a human shape and formed the translucent body of an adult woman.
It was a woman in her early twenties with Japanese hair and eyes.
She floated there dressed in a miko’s garment.
“Long time no see, Shouko-chan.”
Mikoto referred to her as Shouko, but the woman just floated there and refused to respond, only wryly smiling at Mikoto while looking like the very picture of an ideal Japanese woman.
When the Mask heard that name, or more precisely, saw how she looked from the side, he gulped.
『Shouko… Shouko Safina, you’re Tomoe’s mother!?』
『Oh my, to be called by that name… As expected of the man my daughter chose.』
She seemed elated that he’d called her with the name of her beloved husband.
Her smile was just like that of her daughter.
Shouko Safina, or Abe Safina, she was Tomoe’s mother.
He had seen that name before when he looked up Tomoe’s history.
『I see, so she didn’t have business with Kamunagi but with you.』
『Sharp. Though I suppose what you really meant to say is that she didn’t have any intentions of fighting with me… Well, I would have preferred it if you were a bit more shocked, though.』
When the Mask saw that he’d been seen through, he let out an astonished voice, but Shouko wasn’t happy with how calm he could remain and so pouted.
You wouldn’t think her a mother from the way she pouted by puffing up her cheeks.
『Weapons imbued with a soul aren’t really that rare, but… Don’t you talk a bit too much?』
The Mask ignored that and tried to talk to her normally, but midway-through he glared at her.
He’d realized that there were some truths slipped in her remarks, so he tried to tell her not to say anything unnecessary.
But this mischievous mother just winked at him.
『It’s fine, no? They’ll find out anyway. You’re the closest person to them, after all. Besides, won’t it be easier if you get the top two involved?』
Despite the cheerful air about her, the meaning behind her words was surprisingly dark.
Despite his threats, Tomoe and the others weren’t in a situation where they could avoid the investigation and surveillance of the clan.
So regardless how he wanted to deal with the clan, he might as well talk to these two big wigs and
Or at least that’s what she was saying, and the Mask nodded to show that he accepted her suggestion.