Shinichi smiled at Mikoto with pity as though such brazen provocation wasn’t even worth listening to.
Mikoto laughed as though pleased, but her expression suggested the exact opposite.
“Oh my, how impenitent.”
“Indeed, you are very impertinent.”
The old woman criticized him, but the boy threw those criticisms right back at her.
Unlike, Shouko, who watched that exchange while giggling, the old man just wanted to go home.
He thought of his beloved futon back at home and counted the stains on the ceiling to escape reality.
“In the end, you didn’t answer anything… Aren’t you curious, Shouko-chan? Why he didn’t save Tomoe-chan and the others right away?”
With a wry smile, Mikoto spoke to Shouko, who was floating right next to Shinichi, as though to say that they were both guilty here.
『Huh? Oh, not really… I mean, that’s what a master does, no?』
But the only response Mikoto got was that of surprise.
The way Shouko saw it, Shinichi would have been a failure as a master had he jumped in to save his disciples at the slightest sign of trouble.
“Oh, right… You were that kind of person.”
Shouko preferred the kindness of pushing people away than the sweetness of protection.
That’s why she never trusted Mikoto.
The fact that she was floating there beside Shinichi since the moment she manifested was proof of her distrust.
───She’s completely on his side, huh.
“But even then… Wasn’t there something else he could have done?”
It wasn’t because of frustration that Mikoto said that but curiosity.
Shinichi understood that, but he intentionally answered normally to show that the relationship between master and disciple wasn’t just for show.
“I didn’t train them so gently that they’d get killed by enemies merely on that level.”
As a result, Shouko’s next words caused the elderly to quietly groan.
『Yeah, the training was quite harsh. I mean even I found it cruel. Thanks to that they were able to get a wealth of experience fighting against another person, but… You do realize that she’s still an unmarried maiden, right?』
For a moment, Shouko made a thousand-mile look, while Mikoto similarly twitched.
Shouko was merciless when it came to training, yet this boy’s training was actually bad enough to make her even say that.
Meanwhile, Shinichi’s eyes were swimming because this was none other than the mother of his disciple, and she was basically rebuking him, albeit in a roundabout way.
『Well, I am grateful, though, that you came to save her when she was really in danger. I was really panicking when they were covered in that hellfire… I even seriously considered whether to manifest or not since I didn’t realize you were there until then.』
Despite that she was still grateful as a mother that he protected her daughter.
Shinichi made an embarrassed look and nodded.
“So that’s when you noticed me. And here I thought I’d at least manage to hide my aura.”
『Your aura, huh. You know there’s no hiding how unnatural your aura is, right? Tomoe prioritized ending the situation, but I think she would have noticed eventually.』
“That’s true,” Shinichi nodded as he thought of the girl that was
She was the ‘real thing’ unlike him, who was merely unaffected because of his apathy.
『That includes who protected the mind and soul of that problem child too.』
『Tomoe threw a defensive talisman at him as soon as she could, but that was all. It would have been impossible for him to come out of that without any other assistance. She’s not dumb enough not to realize that.』
But you knew that, right? Shouko seemed to say with her eyes, and Shinichi could only wryly smile with a nod.
“If she was always so sharp, she’d be able to go much further, though.”
But he pointed out that she still had a long way to go.
For some reason, there was a tinge of envy and childlike wonder in his eyes.
The elders found that strange ── for they were just like the eyes of a normal person admiring a genius.
“…You were amazing too, though. You so easily kicked away that monster, after all,” Mikoto said.
“And you were so surprised you looked like your jaw was about to drop. You had a face on you that seemed to say, ‘why is Masquerade here?”
But Mikoto didn’t bring that up and just continued to bicker with Shinichi.
She smiled an unsmiling smile while making it clear that she’d noticed him too, and Shinichi returned that tit-for-tat, while Shouko just laughed, and the old man’s countenance withered.
『Fu fu, I was saved thanks to that. Somebody knew about the threat of the demon sword but kept quiet, so thank you. Most of the evil ki was destroyed by that, so Tomoe was able to fight. As expected, even
If not for that, she wouldn’t have even been able to clash with it, Shouko admitted with gratitude.
Shouko happily smiled at Shinichi while shrewdly spitting poison at someone, but Shinichi just looked uncomfortable.
『My, you really are bad at receiving gratitude. Are your feet alright? Of course, I’m talking about your feet.』
If she didn’t make it clear that it was his feet she was referring to, he probably wouldn’t understand, or at least that’s what the expression on her seemed to say.
Shinichi was annoyed by that a little, but he let it pass since it was his fault anyway and responded amidst his sighs.
Since she noticed, there was no point in hiding it anymore.
“Thanks to you. Tomoe would have probably noticed if she touched me there, but it’s healed already.”
It turns out that Tomoe’s guess was spot on, but the problem, however, was not that he made the demon sword disappear, but that he kicked Michizane with all his might to save them from the flames.