In a clash between an evil ki of 3,000 years and 2,000 years, it was a given that the former would win, but it would not do so unscathed.
The 1,000 year gap was less relevant than the evil ki being a match for two thirds of itself.
Of course, there was a world of difference between something merely clad in evil ki and an existence that has completely merged with it, but in the end, regardless of victory or defeat, both sides would suffer.
The monstrous Michizane injured his dominant arm and was greatly weakened, while the leg Shinichi used to kick him, consequently making contact with the evil ki, was also temporarily weakened.
“That’s why even if she finds out that it was me who helped her, she won’t be able to understand that much.”
『Uwaah, so that’s why you let her touch you so much. There weren’t any abnormalities in those parts, so you were able to convince her that you hadn’t actually been affected much. Turns out you really are a boy… Even though it was significant enough that you had to hide for awhile, you actually endured it and put on a tough act.』
Shouko looked at him with favorable eyes, but Shinichi just casually shook his head.
“That was to reset the Mask’s stealth function. The stealth function weakens whenever I attack, but it resets if I hide again.”
『Really? Well, let’s leave it at that.』
Shinichi tried to use some convenient facts to try and fool her, but this mother wasn’t someone who could be fooled with that.
After all, he never did deny that he didn’t exhaust himself.
Just as her daughter said, he was indeed honest to a fault, causing Shouko to laugh.
Shinichi made a sullen face at that, but he didn’t appear displeased.
“In that case, it was really good timing that you called out then, huh,” Mikoto said.
It was then that a cheerful voice resounded and froze the air.
The old man glared at Mikoto and looked like he was about to break into a sob.
His eyes spoke as fluently as his lips. ‘Please don’t worsen the mood anymore,’ they said.
“Umm, Tomoe’s mother. Is she always like this?”
『Call me mother-in-law───that’s right. I can’t speak much for others either, but she’s someone who can’t read the mood at all and just says whatever she wants.』
“So that’s how she brings everyone into her own pace and insists on her way. I do it a lot too, but… Not to this extent.”
Sure enough, Shouko and Shinichi huddled up and spoke quietly among themselves.
Mikoto continued to smile, but the old man just kept sweating.
He himself hadn’t said a thing, and no one was looking at him either, but perhaps because he wasn’t unrelated, he felt like he was sitting on a bed of nails. Seeing that, a cheerful voice encouraged him.
『Oh, Kusakabe-sama, please be at ease. I can understand how you feel just from how desperately you’re trying to go against Mikoto-sama. 』
“You were bound hand and foot and mouth, after all, so of course, you couldn’t move. I’m sure the only reason you didn’t say anything about that was because you were thinking of Tomoe and the others. It’s true that you feel guilty too, but… Well, either way, it doesn’t really matter.”
The old man wasn’t sure if he should be happy or sad that Shinichi knew everything.
The boy even understood his own emotions, so he found it hard to be completely relieved.
But of course, all that Shinichi really did was to infer that from the complicated look he was giving Ryou and the others.
“Fu fu, so you did see us.”
『Yes, we saw you. After all, for some reason,
“…To think that a spirit sword that slays evil gods would would grow stronger under my influence…”
Shouko proudly puffed up her chest, while Shinichi just wryly smiled.
Shinichi felt like that sounded no different from a fire extinguisher gaining the power of fire and becoming more effective.
He didn’t really understand, but the knowledge of the Evil God ‘somehow’ made him understand, so his head ached at the incomprehensibility of it.
But of course, none of that showed on his face.
『But enough of that────Please answer already. Mikoto-sama, why didn’t you do anything? What is your motive?』
Those words resounded calmly, but they carried with them an aura that suggested this was an interrogation.
However, in that instant, it was not at Shouko that Mikoto glanced at but Shinichi.
Regardless of whether he noticed that gaze or not, Shinichi warned her.
“You can keep quiet if you want, but… I won’t be responsible for what is revealed as a result.”
He spoke like a machine, and none of the boyishness he showed earlier when talking with Shouko could be felt.
Despite the flatness of his tone, however, that was clearly a threat.
If she refused to talk, then──He would. And that would include even the annoying parts.
He told her that matter-of-factly without the slightest hint of anxiety.
Even as someone who has lived for over a hundred years, Mikoto found it hard to tell whether he was telling the truth or bluffing with that poker face of his.
The boy was actually much harder to deal with now than when he was wearing the mask.
Regardless, she could tell it would be foolish to argue about the veracity of his words or drag out her reply.
He would probably just do as he threatened.
As someone who has been working as an exorcist longer than anyone else, Mikoto deeply trusted her intuition.
Though right now, even that intuition of hers felt like it was being led by someone else.
“Fuu… It’s not something to hide from you people, anyway. Yes, to put it simply, I just thought that it was a good opportunity.”
Mikoto shrugged her shoulders and confessed in a casual tone.
Not acting then was because it was convenient for her.
But of course, she hadn’t expected Masquerade to be around.
『Convenient, huh────As expected, you’re up to no good, aren’t you, Tsuchimikado Mikoto?』
Perhaps Shouko had been expecting her response, for with a tinge of disappointment, she deliberately changed the somewhat shattered and relaxed atmosphere that had prevailed up to this point.
All emotions left her face and the way she looked at Mikoto now was that of an exorcist facing an enemy.
The space filled with darkness creaked as though it were screaming, and the waves of spiritual power that leaked undulated aggressively, stinging the skin and making tremble the air.
“…So you really did notice. That’s why you guys left us… You’ve made your older sister sad.”
But Mikoto just ignored those waves of spiritual power and wiped away her tears with her kimono’s sleeves, while posturing as though she were about to cry from sadness.
Alas, her old acquaintances, Shouko and the old man, just looked at her unamused, a gesture that spoke louder than words. They were telling her to keep talking.
Annoyed that no one fell for her prank, the old yet young woman stopped acting and grumpily spat it out.
“…This is why smart children don’t move as they ought to.
────And here I thought you would go on a rampage and mess up the clans some more.”