“…Am I the only one who finds what you say crazy?” the old man said.
“Haa, I guess he’s more like an Evil Machine God. When you go that far in terms of being unapologetic and selfish, it just ends up being admirable instead,” Mikoto said.
As the two elders suffered from a headache, Mikoto said that sarcastically.
This was someone who would change the story right at the prologue if he didn’t like the ending.
He could have antagonized Mikoto, ruled over the clans himself, or perished here, but he chose none of those, took control of the curtains, and just ended the story with an ‘it all somehow worked out,’ leading all of the audience and staff to shower the stage with boos.
But of course, he never cared how the
All he cared about were the performers and those people without even a proper role.
A selfish god that unreasonably changed the genre from tragedy into comedy to destroy the calamity that should have fallen on ‘someone’.
“Well, thank you for the compliments. That actually does agree with my nature…” Shincihi said.
“I don’t believe there was anything flattering about what we said,” Mikoto said.
“An arrogant yet soft god unbound by anything and ruins stories? What a difficult child,” the old man said.
Mikoto found herself chuckling despite lamenting the infeasibility of his statement.
After all, he was saying that while knowing full well what was wrong with it.
A situation that he didn’t like and a situation that only he could deal with could exist simultaneously.
When should he intervene in a situation he didn’t like but that someone else could handle?
If there’s a situation he doesn’t like but only he could deal with, is he just going to ignore it?
To what extent does he need to bear the damage caused by his choices?
“It’s just limited to when I use the power of a god.”
“…Creating a loophole in your own rules? As expected of an evil god. How cunning, how dirty…”
Perhaps he understood what they were getting at, as the boy suddenly smiled mischievously and said that he would just act as a human in all those other cases, leaving Mikoto stunned.
But of course, even then he wouldn’t be able to change all the tragedies he came across.
Yet still, despite knowing that, he smiled, and at last, Mikoto realized that she could not win against him.
“A cunning god, huh. I’m okay with that… Yes, I’d like to be a cunning god.”
An evil machine god. A soft yet arrogant god. A cunning and dirty god.
The boy could tell what she wanted to say from such descriptions, but he just smiled nonetheless.
His was a face that knew of the difficulties, the uncertainties, and the despair that not even the hands of a god could reach.
The face of a young man that would recklessly plunge into danger despite the risks.
In that was the reckless power to keep walking forward that she herself could not hold on to despite stopping her own time.
For a moment, they were taken by those eyes, and when they saw Shouko affectionately looking at him, they too smiled.
“Fu fu fu, what a child.”
“I see that someone has a habit for worrying, ka ka ka.”
They found that sad, but at the same time, envied it.
With this, the old man was sure that he was indeed the owner of that Divine Ki he saw before.
Then after a round of laughter, Mikoto and the old man sat up straight and prostrated themselves.
“────Please forgive my rudeness until now. From here on out, I will strive to live up to your expectations as a member of your household.”
“In the same vein, I too will do my best as Mikoto’s subordinate.”
For a moment, Shinichi frowned upon hearing such formal words, but believing this to be necessary to mark the end of the day, he responded in an overbearing tone.
“You are forgiven. Work hard, Tsuchimikado Mikoto, Kusakabe Takuma───So that one day, you might finally be able to rest.”
“Yes, my lord!”
In response to that short but powerful reply, the two heads of the exorcist clans bowed.
It was in that moment that they became subordinated to the boy known as Nakamura Shinichi and became subordinates of an evil god.
It was also on this day that the great purge and re-education that would be remembered in the history of the exorcists began.
But of course…
『Now that everything has wrapped up well, can I ask something, Shinichi-kun?』
Shouko was already concerned about something else and asked that question with a smile.
“What is it, Shouko-san?”
『Call me mother-in-law…』
Her attitude suddenly changed, and she turned to him and spoke as though they’d promised something, but as though time stopped, the next words did not come.
It was curious if she noticed the eyes pouring into her, but regardless, after awhile──She suddenly yelled.
『I’ve been mentioning it this whole time, but you keep ignoring this part of the conversation! Even I would get sad when I get ignored to this extent!!』
“Oh my,” Mikoto said.
“This girl is the same as ever, I see,” the old man said.
The two elderly people did not know whether to be amused or astonished, while Shinichi just chuckled dryly.
That was not him trying to drop the topic but him realizing that she was finally bringing it up.
There was no stopping Shouko, for this was a matter that concerned the future of her daughter.
What troubled Shinichi was that she was actually quite serious about it.
『Don’t tell me you’re not satisfied with our Tomoe!? It’s true that she’s yet to develop as a woman, but you could just help— Kyaa!?』
“What are you even saying!”
But even Shinichi reached the end of his patience when she threw such an outrageous statement.
『O-Oww!? My body is a spirit yet you can hurt me with an Iron Claw!? Mikoto-sama, did you suffer this too!? Wait, it’s actually reaching my soul, oww!!』
Shinichi understandably couldn’t ignore such a dangerous statement, so he dropped pretenses and lifted her up by the face, resulting in the surreal sight of a ghost being Iron Clawed and tapping out.
『I submit! I submit!』
“Fu fu fu, living a long time definitely shows you some strange things. Is this what they refer to as a mixed competition?”
“The term ‘mixed’ can certainly mean many things…”
Mikoto genuinely smiled, while the old man let out a deep sigh.
Shouko tapped out, so Shinichi threw her away.
『U, uuu, you’ll distort my ghostly body… You really can’t be judged by common sense, can you?』
She was thrown all the way to a corner of the black space, but perhaps because of her ghostly body, she was immediately able to recover and go back to him, then she grumbled while making sure that her face was still fine.
“If you really think that, then don’t pick me to be your daughter’s partner. If you know what I am, then you can’t be sane for suggesting such a thing.”
Despite the flatness of his voice, there was an irritated tone to it accompanied by a pair of suspicious eyes.
He understood clearly what his own attribute and disposition was, so he seriously rebuked her for taking this matter lightly.
『I may be dead, but I’m still sane. There’s no choice since that kid can’t see anyone other than you anymore… Surely, you won’t tell me that you haven’t noticed.』
If he did, she surely wouldn’t forgive him. Or at least, that’s the impression she gave from the pressure she was exuding.
Shinichi didn’t look away, but he couldn’t say anything either.
However, that silence itself was an answer of sort.
And as though Shouko had been expecting that, a smile surfaced on her.
『Ufufu, honest to a fault indeed.』
She was just like her daughter. No, she was even worst because of her superior life experience.
Not a hint of that vicious divinity that he used to suppress the elders could be felt from him as he made that frustrated groan.
He looked just like a boy that had gotten caught up with a meddlesome person.
『In the first place, what you’re worried about is just a boy’s ego. So your power is full of evil, and you have the authority of a god, and you’re standing right at the eye of the storm. Hah! Please don’t look down on us!』
Perhaps it was because of that that she could genuinely say that.
『I can’t speak for others, but did you really think my daughter would be sad just because of that? She’ll be happy as long you can understand each other and she can be by your side. No matter what calamity you face, I’m sure she’ll stand with you.』
‘At the very least, that was the case for me.’
Her words seemed to carry such a meaning, and understandably, even Shinichi was at a loss.
As Tomoe’s mother and someone who has raised a family, she definitely had the right to say that.
In that regard, both the Mask and the Evil God were helpless.
『In the first place, you’re not someone who would abandon someone that has already curried your favor. Also, I’m recommending it precisely because I think it’s a good idea as her mother… That’s why───』
She cut off her words meaningfully, then with a complacent smile, told her wish.
『───You should hurry up and give me my grandchild, kyan!?』
A right hand karate chop immediately swung down.
Where has all the seriousness gone?
Steam rose from Shouko’s forehead as she crouched and groaned in pain for the first time in a long while.
『Hauu! I’m sure you’d be fine with if she pushed you down… She might be like that, but she’s a very devoted person! So whether its as a wife or as a priestess, she’s sure to do a good job！』
But Shouko just recovered instantly, grabbed his hands, then started selling her daughter.
Seeing her so desperately try to get him to be her daughter’s husband or god really made his head hurt.
“That’s not something a mother should be saying.”
『On the contrary! If I don’t do this, no one else will take her…』
Seeing her so seriously worried about her daughter in that regard made Shinichi retort reflexively.
“Hey, are you proud of your daughter or ashamed of her!?”
『Huh? Are you saying you’re the only one allowed to tease her?』
“Who said that!?”
Before anyone knew it, Tomoe’s mother and her future son-in-law were arguing with each other.
But Shouko always held the upper hand, and Shinichi couldn’t beat her at all.
The two elders glanced at each other with a smile.
“Just looking at this, you’d think he’s just a normal child… How terrifying,” Mikoto said.
“He is able to retain his ego as a person… But…”
“Hmm? What is it?”
It was terrifying how the boy could act so normally.
On that they could both agree on, but the old man seemed to have something more on mind, so Mikoto urged him to continue.
“At last, I feel like my dozen years of effort has finally paid off.”
Even if the outcome wasn’t much, even if they couldn’t solve most of the problems, all those efforts to prevent the clan from falling apart and going out of control weren’t in vain.
Surely, all that was for the sake of this day, the old man’s eyes said.
As Mikoto blinked a few times, a smile naturally formed on her lips.
“Yes, you might be right. Still… I never thought you were such a romanticist.”
“I’m a man, you know. No matter how old I get, that part won’t change, so…”
The expression on him suddenly took on a solemn tint.
“Let’s bear those sins and atone together. Even if I must be called a sinner in the future, let’s not leave behind any unnecessary grudges or stains.”
He would dirty his hand, shame his name… This time, he would have that much resolve.
The eyes he wore now where just like then when he swore to become Mikoto’s limbs.
──Perhaps, something would have changed if she’d just chosen then.
“Yes, I’ll be in your care, Takuma-kun.”
As if to shake off that regret that passed for a moment, Mikoto made her resolve and smiled a peaceful smile that was neither an act nor a mask.
Strangely enough, that smile was not that different from the smile of the woman that Takuma fell in love with in his youth.