“Those girls were really scared of you, you know. They said you weren’t human, that you were a monster, and that Tomoe shouldn’t get involve with you. And that really ticked her off. Though they didn’t say it in words, they basically called you a demon what with all the horns they made on their heads with their index fingers,” Ryou was all smiles as he explained what pissed off Tomoe.
Shinichi understood why he had such a huge grin on him, but he intentionally ignored that.
“But it all finally made sense when we heard what you did – that they were right to fear you, and that your actions were only meant to protect someone. That’s why Tomoe couldn’t get mad and just ended up souring her mood. Ha ha, you’re loved, man.”
“Kyu kyuu, kyuu.”
Shinichi pouted at that, but Ryou just leisurely placed his hand on his shoulder and started brazenly teasing him, saying, ‘you lover boy, you.’
For some reason, even the fox on his head was chirping from happiness.
Contrast them, however, Shinichi just clicked his tongue and made a face that looked as though he was fed up.
“Why is everyone acting like a certain mother katana?”
In the end, Shinichi never managed to win against Shouko.
Not only was he not hostile to her, Shinichi was also weak against parents.
Given that, there was no way Shinichi could have beaten her, but for whatever reason, she seemed to really like him despite knowing his situation, and she just kept on pushing her daughter onto him.
“…Hey, you also gonna say that you want me and Tomoe to get together?”
Perhaps that was why he wanted to get another person’s opinion and so asked this boy, who despite everything thought he was being discrete about his support for Tomoe.
He was about to casually respond with an ‘of course,’ but Shinichi’s face was more serious than he expected, so he changed his expression and chose his words carefully.
“…I think that Tomoe, or rather, for people like her and me, it’s not possible for us to have a normal love life. It’s not impossible, but we would eventually have to reveal our power.”
If they were going to have a serious relationship with someone, that wasn’t something that they could hide.
“But that’s also what will get in the way of our relationships.”
Just how many people in the world were there that could accept such unique abilities?
Would they allow such power to be passed on to their descendants?
Even if they did acknowledge the existence of such power, a lack of knowledge could make them fearful.
There were just too many hurdles to overcome for normal people to accept them, and even should those hurdles be overcome, maintaining the relationship would be more problematic than a normal relationship.
Or so Ryou said, but Shinichi had another proposition.
“You could also just hide it forever and seal the power of your descendants.”
Ryou could tell that that suggestion was really a test of sort, so he made a sour face.
“You’re saying that knowing full well that that will eventually lead to destruction, right? Hiding that from our partner won’t do either party any good in the long run.”
Ryou shook his head as though to say that he could understand that much.
The method Shinichi mentioned would work as long as the people involved were safe.
But should they die or their power wane, the ruse will be up immediately.
Moreover, their descendants might still awaken their power, but then they won’t know how to handle it without prior knowledge.
The shock to their partner upon being found out could also lead to an unhappy separation.
In fact, that was one of the reasons why the exorcist clans couldn’t mingle with the normal families.
But that’s also why someone who understands their situation and could even solve the problems caused by their blood, not to mention, someone whom Tomoe herself loved was such a welcome partner.
“Do you really think there are that many commendable men out there?”
Shinichi went quiet for awhile before becoming both impressed and dismayed.
On one hand he was impressed by his insight, though he did find it strange coming from someone who ignored that power, while on the other hand, he was dismayed because despite knowing that much he still couldn’t answer the assignment he gave him.
“If you know that much, how come you can’t answer the assignment I gave you?”
“Huh? Why are you bringing that up all of the sudden!? That’s regarding the problem why I can’t train my spiritual power!”
“…Your answer just now was pretty close, though…”
“Huh! W-Which one!?”
Ryou hastily thought back to the things he said, but he just tilted his head, so Shinichi sighed and asked.
“Other than what you’ve already told me, what else do you think there is?”
“…Right. I’m not just saying this because of what happened, but I knew I didn’t know enough to fight against someone on that level. A monster like that isn’t something I can deal with just by shooting spiritual power at it,”
Ryou formed a fist in frustration. He knew that even with his vast reserves of spiritual power, his techniques were too sloppy for him to be effective against truly powerful opponents.
Just thinking about what could’ve happened had Tomoe not been there sent chills down his back.
“Though I’m not happy about the blood or spiritual power I inherited, I have no intention of denying it. The problems surrounding our blood are bound to follow us for the rest of our lives. I knew that yet still underestimated it, and as a result, I proved completely useless in the exam and in the incident yesterday. I’m grateful to mom for leaving me a path to remain uninvolved, but right now… I just want to train this power that belongs to me.”
Because it was necessary to increase his weapons should a situation like that arise again.
It was a power that he had by birth, but because he didn’t train it, he ended up being so helpless.
It was so frustrating he wanted to punch himself in the face. Just how pathetic was he?
“You were able to fight fairly well yesterday, though.”
“If you really think that, then I’m glad, but that’s just because the enemies were weak. As for the second half, I couldn’t even serve as a proper shield… That’s everything, no?”
“I don’t know if I should call you upright or ambitious… And?”
“…Didn’t someone say just having one power is too fragile? So having many kinds of power should empower me by that much. Just like how Tomoe compensates for her lack of Strength by using an exoskeleton that moves with spiritual power… What do you think?”
Ryou looked at Shinichi anxiously as he gave him the best answer he could muster right now, but Shinichi made a sullen face.
He wasn’t wrong, but…
“…I’ll give you 50 points as a bonus.”
“Geh? That’s just half! Moreover, it’s just a bonus!?”
“You’re not wrong, but the most important part is missing considering your goal… Looks like you really are avoiding thinking about it unconsciously.”
This might be a more ingrained problem than he’d thought, Shinichi shook his head.
He would have to make it possible for Ryou to figure out on his own without taking too much time.
“I guess we’ll have to come up with a proper time limit. I was thinking we still had leisure to spare, but… Well, in any case, you’re fine training your spiritual power, right?”
“Yeah, I won’t be stubborn anymore.”
“For now just carve into that body and head of yours how an opponent stronger than you moves. You can do suppression training and perception training everyday on your own time, but you should at least make some progress in the step beyond that.”
“So I need to figure out the remaining 50 points until then?”
“Want me to spoon-feed you? I could do that too, but when that time comes, I won’t hold back in exposing what you’ve been ignoring. Are you ready for that?”
Knowing just how merciless Shinichi could be, Ryou gulped.
He could just wait around and the answer would come, but he knew that that method would be akin to scooping out his wounds.
If he didn’t want that to happen, then he needed to think more. What was it that he was unconsciously avoiding? If not, then there really will be no way for him to become stronger.
Ryou firmly nodded.
“Good… Brace yourself, we can’t waste anymore time than this.”
“Ah, wait, I know we don’t have time, but…”
Shinichi beckoned him with his hand, but a puzzled look surfaced on Ryou.
What happened to all that resolve earlier? Shinichi seemed to say as he shrugged his shoulders.
“What? If you still have something bugging you, say it already.”
Regardless, Shinichi was willing to lend an ear if it meant clearing some of his doubts.
“Okay, then I won’t hold back… You side-stepped the matter regarding Tomoe just now, but our situation is serious, so can you be upfront if it’s possible for the two of you to get together?”
Ryou said with a grin as though he got one up on Shinichi.
Apparently, he didn’t fail to notice that Shinichi had skillfully changed the topic.
That’s why the response he got was an audible tongue-click. Normally, Shinichi would be happy about Ryou’s growth, but he was currently in an unreasonable emotional state.
“Too bad, Shinguuji… Looks like today next year will be your death anniversary.”
Shinichi would usually wait for Ryou to attack during their training, but this time, he assumed stance first.
An overwhelming aura immediately exploded, and Ryou thought to himself as he bathed in his own sweat, ‘Ah, I’m dead.’
“W-Wait! Calm down! Weren’t you the one who brought up the topic in the first place!?”
“Enough talking and obediently receive your training.”
“W-Wait, a, mo— Uwaaah!?!?!?”
Silence by death.
And so, the screams of a man continued quietly above the inn.
Later, for some reason, yes for some reason, Ryou could be seen by the breakfast table, lifeless and unresponsive.
The students that happened to be sitting next to him could hear him muttering something about martial arts and close combat techniques, leaving them genuinely impressed that he would be so dedicated to his training even during their field trip.
But among the things he muttered was one thing that stood out.
───It is possible. That’s why I’m bothered about it.