“I knew you looked down on uncle and big sis from the bottom of your heart, but I figured you’d act like a family with them on the surface as long as aunt was around.”
Even Takeshi, who had been somewhat apprehensive in the calm before the storm, relaxed his cheeks when Shinichi said that.
“Well, yeah. Mom still considered him her husband and she her daughter, after all. They might have been trash, but since she treasured them, then I figured I might as well play the part of a son and a younger brother for her.”
Was he proud to show that he revered his mother to such an extent? Did he want to say that he could do that much for her sake? Did he belittle his father and sister because they had no worth besides that? The answer was likely all of the above, but at this point, there was one word that could sum all of that up.
“That’s why I always say it… That you have mother complex.”
“Ahaha! So that’s why you always greet me that way!”
If so, then it made perfect sense, Takeshi laughed.
It was curious if it was that happy reaction of his that served as the impetus, but in the next moment, Shinichi appeared right in front of him and grabbed him by his collars.
“───Enough screwing around, you bastard.”
Did Shinichi struggle to lift him Because of the height difference, or did he just want to glare at him? Regardless, he pulled him close to himself and glared at him.
Ein tried to protect his master, but Youko kept him at bay. He had been keeping an eye on his kinsman, but he still found himself immobilized, as golden threads entwined themselves around his limbs.
“Gu, to think that an immature brat would get the better of me!”
“Please don’t act as though you’re my senior just because you’re a few decades older than me.”
Ein tried to break free, but Youko refused to yield. The masters were aware of the one-sided result of the confrontation between their servants, but they just quietly looked at each other without so much as giving them a glance.
Their dark brown eyes, reminiscent of typical Japanese eyes, were surprisingly clear for both parties. The only difference was that one viewed the other as his friend, while that was already in the past for the other.
“It’s Daigo’s job to get mad when you do something wrong. I’m sure he’ll hit you at one point, but that’s got nothing to do with me.”
“Oh? Did you want me to leave some for you, after all? I did worry about that, but…”
“Don’t acknowledge it so readily.”
“I might have asked, but there was no reason for you to answer like that! Don’t speak so carelessly about something so revolting in front of aunt!”
Shinichi knew well that if there was one thing the man named Takeshi Sasaki would do without hesitation, it was to confess honestly.
However, he still selfishly hoped that Takeshi would refrain from speaking the truth here. It was not right to discuss such matters in front of his mother’s grave, after all. As Takeshi himself said, regardless of what kind of person his father and his sister might have been, how would his mother feel if she were to find out that he’d harmed them to take vengeance for her? It wasn’t a stretch to expect that much too. After all, the childhood friend he remembered would have been able to.
In the face of that vehement yet righteous anger that seemed so out of place, Takeshi was taken aback for a few seconds. However, his expression quickly broke into a wide almost gleeful grin.
“Right. You were always the kind of person to be concerned about stuff like this.”
Takeshi smiled with nostalgia and pride. Objects treasured by someone, places of rest… Shinichi was a boy that cherished the emotions and feelings in such things. And Takeshi was glad to know that there was someone who would care so much about the grave of his mother.
“But you also ought to know that I’m not like you in that regard. The only thing here is my mother’s bones. Mom is gone already. There is no one left who can stop me.”
However, while Takeshi respected Shinichi’s way of doing things as a friend, and while he might have found it to be a warm and caring gesture, he still rejected the notion.
As far as he was concerned, what was left here in this grave was no more than a mere object; therefore, there was no reason for him to show such concern.
“Is that why you’ve gone this far, Doctor?”
“And if I said yes, what will you do, Masquerade?”
That’s why they both ended up referring to each other by their alias.
Be it for a parting or for a confrontation, the Doctor and the Masquerade locked glares with each other, an unyielding resolve in both party’s eyes.
“Aunt didn’t say anything bad until the very end, did she?”
“Yeah, not even until the very end. She just kept apologizing. ‘I’m sorry I couldn’t provide more for you,’ she said. You wouldn’t think at all that she was the mother that gave birth to me or that older sister of mine.”
Those last words were more impactful than Shinichi thought, and he found himself adding more power behind his hold.
The words that came out of him next, however, were soft and tinged with concern.
“Takeshi, stop already. Whether it’s uncle or big sis, or all the other people that caused you and your mom problems… You should have dealt with them already, right? I was able to come home too. So there’s no need for you to stain your hands anymore.”
It needn’t be asked anymore why Takeshi involved himself with illegal matters. It was obviously for revenge against all those that drove his beloved mother to death and to find a way to locate his childhood friend who had disappeared, as well as to secure funds.
However, those objectives have already been achieved. Not just his father and his sister, but also everyone else that he considered a problem were gone.
Even without saying it, it was obvious who was responsible for that.
Shinichi himself was not directly related, be he was able to come home on his own too. So there was no longer any reason for Takeshi to involve himself with lawlessness. Above all…
“And besides, if your crimes were ever to be exposed, I’m sure aunt’s situation will also be exposed, and I’m sure some know-it-all out there would pretend to sympathize, and news articles would begin popping out left and right, saying, ‘a woman left by the times, betrayed by those around her, leading her son to embark on a tragic quest for vengeance!’ That would be terrible! I won’t stand for aunt being turned into some cliche news!”
“…You really do know where to poke to make it hurt, huh. I almost want to agree with you.”
As if struck in a tender spot, a weak smile formed on Takeshi’s face, but his words were a clear rejection.
Shinichi was in disbelief, but Takeshi just happily smiled at him.
That smile lasted only for a moment too, and in the next instant, it disappeared as like a flame that had been extinguished.
“The truth is… It’s been a long time since I last laughed.”
“It was all too boring. Ever since mom died, Daigo became a coward, and you disappeared…
No matter how rich or popular I became, no mater what new discoveries I made, no matter how much I pulled the strings on the world from behind and played around as I pleased—
──It was all too boring.