In the car were Anna and Pochi, as well as a young male driver. Saying nothing, a bizarre silence drifted over the three of them.
Eyes directed outside of the window, Anna was for some reason gazing at the scenery that flew by at high speeds.
Carrying Pochi like this to the next transportation point was the current job, but the pieces that she had on hand were fairly depleted. She was thinking of how to reliably transport her.
While her thoughts were going around, the image of Pochi faintly reflected from the window glass.
Restrained and gagged, she was staring straight at Anna with fearful eyes. Even when their eyes met through the window, she did not avert her eyes.
Anna turned back, stretching out her hands.
Frightened, Pochi harshly shut her eyes and cowered.
This was the fear from predicting that something would be done to her, that violence would come down on her.
Thinking from the standpoint of a captive, it could be said that this reaction was a given; if anything, Anna thought that the weird thing was earlier when she was keeping eye contact.
With a faint smile, she put her hands on the gag and removed it.
Astonished, Pochi appeared to have not at all thought that the gag would be removed. Even after she was able to freely speak, still astonished, she remained quiet and stared at Anna.
Anna crumpled up the gag and tossed it carelessly into the backseat.
After seeing that, Pochi timidly asked.
「Why, did you release me? Didn’t you abuct…」
Anna chuckled; not the kind that she had directed toward Taiyou, but a laugh that had almost no hostility felt from it.
「Did you not hear that conversation earlier? We don’t really intend to harm you. If anything we’ll welcome you courteously and have the privilege of returning you home.」
「That’s right; I said we’d put you up in a palanquin, then make you the head in name, and unlike most groups who’d actually try to control you, we’d become your subordinate, see. We’d generally listen, and we can’t rebel in the first place. Rather――」
Saying that, this time she meaningfully grinned.
「So that the thought of retaliating later on doesn’t even cross your mind, it’s pretty much necessary that we butter you up right now, see.」
「What is it?」
「In that case, return me to where Master is. Because it’s no good if I’m not by Master’s side.」
「That’s not possible; this can’t be decided by your own discretion.」
「…If you insist on saying that you want to be with your Master, then after you’ve reached the island and become the head, you can invite them over or whatever you want. Once ya get power in your hands it’s whatever you want to do, see.」
Hearing Anna’s talk, Pochi became despondent.
Anna didn’t know her very well; she knew nothing about her other than the information that came in when the woman named Azumaya Kohaku had moved.
What Anna did know was that she had been named Pochi, and the fact that she had been half-imprisoned by Suzuki Yuko.
（She’s pretty smart in that regard. Moreover…）
Secretly thinking that, Anna gazed at Pochi.
Silence briefly drifted by, but this time Anna was the one who broke the ice.
「I won’t bring you back, but once we get over there then I’ll let you call your Master or something. Make do with that, okay?」
「Yeah; cause if you do that then it won’t conflict with my job. My job is to safely take you back, and from the orders that I’ve been given, if I can at least do that then I can do whatever I want afterward. As long as I determine that it’s necessary, kay?」
「So if you’ll come along with a good feeling, I can definitely let you do a phone call.」
The young male driver murmured, and Anna glared at him through the rear-view mirror.
「Shut it; if you say something I’ll・・, okay?」
The man quieted down, but a delicate atmosphere floated through the car.
「Umm, why are you doing that for me?」
「There ain’t no reason.」
「But, your face earlier. It seemed like it was kind of pained.」
Anna laughed scornfully.
「It’s not painful, see, though it’s not like I can’t sympathize.」
「That’s right; we are relatives after all; nothing wrong with that much, right? You’re the Juunishima’s head’s daughter, but my name’s also Juunishima.」
「Are you perhaps my older sister?」
Anna grinned; she had returned to her usual expression.
「I’m actually your niece.」
「My old man is the person who’d be your cousin, you see, so I’m your niece.」
「Best regards, Junior Auntie.」
After defeating the men who had filled the rear without exception, Taiyou carried the wives into the hospital.
Kotone, Suzune, Kazane, and Aoba. They had light injuries. The majority of the hits and grazes were the kind of injuries that once treated, would allow them to return home.
Taiyou was with the girls around a bed. On top of the bed was the sleeping Kohaku.
Her consciousness hadn’t returned since the event. Having hit her head, the doctors had diagnosed her with a concussion, telling them that although she probably wouldn’t suffer any permanent damage, she’d need some surveillance for the time being.
Gazing at her unconscious form, Taiyou grinded his teeth.
「Kohaku-san…I wonder if she’ll be alright.」
「…She’ll be fine; even the doctors are saying that.」
Taiyou gave Aoba a comment to help ease her mind.
「She’ll probably wake up by tomorrow morning; afterwards let’s go through the hospital discharge procedures, then let’s all return home.」
He said, and the females were simultaneously surprised.
「When you say return, do you mean that we’ll be the only ones returning?」
「No; Kohaku-san will come along as well. Driving would probably be out of the question, but we can make do with a train or something.」
「「「That’s not the issue！」」」
The three sisters let out loud voices. Surprised, he looked at them and noticed that their expressions were angry for once.
「We’re talking about Pochi-chan.」
「What are you going to do about Pochi-chan?」
「Taiyou-san…you aren’t going to abandon her, are you?」
「What do you mean abandon her…You guys might not have heard me correctly, but they’re just taking Pochi along with them. From what I’ve heard, that Anna person is probably a relative of Pochi’s, and she’s taking her back to make her the head, so they shouldn’t be harming her.」
That’s what Taiyou said, but the girls made dissatisfied faces. In order to persuade them, he continued further.
「Besides, I won’t allow you all to be exposed to any more danger. I feel bad for Pochi, but if it means exposing you to more danger then I can’t help any further.」
Those were his honest feelings.
Kotone, Suzune, Kazane, Kohaku, Aoba.
Though he couldn’t attach any ranking to them, the preferencial precedence between them and other people was very clear.
If someone right in front of him was seeking help then he would help them; even Taiyou had that much of a sense of justice in him. But if that and the girls’ safety were compared and contrasted, Taiyou would decisively choose the girls’ safety.
He did not ever want to taste that feeling of despair of not being able to protect them again, he thought as he looked at Kohaku’s figure.
They’d surely understand those feelings; accept them.
At least that was what he had in mind when he said that to them.
For some reason, the girls had uniform expressions of anger.
A dry sound rang out, and his eyesight became flickering white.
What in the world――he only realized after several seconds had passed that it was a slap to the face.
Directing his eyes toward the source, he saw Aoba still with an angry expression, right hand outstretched.
「I misjudged you, Taiyou-kun; that’s just, the kind of thing my parents would do.」
「Prioritizing your spouses, and discarding children because it can’t be helped. What you’re trying to do right now is that exact thing, Taiyou-kun.」
「No, but if you’re exposed to danger then I can’t just――」
Aoba strengthened her tone――no, she roughened it. Overpowered, Taiyou wasn’t able to say anything back.
That was when the three sisters quietly opened their mouths.
「Taiyou-san, we’re not scared of danger.」
「What we are scared of is becoming hindrances and preventing you from doing what you want to do, Taiyou-san.」
「What we’re even more scared of are things that might make you have regrets in the future, Taiyou-san.」
「We want to always, always be together with you, Taiyou-san.」
「So…we don’t want you to make any regrets that will hold you back.」
「Returning home like this…Taiyou-san, won’t you have regrets?」
Taiyou murmured, as if ruminating the three girls’ words.