Aoba clinged to the woman who had appeared. Watching from the sidelines, this embrace without reservation or sense of distance, this manifestation of emotions to convey deep affection made even Taiyou feel warm and fluffy, which was enough to make him smile broadly without realizing it.
「It has been a long time, Aoba-sama.」
「Has Okaa-sama been well?」
「I am obliged to receive such consideration; I am as you can see. I am instead concerned about Aoba-sama; I heard that you sustained an injury the other day.」
「It’s fine now; it was just a little blow.」
「Is that so.」
Mio looked at Aoba’s mannerism of putting on a show of being strong with a warm gaze.
「In any case, thank you for coming, Okaa-sama.」
「If it is the wish of Aoba, I would go wherever you would desire.」
Mio said with an earnest face.
「And besides, this feels like returning home. Although it seems that I will be quite resented on account of this trip.」
「Eh? Why…wait, who resents you?」
「By the two personages of the mansion. The madams who could not accompany Aoba-sama were vexed enough to bite their handkerchiefs. It was enough to prepare me for what is in store when I come back.」
「I could see Mother doing that, but Mama too?」
「She bit hers off. That person is of the physical variety after all.」
「And she can finish a full marathon in 3 hours.」
Taiyou quietly listened to the exchange between Aoba and Mio.
Though he still couldn’t adjust to the way Mio spoke to Aoba, if he ignored the manner of speaking, the contents of what they were discussing sounded to him like that of the cozy relationship of mother and daughter.
It was as if just recently running away from home and making a fuss about the DNA appraisal was a lie.
Taiyou didn’t know the results of the DNA appraisal. He had only prepared it, resulting in it directly reaching Aoba.
Whoever her real mother was, was meaningless information to Taiyou.
After all, once Aoba had been satisfied, she had continued to view the three mothers as her mothers as per usual, which was why Taiyou also still viewed them as her mothers with no differences.
There probably wouldn’t be anything wrong with knowing, but there also wasn’t any need to know.
Something like that with no objective or even methods gave Taiyou absolutely no interest.
After the intimate mother and daughter had briefly enjoyed their reunion, Aoba remembered the left-out Taiyou and turned his way.
「Sorry Natsuno-kun, getting all excited here without you.」
「I don’t mind.」
Taiyou smiled sweetly, turning to Mio with a slight bow.
「In any case, it has been a while, Mio-san.」
「Yes, it has been a long time, Natsuno-sama.」
Mio said, taking a graceful bow. With refined mannerisms and courteous behavior, as well as from the apron on her figure, she exuded an atmosphere from her entire body that was not of an electronic district, but of a matriarch living in a noble’s mansion.
She legitimately wore the same outfit and performed those exact duties in the mansion-like Miki Estate.
Taiyou did not think that person would seriously show themselves here.
「So Mio-san’s coming with us, eh?」
「Yeah, once I told her about what happened, I understood that Okaa-sama is from Juunishima. So I thought to bring her along.」
「I was the one who asked to come along. If you will be staying at that island, I was under the impression that it might be a good idea to have a pilot.」
「Is that so. Thank you, you’ll help us greatly.」
This time he deeply bowed his head, offering thanks from the bottom of his heart.
Juunishima, the place of destination. Up until now, Taiyou had heard fragments of information about Juunishima from the people involved: Youran, Sakura, and Kohaku. All of those stories were about things outside the realm of his general knowledge.
Frankly, he felt each time as if he were hearing about a different country.
As a result, he felt just a bit of anxiety about going to Juunishima. It was the mysterious feeling of going to a different country that spoke the same language.
So he believed that if someone from the island were to accompany and guide them, it was of the utmost reassuring.
When he said that, Aoba looked around the area as if remembering something.
「Okaa-sama, where is your luggage?」
「Over there; I will now make my way to it.」
「No, I’ll go; please wait here, Okaa-sama.」
Aoba said, half-running in the direction that Mio had indicated.
A slightly different-than-usual pattern of conduct. Taiyou came to think that she was quite excited as he looked at her from behind.
「She seems to be having fun.」
「Yes, it is most reassuring that she has regained her natural cheerfulness. Though it is a shame that it was to the thanks of meat trash.」
Doubting his ears, he looked at Mio, their eyes meeting. Her conduct was as usual refined and unbroken, but it was clear that her eyes were the only things not smiling.
Taiyou fearfully inquired of her.
「Umm…Mio-san, what did you say just now?」
「I said that it is a shame.」
「Ah no, a little before that.」
「Do you mean the passage referring to meat restructured from trash?」
「Hey, that’s different from before! Wait, that sounds even worse, doesn’t it!?」
He quipped with a cracked voice. Ignoring that, Mio continued to send a cold gaze in his direction.
Eyes that were so cold that they made Taiyou recoil without realizing it.
「Is there something wrong with that?」
「Don’t tell me…do you perhaps not admit mine and Aoba’s relationship…or something?」
She had the outer appearance of a maid and referred to Aoba with「sama」, but the relationship between the two of them was definitely between mother and daughter. There’s also the possibility that she might even be the one who was Aoba’s true mother.
On the other hand, Taiyou had decided to make Aoba his bride. Putting her in his registry was impossible by the standards of the current Japan, but the two of them promised each other their future, and it there was almost no mistake that from here on they would be in a de facto marriage.
In other words, a couple.
And the stories of parent-in-laws disliking their children-in-laws were in great quantity in the world, so judging from Mio’s behavior, he thought that could very well be the case.
Mio answered Taiyou’s question with a cold tone.
「The relationship between the two of you is approved by the madams, and most importantly, Aoba is also laughing happily. Therefore, there is no point in me raising any sort of objection at this point in time.」
「Oh, okay, so――」
「I simply hate meat trash, is all. These are my personal feelings.」
「I don’t wish for much. Only perhaps for a certain someone to get roped into a traffic accident and become trash meat in both name and substance, or perhaps if only that person could get attacked by a slasher and have his male organs lopped off from his body. Other than those wishes, I really have nothing else.」
「That just became even worse! And what do you mean by “in both name and substance”?」
「It means exactly what it sounds like; were you perhaps unable to comprehend it?」
Her cold eyes grew even colder. Just by having her eyes look at him made him feel like his spine would congeal.
「Could it be that Natsuno-sama’s brain tissue is lower than that of crab miso?」
「No, crab miso isn’t brain tissue in the first place, alright!?」
「Yes. Which is why I used it in the meaning of――lower than.」
Taiyou’s quip was calmly as well as maliciously in plenty returned back to him.
He understood that he was most certainly hated by Mio, and no further words came out of his mouth.
He happened to know that he was hated, and he clearly understood the cause.
That was the type of cause that nothing could be done about; therefore Taiyou could do nothing about it.
「Huh? Natsuno-kun and Okaa-sama, what are you doing?」
As he was being overpowered by Mio’s quiet rage, Aoba who knew nothing had returned, pushing a carrying case. She had asked quizzically, having read the atmosphere.
「Nothing at all.」
「Really? The atmosphere feels sort of different from earlier, you know？」
Aoba unexpectedly said that the air was definitely different. Taiyou was contemplating how to gloss over the situation, when…
「I was conversing with Taiyou about how the fact that Aoba-sama has become more cheerful, and the fact that it is thanks to Taiyou-sama has made me a little envious.」
Mio said, aiming her unpleasant eyes at Taiyou.
「That is…correct, is it not?」
「Y, Yeah…that is in fact what you were saying.」
「Seriously Okaa-sama, what are you saying!」
Aoba’s face turned a light red, showing embarrassed resentment.
That was was so cute, and Taiyou’s heart skipped a beat, but Mio became further disgruntled upon seeing that.
「He is the gentleman who is to be Aoba-sama’s husband; we will be associating with him for a long time, so I thought that it may be good to not hold back and such and tell him my thoughts in a straightforward manner.」
Mio said, looking once again at Taiyou.
「Was there, still something that I was holding back on?」
「No…you didn’t hold back in the slightest.」
Taiyou could answer nothing but that. Because it was unmistakable that he had not even felt reservation the size of a water flea’s mucus.
「You have said it well.」
Mio said, accepting the carrying case from Aoba’s hands.
「Now then, shall we be going?」
Mio said, and Aoba followed along with that. Taiyou followed along without a choice.
The trip had but begun, and yet Taiyou felt like he would sustain a headache with these grim prospects.