「Welcome back, Aoba-sama.」
When she returned to the cabin, Mio gracefully bowed, welcoming her in. From when she was in her parents’ house…Mio, whose attitude hadn’t changed one bit since Aoba was a child, had a face that was clearly comparatively gentler than earlier. She could tell.
Aoba wasn’t stupid; if anything, she had observation power that was above normal. For some reason, Mio・・・・・・viewed Taiyou as an enemy, and Aoba was able to tell from the moment that very day. Just by Taiyou being there caused the air to stand on edge, making the atmosphere uncomfortable.
She thought of Taiyou who was even now raising his level while being protected by Hera on deck, as well as of what was to come.
Aoba wondered if there was some way to restore Taiyou and Mio’s relationship.
「I’m back. Was Okaa-sama always in the room?」
「Yes; there was some time open, so I took the opportunity to knit.」
Mio, having said that, had woolen yarn and two needles at her feet, the woolen yarn becoming a calm hue of a knitted fabric.
「You do knit everyone’s share every year after all. Are you going to knit the full set this year as well?」
「No, the madams will only get sweaters; Master feels pain again this year, and I must re-knit all of them.」
「It’s Okaa-sama’s handmade clothing, so the pain came sooner for Father since he was always wearing them.」
「I am obliged.」
Mio faintly…flushed her face in a way that probably only Aoba would have noticed.
One father and three mothers.
This wasn’t your average family organization, but to Aoba, these parents were even now madly in love; almost like newlyweds.
Until a bit earlier, she had thought her lifestyle to be nothing noteworthy; just everyday life/completely natural, but as of now her viewpoint had completely changed. Aoba thought she should learn from these parents who were still passionately in love with each other even being middle-aged.
「Okaa-sama, will you teach me how to knit next time?」
「What has come over you?」
Mio unthinkingly stopped moving her hands, looking at Aoba with a slightly surprised smile.
「I also want to do the same things as Okaa-sama. I want the things I knit to be worn by everyone; by Natsuno-kun.」
Mio gave an immediate answer, but Aoba didn’t miss the corner of her mouth stiffen up.
The moment she tried to ask her about Taiyou, the door opened with a clank. Mio’s face stiffened, so thinking that Taiyou had returned, Aoba held her tongue.
However, that wasn’t the case.
「Who might this be? This room has been privately reserved, so I’d rather that you departed.」
Looking toward the door, two woman stood there. A girl wearing sailor clothing on one side, and a middle-aged woman wearing thick makeup on the other side・・were standing there.
The girl looked stiff and had an expression on her face that didn’t seem welcoming, while the woman had the kind of pale smile that seemed to look down on people.
This was not at all favorable, and just like how Aoba felt that way, Mio also immediately stood up, standing in front of her daughter to cover her.
「Because zis is za right room. You are ze voman named Miyagiaoba?」
The middle-aged woman opened her mouth, speaking the correct words but with a rhythm and intonation in the way that a foreigner would.
「You have the wrong person.」
Mio flatly denied them. Even Aoba got the feeling that it was best to deny them.
「Zen, ‘ow about zis voman?」
She said, this time pulling out a snapshot from her chest. It was an outdated performance.
Photographed there was Aoba in a school uniform with her eyes looking elsewhere, presumably taken in secret on her way to school.
「You have the wrong person. I believe that it is a different person that simply has a resemblance.」
Mio still denied it. The room’s atmosphere immediately froze.
「Vhat do you sink, Chan Suu?」
The woman tried to arouse the girl’s interest. Not answering directly, the girl only nodded.
「If ze face is ze same zen zat is fine. Hand over ze woman.」
「I will be refusing.」
The woman laughed coldly, walking toward them casually. Her body stiffening, Aoba clung to Mio.
Said Mio glared at her opponent.
Having approached a touchable distance, the woman reached out her hand――when it happened.
The body that was slightly more plump compared to Mio half-revolved, struck to the ground.
The one who did that was Mio, having grabbed hold of her opponent’s outstretched hand, twisting it and throwing her.
「Vat vas zat」
The girl softly murmured something.
「The power of Aiki.」
The woman got up muttering. Despite the fact that she had just been thrown, her expression had not changed. The smile that looked down on people making fools out of them was still attached.
Aoba felt a very bad premonition when she saw that face.
「Okaa-sama, I’m going to call Natsuno-kun.」
The moment she took out her smartphone, she was stopped by Mio calling her.
「I have been tasked by Master with handling the protection of Aoba-sama, even if I must do it here alone.」
「Oh, so you ‘ave confidence.」
「As I intend to protect Aoba-sama, I am prepared for anything in every way.」
Staring in puzzlement, the woman thereafter looked up and laughed loudly. Looking closely, the girl behind her was also astounded, snickering mixed with sighing.
「What is so funny?」
「I just sought zat you really are a voman.」
「Are you not also women?」
「Yes, ve are vomen. So」
As she said that, the woman and girl took out guns at the same time. The girl from a holder under her skirt, and the woman once again from her chest.
「Ve can do anysing.」
Hastening into the room, the first thing that jumped into his eyes was the form of a fallen Mio in a pool of blood. Taiyou rushed to her side.
「Are you alright?」
She said, but it was clear that it was on a different level than “somewhat”. Taiyou immediately took the phone next to the bed, contacting the ship’s medical room via inner lining.
「Aoba? Yeah, where’s Aoba?」
「She was taken away…right about now, they should still…」
「……Was Aoba shot too?」
「No, they only…knocked her…unconsious.」
Having said that, Mio fell unconscious.
He called her name, gripping her shoulders. She seemed to only have lost consciousness.
「Taiyou-chan! What will you do?」
「……How’s Aoba look?」
「She seems to still be fine right now.」
「Are you not going to search for her?」
Hera was shocked to see Taiyou not move.
「But Aoba-chan has been」
「If she was knocked unconscious and taken away then we can’t do anything about it for now. If they intended to they could just shoot this place like they did to Mio-san. Besides, your sense indicates that she’s still fine. Right?」
「That’s true, but……」
「If I abandon Mio-san here and if something by any chance happens to Mio-san, how would Aoba feel? She’s a precious mother to her, you know?」
Taiyou said with a harsh, cold voice.
「But even if she’s fine right now, we don’t know what will happen after. I really do think that we need to chase after them.」
Taiyou silently shook his head.
Hera thought to attempt to further convince him, but shut her mouth quickly.
「It’s fine, it’s fine. If something happened to Mio-san then that in itself would become a lifetime wound in Aoba’s heart. So it’s fine.」
「It’s really fine.」
He repeated those words frequently, almost like an incantation.
His clenched fists became white with his nails dug in, red blood oozing throughout.