Reacting to Hera’s voice, he struck down the flying tool that had been headed for Youran. A bladed arrow and pole shuriken collided with the blade of the shovel, scattering sparks throughout the now-ruined multi-tenant building.
「So there was a reaction, although I didn’t think it would even hit.」
Tsukumo said, and two females showed themselves from behind him. One of them had glamorous proportions while wearing black attire with a hood that covered their face. The other one wore a mini archery hakama with an aqua theme, wearing high knee socks with ribbons attached to them.
The female ninja drew another shuriken, and the archer girl paired another arrow with her bow.
「Chiyo and Chie, I see. You’ve done well in coming.」
Tsukumo gave words of appreciation to the girls without turning around.
「Jeez! I even told you not to play around too much. It’s because you don’t listen to a gal’s warning that these sorts of things happen.」
The female ninja answered in a husky voice, and the archer girl spoke in a reproachful, high-pitched tone.
「I’ve currently set myself to be a guy who likes mother-daughter bowls, and there’s the greatest mother-daughter bowl right in front of me. Are you telling me to die?」
「I’m telling you that there’s a proper time and place for that. You can――」
Youran felt goosebumps as Tsukumo cut in. She felt indescribably creeped out that he still insisted on saying these things even under the current circumstances.
But that seemed to just be Youran, and as if the two females by Tsukumo’s side were used to this, Chie was just a bit exasperated.
「I want to quit, I seriously want to quit. Wait, there’s also a pair on this side, so do you want more or something?」
Looking at the newly appeared women, Hera widened her eyes muttering.
「I see that a thick one has appeared.」
Like you’re one to talk, Taiyou thought swallowing his words. He re-grabbed the shovel and took a step forward.
Suddenly, as if triggered by that, flying implements bounded up again.
Shurikens curving an orbit from three directions, and bladed arrows flying in like a beam of light.
Kikikikiiin! As expected, the flying tools were aiming for Youran instead of Taiyou, and he flung them down.
「Why are you targeting her? Wasn’t your objective to capture her?」
「A woman’s envy――」
「I already know that this sort of thing doesn’t work on you.」
Chiyo and Chie interrupted Tsukumo’s words. Right after that, the black-clothed Chiyo darted out in front of Tsukumo, crouching poised in front of him to guard.
Taiyou cautioned himself in response to the immediate movement. Not as fast as Shirokiyami, but quite the speed.
That girl stared at Taiyou, speaking to Tsukumo behind her.
「Run, you say?」
「Like I’d let you!」
Making a decision on the spur of the moment, Taiyou brandished his shovel and began closing in.
Kunai and shovel collided, scattering sparks.
Numbness raced up Taiyou’s hand. The glamorous kunoichi――The slender, big-breasted Chiyo had power that you couldn’t tell from her appearance.
「When it comes to power, I’m higher!」
The moment they collided, Taiyou only had his shovel ricochet off, but Chiyo was sent flying, body and all. It was more than he expected, but he didn’t think he would lose when it came to hitting his opponent, giving Taiyou confidence and allowing him to further jump in.
KIN! Kin! Kiiin!
Chiyo halted the shovel that Taiyou had swung with all his might, pushed back each time, and proceeded to retreat while covering Tsukumo.
Chie moaned from behind. She had tried to fit arrows and provide cover fire, but for whatever reason, the arrowheads had been aimed at Taiyou for some time, not releasing.
「As expected of Youran-chan. I’m enthralled and truly aspire to your decision to not hesitate to use Taiyou-chan as a shield.」
「Don’t you think that I’d learn after getting assailed three times?」
He wasn’t sure what it was, but he understood by hearing the exchange behind him. It would seem that Youran had moved so as to leave Taiyou in Chie’s firing range.
「I’ll push past like this.」
Taiyou raised his gear further.
The shovel that he had felt was so comfortable had become even more comfortable in his hands, and his attacks also became harsher. As evidence of that, Chiyo who had initially combated him from the front had begun to be pushed back more and more, not even being able to take attacks and instead barely dodging in the nick of time.
As if she were panicking, Chie unleashed her arrows from the bow successfully.
Hyun! Hyun! Hyun!
It could be understood with a glance that this was quite the technique, and she let out a third round after a short pause. The pointy tip that possessed bloodshed power aimed straight at the top of Taiyou’s head, chest, and groin, flying at all his vital spots.
Taiyou loved bluffs. He purposefully blocked the arrows with his body.
Plunk, plunk plunk.
As if they were made of cotton, the moment the arrows hit Taiyou’s body, they lost their power and fell to the ground.
For the arrows that aimed at the top of his head and the like, Taiyou stopped them with his eyeballs, and the bluff seemed to produce quite the effect, as Chie who had released the arrows became pale-faced.
「No way…I knew that they wouldn’t work, but in this fashion…」
The young Chie made a pale face at Taiyou’s performance, whereas Chiyo whose hood covered everything but her eyes let out an even lower husky voice.
Taiyou took a step even further as if confirming that he felt the same way.
「I’ve set myself to be the kind of guy who loves mother-daughter bowls.」
This time it was Taiyou’s turn to be surprised.
A line that he had already heard countless times today alone, but he didn’t think he would hear it here.
Taiyou pointed his eyes that had expressions of disbelief and apprehension of a yet-unknown person.
「What is it at a time like this?」
He remarked. That instant――
Lightning ran horizontally before his eyes. Hurriedly kicking the ground and leaping back, he raised his shovel and guarded.
Spah! Was the sound that he felt transmit from within his body along his arm. Chiyo’s slender arms passed by in front of his eyes and the kunai had severed the shovel’s blade from the side.
Not even enough time to be surprised, Tsukumo took something out and struck it against the ground.
That made sounds and ruptured, and white fumes made the place hazy. It was a smokescreen.
Taiyou immediately readied his shovel and retreated further, grabbing hold of Youran’s arm. Along with a small scream of “kyaa”, her body settled in his arms.
He swung the sword around with a hum just like that. He swung it around tracklessly in front of his body for protection.
In the worst-case scenerio・・・this was the treatment for preventing follow-up attacks, but as expected, they did not come. When the smoke had cleared up, the Tsukumo faction could no longer be found anywhere in the demolished walls of the multi-tenant building.
「Not here, huh……」
「Jeez, what are you doing? To think that you’d fall for that. It was totally obvious that was a line to divert your attention.」
He wanted to say a lot of things back, but he thought it was as Youran said. There was no reason for Tsukumo to continue conversing at that point, and he finally understood that it was a clever scheme to divert his concentration.
It was like he had lost to someone slapping their hands in front of his face, and he began to feel anything but refreshed.
「More importantly, are you alright? How’s the inside of your mouth?」
「Mouth? Oh it’s fine, because it only got cut a bit. Biting off one’s tongue isn’t that easy in the first place, and if my consciousness were to fade away any more then it’d be impossible anyhow.」
「Just show me.」
Taiyou said, holding her jaw and lifting it up. He grabbed ahold of her cheek with the other open hand, opening her mouth.
「Yeah, this seems to be alright. Not even so much as cutting as it is a bad mouth ulcer.」
「Let’s head somewhere later where you can get treatment. Actually, you had some sort of family physician or whatnot, right?」
Youran continued to be silent for some reason. Taiyou wondered why she had answered back earlier but not now, he looked at her reddening face and finally realized what he was doing.
Gazing at each other from close proximity…No, even before that, the act of grabbing her jaw and lifting it up in and of itself・・could not look like anything else.
The action taken prior to kissing. No matter where one looked from any direction, it looked like nothing but that.
Suddenly, the scenery, the sensation of that day was revived in Taiyou’s mind.
In Juunishima’s research facility, being forced to kiss Youran by Kohaku.
His heart beat fast, and now――.
The next moment, Youran caught her breath and thrust him away.
It wasn’t impressive power, but Taiyou staggered back.
The feeling of being rejected ran through his head.
He felt somewhat apologetic for trying to kiss her like that, but the shock of being rejected by her was even bigger.
（W-Well. We aren’t like that after all.）
Taiyou made that excuse in his heart. That Youran was different than Kotone and the others, so this was to be expected.
Taiyou’s gaze swam, and Youran held her cheeks with both hands, not meeting his eyes.
A brief air of awkwardness drifted between the two of them.
Youran was the first to snap out of it.
「Oh yeah, we can’t be doing these sorts of things right now. Gotta chase after them.」
「Ah, if that’s the case then don’t worry.」
Youran lowered her fine-shaped eyebrows quizzically at Taiyou keeping his cool.
「What do you mean by “don’t worry”?」
「Hera isn’t here, right? They have her tracking them.」
She surveyed the surroundings, noticing that there was no fairy there.
「I discussed this with her earlier. That if the opponent were to run and I couldn’t seem to catch up, Hera would tail them. They can’t discover her following them if they can’t see her.」
Taiyou said, grinning.
「By this point, I bet she’s riding on that guy Tsukumo’s shoulders and crooning.」
Imagining that sight, Youran burst into laughter with a “pffft”.