It was oft said that there was no meaning in holding a castle down without forces, but on the contrary, the holding down aspect――vying for time was more fearsome than anything else.
That was what Michiyo had done.
Right now, Taiyou’s Achilles heel was Miki Aoba.
Taiyou’s battle and tactical prowess had been proven in actual combat. He could negate every firearm, make a hundred kilogram unit mass into a missile with his arm power, and he had ripped apart enemy encirclements to where there was nothing but uninhabited wilderness with a shovel.
He who purely excelled at combat no longer had anything he could do.
He himself understood that.
So Taiyou had anticipated two possibilities from the time-saving event.
One was with stronger power.
Shirokiyami, the girl praised as the strongest katana wielder. Possessing the national treasure『Reverse Heaven』, she was the girl who was able to bring about twofold afterimages.
Taiyou could not yet win against her. He hadn’t even reached her feet.
And for whatever reason she seemed unable to disobey the girl whom she called her older sister. If she were to be ordered by her sister to appear before him as an enemy, things would get very messy.
After all, he couldn’t win even if he tried his hardest.
The other one――was even worse of a possibility for Taiyou.
Raised in a house with three wives exchanging conversation on a regular basis, his bride, Miki Aoba, had fallen into the hands of the enemy.
Aoba was someone precious to Taiyou. With her brought forth before his eyes as a hostage, he would no longer be able to act.
So of the two possibilities, the latter was more critical for him.
He had wanted to pass his imagination off as ridiculous.
However, the bad images that he got had become reality.
The worst possibility had come to pass, and Taiyou’s face grew pale.
With Aoba brought before him he had no choice but to surrender.
No matter how strong his individual armed might was, there was just no meaning.
「That’s good, with this we can get back Aoba-chan」
「Are they already heading this way？」
In contrast to the happy-go-lucky Hera, Taiyou’s voice was thick with panic.
「Yes indeed…What is the matter Taiyou-chan, you’re in such a fluster」
「……Hey, so how long exactly will it take them to arrive？」
「You too, Youran-chan…Umm, in just a little」
Taiyou and Youran exchanged glances.
Youran said in a quiet voice, not with high energy or dignity. This was his first time hearing this sort of voice since knowing her.
「Are you telling me to run by myself」
「Yeah, that’s right」
「How could I do something like that, in the first place――」
「Do you still not get the situation? Saekusa Tsukumo is using her as a hostage intending to threaten you」
「I know that」
「Then let me ask you, if she were thrust before you as a hostage, what’ll you do? …What can you do?」
Trying to speak, Taiyou’s mouth flapped open and closed like a goldfish.
That was the very cause of his face paling, the source.
He could do nothing, in fact he had no choice but to do what his companion said.
He wanted to retort to Youran telling him to flee, but when she had said that Taiyou couldn’t say another word.
「See, you can’t do anything after all. That’s really fine, all it is is that the other side is skilled at setting their guard」
Normally he would have probably held her clear explanation in favor, but as of now Taiyou had no such leisure. Rather, he even felt himself wanting to revolt against her for explaining so clearly.
But she continued.
「What do you think needs to be done for the term “hostage” to lose its meaning?」
「……That type of method exists?」
Unlike Kohaku, Youran disliked meaningless conversational exchanges.
Since he understood that about her, he intuitively felt that there was likely some practicality behind these question.
「It does, a really simple one at that」
「……You aren’t going to seriously tell me to abandon her right」
Youran pursed her lips, making a sulky expression.
Taiyou was vexed at his slip. To think that he made her make such an expression in this situation.
「There’s no point telling you things that you can’t do. We don’t even have time to be disputing right now.」
「Tell me, what is it?」
Taiyou said immediately.
Detonated by the phrase “we don’t even have time”, he had quit thinking.
Putting aside whether or not he could reach the answer by thinking, quickly hearing the answer was unmistakably better than losing time.
Objective and method. In this case, this was a situation in which it was best to lower one’s head and ask.
「Just don’t let them negotiate」
「Don’t let them negotiate？」
「Yep. What conditions mean defeat for you? If something were to・・happen to her, right？」
That’s absolutely right, what about it・・・he didn’t even want to put that to his mouth. That was just how much he didn’t want to think about that worst outcome.
「What needs to happen for that? The other side recognizes the failure of negotiations and seeks to make an example, right?」
「Well that’s……true, but…」
「Yeah, that’s obvious. Killing them before using them as a hostage is something an idiot would do」
「There are idiots like dat in dis world, but…there ain’t any person like dat in Juunishima」
It didn’t seem like he’d understand anytime soon, so he bluntly asked back.
「Yer really dim」
Leticia cut in with an exasperated expression.
「We’re sayin’ to git outta here already y’know?」
「Get out of here？」
He understood the minute he said that. He was finally able to understand what Youran and Leticia had been saying.
「……If no negotiations occur, then no ruptures occur either」
「We’ve been telling you that. Basically even if they use a hostage for you, it’s fine as long as they don’t notice you」
Youran said in a bit of an exasperated voice as well.
「You’ll run before negotiations, and it’s not just you not showing up to the table, it’s preventing them from even telling you to come」
「Right, s’like not being able to accept a lawsuit due to absence」
「Yeah. Usually you wouldn’t be able to escape ahead with that timing, but you have yourself a joker, don’t you?」
He asked back, and Youran looked in Hera’s direction.
「Yes indeed, I am the jokerー」
Hera answered raising her hand.
「That’s right. Just use this girl skillfully and run around. At least have that girl confirm the safety of the hostage before meeting Saekusa Tsukumo. This girl can’t be seen by them, right」
「That’s how it is, so hurry up and go. I’ll keep them at bay here」
「Don’t get all surprised, remember that there’s no time. Or do you have any other ideas? Something that’ll let you take me along too」
Taiyou insisted that even so he couldn’t accept that.
He didn’t consider leaving Youran there to keep the opponent at bay abandoning Aoba, but it was something difficult for him to accept.
As he was hesitating, Youran took a sigh and looked instead at her close friend.
「Letii, I leave it to you」
「Ya……ya ain’t gonna die right?」
「If it’s me alone……if the opponent is Saekusa Tsukumo……、for the present I should・・・・・be left alive」
「Will you hold?」
Youran silently answered Leticia’s question.
The two of them gazing at each other, their exchanging glances were equivalent to many words.
The exchange between the true friends ended. Entrusted with a task, Leticia looked in Taiyou’s direction.
「C’mon, let’s go」
「Wait, are you seriously leaving her?」
「Sorry, but ya see, I’m that girl’s close friend」
Leticia said, slamming a sword hand into the nape of Taiyou’s neck.
An attack that caught him off guard, a close range attack.
His vision revolved.
Lastly he could see Youran’s smile faintly.
Why was she smiling……with that puzzlement as his last recollection, Taiyou went on to let go of his consciousness.