「…what are you doing?」
「Nothing worth intro-ducing myself for.」
「I haven’t asked that anyway, it’s pretty obvious from how you talk.」
With the girl’s unique speaking while pausing, there was no doubt who it was.
She cleared her throat.
「I’m not intro-ducing myself…I have no…name.」
「I’m starting to feel deja vu talking to you like this.」
He was half shouting at her. He remembered that he had the exact same conversation the first time he met her.
「Let me just ask though, did someone teach you to look like that?」
What do you mean, the girl twitched her head aside as if to say.
Taiyou spit out a laugh at her without thinking. Like a girl…way too much like a girl.
Shirokiyami, the strongest swordsman, the beautiful girl who had attacked the seven wives of Taiyou.
While Taiyou was conversing with the girl, Leticia’s men were moving forward and eventually tied up all the beaten women of Saegusa Tsukumo.
Looking back, he asked the girl more.
「I mean, what is that? That colorful mask of yours that may or may not match your code name. You should have picked white (shiro) and black (yami).」
「My name…isn’t Shirokiyami…」
「My name…my name…」
「You said at first you don’t have one. Don’t worry, you don’t have to think one up.」
「…Mask…the Third.」(a play off Lupin the Third)
「The famous thief?!」
「Let me just tell you…this cute girl is sca-ry…」
「You’re getting it mixed up.」
「Run! The cutest girl in the world is here! Run!」
What a gratifying conversation these two were having.
He knew why this girl had come out with a mask on, and after talking to her he seemed more at ease.
It was a short moment, but so much already hadn’t gone right…nothing was different…so this casual talk with this girl had the calmness of being at home again.
He wanted it too feel even calmer, but he had to check something first.
「I see…I could care less about your name. But could you tell me the reason that you’ve come here?」
「Your wife…I have…her.」
「I knew it.」
「What is she talkin’ about?!」
Leticia stuck her head out the window.
「So ya know who this girl is?」
「Don’t you know her?」
「Sure! Shirokiyami, White-snow death goddess. The strongest swordsman, pretty famous as a human weapon for her tactics.」
「Tactics? Don’t you mean technique?」
「Huh…I guess I get it.」
Someone like Taiyou that thinks of purpose and means as different things means that he thinks of strategy and technique also as different.
A strategic human weapon. It would be too much of an exaggeration for some to say that about one person, especially about a young beautiful maiden, which Taiyou thought was strange.
He thought it was strange because he had actually fought her before.
「Well, this seems like fate. But, the wife you’re holding, is it Aoba?」
Mask the Third nodded slightly.
「That idiot! Youran Juunishima?!」
「She’s in my hands as of the last…new moon.」
「Now that’s a cool way of saying it!」
「Ya had a mysterious strength…right? What’s yer purpose? The reason ya carried her off?」
Leticia had the tone of demanding an answer. Taiyou and this girl had an unknown incident before he came to this island, and she was worried at how familiar they were.
Leticia shouted, but Taiyou raised a hand to quiet her.
「If it’s Youran you’re worried about, she’s okay. I can assure you.」
「…what does that mean?」
Leticia toned down, but began staring now at Taiyou.
Taiyou ignored her and asked Shira…no, Mask the Third.
「I have a thought for you.」
「Don’t say you’re gulping.」
「I can assure her life and fi-delity.」
He already knew that she was okay, but he wanted to make sure that she wasn’t his enemy.
No, if she was there to fight him, there’s no reason she would have arrived wearing a mask. Even though it was obvious who she was, because she was concealing who she was it was proof she was not hostile to Taiyou and the others. If you thought about the reason why she didn’t fight before, it was clear.
She was the one that stole Youran and Aoba from Saegusa Tsukumo.
With this is mind, Taiyou could finally relax. He lifted his head up, and breathed out all the air in his lungs in relief.
Once that was over he faced Leticia and looked straight at her.
「Why ya doin’ that?」
「I want to borrow something from you.」
「Yeah, just any of the cars you have.」
「You gonna kill her?」
「Yeah, I will.」
「Okay, take whatever ya like.」
Taiyou said that and walked toward one car parked among many there. Leticia’s soldiers looked at him strangely, but after a wink from Leticia, all the soldiers moved away from the car he was standing near.
Taiyou stood in front of the car and faced Mask the Third.
「It takes me back, having to fight you again.」
「It’s nice…to m-eet you.」
「Oh, that’s right, this is the first time we met.」
He smirked and laughed. It made him snicker to see a little girl like this act so stubbornly.
「Okay, let me ask you one more thing. If I beat you, will the girl Shirokiyami be mine?」
Though she tilted her head and inflected the answer as a question, Taiyou took the answer as the affirmative.
Taiyou nodded, bent, and gripped the bumper of the car. He put power into his stance, and picked up the car in the air.
「Whoa!」「That much power with wounds all over?!」「He’s a demon…a monster!!」
Leticia’s soldiers mumbled among themselves.
Leticia lifted out her hand to stop them. Taiyou quickly put down the car. The car landed with a thud on the asphalt and shook the earth.
「What is it?」
「What was all that ya said?」
「About her bein’ your girl?」
「Well, um, I just did I guess.」
He had said it more as a comment, so hearing Leticia yell at him seemed to shut him up.
But saying nothing about it…well, that’s even more embarrassing, so he spoke again.
「Because of her promise, I’m going to fight her…and if I win, she’ll become a bride of mine.」
Leticia was again lost for words.
Taiyou felt even more embarrassed, and tried to explain himself further.
「I know it’s a bit brash, but, it seems there’s no other way.」
「I mean I have to fight her, fight, and beat this girl sometime!」
He lifted his fist up and stuck it out, signalling his decision.
He looked back at the enemy he was to face. Even with the mask on, he knew it was her and his heart began to pound.
Let me borrow the car, he motioned looking back at Leticia, who for some reason was now bent and shaking while holding her shoulders.
「What is it? Something wrong?」
「Ya…take something from me so ya can get at that girl.」
「Wha? Well, yeah, to beat her.」
「I mean, as a person.」
He asked again to hear what she meant by the second comment, while Leticia lifted her face again.
Her shoulders were still shaking, and her face was red in an expression that wasn’t shyness.
「Ya need to take a rest.」
Taiyou was surprised. Leticia’s beet-red face was covered with a strange smile.
A strange, unnatural smile that for some reason, made him feel some kind of pressure.
「No, I’m not done yet.」
「Yer injured, ya can’t push yerself too far.」
「Take – a – rest.」
He couldn’t describe and had never felt that pressure before.
It was pressure from a different vector that Shirokiyami’s murderous intent.
He wondered why, just like Leticia’s smile, that her sudden smile had appeared upon her beautiful face. He felt like a frog that was being stared down in a serpent’s smile.
He tried to protest, then in the next instant.
Taiyou was struck strongly in the stomach with a fist. It was a bodyblow that seemed to arc his stomach inwards.
His consciousness seemed to fade, and he tried to suppress this, but even so his mind seemed to be fading out into whiteness.
The bodyblow, in addition to the damage he had already taken, brought him to the edge of his awareness.
His mind spun, and he fell to the ground.
「Relax and calm yer head.」
「Hey ya! With the laughin’ mouth! What’s with that face?!」
「I have a mas-k on…so you don’t…know.」
「I can see it even with yer mask on!」
「Whoaaaaa, Iiiiii’ve seen something really crazy!」
「Did you see that?」「Yeah, that was a stronger punch than I could have done!」「Women are scaaaaary!」
The tumult finally started to settle.
Among his fading consciousness, he realized this was the first time he had passed out because of her, as Taiyou remembered her sword attack on him the previous time.
(Her martial arts don’t match her soft lips…)
With most of Taiyou’s worries resolved, he still thought about those lips as he finally lost consciousness.