As Raishin and Yaya departed, Yaya’s elder sister— Irori watched them go off with complicated feelings inside her.
“Raishin has calmed down quite a bit. Back then, he was like a ravenous mountain dog.”
Shouko took a puff out of her pipe, before languidly replying.
“The passing of time polishes a man. So too do hate and anger.”
“Still, for Raishin to throw himself headlong into danger for someone else’s sake—“
“That boy would happily get the short end of the stick if it meant someone else would benefit.”
“… I always thought Raishin was ruthless and motivated by self-interest. That he would be fine with others getting hurt if it were in the interests of his goal.”
“ Fufu… then that means you’re even less focused than Yaya. I don’t remember making your eyes to be that bad, Irori.”
Harsh words spoken with a gentle tone, Shouko lightly rebuked Irori.
“The boy isn’t ruthless, but the circumstances he was caught up in certainly were. Fate dealt him a cruel hand. You see him as motivated by self-interest, but his current conduct is merely because he’s driven by revenge. In short, from the beginning of the beginning, the boy was already like that; someone who would show compassion to even the most bitter of foes.”
“Are you referring to him showing consideration for his enemy’s circumstances?”
Shouko didn’t answer. She just continued smoking her pipe serenely.
Irori quickly grew uneasy.
“Mistress. Was it a good idea to let Raishin go off like that? Like you said earlier, Raishin will be going up against a formidable foe…”
“Are you worried about Yaya? You always did dote on her a lot.”
“Wha—!? T-there’s no way I’d let my personal feelings…”
Her white skin turned scarlet, and she waved her hands frantically about in denial.
“There’s no cause for concern. I’ve removed Yaya’s restriction.”
Irori grew even more worried as she piled on more questions.
“… Will Raishin be fine? What if he gets completely consumed by Yaya…”
“The boy is not so weak.”
“Are you sure? Raishin has barely been a puppeteer for a few years— if I may be frank, he’s like a baby bird that hasn’t learnt to fly yet. I’m sure if you properly explained the situation to him, he would know that he isn’t at the required level just yet.”
“Rather than the enemy, the boy has severely miscalculated his own strength. It’s just that he hasn’t noticed it yet. He hasn’t realised that he’s been blessed with his own innate talent.”
Shouko let out a small chuckle as she remembered something.
“When we first met, the boy was training with a wooden puppet.”
A wooden puppet didn’t have Eve’s Heart installed inside it, and so it was just a plain, regular wooden doll.
Obviously, this meant that it didn’t have any form of autonomy. Thus, it relied solely on a puppeteer’s magic energy for everything— the puppeteer had to control the tension in the joints, balance, and its overall movements. Even for someone with telepathy or a mountain ascetic who had devoted himself to rigorous training, it was still a tricky feat to pull off.
Irori was honestly shocked. Raishin had only started two years ago, but at that point in time he already had magic energy skilled enough to manipulate a wooden puppet. With her eye on his back, Shouko nodded.
“The boy’s brother could manipulate a wooden puppet to the point of being life-like. However, he couldn’t do that— and so he branded himself as talentless. However—”
Her long eyelashes fluttered downwards as she absentmindedly sighed.
“A regular puppeteer wouldn’t even be able to make a wooden puppet stand.”
At most, they would only be able to move a single limb at best.
“Fufu… you really are such a fearful boy.”
“The Akabane clan were a family of diviners. I’ve heard they were skilled in exorcism arts and shikigami usage. Are you trying to say that his talent is something to be expected, since he’s from that bloodline?”
“Yes, and isn’t it wonderful? However, fortune and misfortune are merely two sides of the same coin. It is precisely because he has the Blood of the Scarlet Wing in him that he’s suffered misfortune and had his family destroyed.”
Irori’s mouth shut. Details of Raishin’s childhood, the tragedy of his siblings getting attacked, and the genocide of the Akabane clan were scarce.
Both her mistress and Raishin had refused to talk about it at length.
However, she thought the status quo was fine as it was.
She was content to wait till the time came when Shouko wanted to talk about it. Until then, and even after that, the three sisters would strive to be of help to their mistress to the best of their abilities.
Having reached a conclusion, Irori left the matter aside and changed topics.
“Will Raishin be able to defeat Tenzen?”
“Who knows? That is something he’ll have to attempt to find out.”
“Are you saying that the possibility exists, then?”
Shouko didn’t answer, casting her gaze out to their disappearing figures as she smoked her pipe instead.
After a while, she abruptly muttered.
“This talk about revenge is ridiculous.”
“If he knew the truth, the boy would hate me for sure.”
A lonely smile which had never been seen before till now surfaced on her lips.
Irori’s thought module started to swim with numerous doubts.
However, her brain soon settled down from its chaotic state as she let all her thoughts evaporate away.
As long as her mistress knew the truth, it was fine even if she didn’t.
Irori stared outside the window, looking up at the moon hanging in the night sky.
Her thoughts were very much like a prayer as she quietly lowered her head downwards.