”No, I appreciate that,” I responded with a gentle and reassuring voice.
“Being able to be angry for others is a beautiful trait.
Please don't belittle yourself.”


 Also, please, don't joke around.
Use your golden glow to collect the landmines and make them fall into the path of yuri.
Please be a pillar of human sacrifice for a happy ending.


But it's a little embarrassing to be praised so openly,” The protagonist chuckled at my response.
But really, it was like a boomerang.
You're the one who recklessly flirts with girls, aren't you? I know it all.


It's about time.”

 ”Uh, yeah.
That's right.
It would also be inconvenient for Tomobe-kun.
See you later…?”


 When Suzune looked around and noticed that Sumire was looking at her, she urged the protagonist.
Tamaki gives me a complicated smile and bids me farewell before walking over to Sumire and the others.
I watch them for a moment, especially Suzune as she leaves…
a moment later, I turn to face the presence approaching from behind, clutching the dagger (tantō) in my pocket.


 ”What do you want? If this is a joke, please stop it.
I might break your bones on the spur of the moment, okay?”


 I glanced over my shoulder at a few miscellaneous men who were closing in behind me.
Perhaps my warning has worked, they stop, but they do not hide their hostility.
It was obvious that this was going to be a problem.


 ”On the spur of the moment, huh? Is that why you beat up my men?”

 ”T-the head of the Hidden Group…”


 Then, Onitsuki Uemon emerged from behind them, dressed in lavish clothing and jiggling his fat.
When I saw him, I couldn't help but frown.
I knew he had been monitoring me since I returned from the mission a few days ago.
I knew, but…
is he approaching me here?


 ”Are you high-minded or just obedient?” Uemon sneered as he approached me.
“Don't you know manners? Did the hard work of your master's discipline go to waste?”




 I was at a loss for words and could only kneel down, bow my head, and await his orders.
Sneers leaked from behind Uemon.


 ”How can I help you, my lord?”


 ”Hmph.” Uemon's rough breathing filled the air.
“It's something you know.” He approached to my eyes and nose.
“I have to warn someone who's consumed by his own position and ignorant of his place.”


 Hey, stop it.
You smell of sweat.


 ”Warn, my lord?”


 Uemon scoffed.
“Isn't that right? You're quite eloquent.” He turned and walked a few steps away before spinning back to face mw.
“After Hina and Aoi, are you going to spit on the Hotoya's young lady next? You lowly servants have no sense of propriety, do you?”


 Ah, at least exclude Gorilla-sama.
At the very least, she thinks of me as a pawn or toy.


 ”……” Of course, I didn't express such true feelings aloud.
The topic of Hina and Gorilla-sama is very sensitive.
A careless word can be fatal.


 ”Silence, huh?” Uemon said, raising an eyebrow.
“Well, the right answer for your position, I suppose.
You're as cunning as ever, I don't know what you're planning next…
But I won't let my guard down this time.”


 Me too, if I'm careless, I'll get my stomach punctured by Gorilla-sama or that demon, so there's no other way.


 ”Oh Lord, where were you—”

 ”—Oh my, oh my, I found you, head of the hidden group?”


 Uemon's words are cut off.
Uemon and I, as well as the miscellaneous people of the hidden group who were behind Uemon, all turned our gaze toward the voice.
We had no choice but to look at it.
Because the voice had such a strong presence.
Or perhaps it was also a kind of spiritual incantation.


 ”What do you want? Aoi.” Uemon's expression was obviously displeased.
Across from his gaze, the princess of the cherry blossom was smiling smugly.
In response, the rich double ball of piled clothing swayed, but in the current tense atmosphere, no one, including myself, was distracted by it.


 ”It seems like you're quite displeased, Uncle,” Gorilla-sama said, her tone sugary sweet.
“But that kind of attitude will only damage a harmonious family, you know?”


 ”It's none of your business.
Don't talk nonsense.
Get to the point—”Uemon's voice stopped after he had said all that.


 His mouth agaped and my heart stopped for a moment too.
It was inevitable, upon seeing the uneasy eyes of a small figure that appeared behind Aoi.


 ”Step-aunt, it seems I am only a meddlesome busybody unable to read the mood.
I think it's time for me to leave.
You servant, get out of here too.
Don't interfere in the relationship between husband and wife.”



 Uemon trembled like he did when he was hit by the calamity youkai, and Princess Kotsuzu was filled with anxiety like she was when she faced the youkai group unarmed, but when Gorilla-sama beckoned with her fan, my control over my own body was taken away in an instant and I followed her to where she stood.


 ”Hey, what are you—!” Uemon interrupted.
“Don't you think you should be alone with your wife? Please feel free to talk, won't you?” Gorilla-sama responded coldly.


 Uemon groans at Aoi's cold words.
I couldn't even move my head and could only follow behind Gorilla-sama as she left the place with ease.


 ”P-princess…!?” I stammered.


 ”Be quite.
Do you want to stand out and be executed?” Gorilla-sama scolded sharply.
“Once we're out of the boundary of the barrier, hurry and get on the ox carriage.”




 And then I realized it…
There was no cheering nor clashing noises from the match since earlier.
However, when I looked towards it, the match was still going on.
But, the match had turned into one in which several exorcists were challenging Sumire with spears and swords clashing violently against her burdock.
Although there probably was a deafening sound, all I could perceive from my position was complete silence.


 (Is it some kind of a boundary that blocks sound two-way? As usual, a monster!)


 If the mother who was fighting against the three exorcists with burdock was a monster, then the daughter was a monster too, as she pulled me into her boundary without being noticed by people including Uemon.


 And exactly at the moment I stepped out of her boundary, tumult and metallic noises started sounding all of a sudden.
At the same time, we had reached the entrance to the dojo.
Shiro was next to it, with a carriage parked next to her.
She looked at me and showed me a small smile, then looked at Gorilla-sama and hastily bowed down to her.


 ”Well, let's go back,” Gorilla-sama said, her voice firm and commanding.
“You don't want to be pursued too much, do you?”


 I couldn't argue with anything Gorilla-sama said.
So, I just followed her and Shiro into the ox cart.




 Then, just before the ox cart doors closed, I caught a glimpse of it.
Lady Onitsuki was looking at us as she danced with Onitsuki's exorcists.


 She was watching us with a meaningful look in her eyes…


* * *


 ”Hehehe,” chuckled Gorilla-sama, “isn't it a masterpiece? My uncle, a money-grubbing, pouty uncle soaked in sweat and grease, is so upset by a single little girl!”


 With a voice like the sound of water droplets clinging to each other, she continued, “It's more fun than watching noh or kabuki!”


 From inside the cart, which had turned into a 'stray house', Gorilla-sama sat on the highest throne with a voice like the sound of water droplets clinging to each other, mocking her real uncle.


 According to her story, a cloth merchant visits Onitsuki valley every year during this season.
And this time, the fabric that the merchant came to sell was unusually luxurious and extravagant, with a wide range of colors and patterns, as they sourced their goods from all over northern region and cities along with overseas imports, due to the recent intensification of Tachibana Trading Company's business.


 While the Onitsuki women were buying their favorite items, Princess Kotsuzu found herself struggling to make a decision.
Not only the price, but also the suitability of the fabric to her own taste had her at a loss.
At that moment, she happened to ask Gorilla-sama who was standing nearby for her opinion.


 ”Since she was troubled over that decision for so long, I took the liberty of bringing her to her husband's place quickly,” Gorilla-sama explained.
“I mean, she should ask someone who can see her in the fabric rather than someone who just hears about it, right?”


 ”I see…”


 Gorilla-sama, who narrated her amusing story of how she came to be there, even though I didn't ask her about it, seemed to read my inner turmoil and gave me an order with a shrug.


 ”If you want to talk to those new retainer, invite them over here.
You don't want to face that pig's questioning again, do you?”


 It was, in other words, a warning that she wouldn't help me next time.
I nodded heavily in understanding and confirmed with her.

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