Unlike a female mosquito, Ayato had no desire to enter the swarm of insects caging him against the cliff’s walls. The atmosphere would have been quite romantic—the moon was as round as a bosom, the waves’ elegant roaring produced a sound quite reminiscent of a female mountain lion in heat, and the wind’s howling demonstrated its eagerness to offer the most passionate BGM possible— if not for the pathetic composition of the motley crew in front of him.
The Nobushi and Kairagi were proud owners of glazed eyes. Ayato likely would have had a similar look if not for his position as the Yashiro Commissioner and experience tolerating bumbling fools with penchants for inane chatter. Ayato briefly tuned back into the leader of the semi-circle, discovered his endless monologue about the Sakoku Decree was still ongoing and as stupid as it had been since the moment the dunce’s mouth had opened, and allowed his thoughts to wander once more.
It was unfortunate that the entrance to the secret passage in the cliff had jammed. Although brainstorming creative ways of ensuring that the Shumatsuban member in charge of this route’s maintenance would be fairly punished was entertaining, Ayato could feel sand in his shoes. Hemmed in by the seemingly endless number of vagrants, it was unlikely that a desperate dash to freedom would succeed, especially since the wide-open beaches did not offer much cover. Although Ayato was indeed fit and quite the strapping young man, a marathon on a beach with a crowd of vagrants was not his style.
The Yashiro Commissioner sighed. Although the leader’s intelligence seemed lacking, at least based on how his monologue incorporated no sense of rhythm or reason, he seemed to have quite a bombastic nature, as demonstrated by the plentiful use of hyperbole when discussing the failures of the Tri-Commission. Still, it seemed like the dunderhead’s inclination towards having exaggerated amounts of everything had somehow come in handy.
How in the world had this dimwit managed to gather what seemed like every vagrant in Inazuma? Furthermore, why wasn’t Ayato notified? There had been no reports of large money transfers lately. The ludicrous amount of money required to hire every vagrant here would have been nearly impossible for one man, and Ayato doubted that any sane organization would support the absolute nonsense spewing from the leader’s mouth.
Anyways, Ayato was stuck. Back against the wall, shoes filled with sand, ears filled with absolute hogwash, Ayato was stuck. He wanted boba and the comforts of Kamisato Estate.
After 421 words, the leader finally ended his blabbering with a triumphant smirk and the most cliché phrase Ayato had ever heard. Rather impressive, considering he normally dealt with pompous government officials.
“Yashiro Commissioner, any last words?”
Ayato would have laughed if the situation had been any more amusing.
“Apologies, Mr. Tri-Commission Reject. You didn’t adhere to the word limit set for Tri-Commission communication. Terribly sorry, old sport, but I am regretfully unable to process your request.”
The dimwit sputtered, face resembling a tomato instead of the dried kumquat from earlier, and indignantly opened his mouth just in time for him to receive a wholesome mouthful of sand.
Ayato had tastefully covered his face with his sleeve when the person foolish enough to jump off a cliff had landed in the encirclement.
“Arataki “Numero Uno” Itto, here in the flesh!” Hahaha…”
The booming announcement ended pathetically as the oni coughed on the sand his landing had displaced. A very resigned Ayato was fated to receive more nonsense, although a more welcome type of gibberish, from another loudmouthed Inazuman on this fine night.
Once Itto had recovered, he loudly clamored, “Ayato, bro, whatcha up to? Playing duck, duck, goose without your old pal, Arataki “The One and Oni” Itto?”
The commissioner sighed. “No, I’m afraid that this situation isn’t quite as wonderful as duck, duck, goose.”
The leader, who had finished gargling and rinsing the sand from his mouth, interrupted with, “You... you… you monster! How dare you ruin my dramatic and awe-inspiring encirclement! I planned for months, and you ruined my script! I refuse to hire an oni actor for future reenactments of my glorious takedown of this self-serving and corrupt official!”
Ayato blinked. If the monologue had been scripted, no wonder the dumdum’s dialogue had sounded as if it had been written by a young child or an unpolished light novel or fanfic writer.
Itto, on the other hand, clenched his fists and began arguing rather childishly with the man-child. “Oi, you should be honored to have an oni actor! As an oni, I’m a great actor! I bet the other oni would knock your socks off! And your geta too!”
The kumquat-face gasped. He too clenched his fists and opened his mouth, only to be interrupted by Itto holding his hand out.
“Wait, wait a second. Did you say takedown? As in, takedown with all those weapons? A takedown of my bro Ayato?”
Interrupting before the two could continue their back-and-forth, Ayato smoothly offered an explanation to his dear pal, Itto.
“Mr. Tri-Commission Reject is displeased with some of the Tri-Commission’s policies and has decided to offer constructive feedback in the form of laying my decapitated head at the gates of Tenshukaku. Naturally, I rejected this proposal. Therefore, we are at a standstill on this fine night.”
Itto also gasped. “But, but, bro! That’s… not how feedback works! Even the Arataki Gang knows that!”
Turning to the half-wit in front of them, the oni grasped his kanabou and pointed it with a dramatic flourish at the moron, the numskull who cowered despite having encapsulated himself quite safely in a sea of hired hands.
What a regret, muses Ayato. If his sword had been capable of reaching the oaf’s fleshy neck, this ridiculous night would have ended quicker. Bribing the vagrants would be quite easy without the simpleton’s wallet in the way.
The twit recovers enough to voice a strangled, “Just get them! Kill them dead! Right here, right now!”
The sound of unsheathing weapons creates a rather unpleasant cacophony, but within the noise, a muttered, “Tautology is stupid,” from the swarm of vagrants could be heard.
Haran Geppaku Futsu manages to kill the oncoming enemies dead, but Ayato knows that, despite having to face a limited number of enemies due to having the cliff to his back, he has a cliff to his back and an unending swarm of burly Nobushi ready to replace the fallen. Sparing a glance, Ayato notices that the wide-sweeping blows Itto delivers have successfully ensured the oni’s ongoing subscription to life.
“This is getting interesting…” Ayato murmurs.
Meanwhile, Itto is yelling, “You want some of this!?” as if the leader hadn’t made it clear that Ayato, especially his head, was what they wanted, not a random delinquent oni and his destructive kanabou.
Despite the increasingly large number of fallen vagrants, the goons weren’t letting up. After all, according to the coward in the back, “Whoever kills the blueberry gets a bonus of 10k mora!”
Itto foolishly shouts in return, “What about Arataki “The Oni Sumo King” Itt—” before getting cut off due to a close call with a Kairagi’s downward slash. “Hah! Is that all you got!?”
Ayato shuffles as close to Itto as his Shunsuiken attacks and Itto’s sweeping blows allow him. “Why are you here, Itto?”
The oni bonks a Nobushi in the head before replying, “Looking for onikabuto, of course! I was in the area ‘cause I was gonna challenge you to a TCG match afterwards.”
“You shouldn’t have involved yourself. Pace yourself before you erase yourself.”
Itto laughs. “When is Arataki “The Ultimate TCG Champion” Itto not at a party?”
Ayato does not scowl. “This is more of a bloodbath, Itto.”
After a few more minutes of bonks and slashing, Itto opens his pretty mouth. “Hey, bro, I could do this all night, but it’s getting kinda boring! Got a way out?”
Ayato grits his teeth, ignoring the trickle of blood down his arm. “I was thinking—“
“Think faster, bro! You can do it!”
Ayato repeats himself, “I was thinking that, since we are under encirclement, we have no choice but to break out. Surrender and fighting to the death are almost equivalent, and I’m assuming that we will receive no relief from the Shumatsuban or Arataki Gang. Unless?”
Itto laughs sheepishly. “Ah, the Arataki Gang always helps their own! Unless they don’t know that Arataki “The Pride of Oni” Itto snuck out to get an edge in catching onikabuto.”
Ayato, unsurprised, continues, “We must break out then, since climbing the cliff would be foolish.”
Parrying a rather heavy blow, Ayato winces. “We need to attack a weak point to break out.”
Scanning the field, Ayato notices that the insane number of vagrants ensures a very even spread of enemies. Even the foolish kumquat has smartly retreated to the back.
“Where?” Itto asks.
“There are none, as of now.”
Itto shrugs nonchalantly, as if this wasn’t potentially life-changing news. “Then we make one, right?”
Ayato continues observing, but the burning of his arms from constant slashing and parrying is distracting. “If only it was as easy as that. After we break out, we have to escape their pursuit.”
“We can just ride Ushi!”
Ayato would’ve frozen in place if he were idiotic enough to do that in the middle of combat. “Ride… Ushi?”
Itto nods as he breaks a vagrant. “Yeah, Ushi’s great at transportation!”
Ayato pictures the chunky cow-rock and its stubby legs. “Indeed,” is all he offers.
Itto doesn’t seem to notice Ayato’s lack of enthusiasm, although to be fair, he is busy bashing enemies’ heads in. “Yeah, that’s it! We’ll ride Ushi outta here!”
Ayato entertains Itto’s innovative idea. “Are you sure we’ll both fit? I don’t think we will.”
Itto seems to be thinking. “Maybeeeee?”
Ayato interrupts Itto’s deep philosophical thoughts in order to protect the wellbeing of the oni’s remaining brain cells. “Doesn’t matter. We’d be completely surrounded if we don’t make it through. We need to ensure they can’t focus all their force on us.”
Itto nods. “So we need a distraction!” He pats his luscious chest, distracting one very thirsty vagrant whom Ayato promptly shanks in the kidney.
“I’m great at distractions!” Itto boasts. “Never underestimate an oni!”
Ayato responds with, “How are you going to be the distraction if we’re both riding Ushi?”
Itto looks at Ayato as if he were the stupid one. “Then we won’t both be riding Ushi! Easy.”
Ayato growls as he cuts a Nobushi’s arm off. “We're planning our escape, Itto. Not a distraction and an escape on the back of a cow.”
Itto’s eyes tear up. “Bro…” he looks at Ayato as if he were capable of hanging the moon. Ayato is very intelligent and attractive, but even he cannot hang the moon. Could archons hang the moon?
Ayato snaps, “What?”
“Bro, you just said you wouldn’t leave me behind! That’s so bro of you. I knew you’d never leave me behind, but wow! You said it! That’s, like, the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me!”
Ayato does not pout. “I complimented your horns the other day.”
Itto waves his hand. “Yeah, but you were just stating a fact! My horns are always fabulous!”
Ayato stops himself from continuing this unproductive conversation. “Alright, time to get serious. So we need a distraction—“
Itto fells a Kairagi and interrupts Ayato, announcing, “I got this, bro. You take Ushi and get out of here. Get some doushin! They’ll believe you faster than me.”
Ayato stares at Itto. “We just agreed that leaving someone behind isn’t very bro-like, Itto.”
Giving Ayato a confused look, Itto slowly says, “But we’re not leaving someone behind? Unlike other laaaame distractions, I, Arataki “The flashiest distraction” Itto will definitely break out! I have experience with breaking out of jail, ya know.”
Ayato gasps as a Kairagi leaves a rather deep cut across his arm. Itto somehow takes that as a sign of agreement.
“Alright, I’ll pop out Ushi and show the Flying Lavender Melon that being a bullchucker is a good thing, you’ll hop on, be a badass on your way out, and I’ll bust out my way out with my kanabou!”
A Nobushi attempts to alert his companions about the creation of their beautiful plan but gets his innards strewn across the ground before he gets out more than a deep peep.
Ayato's attempt at protesting, for this plan has not been signed by the Yashiro Commissioner or the head of the Kamisato Clan or any person with more than a handful of brain cells, is cut off when Itto slams Ushi into the crowd of vagrants with a loud “Haha! Bam!”
Ushi moos valiantly as a cluster of Nobushi fall back explosively. Itto picks up a still-stunned Yashiro Commissioner and chucks him on top of Ushi. Ayato desperately clenches his legs around the beefcake as it begins charging through the distracted Nobushi. After all, who would bring a cow to a fight?
Already midway through the encirclement with Ushi, Ayato regains his faculties, but only partially. He does the most absurd and foolish action he has ever done in combat, ever since he licked Thoma’s spear as a joke during a spar, and stands up, balancing precariously on Ushi.
“Kamisato Art: Suiyuu!” Ayato calmly declares, as he balances on a rock-cow in a mob of vagrants out for his blood.
As Bloomwater Blades decorate the ground with fallen vagrants and their innards, Ayato hears a distant “It’s SHOWTIME!!!” as Itto lets out his inner Raging Oni King and wields his Oni King’s Kanabou in battle. The crimson oni’s Arataki Kesagiri slashes absolutely devastate the mob of vagrants as Itto valiantly bashes through them.
Pets do resemble their owners, Ayato muses as he lowers himself and sits on a travelling cow.
Noticing that the dynamic duo seems to actually be escaping the encirclement, the cheerleader in the back encourages his minions by helpfully shouting, “Don’t be cowed! Get the commissioner!”
Ayato chuckles to himself. Perhaps freestyling suited the turd more than a scripted monologue.
Naturally, Itto has to say something too. “Can’t catch me! Who wants some of this!”
Surprisingly, a Kairagi in the middle of the horde responds with: “I don’t want this!”
Turning to the leader cowering near the back, he argues, “We didn’t sign up for an oni! And a cow! You only paid for the blue dude. I wanna renegotiate.” There are murmurs of agreement.
With the enemies divided and distracted, Itto manages to make his way out fairly easily despite not being as fast as the Ushi-Ayato combination. The doushin were unnecessary as usual.
Far away from the complaining, injured, or dead vagrants surrounding the flustered kumquat-commission reject, Ayato, Ushi, and Itto reconvene in a wooded area.
“Attaboy!” Itto proudly pats Ushi. Due to exhaustion, he misses a few times and ends up patting the Yashiro Commissioner on the cow. Ushi responds with a moo. Ayato does not.
Ayato dusts himself off and gracefully rises from the cow. “Itto, that was…”
Itto puffs his chest up.
Itto gapes. “Whaaaaa!?” he exclaims. “I was totally awesome out there!”
Ayato shakes his head. “We were fortunate that they were divided and lacked a competent leader capable of adapting to sudden changes on the battlefield.”
Itto pouts adorably. “Awww, c’mon, we both made it out of there fine! I’m Arataki “He Might Lose but He’ll Never Admit Defeatto!” I would’ve won no problemo.”
Ayato, having tuned out at ‘Arataki,’ hums, “Mm, yes, very nice. We should go treat our injuries.” He eyes an oozing gash on Itto’s muscled arms.
Itto laughs and slaps his chest, which bounces in a very healthy way. “It’s just a scratch, I swear!”
Ayato pokes Itto’s chest very precisely with a very pointy finger. The oni goes down, groaning.
“Be still. Your injuries may not be severe, but you’ve strained yourself. Breaking out of an encirclement with that many men wasn’t a small feat.”
Ayato’s earlier hypothesis was promptly proven false when Ushi somehow managed to carry both of them at the same time. Ayato is secretly relieved since he’s feeling a little washed-out. His injuries are minor but many, and his blood is meant to be inside his body.
Ayato nods in approval. “I underestimated you, Ushi. You are indeed great at transportation.”
Itto, having recovered from his graceless flop, agrees energetically, perhaps a bit too energetically for Ayato’s tastes after having experienced a battle this late at night. “Yeah! Ushi’s the best! We really showed that Flying Lavender Melon, eh, beefcake?”
Ayato would’ve sputtered if he hadn’t had etiquette classes. “Beefcake?”
Itto winks at the head of the Kamisato Clan. “Sup, Prince Charming.”