Despite it all, I was unhurt.
I thought I would lose a limb or that there even be a hole through my abdomen, but there wasn't anything in particular that happened. At best, I got a bump from hitting my head on the ground.
(Its activation...took long enough...)
While lying face up with my arms stretched out, I made that complaint.
Since I'm perfectly fine, it seems I really am the "Black Tortoise." However...I made quite the huge blunder. I was waiting for the right moment to make my grand entry and yet, I messed it up in one second.
(Darn it...if only I could have realized that I was the "Black Tortoise" sooner...)
That way, I could have rehearsed my lines for unleashing divine might. I wouldn't have fumbled on my words...such a regret is paining me.
With a shriek filled with tragedy, I heard the sound of running footsteps. That would of course be Ryuuga.
Neglecting the battle, she came and lifted my upper-body. I took a look at her face, and it was laden with tears.
"Ichirou, you idiot! Why did you do something that rash! I told you not to leave your house!"
Though she was angry, Ryuuga held me tight.
Under normal circumstances, I would pass away while in her arms, but...to repeat myself, I'm not injured.
"Are you okay? Ryuga."
"My condition doesn't matter right now! More importantly, Ichirou, Ichirou..."
Ryuuga had thoughtlessly returned to being a girl.
Fortunately, the heroines are keeping company with the "Evil Spirit," so they didn't have the leeway to focus their attention here.
I was going to say that I'm fine, but I immediately halted my words.
In that moment, a certain "plan" flashed into my mind.
(Perhaps, this can makes things be alright in the end? If I make use of this situation, couldn't I return to being a friend...?)
To carry out my plan at once, I'll pretend that I'm dying. I'll hide the fact that I'm fine, and I'll give a sweet smile while gasping.
"I'm glad as long as you're safe..."
"No! Definitely not! I can't live without you, Ichirou!"
"Don't cry Ryuga...there are things that you must do..."
My acting and these lines are coincidentally the same as that one play I did.
It was the same as my original sub-character role, the frilled lizard.
"I believe in you, Ryuga...defeat the "Evil Spirit," and have Kyouka come back for sure."
"You should have faith in those three and fight..."
I was sneaking in my real motive there.
At the time I thought I was the final boss, I intended on disappearing with the "Evil Spirit," but thinking about it, what's used to summon him is only a "vessel." After all, Ryuuga's "Dragon King" is passed down between generations...handed down from human to human.
Even if the god disappears, the vessel will still remain──that point is the core of my "plan."
"Listen, Ryuga. I didn't save you so that you could cry here...you're supposed to protect this world...so show me that you can protect Kyouka...!"
Perhaps I'm talking a bit too long for a dying breath. This is difficult when accounting for these things.
"If you defeat the 'Evil Spirit'...I feel that I might be able to barely hang onto my life..."
"Yeah, I promise...now go, Ryuga...if it's you, you'll definitely be able to..."
There, I pretended to faint.
All that's left now is to spectate the conclusion. At any rate, if it seems that Ryuuga and the others still can't win, I'll participate again and muster up the most of my power.
(Well, such a worry is unlikely to happen, though.)
After gently laying my body on the ground, Ryuuga quietly gets up.
Her face had completely returned to that of a gallant boy's. A golden aura rose from her whole body and she glared at the "Evil Spirit."
"Ichirou, watch me. I'll definitely defeat the 'Evil Spirit'...and bring Kyouka back!"
Ah. I'm watching. How cool, Ryuuga. Your charm is the gap moe when you enter girl mode.
Thinking about it, she's been giving me nothing but trouble. She's been constantly showing me lewd cosplay.
But soon...I'm going to have to say farewell to those days.
"Unleashing divine might──'Yellow Dragon!'"
With her loud scream, Ryuuga's aura further expands. That aura gradually took the form of a golden dragon on her back.
While letting out a dazzling glimmer, the sacred beast's body spanned about twenty meters──This is Hinomori Ryuuga's guardian deity, the "Yellow Dragon." Also known as "Ron."
Ryuuga's roar overlapped with the "Yellow Dragon's." Like that, Ryuuga fused with the guardian deity and turned into a giant arrow of light heading towards the "Evil Spirit" in a brash attack.
The "Evil Spirit," who was in the process of overwhelming the heroines, instantly reacted.
"Oh, hateful 'Yellow Dragon'...I was getting tired of waiting!"
The "Evil Spirit" let out another wave. This time, he fired it from both hands.
However, Ryuuga slipped through it while only leaving a trail of light behind, and pierced through the opponent's chest.
For the first time, the "Evil Spirit's" expression warped. However, at the same time, Kyouka was still suffering.
Please bear with it for a little longer, Kyouka.
Your older sister will definitely save you. Hinomori Ryuuga is the protagonist I can rely on.
Turning into bullets of light, Ryuuga attacked the "Evil Spirit" many times over while swiveling around.
She indiscriminately pierces and penetrates the enemy, all while continuing to increase in speed and momentum.
It was obvious that the "Evil Spirit" was falling behind on being able to react. Getting irritated, he started randomly firing waves which didn't hit Ryuuga or the heroines.
One of the waves landed in front of me! The impact gouged a large hole into the ground.
Hey. Watch it. I almost jumped to my feet by reflex from that.
"Why? My power should have been able to handle this much...!"
With his irritation getting increasingly violent, the "Evil Spirit" seemed to be speaking to himself in complaint. I never thought that he would've been such a sore loser.
"Brother! Now! While I'm holding him back, hurry...hurry and do something about the 'Evil Spirit!'"
On the ground, Kyouka shouted while having a face drenched with sweat.
(Kyouka...still has her consciousness!)
In other words, the "Evil Spirit" isn't in his top condition, and it seems that Kyouka, the vessel, is able to resist him and hold back his power, even if just a little bit.
As expected of her being someone from the Hinomori household...it seems that the "Evil Spirit" made a mistake in what vessel to dwell inside.
(However, even in the current situation, I can't overlook how she addressed Ryuga as "Brother"...)
That precisely follows the pattern of sub-characters. I definitely want to discuss the doctrine of supporting roles with Kyouka someday.
"D, don't tell me this young girl...don't tell me you...ngh?!"
This one chance Kyouka made will determine either victory or defeat.
Noticeably large bullets of light were already heading towards the "Evil Spirit." They fired off with radiances of gold, then white, blue, and red. All of the main characters had banded together to deal the final blow.
"Vanish, 'Evil Spirit!' To the depths of hell!"
Immediately following was a heroic cry from Ryuuga. The light burst open upon impact.
The light engulfed the "Evil Spirit" as he made a death cry, then he disappeared.
His large shadow form dispersed, and his echoing roar was overshadowed by an explosion.
──The "Apostles of Hell" are humanity's enemies that seek "death and destruction" upon this world.
Their king, the "Evil Spirit," had perished here.
He had completely disappeared, leaving behind Kyouka.
Having barely finished the final battle, Ryuuga and the others approached me.
Yukimiya was entrusted with taking care of Kyouka, who had fainted, and Ryuuga had crouched down in front of me. Then, her face gently came closer.
"It's over, Ichirou. With this, I can show you my bunny costume."
Though she's whispering to my ear, I'm in the middle of a dramatic faint right now. Unlike Kyouka, I'm only pretending to be asleep.
"All things considered, don't you wonder who on earth...Kobayashi is?"
"Hmm. Nobody other than us is supposed to be able to fight the apostles..."
"That's the biggest mystery remaining."
Each of the heroines say their comments.
I don't think it's a mystery anymore. I'm the "Black Tortoise." I continued neglecting this the entire time, yet I was able to still be fine after an open attack from the final boss. I'm the cheat-like "Black Tortoise." What else could it be?
"Well, to put it simply...it seems Ichirou really isn't an ordinary person."
Confirming that I was breathing, Ryuuga smiled while stroking my cheek.
"But, it doesn't matter who he is. Ichirou is Ichirou. He's dear to me."
Once Ryuuga said that, the heroines instantly gave a voice of disapproval.
"Hinomori. You're being a little affectionate with Ichirou, aren't you. I don't really enjoy that."
"I agree. I don't enjoy it either. To start with, do you feel nothing when you see us, Ryuuga? Even when our clothes are torn here and there, also exposing some skin?"
"I don't find it enjoyable either. However, I do like it when boys get lovey-dovey."
The tension of the battle is already gone, and it seems we've reached the conclusion.
...Now then, I have one more task to do here.
(The mood has calmed down at just the right amount. If I'm going to make a move──then the time is now.)
My "plan" is as follows.
Kobayashi Ichirou, who's believed to have been near death, will actually be fine thanks to the defense power of the "Black Tortoise." I'll suddenly wake up while saying "*yawn* What a nice nap." Next, I'll feign ignorance by saying "Huh? Where am I? Why was I even sleeping here?"
Having exhausted the ability of the "Black Tortoise" to its limit, I lost that power in exchange for being safe. Furthermore, my memory of the past several weeks will be gone. That is to say, I'll return to being just an ordinary person.
All the flags I raised with the heroines and Ryuuga being a woman toward me will be gone...it's perfect, if I do say so myself.
This is the "no memory tactic."
With this, the finale will arrive with me being Ryuuga's friend character! As for what comes after that, I'll cross that bridge when I get there!
Allow me to show you Kobayashi Ichirou's once-in-a-lifetime grand play.
Don't rush it. Not yet. Just a little more...okay, now!
"*yawn* What a nice──"
"Everyone! Are you alright?!"
At that moment,
My yawning was drowned out by the sudden voice of a girl.
Everyone instantly looked over in that direction, and in a panic, I continued feigning sleep. What was that? Who was that? All the main characters are already here, right?!
A lively girl with a small build and a short hairstyle came running over. By very slightly opening my eyes to observe, I could see that she was wearing the Oumei High School uniform.
She was flat-chested, had round eyes, and looked younger than Kyouka, who was a junior high school second year student. However, it seemed that her physical ability was quite high. It didn't seem like she had weak spots anywhere.
(W, who is this...? Was there even a character like this? Why is she appearing now?)
No wait──I have a feeling that I've seen her somewhere before. I have a memory of her in the recess of my mind.
I soon got my answer. Despite Ryuuga and the others letting her join the group as if it was normal, she arbitrarily introduced herself.
However, that self-introduction overturned the core of my "plan," and my reason for being.
"Kurogame Rina here. I safely sealed all the doors to the spirit world that were opened!"
Kurogame Rina smiled with a salute.
(Kurogame Rina, she said...she sealed the doors, she said...?)
There, I finally remembered her.
Right. This person is Ryuuga's childhood friend. They reunited for the first time in several years, she lives next to Ryuuga, they're acquainted on a family-wide scale, and she's in the second year E Class.
She was the heroine/candidate that I had arbitrarily excluded!
Come to think of it, there was indeed someone like her. However, why is she able to seal the doors? No wonder Ryuuga and the others didn't care about the doors to the spirit world...and I suppose it was because of her?
While I was feeling uneasy, Ryuuga and the others smiled at Kurogame Rina as if they were familiar with her.
"Good job, Rina. But I wish you could have arrived sooner. If you were here, victory would've been secured more easily."
"Ehehe, sorry, Ryu. I've only awakened to this power recently, so I'm not good at wielding it yet."
"Good grief, I'm worried about how you do thing at your own pace, Rina."
"You're supposed to be 'The Star-Wall Guardian.' I'm Ryuuga's sword, and you're his shield. You have to polish yourself up.
"It's a bit unfair that you're the only one who's known Hinomori since childhood."
"Say, everyone. It seems you haven't noticed it yet, but Ryu is a g..."
"Aah! Don't mind what she's saying! Don't mind it at all!"
Ryuuga got up and frantically tried to avoid the matter.
Apparently, Kurogame Rina knows about Ryuuga's secret. I suppose that's one of the privileges of being a childhood friend.
(Actually, I don't care about that.)
I'm trembling in fear right now. My pupils have seriously shrunken.
An awakening, was it? "The Star-Wall Guardian," was it?
Then there's her last name of Kurogame. Don't tell me, don't tell me, she's...! (TLN: Kurogame directly translates to "Black Tortoise," but does not use the same kanji characters as the Black Tortoise god does.)
"Anyways, everyone! Please take care of me from now on! I'm Kurogame Rina, the 'Black Tortoise.'"
It's you, isn't it!
You're the "Black Tortoise," aren't you!
(Why has such an important thing been kept silent! Why wasn't she involved with the main story at all! Yet, she awakened and took part in the final battle!)
I wanted to get up right away and grab her by the collar. I wanted to ask what on earth the meaning of this strange adventure I went through was.
However, I can't do that. If I get up now, I'll be held accountable for being uninjured.
(I'm not the final boss. I'm not an apostle. I'm not the "Black Tortoise." So what am I...? Haven't I just been dampening the story so far...?)
Anyways, thanks to Kurogame Rina, I completely lost my chance to get up──now there's just one mystery remaining.
Who is Kobayashi Ichirou? What lies behind this mystery?