A battle royale had started and was no longer at a point where I could intervene any longer.
I wasn't able to stop the heated conflict, and it was instead heightening.
(W, what should I do...?)
──Mion and Aogasaki launched a series of offensive and defensive moves without even taking their eyes off of each other.
Sparks scattered each time the wooden sword and wing clashed, creating gusts of wind. The impact formed cracks on the surface beneath them and blew away the iron fencing. This time the two were competing with their true strength.
"Mion! It seems that apostles and humans really can't come to terms with each other!"
"Chatting in the midst of a fight? Don't make light of me!"
──In a separate location, Kiki and Elmira were battling.
The apostle who turned into a quadrupedal wolf skillfully dodged each ball of flame that the vampire girl tossed, waiting for a chance to lunge at her torso. It was a match determined by who could take control of the distance.
"I'll roast you! You mutt!"
"I'm a wolf. Rude."
──In yet another place, Jyuri and Yukimiya were scuffling.
While evading the persistent serpent's tail, the shrine maiden waited for a chance to counterattack. Normally, Jyuri would have the advantage in the fight, but her exhaustion and damage from before caused that to diminish.
"H, how unpleasant! Don't wiggle your chest each time you move!"
"Let me tell you something. I'm an I cup!"
...I gazed at the fierce battleground in horror.
(Not good. At this rate, someone's actually going to die...)
I want to avoid that at all costs. However, how should I stop them? The six were all absorbed in the battle.
(In the first place, should I even make an appearance here...?)
If I step in, the heroines will realize that "Kobayashi Ichirou is the vessel of the 'Evil Spirit.'" Is it fine to have such a big reveal when Ryuuga isn't there? Is it fine to just have the protagonist hear about such a gut-wrenching fact later on?
Another thing I'm worried about is whether the three princesses will actually follow my order to retreat.
If they ignore it, then my dignity as the final boss will completely collapse. I wouldn't be able to bear with shamefully going back down the stairs after that. This situation didn't call for an idiot.
(However, if I don't do something quick, something irreversible is bound to happen...It's do or die!)
Encouraging myself in desperation, I forcibly resolved myself.
"Boss. I can easily end this."
I suddenly heard Taotie's voice from behind.
It seems that he emerged from within me without me knowing. While thinking about what he was planning, I looked at him──and then widened my eyes in surprise.
Standing there was a boy I didn't recognize.
He was slender, tall, and his whole body was dyed with a jet black color. A pair of sheep-like horns sprouted from his temples, making him look like a human type peculiarity.
Though he clearly resembled me, he wasn't an exact copy and it was just our silhouettes that looked similar. His eyes were red and he had a set obvious fangs. He had crooked, bat-like wings coming out of his back.
"A, are you...Tie?"
"Yep. This is my original form. Well actually, the form you've seen is my default one, so I suppose you could call this my battle mode."
Taotie grinned while saying some things I didn't really comprehend.
...The frustrating parts was the he was quite the good-looking guy. In part one, Hundun was a giant stern man, but this guy stood out in a different way. He was quite the beauty for a final boss.
"How are you going to solve this?"
"You just want to stop the battle, right? Such a thing is a piece of cake."
Though his appearance changed, it seemed that his character was intact. However, the voice that came out afterwards was filled with an unexpected amount of austerity.
"I was able to enjoy myself at a river, watch a movie, and eat parfait together with Ryuuga. So, I will carry out my promise with you, Boss."
"I'll show you that I can play the role of the final boss. I don't feel like going through with this, but I am the 'Evil Spirit.' I'll do what I must."
──At that moment, I realized what he meant.
I renewed my understand of what Taotie needed to do as the final boss.
He intended to see Ryuuga as an enemy, get beaten by her, and disappear. It felt sad that he would be buried by the one he had feelings for.
(I mustn't think about the option of letting Taotie's side win during part two. That's a matter of course. After all, Hinomori Ryuuga is the main character of the story.)
Taotie's defeat, and subsequent disappearance, have been fated since the beginning. Him saying that he would "be the final boss" was the same as accepting his death.
And yet, here I am planning to return to Ryuuga's side while playing innocent. I intended to push the role of the villain onto Taotie, return to being Ryuuga's friend character, and continue performing during the daily life part in part three. What a crook I am.
(Am I really forcing Tie to do these terrible things for the sake of the story...?)
Thinking about it, Taotie hasn't been doing anything bad in his modern incarnation. All he's doing is getting along with Ryuuga.
Taotie will play the role of the final boss against his will and vanish──but is that really the right thing to do?
"Stay here, Boss. You know, I don't think it'll be a problem if the identity of the vessel for part two remains a mystery. It's time for me to stop inhabiting your being."
"W, wait, Tie. I'm having second thoughts about this right now. I'm falling down a rabbit hole of self-abhorrence. For the time being, let's just work on revising the plans for part──"
"We don't have time for that. Those people are already battling over there...so!"
It happened in the next instant. Taotie held up a hand and released a wave from his palm towards the battlefield.
It was like a black cannonball spanning about three meters, violently bursting in the middle of the rooftop. It burst with an ear-shattering explosion, causing the six girls to tumble from the shock.
(H, hey! Hold back a bit!)
...The center of the roof had collapsed, and there was a giant hole.
I saw that he just lightly tossed it, and yet it had tremendous power. I had fought with Taotie several times before and I thought that I was the one who had been winning, but could it be that this guy has been going easy on me?
"Now then, wait for just a moment."
While I was dumbfounded, Taotie said that while heading towards the battlefield.
Somehow getting up, Yukimiya, Aogasaki, and Elmira widened their eyes and were breathless in response to the jet black peculiarity suddenly appearing.
"Could it be...?"
"This vast ill will...an 'Evil Spirit?'"
The heroines, instantly realizing the true nature of their foe, muttered several things. Fortunately, they didn't seem to be wounded.
"Indeed. I am Taotie──one of the four fiends."
Taotie grandly introduced himself in front of the shivering heroines. Stopping in front of the large hole he made, he glared at the heroines on the other side with a daunting pose.
"Surprised that a new 'Evil Spirit' has revived so soon? You pushed your luck taking down the likes of Hundun. I'm not as weak as him!"
The air trembled with Taotie's roar.
In response to that voice, the three princesses got up and gazed at their "ruler" with awe. They didn't seem to be injured either.
"Ah, our 'Evil Spirit'..."
"How cool. Like a hero."
While receiving the respect of his subordinates, Taotie lifted his hand once more.
A dark ill will immediately converged onto his palm.
"How nice it would be to have the keeper of the 'Yellow Dragon,' along with you girls of the four gods, suffer and die. The death cries of you all will serve as the fanfare for my revival!"
Taotie spoke the words of a final boss. It had enough force to unintentionally give me the shivers as well. The ball in his hand seemed to shrink.
Immediately following, Taotie spoke to me in my mind.
(Don't worry, I won't kill anyone, Ryuuga would be sad if I did that.)
It seems that remote communication is still possible. All things considered, he has quite the splendid talent as a performer...perhaps that initial wave attack was on purpose. It was just a simple threat.
And its effect was instantaneous. I wanted to personally give this guy an Oscar.
"Why aren't you girls using your trump cards, the guardian deities? Well, I suppose that you don't even have the time to call for them."
With a villainous laugh, Taotie stepped forward. The concrete floor caved-in and left a footprint.
The three princesses gathered behind him. They stood next to each other, and held back as to not burden Taotie's grand scene.
The heroines all gathered together as well, staring at the "Evil Spirit" with pale faces. At this point, rather than being even, the situation had completely reversed.
"I, is the end? Is this our demise...?"
"Don't give up, Shiori. Unfortunately, he's not someone when can take on...so we'll have to retreat just this once."
"Wait. I'll fight. As if the proud 'Blood-kin of Eternal Darkness' could turn her back against the enemy!"
"You can't, Elmira! When Ryuuga's absent, I'm supposed to be the commander!"
"I won't obey an order to run away!"
"B, both of you, please calm down. This isn't the time to argue!"
The heroines had a conflict this late into the fight.
That was understandable. They were in front of the "Evil Spirit," after all. Even if they do fight Taotie despite not wanting to, their lives would be on the line.
(Huh, with how these events are turning out...I've got a pretty bad premonition...)
The heroines were in a desperate situation with no escape. I've seen situations like these countless times in anime, manga, or light novels.
That was the very reason why I had a bad premonition. I can somewhat predict what will happen.
(In normal circumstances, the protagonist would arrive. They would gallantly rush to help at the perfect moment. Then there's the fact that...we're dealing with a pretty cliche protagonist here.)
Several seconds of uneasiness passed by. My hunch and prediction were right on the mark.
The cliche developments just didn't stop occurring.
"──That's as far as you'll go, 'Evil Spirit!'"
I started wondering if I actually heard such gallant words being spoken or not.
A boy swooped down from the sky that had been dyed red with the evening sun. The rooftop was on top of a fifteen-story building, and yet he came from above.
He had free-flowing hair, a slightly petite and slender build, and beautiful, androgynous looks. The boy wore a uniform despite it being summer vacation, had a sense of power in his eyes, and even now looked like a beauty.
"Your opponent──is me."
The boy landed in front of the heroines and then glared at the "Evil Spirit."
Of course, it was Hinomori Ryuuga.