I had just declared war on Ryuuga and the others.
Taotie's group returned home without striking any meaningful conversation along the way. It was already seven o'clock pm.
Mion, who quickly went towards the entrance, quickly prepared slippers for everybody. Though she's supposedly an apostle, she would make a pretty good bride.
"Mion. Do you think we can just order delivery for dinner today?"
"No. If you're going to have to wait, then I'll just make you something. However, before that..."
Once we were directed towards the living room, Jyuri suddenly bowed down on the floor. Having returned to her human form, she quietly spoke an apology while her expression was warped with a sense of shame.
"Taotie, Ichirou...I'm truly sorry for my unauthorized behavior. I'm prepared for any kind of punishment."
Imitating her, Mion and Kiki also bent their knees and bowed.
"I'm also sorry."
"We deeply regret what we did."
Seeing how the three princesses acted as a single unit even in situations like these, I shook my head while making a bitter smile.
"Don't worry. I'm the one most at fault here. I'm sorry for having dawdled around for the longest time."
"But, you were doing well, Ichirou."
"I thought so too. Baron Ichirou, you're a respectable boss."
"You've thought things through, Ichirou...and yet, I acted so rashly back there..."
After making orders to treat Jyuri's wounds, I decided to talk with Taotie until dinner would be ready.
...I definitely have to apologize.
Up until now, I only operated on the basis of my own self-preservation, not caring at all about Taotie's fate. I have no right to criticize the three princesses for their rash behavior.
(However, I've decided upon this. Returning to being a friend character will take second priority. I'll only think about bringing part two a lively climax now...If worst comes to worst, Taotie and I will perform a double suicide.)
All of the sudden, Taotie appeared from inside me and entered my room. He was no longer in his battle mode, but looked like me once more.
"Somehow, a lot had happened, didn't it."
Sitting on the bed, Taotie scratched his temple. It was as if it didn't concern him.
"Boss, are you really fine with this? You could have hidden your presence back then..."
Even now he was a good-natured person who worried about me.
I've harbored this thought before, but he really isn't suited to be an "Evil Spirit." I don't know how Taotie was in the past, but currently, he's just someone who gets carried away easily.
"I was about to say that. Are you the one who's really okay with this?"
"What do you mean?"
"You ended up battling with Ryuga."
"Well, of course I'm a bit down, but...I've decided on my own that I have to be the final boss. I have to do a good job at the very least."
"Do you understand what that means? You're going to die, you know? You'll disappear, you know? You...don't have a grudge against me, do you?"
"Disappear? Me? On what basis?"
Taotie seemed puzzled for some reason. I was puzzled as well.
"Well, I mean, like when Hundun disappeared once Ryuga beat him..."
"'Evil Spirits' aren't that fragile. Or rather, he didn't die."
"W, what did you say?!"
"Us 'Evil Spirits' only fall asleep once more when we're beaten...Since the apostles don't die, there's no reason that we would either."
Taotie won't die? "Evil Spirits" don't vanish?
That shouldn't be. After all, didn't Hundun actually disappear in part one? Didn't he vanish after receiving a combined attack from Ryuuga and the others?
"Then what happened to Hundun?! Don't tell me that he's still dwelling inside Kyouka?!"
"Don't announce such an important thing so carelessly! This is the first time I've heard about that kind of setting!"
"Though, since it seemed like he took a lot of damage, he probably won't revive for a few hundred years. Kyouka isn't in any danger."
"But he's still there?!"
"Right. He can't change hosts so easily."
...Come to think of it, Taotie also said something like that before. There are some prerequisites for an "Evil Spirit" to switch hosts.
One──the host they're dwelling in has to die.
Two──if the host is still alive, then they need permission to "move out."
If an "Evil Spirit" really doesn't disappear, then the host won't be released from their role as a vessel until either condition is satisfied.
Kyouka will have to live her entire life with an "Evil Spirit" dwelling within her. And...that goes for me as well.
"I already said this, but I won't do things as poorly as Hundun did. I can easily survive the final battle. Reforming is also easy."
"B, by reforming, you mean..."
"By turning into a harmless Tie, I can be friends with Ryuuga. I suppose I don't need to keep it a secret anymore."
"So? Are you going to be my bizarre doppelganger after this?!"
"I'll be in your care from now on."
Taotie held out his right hand. Rather than shaking his hand, I slapped the "Evil Spirit" in the face.
In short, Taotie had planned on staying here since the beginning. After quickly finishing up his role as the final boss, he planned on reconciling with Ryuuga. I was worried over nothing! I should have stayed hidden on the rooftop!
"Don't you know that hurts?! You're acting cowardly right now!"
"If you're going to keep dwelling within me, then I won't be able to return to being a member of the general public! Being Ryuga's friend is enough for me! If you don't disappear after being defeated, then I'll put you to sleep myself!"
"I'm sorry! I can only meet Ryuuga in this era!"
"Don't you get it?! If you don't sleep, then be prepared to get a taste of my diving elbow!"
"Violence doesn't solve anything!"
"Is that something an 'Evil Spirit' should say?! No meal for you today!"
"How cruel! This is abuse! Child protection services will storm in!"
"What kind of 'Evil Spirit' are you?! I really wonder who it is that you're supposed to resemble!"
The two of us were strangling each other's neck while shouting at each other,
"Ichirou, this is bad!"
Then, Mion, wearing an apron, rushed in. I'm getting some deja vu here.
"What's wrong, Mion? As you can see, we're a bit busy here──"
"We have guest, but..."
"A guest? At my house?"
I couldn't hear the doorbell because of the noise we made. Looking at the round clock in my room, it was half past seven. It's a bit late for a visitor.
Of course, I don't recall inviting anybody. Feeling uneasy, Mion was awfully panicked.
Could it be Ryuuga and the heroines? Are they marching in while disregarding the three days we're supposed to have?!
"Mion, who's here?"
"It, it's definitely...that girl..."
Mion spoke hesitantly with a troubled expression. It seems that it isn't Ryuuga or the others.
Kiki unexpectedly appeared from behind her. The bobbed hair girl who came along looked at me with an unusually nervous face.
"Baron Ichirou, Baron Taotie. A monstrous person came."
"My nose doesn't lie. This is troubling."
Since she wasn't getting to the point, I decided to head towards the front entrance. For the time being, Taotie went back inside me. The other person would be confused if there were two of me.
With a nervous expression, I met the visitor while taking Mion and Kiki along.
"Ah, good evening, Kobayashi. I'm sorry for coming here uninvited..."
The twintailed beauty who said that while bowing her head was someone I knew.
Right, it was Kyouka.
Hinomori Kyouka, Ryuuga's little sister and the vessel of "Evil Spirit" Hundun.
I then recalled what happened yesterday. "There's something I'd like to talk with you about, Kobayashi. If possible...I'd like you to keep this a secret from my older sister,"──is what she said while asking for my phone number.
"I really wanted to contact you in advance, but the situation has changed...Kobayashi, could you set some time aside?"
"T, that's not a problem, but are you okay, Kyouka? Ryuga will be worried if you don't return home at a time like this..."
Or rather, if Ryuuga knew that her sister had visited the house of the final boss, she would rush here immediately. The stage for the final battle would change from the rooftop of a building to Kobayashi's house.
Unfortunately, I'll have to push this discussion back for another time...or at least, that was what I thought.
Kyouka then said something unexpected.
"There's no time to take things leisurely anymore. Not after what happened between you and my sister at the rooftop, Kobayashi."
"Like I said, I came to talk about some urgent business. I'll be fine since I messaged my sister saying 'A friend invited me over to their house for dinner.'"
When Kyouka said that, I stared at her while in amazement.
How did she know about what happened on the rooftop? Why did she come here if she knew about that? What kind of discussion are we having that needs to kept a secret from Ryuuga?
While I wasn't able to hide my unease, Kyouka looked up.
Suddenly, the conversation I had with Taotie came to mind. The important one about how the "Evil Spirit" Hundun is dwelling within Kyouka even now.
"This is sudden, but there's someone I'd like to introduce to you, Kobayashi. Perhaps you already can guess who it is, but..."
It happened all of a sudden in the next moment. The figure of a person appeared from behind Kyouka's back.
While enlarging in the blink of an eye, the figure separated from the twintailed girl in order to become a its own existence. Before long, that figure materialized.
It was a two meter tall, giant middle-aged man.
Long unkempt hair, a rough beard, and a thick, muscular body...If I were to speak about his image, he looked like some meathead commander of a hostile country.
"*phew*...I can finally come out. It was really boring in there."
Just like his looks suggested, he spoke like a middle-aged man. He cracked his neck and scratched his beard. His behavior was quite like what his looks suggested as well.
I was at a loss for words in face of the scruffy old man suddenly appearing.
"Hundun?! Didn't you fall asleep?"
I heard a confused voice from beside me. When I looked, it turned out that Taotie, who had manifested without me knowing, was pointing at the middle-aged man with his mouth wide open.
...So that means this guy really is the "Evil Spirit" Hundun.
His appearance is a bit different from how he was during the final battle, though. Perhaps that was his battle mode, similar to with Taotie. Actually, his character is a bit different as well. He's supposed to be more dignified.
"Hey Tie, it's been a while, hasn't it? I believe the last time we've met was around two thousand years ago?"
Hundun raised his hand while grinning. Contrary to his friendly attitude, the glint in his eyes held a certain hostility.
In response, Taotie glared at his colleague while seething with anger.
"Who are you calling Tie? You look like a drunken bandit."
"I could say that you look quite unattractive as well. With that being the case, I suppose women wouldn't approach you."
It seemed like they were disrespecting each other.
...When I looked behind me, Mion, Jyuri, and Kiki were kneeling down.
I see. I suppose this is why they were acting so strange.
There's usually only one ruler that the apostles would serve...so Hundun, who was thought to have been put to sleep, being awake came off as a big shock, and now the three princesses weren't sure what to do.
Two of the four fiends had dangerously met each other at a narrow front entrance. Taotie said it a while ago, but it seems that the "Evil Spirits" are indeed on bad terms.
Then, Kyouka nudged Hundun with her elbow, as if to scold him.
"Hundun. Give your proper greetings to Kobayashi."
"Huh? Oh, sorry Kyouka."
...What did he just say?
Taotie's crew and I were all flabbergasted. Something seems a bit off about the relationship those two have. It almost seems as if Kyouka's the one controlling the "Evil Spirit."
With my confusion growing stronger, Hundun shifted his gaze towards me. He then spoke in a thick, clear voice.
"Sonny, we meet again. I'm Hundun, one of the four fiends."
Hundun then stared at the three princesses behind me.
"Hey three princesses, how long do you feel like keeping Kyouka at the entrance? Bring her in and make some tea."
The three princesses said "R, right," together in response to his arrogant demand.
Mion glanced back at me, as if saying "Ichirou...is it okay to?" with her eyes, so I reluctantly nodded.
──Leaving aside the battle with Ryuuga, another strange matter had occurred. The final boss of part one, the "Evil Spirit" Hundun, had reappeared.
The situation had become critical. However, time wouldn't wait.
Even if another worrying element had been added...I still have to show up for the final battle three days from now.