Two days had passed.
I met up with Ryuuga as planned in order to tail Aogasaki and King Arthur on their date.
Yukimiya, Elmira, and Kurogame weren't participating. Though they're worried as well, we're in danger of being spotted if we have any more people. I hope that they'll leave this to us.
"I feel guilty about doing this to Rei, but...I do get a bit excited when acting like a detective."
We were at the staple meeting place, a square located at the south exit of the train station. Ryuuga and I were staying alert while at the magazine corner of a convenience store, giving us a full view of the venue.
Our line of sight was directed towards Aogasaki, who stood alone at the square.
As people were coming and going, she waited for the other person to arrive while her back was facing us. Not even five minutes have passed, and yet she already had to deal with two people who tried to hit on her.
(She's wearing her uniform today even though it's a date.)
The fact of that matter is that she has a lot of stylish clothing, and yet...her not dressing up is perhaps an expression of her intent against King Arthur.
A way to show how Aogasaki isn't the least bit interested in responding to King Arthur's marriage proposal.
The proof of that is a message I had received last night. 'I feel bad about having to go on a date with Asao. At least, while you're here, Kobayashi,' is what she sent.
Don't worry about it, Aogasaki. Just ignore the one named Kobayashi.
"Ichirou. Make sure not to do anything suspicious, okay? Rei is quite keen."
"If that's the case, then I'm more worried about you."
In contrast to my simple disguise of a cap and sunglasses, Ryuuga wore the boys' uniform of another school. She had loosened her normally tied-up hair, making her look like a long-haired member of some band.
Unfortunately, this person isn't cut out for stealth activities. Her vast celebrity-like nature makes her presence stand out.
"How cruel, my disguise is perfect. No matter how you look at it, I seem like a student from another school."
"Where did that uniform even come from...?"
"I bought it online. It arrived in the nick of time last night. I really wanted to wear a sailor suit, though. I thought that they had women's clothing."
At last, she had begun to think about cosplaying outside of the house.
Please hold back. The class has already spread rumors, saying "Wouldn't Hinomori look pretty good when crossdressing?" They even planned to make Ryuuga look like a maid for the autumn school festival.
If the protagonist crossdressed...people would create make-believe theories about how that person might be an intriguing, marvelous girl, not even knowing that it's not actually make-believe. That being the case, I plan to undertake the responsibility of being the maid.
"Ah, look Ichirou. The president of the student council arrived."
She suddenly pulled on my sleeve, causing me to quickly turn my attention back towards the square.
Upon which──I saw the figure of a young man approaching Aogasaki.
He wore a thin jacket, put on grey slacks, and looked like a tall model-like ikemen. Even from far away, I could see that he had a lean body and understood that he had trained his body quite a bit.
(It seems that he's around one hundred and ninety centimeters. He has a bit of an intense face, but he looks to be quite the beauty.)
That must be King Arthur...Yamanashi Asao.
Not knowing that we were observing him, King Arthur spoke as if he were close to Aogasaki. Then, he handed her a small bouquet.
(It seems like they're about to walk around, though he gave her a bothersome present. Furthermore, he kept Aogasaki waiting...His attitude is not even worthy of a guest character.)
While I was getting angry, King Arthur and Aogasaki walked ahead.
We left the convenience store as well, beginning to carefully follow behind them.
"Ichirou, make sure to memorize what they do on their date, alright?"
"Yep. We can get an insight into King Arthur's personality based on where he decides to take her."
"That's not what I meant, I want you to use this as a reference for when we go on a date."
Ignoring the protagonist's statement, I quickened my pace.
The place where Aogasaki and King Arthur headed towards was a bit different from what I had expected.
It was quite healthy, and I mean that in a bad way.
I thought that they would go to a planetarium or a museum, but they went straight into a sports equipment store inside the station building. Furthermore, with him spending nearly two hours evaluating things like athletic supporters, deodorant sprays, and protein powder, it felt nothing like a date.
(King Arthur is an unexpectedly eccentric guy...Would this really be fun for Aogasaki?)
As I thought, Aogasaki had an expression of disgust. She just listened to what King Arthur had to say and occasionally spoke back. That's how it is.
"...Ichirou. Don't use this date as a reference."
Ryuuga made a similar expression of disgust. That's how it is.
"At this rate, Rei really won't be able to tolerate him. He's brought a girl to a location like this and spoke endlessly about boring things...It seems that looks really aren't everything in a boy. Considerate, kind people are the best choice, even if their face is below average."
The protagonist criticized the guest character. Furthermore, it was from a girl's viewpoint.
When she talked about someone with a below average face, did she refer to me? I admit that I'm quite plain, but I at least thought I was average...and before I knew it, I was making an expression of disgust as well.
While feeling down, my ears picked up the voices of King Arthur and Aogasaki.
"Sorry Rei, it seems I've been the only one talking. I thought that this kind of place would please you."
"I don't mind. It certainly makes me feel at ease."
"I'd like to go for a ride someday in my beloved car. I've already gotten a license and the delivery has finished as well."
"Do it in moderation. You should run around in order to forge your legs."
As the two conversed, they finally left the store. We followed them while taking a distance to avoid suspicion, and soon they headed towards the station building's exit.
...Upon seeing them, they looked quite like a well-matched couple with both a beautiful man and woman.
It seemed as if King Arthur was better suited to being Aogasaki's partner than someone like me. Better than someone with a below average face like me.
"Now then Rei, let's settle down somewhere for a bit. Are you hungry?"
"I don't have much of an appetite today for some reason."
"In that case, it's a quick stop at a cafe. There's a shop around here with a reputation for waffles."
"is that so? Then, I'll ask for a sandwich."
It seemed that Aogasaki spoke a little harshly. However, the other person didn't appear affected by it.
King Arthur is quite obstinate. Or rather, it seems that he's overly confident in himself. That's natural considering that he has the looks, the physicality, and furthermore is the student council president from a wealthy family.
(He even has a car...the only thing I have is a unicycle.)
...Before long, King Arthur escorted Aogasaki to a coffee shop.
Actually, it was a shop I went to occasionally as well. The chocolate waffles are indeed a work of art, and Taotie got addicted after trying them out once. Unfortunately, the "Evil Spirit" is a big fan of sweets.
Since Aogasaki and her partner sat at a table by the window, we sat at a seat near the center of the store.
It was best position to peer into their conversation while being within their blind spot. Paying attention to my wallet, I only ordered an iced coffee.
"Oh right, Rei. There's something I'd to give as a present. It's a custom bamboo sword that satisfies me."
"No thank you. I use a wooden sword. It's my family's heirloom, the 'Blade of the Sacred Tree.'"
"All tools are the same when you use them, aren't they? At least, for people at our level."
"Asao. Don't you think──that you're being a bit strange?"
Suddenly, Aogasaki's tone of voice had emotion in it for the first time today.
"Cars? Bamboo swords? Even if you're an instructor within the headquarters, don't get so carried away."
"Hey, no need to get that angry, right?"
"And now you've suddenly brought up a marriage interview. Beforehand, I thought that you were a more humble person. I thought that you strived to be wealthy, but modest, wanting to be acknowledged by your own ability──"
"Idealism has nothing to do with improving strength. That's the one thing I've come to realize."
I could tell that Aogasaki's face stiffened in response to what King Arthur said unapologetically.
Not good, King Arthur. You said something you shouldn't have. The Aogasaki style places great importance on spirit, you should at least know that!
"Rei. You've heard the reason why Tanaka Kazuhiko left your dojo, right?"
"He told me. He said that 'the Aogasaki dojo is a bad environment.' Don't you think that puts your training methods into question?"
"...You're saying that our teachings are wrong?"
This is taking a pretty bad turn. The mood between the two continued to freeze over.
(King Arthur, what are you thinking? Far from making advances on her, all you're doing is irritating her! Change the subject now! Talk about makeup techniques or something!)
When I looked at Ryuuga, she also had a grim face.
In addition to having a location for a date, he spoke as if looking down on the Aogasaki style...His frequent carelessness has angered even the protagonist.
"For instance, I heard that the Aogasaki style sets time aside for meditation. That's what I would call a prime example of idealism. As an assistant instructor, what meaning do you think such a thing has?"
"Training is not just swinging a sword. A sword is a mirror that reflects the heart of one's──"
"Don't you think Tanaka was dissatisfied by such wastes of time?"
King Arthur interrupted Aogasaki with his own words.
There's no hope for this person. He seems to be a stuck-up man wearing a jacket and grey slacks.
"Listen Rei, running a dojo is a business. Pupils want to get stronger, so they enroll. A dojo that cannot meet the needs of its customers would naturally decay...don't you think?"
"You mean to say that pupils are customers?"
King Arthur couldn't stop his poor manner of speaking. He danced around in a minefield using his swordbics.
...Before I knew it, the iced coffee I ordered and Ryuuga's iced milk had arrived. We weren't aware of it since we were concentrating on eavesdropping.
"Sorry, but I had investigated the business conditions of the Aogasaki dojo. You have twenty pupils and they're all children. Rather than having it be a primary source of income, you're sent as a temporary instructor for the local police or for colleges...and you call yourselves a dojo?"
"What intent do you have...in investigating such things?"
"Isn't it it commonplace for a rival business to do some investigation? Scope, facilities, the number of customers...our Getsushiyoukan excels the Aogasaki dojo in every way. Even so, there's one thing we lose in. Do you know what it is? It's 'tradition.'"
"The troublesome thing is that an established name carries a lot of weight. As a result, 'tradition' is a huge selling point in martial arts. You've been asked to be an instructor from various places, no doubt thanks to to your 'tradition.' You've been linked to the region since ancient times, and that connection is a gift."
"...What is it that you want to say, Asao?"
"I'll get straight to the point. We want that 'tradition.' An M&A between the Aogasaki dojo and Getsushiyoukan──or in other words, we'd like a merger and acquisition."
Stop it already, King Arthur! Don't dance around with your swordbics any more than this!
Ryuuga chugged her iced milk in some kind of attempt to appease her rage.
Actually, milk is her go-to. Perhaps that's why she has an E-cup.
"As you know, Getsushiyoukan has only been open for four years...so we have no 'tradition.' That's not something we can obtain no matter how much capital we have. However, in order for us to further ourselves, it's a necessary leap we must take."
"Is that all you want to say?"
"I'm already one of the top management. I was entrusted to handle the matter of the Aogasaki dojo by the company."
"Shut your mouth already. I don't plan on continuing with this business talk anymore."
"Hear me out, Rei. It's not a bad deal for you. Do you really plan on succeeding the dojo once your father retires? What do you do after getting even stronger and becoming more unwomanly? Any disadvantages to marrying me──"
At that moment,
Bam! The sound of a table being slammed echoed throughout the entire store.
The surrounding customers instantly paid attention to the person who caused it. Everyone stopped bustling around and the coffee shop was silent.
Not minding the stares, the person kicked her chair and got up.
It was not Aogasaki, but Hinomori Ryuuga.