It's been two days since Taotie woke up.
Immediately after was the decision to have a discussion between Ryuuga and Taotie. Following Hundun, this would be the protagonist's second meeting with an "Evil Spirit."
Truthfully, I wanted to postpone it a bit. I wanted to at least have a week in advance for making fine-tuned preparations with Taotie.
However, two days afterwards...I got a request from Ryuuga. She said "I'd like us to meet up earlier due to the matter of Getsushiyoukan. It'll definitely be difficult for us to come to an understanding if we meet only once."
(If that's what Ryuga wants, then I can't do much about it. I have no choice but to meet the demands of the protagonist. However...I'm still worried. I'm very worried.)
What I'm so worried about isn't just about the time of the meeting.
Ryuuga had also requested an even more headache-inducing proposal.
──First, I would like to talk with Taotie alone. If you're beside me, I might accidentally reveal my identity as a girl, Ichirou.──
The discussion had ended up becoming a one on one talk between Ryuuga and Taotie. It had sort of become a date, just like what the "Evil Spirit" wanted.
After hearing that, Taotie danced wildly all over the house and kept diving into the bed. It no longer seemed like he was listening to the preparations I was talking about with him.
"Boss! Give me some pocket-money!"
"Tell that to Mion. Leaving that aside, stop diving already."
"Mion! Some pocket-money please!"
"Hey! Understand one thing! Don't forget to be aware that you're an 'Evil Spirit!'"
──Now that day had arrived. After obtaining two thousand yen from Mion, Taotie left the house in high spirits.
Of course, I decided to secretly follow him. That's a no-brainer.
I didn't think that I would have to disguise myself with a cap and sunglasses in order to spectate a date once more.
Ironically enough, the meeting place for these two was the same coffee shop as before. It was the same shop as where the dispute with King Arthur had happened.
Due to what happened last time, I would have thought that Ryuuga would avoid that location. I assumed that she would have wanted to meet at the Hinomori residence as a precaution.
However, since Taotie threw a tantrum while saying "I want to eat the chocolate waffles there," she reluctantly gave in...I'm sorry about this "Evil Spirit."
Once I saw the "Evil Spirit" skip his way into the store, I slipped into the establishment as well.
Ryuuga was already there, and she had finished her iced milk, leaving behind an empty glass. She was sitting in the seat that Aogasaki had been in...so I decided to sit at the same center table as last time.
(Now then, it would be nice if this ended without any problems, but...)
When I casually took a look at Ryuuga, sure enough, she was speechless at the "Evil Spirit" she was seeing.
Of course, I told Ryuuga that Taotie looked exactly like me. However, it seems that she couldn't hide her bewilderment after seeing it for herself.
"I'm surprised...you're just like Ichirou."
"Heheheh. More handsome than the real one, right?"
"...I can't tell the difference. And here I thought that I would have been able to distinguish between you two, though..."
"I'm the reformed 'Evil Spirit' Taotie! You can call me Tie!"
"No, that's a bit much."
Ryuuga was quite baffled at how Taotie didn't have an ounce of grace. That "Stupid Evil Spirit" really didn't listen to what I had said to him. Does he have zero self-consciousness?
After a bit, a waitress arrived to take their orders, and Taotie ordered a chocolate waffle set while Ryuuga ordered her second drink, a cup of iced tea.
I ordered my usual iced coffee. My financial situation had tightened even further than before, after all.
The reason for that is because of the scorching heat monster, Bunogenos──Kiki had begged me for a monster figure once more.
"Ryuuga, you're here in your uniform. I wanted to see you in plain clothes, though."
"You're also in a uniform."
"That means we're like a couple wearing matching clothing!"
"If that's the case, then all of the students in our school are couples wearing matching clothing. Actually, are you...really Taotie? You're not Ichirou, right?"
When Taotie responded with an energetic "Yes!", Ryuuga lightly rubbed her temples...Once again, I'm really sorry about this "Evil Spirit."
"Well Taotie, this is a bit hasty, but let's cut to the chase. You've already been 'converted' and are under Ichirou's control, right?"
"You don't have much power left after being beaten by us, right?"
"Yes! That's why I'll never do anything bad again! I've turned over a new leaf, and am a man who loves peace, justice, and waffles!"
──Alright, doing good so far, Taotie. That's the attitude.
This is being kept secret from Ryuuga, but unlike Kyouka's Hundun, Taotie never actually lost his power. It seems that he's not in his normal condition yet, but he still has some fighting power as an "Evil Spirit."
However, I can't afford to have such a thing be known by Ryuuga and the others. I have to make them think that Taotie is no longer useful for battle.
(Otherwise, I'd be in danger of being recruited into the battle part...and being promoted to a "companion character" who fights alongside the protagonist is something I absolutely must avoid.)
As far as I'm concerned, Taotie will only be an emergency measure for the remaining fiends, Qiongqi and Taowu.
After an "Evil Spirit" is defeated and reformed, they become people who assist Ryuuga and the others──if that system is liable to being disrupted, then he'll be the ace up my sleeve to force things back into order.
(If Ryuuga believes that...Tie has become powerless and harmless, then today's events will work out alright. For the first time, I must commend you, Tie!)
While feeling relieved, Ryuuga's and Taotie's orders had arrived.
"It's here, it's here! Ryuuga, do you know about this? This chocolate waffle is super tasty, you know? It's my favorite!"
"R, right. Waffles are your favorite..."
"Are you only getting drinks, Ryuuga? You're not going to ask for a chestnut parfait?"
Ryuuga's eyes widened upon hearing those words.
(That idiot, right after I praised him! I even told him to act like this was their first meeting!)
To tell the truth, this is actually the second time that Ryuuga and Taotie have gone on a date. While pretending to me be, Taotie went to see a movie with Ryuuga.
During that time, Ryuuga ordered a chestnut parfait at a cafe, couldn't eat all of it, and let Taotie have the rest. To think that he would bring that up again and be nuisance by speaking fondly of it...!
"If you can't finish it, then you can give the rest to me. It'll be my treat, so go order!"
"D, don't talk as if you're Ichirou."
"Then, let me give you my waffle! Here, say ah!"
Suddenly, Taotie presented his waffle, causing Ryuuga to open her mouth and say "Ah," upon reflex. Soon after realizing what she had done, she felt overwhelmed by her behavior.
"A, ah. I unintentionally did it since I saw Ichirou's figure...!"
"Uh-huh. It seems that girls really do like sweets."
"Don't worry. I won't tell anybody that you're a girl!"
"But, isn't it tough acting like a boy? Aren't there a lot of inconveniences?"
"I suppose you're right. It's for your peoples' sake in the first place, though."
Though the situation gone awry, Ryuuga tried to somehow keep her cool. She suddenly gulped her iced tea in one go, straightened herself, and resumed the conversation.
"Taotie, can I ask a question?"
"Why is it that you 'Evil Spirits' and 'Apostles of Hell' want to destroy the human world?"
"Huh? Umm...I never really thought about those kinds of things. I just live doing whatever I please."
"The world of humans has its rules. You can't hurt other people."
"I'll at least give you full marks for your responses..."
"It's alright! I'm your ally now, after all! No matter what foe appears, I'll protect you, Ryuuga! That's the power of love!"
Ryuuga suddenly looked away from Taotie, who was breathing roughly while leaning forward.
Her cheeks were slightly flushed. It was obvious that she was a little joyful. Hey Ryuuga, what's gotten into you?! Why are you putting both of your hands over your cheeks?! Why are your feet pointing inwards?!
"Err, don't make advances on me with that form. It makes...my heart beat a little faster."
"Seeing how cute you are also makes my heart beat faster! I'm so fond of you that I can't put it into words! It's a marvel!"
"I, I'm a boy right now. Don't say those kinds of things."
"Love is everything! I'll make a vow! I was born for the sake of protecting you! I swear upon my Evil Spirit heart!"
"Uh...h, how unfair..."
Not good. Ryuuga's more excited than I thought. Since Taotie and I look the same, she revealed her girl side, just like what she had been worrying about.
(Come on, Ryuga! Don't be deceived! He completely plagiarized that phrase!)
I frantically called out to her in my mind.
Suddenly, Taotie got up from his seat.
"Now is the time! Ryuuga! Please accept my thoughts!"
In the next moment, Taotie leaped. He jumped over the table, diving towards Ryuuga. At the same time, he cleanly removed his uniform, leaving only his trunks.
Don't tell me that this guy had been practicing this the whole time back at home!
His constant dives into the bed were for this?!
"Ah! U, unleashing divine might!"
It happened the moment Taotie approached.
A small, cute dragon appeared from Ryuuga's back and attacked its longtime enemy, the "Evil Spirit."
It was Ryuuga's guardian deity, the "Yellow Dragon"──this is the common form it takes, and goes by the nickname of Ron.
With a high-pitched roar, Ron headbutted Taotie in the nether regions. It disappeared immediately after protecting its master.
While yelling "Augh!", Taotie instantly crashed onto the floor. While writhing in pain and rolling in agony, he tumbled over to my feet. Don't come over here!
...Naturally, the shop fell silent. The customers looked in astonishment, looking at the other me who crouched while spasming.
Soon afterwards, an old man who seemed to be the owner had rushed in.
"I, it's you guys making a racket again?! Enough! Don't come into the coffee shop with only your underpants!"
On the verge of tears, the "Evil Spirit" replied to the yelling old man with voice of anguish.
"Just leave me alone...right now...I can't breathe..."
"Are you a twin or something?! Don't come here again! I beg of you!"
"How strange...this happened to me as well when I shoplifted here..."
"Go home, you shoplifting brothers!"
──Thus, the second discussion, which was more like a date, had ended in fifteen minutes.
As a result, Hinomori Ryuuga had some friction with not just Hundun, but Taotie as well.
And now I was banned from this coffee shop.