About twenty minutes have passed.
After purchasing the magazine she wanted, Aogasaki and I left the bookstore and wandered around.
A minor, unexpected incident had then occurred. In front of us, a man and woman were having some kind of argument.
It seemed that the guy was trying to hit on her. A tall, brown-haired man was persistently sticking to a young lady carrying a shopping bag from the supermarket. Actually, about that girl...
"Just a bit! Have some tea with me for a little under an hour! Please!"
While rattling on about his dull request, the young man clasped his hands together. He was a gaudy lad who wore a flashy aloha shirt and a star-shaped earring.
"How naggy...I have to return home and prepare dinner."
"I really love familial girls. At least me give me your email address!"
"I don't even have a cellphone."
"That again. That's impossible, wouldn't you think?"
We were several meters away from them.
Aogasaki suddenly quickened her pace. She walked straight towards them.
I didn't need to guess what her intentions were. Considering that she has a strong sense of justice, she probably wouldn't be able to turn a blind eye to this.
"──Persistently going after a girl who doesn't like you is not something a swordsman would do. Shame on you, Sasaki."
The man looked at us upon hearing Aogasaki's voice. After confirming the source of the voice, his face immediately warped. Sasaki, she said. Could it be...?
"Tsk, just as I thought, Aogasaki. Leave me alone. This doesn't concern you, does it?"
"I'm not saying that you can't pick up women. However, if they refuse, you should be upright and leave them be. Don't soil the reputation of Oumei High School with your conduct. The same could apply to Getsushiyoukan while I'm at it."
It seems I was right.
This person is Sasaki Yousuke──a participant on Getsushiyoukan's side of the battle who Aogasaki had just mentioned a while ago. Furthermore, a member of our school. Is such a gaudy guy even fit for being a secretary?
"As if something like this would make Asao raise an eyebrow. After all, I'm the guy who received a personal request from him to enter his institution, remember?"
"I heard from Asao that...he wanted to knock some sense into you."
"Hmph. You can talk all you want, but you're not a man."
Sasaki glanced at me standing behind Aogasaki. It became clear he was smiling as if to look down on someone.
...It seems that he viewed me as a "worthless small fry character."
His judgement was quite right. That's about the kind of person I am.
(No, this isn't the time to be pleased by someone making light of me...)
Actually, I was quite uneasy.
I was very disturbed upon seeing the girl Sasaki tried to pick up. I wanted to calm Aogasaki down and then run away with a dash.
The reason is that──she was someone I knew very well. She was a high school girl who I lived with and had her hair to the side.
That's right. She's the freeloader. One of the "Apostles of Hell," Mion.
(This is bad. I never thought that an encounter with an apostle would happen like this...and of all things, with Aogasaki's fated rival...)
This is too much. If the fact that the three princesses live with me is exposed, then things will take a turn for the worst. No doubt, Ryuuga and the others would conduct a search of my home.
(Mion, do you read me? Pretend to be a stranger, okay? You're just a tired schoolgirl, got it?)
At the very least, it's fortunate that Aogasaki only knows Mion's peculiarity form.
If I do it right, I'll definitely be able to get through this. Aogasaki wouldn't even dream that the girl, who's currently peeking at the green onions in her bag, is a heron-type apostle.
(Please, Mion! I'll wash all of the dishes today! Kiki and I will take baths as well! I won't complain about how you only prepare soumen for lunch anymore!) [TLN: Soumen are a type of thin noodles]
Though I frantically tried to appeal to Mion's power of observation, Mion didn't look in my direction.
She glared only at Aogasaki, just like they were rivals. Hey, stop! Don't jump the gun! Don't reveal your characteristic heron feathers from your neck either!
"So, who's the boring, plain guy over there? Could he be the pupil of the Aogasaki dojo who Asao didn't find in his investigation? He looks way too weak, though."
Sasaki openly mocked me. It seemed I was being thoroughly treated as a small fry character.
Even at a time like this, it felt strangely pleasant. Since I've recently been overestimated by others, it was refreshing being treated like this. I'm becoming a bit fond of Sasaki.
"W, who are you calling boring and plain?! Don't be ridiculous!"
While concealing my joy, I snapped at Sasaki in resentment. As thanks for his courtesy, I had to give a proper response.
"Listen up. I'm a second-year student of Oumei High School, Kobayashi──"
"I'm not interested in a small fry's name."
A wonderful response. Good job, Sasaki! You're a well-rounded person!
I flared up at him in order to hear more of his ridicule.
"T, the nerve you have to make fun of me...just you wait and see, you'll be beaten to a pulp in the match!"
"By you? Against me? How humorous, this small fry needs some help."
Yep! I'm liking Sasaki! More! Give some more scolding!
I was about to awaken to a strange hobby.
Aogasaki raised an eyebrow, and spoke with anger towards Sasaki.
"Sasaki. Stop insulting a pupil. Kobayashi is much more capable than the likes of you. You'll lose face when you take him lightly during the match."
"Tsk, you're as humorless as ever, sword-freak...ah, you spoiled my mood."
Breathing an exaggerated sigh, Sasaki turned around. It seems that he's reluctantly going to depart.
"Remember this, Aogasaki. We will crush your dojo. It's been a long time since I've gotten serious."
Once Sasaki made a sharp remark and left, Aogasaki began to look at Mion's face. However, she was then immediately perplexed, quite understandably, at how the girl in a school uniform was staring at her.
...Right. This is no time to just stare.
The situation has reached a critical point. We're at the brink of a potential battle erupting.
"Um...have I seen you before?"
Unable to recognize Mion, Aogasaki asked hesitantly.
In this situation, the best thing to happen would be if Mion replied with "No. Sorry, I don't recall us meeting at all. Thank you." Please, Mion! I have faith in you!
"I didn't know that the 'Swordswoman of the Beheading Dance' had such bad eyes. Your guardian deity, the 'Azure Dragon,' would cry."
That was the worst thing that could happen.
Aogasaki, who instantly became speechless for a brief moment, stiffened. She immediately jumped back and drew out the wooden sword she had been carrying.
"I, is that you...Mion?!"
"You should be grateful. I had six chances to slice your neck off before you recognized me."
──My worst fears had come to fruition. In such a dangerous situation like this, it wouldn't be strange if the two initiated their battle modes and started to fight.
"Aogasaki. You're going to be married, right? You've put yourself in quite the position despite not finishing the battle against the 'Apostles of Hell," nor settling things with me."
"I'm not going to get married. Kobayashi's also working things out in order to prevent that. He's quite the kind person."
In response to that, Mion glared at me.
Your side dish for today has been reduced──is what her eyes told me.
"S, stop it, both of you! I prohibit a battle! You can't! Absolutely not!"
I forced my way between the two and tried to dissuade them.
Now that it's come to this, I have no choice but to stop them. In order to prevent damage to the surroundings, I have to forcibly suppress this fighting scene.
"Both of you should know! Ryuga's currently having discussions with Hundun and Taotie! Nothing good will happen if you disregard them and fight!"
"Even if you say that, I'm not really fond just parting without doing anything."
"I agree. This is a matter between the two of us. This has nothing to do with Ryuuga or the others."
It seems that they don't plan on stepping down. I'd prefer if that wasn't the only thing they ever had an agreement on.
──In that case, I've got an idea.
If they want to go against each other, then so be it. I'll let them have their match, just as they wish.
"I see. If you're going that far, then I won't stop you. I'll just be an observer, so do whatever you want."
Then, I raised my voice and said "But!" I boldly shouted towards the two while they glared at each other.
"I get to decide the method! You'll have a match in the genre that the observer presents!"
"If it means beating Aogasaki, then anything is fine."
"Kobayashi, tell me what this method is."
Alright, both of them are on board.
I took a deep breath, then loudly announced my proposal to them.
"The match will be──a swimsuit showdown!"