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Aogasaki Rei, the stoic, samurai-like swordswoman.
She's the "Swordswoman of the Beheading Dance," an upright, gallant, cool Yamada Nadeshiko-like person...and now for the first time, I'm seeing her petrified from shock.
"Ehehe, I'm cheerleader Ryuuga today!"
For the first few seconds, Ryuuga didn't notice Aogasaki.
She wore a frilly short skirt that gave occasional peaks at her navel while swinging around pom-poms in a cute manner. She was in high spirits over being able to continue the cosplay shows.
"Hey, let me cheer for you! Let me cheer! Right, you can swing your bamboo sword while I stand behind you and──"
That was when Ryuuga noticed Aogasaki, who had fallen over onto the ground.
Ryuuga instantly went pale when seeing Aogasaki staring blankly, as if her soul had been sucked out. After a bit of time, Ryuuga separated from me and cleared her throat.
"...Welcome. It's unusual for the two of you to be here together. Anyways, please come in."
It's too late for that! There's no point in returning to a boy at this stage! Especially with that getup!
(This is why I've always been telling you to stop ambushing me! It's times like this where you're so foolish! You keep showing your mischievous side!)
No, Ryuuga's not the only one to blame here. I'm also at fault here.
I'm quite the fool as well for not properly telling her that someone else was coming along.
Still unable to get up, Aogasaki squeezed out a dry voice.
She came here wanting to reveal her secret, and yet the other party unveiled theirs first. Aogasaki's confusion and turmoil reached its peak.
"Ryuuga...you seem to have breasts..."
"Your thighs seem smooth and squishy..."
After a period of silence, Ryuuga fell down onto the floor, just like Aogasaki did.
──I thought that this was an extra volume, an intermission, a substory.
However, this has now become a major episode involved in the storyline.
A few minutes have passed.
Ryuuga, after guiding Aogasaki and me to her room, prepared herself and revealed her secret. I thought she would put up a vain struggle by something like "I'm just androgynous," but that didn't turn out to be the case.
──The successor of the "Yellow Dragon" in the Hinomori household must live as a man.
──Kurogame, her childhood friend, and I, her close friend, know about her secret.
──Furthermore, she's been doing "lovers training" with me for the sake of when she completes her mission and returns to being a girl.
Of course, Aogasaki was speechless in face of such a shocking truth.
However, by the time Ryuuga had finished speaking, she had calmed down a bit and even had the composure to drink some tea.
"Rei, sorry for hiding it up until now...and for confessing it at this stage, even though the competition is soon..."
Dispirited and discouraged, Ryuuga kneeled and deeply bowed her head. I should also mention that she's still in her cheerleader outfit.
"...Now that you mention it, there are a few odd things that come to mind. Indeed, for a man...you showed some rather feminine aspects of yourself..."
Could it be that her girl self had revealed itself at some point? Considering how keen Aogasaki is, it's not strange for her to sense something off.
"Um, Rei. Just for reference, which aspects were feminine...?"
"Sometimes you'd lift your pinky or talk about boy idols more than girl idols."
"You were rather well-informed on how to deal with excess hair, and you said 'Hyan,' when someone slapped you."
She revealed herself more times than I had thought. Ryuuga was also troubled by this.
"Shiori, Elmira, and I often talked about whether...you swung 'that' way by any chance."
Stop that, heroines. Why are you suspicious of the protagonist?
"I'm really sorry. You're my companion, and yet..."
When Ryuuga once again made a feeble apology, Aogasaki suddenly adjusted her posture and began to observe the cheerleader girl.
"Hmm. When I see you like this, you don't look like anything other than a girl."
"Kobayashi, what did you think when you realized that Ryuuga was a girl?"
When she suddenly brought up that topic, I replied in a panic.
"A, about that...I was surprised, but I accepted it. Ryuga is Ryuga. Actually, I felt a little bad for her since she had to live as a man."
Actually, I was so depressed that it drove me insane, but I decided to tell a half-lie.
Now that it's come to this, I hope Aogasaki can come to an understanding. Ryuuga has always been worried about this matter. She's been wondering if she's being dishonest towards her companions. She's been wondering if she shouldn't reveal her true self.
"It doesn't matter to me whether she's a guy or a girl. Ryuga is my 'friend,' after all. No, my 'best friend.'"
Ryuuga eyes were moist as she looked at me.
It's fine that you're moved by what I said, but how about not being heartstruck? I emphasized the words "friend" and "best friend," okay? It was important enough for me to say it twice, okay?
"...I see. I'm of the same opinion as Kobayashi."
Saying that, Aogasaki suddenly stood up. She then walked towards Ryuuga and placed a hand gently onto her shoulder.
"Your gender is not that big of a deal. The days we've spent fighting together and the time we've spent thus far aren't a lie."
"So Ryuuga, don't apologize. I will continue to be your sword. As the successor of the 'Azure Dragon,' as your companion, and as a fellow female."
...Aogasaki really is cool, even in situations like these. As expected of an upperclassman, number two within Ryuuga's party, and one of the main heroines entrusted with a god.
(With this, I suppose Aogasaki will also drop out from being the main heroine along with Kurogame...)
Perhaps it was because of Aogasaki's relationship with me that she was able to accept "Hinomori Ryuuga as a girl."
Perhaps it's because the one she's interested in has shifted from Ryuuga to me...and if that's the case, my hardships at least had some merit. This ended up helping Ryuuga, unexpectedly.
"Ryuuga. I think that cheerleader outfit suits you well."
"T, thank you, Rei..."
Ryuuga seemed to scratch her head in embarrassment in response to Aogasaki's compliment.
"If cosplay is your hobby, do you have other costumes?"
"Yep. I've got all sorts of things, a nurse outfit, a maid costume..."
"To tell the truth, I'm a fan of fashion. I have a large interest in clothing, accessories, cosmetics, and beauty. I also like cute stuffed toys and Western music."
"Y, you do?"
This time, Aogasaki was the one scratching her head in embarrassment towards Ryuuga's confusion.
Right. I almost forgot that we came here to have Aogasaki reveal her secret. To have Ryuuga know about her "true self."
"It's not as severe of a secret as yours, but it's not something I can find myself talking to others about...I can't openly purchase clothes and accessories either. That's when Kobayashi accidentally came to know about it."
"I, I see."
Since Ryuuga once again looked at my direction, I began to prattle on in order to explain.
"Well, it really did happen by chance. Though, there wasn't really a reason for me to tell you, you know? No secret is too big or too small to keep. I just want to be a sincere character like this."
"I'm not mad. I understand, of course."
Fortunately, Ryuuga showed an understanding, and then Aogasaki asked Ryuuga another question.
"Ryuuga. This is one side of Aogasaki Rei. A side that loves to dress up, keeps up on trends, and is a fashionista. Did you misjudge the 'Swordswoman of the Beheading Dance'?"
"Certainly not. I knew that you were fashion-conscious...so I haven't misjudged you."
As I thought, Ryuuga didn't reject her. Naturally, she accepted Aogasaki Rei's true face.
As such, she's leagues above Tanaka, who had said "Yeah, I misjudged you!" to her. I suppose this is the difference between the protagonist and a mere mob character.
"No need for thanks. Now then, could it be that you also enjoy secretly wearing outfits at your home?"
"Yeah. In other words, I suppose we're alike."
After exchanging such dialogue, the two chuckled amongst each other.
They seem to sympathize with each other a lot. These two certainly have different tastes, but they do almost the same thing. They're both people who love fashion shows.
"However, your secret is related to the code of the Hinomori household. It's up to you to decide whether you should tell Shiori and Elmira about it. Rest assured, I won't leak your secret."
"Of course, I...won't tell anybody about yours either. Rei, it's also up to you to decide whether you should reveal your secret."
"Yes, I suppose so...by the way Ryuuga, why don't you show me your other costumes?"
"Huh? B, but."
"I want to see more of your cute side. I might be able to use it as a reference as well."
"O, okay, I understand. Then next time, you have to show me your cute side as well."
"Don't be weirded out by it, okay?"
"I won't. You are who you are, after all."
...Thus, the flags between Ryuuga and Aogasaki broke, even before I managed to break her flags with me.
However, they have become rather close as a result. They have a deep comprehension of each other's secrets, seeming to strengthen their bond.
(This probably won't interfere with the story in the future...)
I have a few worries, but after seeing the two having fun talking about clothing, I believe that this is a good result. If a problem arises, it should be fine if I can patch things up.
"Ryuuga. If you don't mind, why don't we go shopping at some point?"
"Sure! Let's do it!"
"Do you have make-up tools? If you do, could you let me do your make-up?"
"Huh? T, that's embarrassing. Anyways, I'm going to change, so wait a bit! Would you like to see a qipao? Maybe a swimsuit? Or perhaps a bunny girl..."
"I'll help. Let me check your proportions, Ryuuga."
"Oh jeez, Rei. I got it, you should stay over for today!"
"Hmm. So this is what female bonding is."
Did you guys already forget that...the competition against Getsushiyoukan is happening tomorrow?