Once we went through a passage towards the competition's venue, the area was bigger than I had expected.
The area was about the same as the school's gym, but unlike it, a second floor seating arrangement covered all four directions. From what I heard, it seems that it can accommodate more than two thousand people.
Furthermore, the second floor seats were crowded with more people than I had anticipated. Of course, not every single seat was occupied, but about half of them were.
(This many people were showing up for a competition that wasn't mean to be for display...that is to say, these people were pupils of Getsushiyoukan.)
However, there also seemed to be a group of elementary schoolers in one corner. They were all wearing martial arts uniforms and were the only ones cheering for our team.
Needless to say, they were the pupils of the Aogasaki dojo...Aogasaki's students.
"Rei, good luck!"
"Make sure to win!"
"As if you'll lose, Rei!"
"Ichirou! Do your best, Ichirou!"
...Among them, there was one child who had cheered for me. He addressed me rather casually as well.
If I'm not mistaken, that boy was Kobayashi Keita, a second year elementary school student. I went along with him during a practice session at the Aogasaki dojo, and he became attached to me after realizing that we had the same family name. I hate how common the name Kobayashi is.
(I understand that he would call me by my first name since we both have Kobayashi as our family name, but...he could at least say it less casually.)
While thinking of such things, a referee stood in the middle of the arena and said "Both sides, form a line."
Following that call, Ryuuga, Aogasaki, and I stood in a row.
In front of us were the five members representing Getsushiyoukan, similarly standing in a line. ...I see, when looking at them like this, it's apparent that they're all quite strong. The character-appraising eye I've developed is telling me so.
(Well, that's fine.)
Miyamoto and Tanaka have been glaring at me for a while now. Sasaki was the only one not looking in my direction.
He's a cold person. However, that's a good characteristic for him to have.
"Oh, only three people? What happened to the remaining members?"
Aogasaki bluntly replied to King Arthur's words.
"There's a reason for that, and they'll be a little late. They'll make it time for their turns, so don't mind that and begin the competition."
"They were Yukimiya and Elmira, right? If they don't make it in time, you're free to have a substitute take their place. Depending on the situation, we may also change the order, though."
We gave our thanks to the calm and composed King Arthur, then went back to our original positions.
──At last, it's time.
An unforeseen situation had occurred, but the show must go on. Perhaps this is my last big task for summer vacation...the chance for the sub-character Kobayashi Ichirou to show off his skill.
"First contenders, step forward!"
Ryuuga stood up in response to the referee's voice. A strong glint could be seen behind her mask, of course, coming from her boy version──the protagonist I've come to like.
"Well then, I'm off."
"Right, we'll leave it to you, Ryuga."
"Ryuuga. Kazuko's skill is nothing to scoff at. Furthermore, he's a swordsman who has trained at the Aogasaki dojo for six years. Be careful."
"I understand, Rei. Perhaps...it's good that I can go against Tanaka. There's something I want to tell him."
With those parting words, Ryuuga headed towards the arena.
...Judging from her tone of voice, it seems that Ryuuga knows as well. That is, she knows the reason why Tanaka left the Aogasaki dojo.
With the referee's cue, Tanaka suddenly kicked the floor.
He instantly unleashed a storm of fierce attacks upon Ryuuga. He's quicker and more nimble than I thought.
However──Ryuuga kept dodging quite easily. She handled Tanaka's sword using minimal, efficient movements.
"A, amazing! As expected of Ryuga!"
I raised my voice in admiration upon viewing the scene.
Of course, I did that since it was my duty as a friend character, but that's not to say those weren't my true thoughts. I got excited upon seeing Ryuuga being this cool.
"Guh, this guy...!"
Tanaka showed some obvious signs of being agitated. Perhaps he's already realized it.
His opponent──is much different in rank compared to him. Different in strength, aura, and prominence.
"Tanaka. Do you really believe that Rei will be happy when married with Yamanashi Asao?"
Ryuuga quietly asked that question to Tanaka, who kept swinging his bamboo sword without hesitation.
"Are you saying that she'll be happy if she remains with the Aogasaki dojo?! If Rei's with Getsushiyoukan, then she can devote herself to swordsmanship...it's for her sake! Her current lukewarm environment isn't doing her any good!"
"Rei should have told you this already. She's strong because of her current environment."
"That's just a bluff!"
"Rei's been put into a battle tougher than you can imagine. I can't talk about the details, but it's a battle between life and death."
"What's that supposed to mean?!"
"Rei will become strong in order to protect those she treasures...such as her childhood friend, or the children she adores. Her thoughts and her heart dwell within the sword she wields."
"D, don't screw around with me!"
"The Aogasaki style respects the 'heart' more than anything──there's no way you can't know that!"
In the next instant, Ryuuga knocked away Tanaka's bamboo sword with a flash.
At nearly the same moment, she cleanly struck Tanaka's mask...and so, with just one counterattack, the match had been settled.
Tanaka's bamboo sword revolved in the air before crashing and tumbling onto the ground. After several seconds of nothingness, the confused referee declared the end of the match.
"A, a strike to the head! The winner is the Aogasaki dojo!"
While the audience were stiffened in bewilderment, Ryuuga turned around without a care for Tanaka's thoughts.
After coming back, Ryuuga quickly removed her armor and spoke to us with a gallant expression.
"Now then, I'm going to where Shiori and Elle are. I'll be back as soon as I can, so take care until then."
...Like that, Ryuuga won in the blink of an eye, and similarly ran off in the blink of an eye.
Why is this person so cool? Why did she have to be a girl? If she were a guy, Aogasaki would be madly in with her by now.
When I shifted my gaze towards the Getsushiyoukan team, sure enough, they were all speechless.
"W, who is that...monster...?"
I heard Sasaki ask that in a frightened, trembling voice.
As expected of Sasaki, the one I can count on, to have a top-notch reaction...and while I secretly gave him such praise,
"Second contenders, step forward!"
I got up after hearing the referee speak without any intermission.
In the end, I ended up having to compete against Miyamoto Chizuru. Well, since I raised a flag with her, I'll be her opponent, just as she wished.
"Ah, it's Ichirou! Do your best, Ichirou!"
While Kobayashi (2nd grader) cheered for me, I confronted Miyamoto.
──Well now, I'll do my best to liven things up. Behold, my great effort.
The pro co-star Kobayashi Ichirou's──enchanting sub-character qualities.