For better or for worse, my "search for Elmira" with Yukimiya had ended.
When I fainted, Yukimiya was worried about me and said, "Kobayashi, it seems you're tired. It must be those supplementary lessons and homework...", deciding to continue the search by herself.
(I feel a bit bad about it, but I'm thankful for being free now. I need to get back on my feet by evening...)
I still had arrangements today. Of course, it had to do with visiting Elmira.
It seems that Taotie's actually taking a nap now since he's full. He eventually told me that the sandwiches weren't actually that good.
"However, there was nothing else to eat. They were comparable to rocks."
When the "Evil Spirit" said that with an indifferent look, I had some respect towards him for the first time.
Now that I think about, Taotie's sense of taste favors sweets. Still, perhaps he was acting merciful by praising Yukimiya's dark cooking.
(To think that Yukimiya would make him open up in such an odd way...)
I rested on the park bench for around two hours. While bearing with a headache and nausea, I somehow arrived at Elmira's apartment.
"──Welcome home, Kobayashi Ichirou. Oh, you seem unwell today."
The vampire girl greeted me while carrying a baby. I'm fine with her being worried about me, but I'd rather not hear her say "Welcome home," to me.
"Look Shizuma, Papa is here."
Shizuma responded to Elmira's words with "Aauh, aauh". He then turned towards me and reached towards me with his tiny hands. He seems to be in a good mood today.
"Elmira, I'm not a papa. That kid's papa is Hideo. His mama is Reida."
"Being nit-picky won't make you any popular."
"Leaving that aside, did anything change? We don't know when Qiongqi's faction will attack, so don't be negligent."
"There's nothing wrong. Anyways, take a look, Kobayashi Ichirou. Shizuma's baby teeth are starting to grow."
"Baby teeth? Come of think of it, he has quite a bit of hair already..."
If I'm to believe what I read in the "Complete Guide to Babies", he's growing faster than the average baby. Perhaps it's because he's an apostle? Or is it because he's a vampire?
(I feel as if his face has gotten a bit tougher. Perhaps that's just my imagination though.)
Urged by Elmira, I carried Shizuma in my arms. When I touched his cheeks, he touched mine in return. His fingernails are already growing.
...A baby's tiny hands are quite cute.
I wouldn't want such an innocent child turning into a ferocious apostle. If possible, I'd like for him to be a doctor or minister in the future. I'm sure that he will grow up to be intelligent.
(If I didn't have classes, I could come here during the day...so couldn't I apply for childcare leave at school?)
Before long, Shizuma fell asleep, and so I moved him to the crib. Elmira and I stared at his cute sleeping face for a bit.
"*sigh*...He sleeps like an angel."
"Yeah. Just like an angel."
"He's full of intelligence and nobility."
"He's also got the characteristic for becoming a star. The style of a protagonist."
The vampire girl's facial expression softened. Perhaps I have the same expression right now.
"What a pretty boy. He'll definitely build a harem during kindergarten and elementary school. That's my only worry..."
"Indeed. Though, perhaps Shizuma would love everyone equally. He has the capacity to. Surely."
I would normally retort to what she was saying, but I ended up going along with her. I still agreed with her, knowing that we were a pair of fools.
After all, Shizuma is really cute. When he looks at me, he always reaches his hand out. Could it be that...this child really thinks I'm his father?
Having now been promoted to a temporary papa, the temporary mama next to me sighed deeply.
"However, I'll eventually have to be by myself. When Shizuma brings a lover one day...I just might cry."
"Be a strong mother. Whatever happens will happen."
"Right, you father...Shizuma will definitely pick a wonderful boyfriend."
"I think you mean girlfriend."
"A beautiful boyfriend, the likes of which can compare to Shizuma..."
"I wonder who will give birth to the child."
"Stop making me retort to what you're saying! You crook!"
"Be quiet! You'll make Shizuma awaken!"
"And what are you going to do when Shizuma awakens?! Awakens to that hobby of yours?!"
Once again, we got into a quarrel as pair of pseudo-parents. Recently, Shizuma hasn't been waking up from these quarrels, perhaps he's gotten used to them.
"Whatever, make dinner! Then you can just go home!"
"Are you monopolizing Shizuma?! In the first place, make your own meals!"
"Even a sandwich is fine!"
"Don't talk about sandwiches in front of me!"
Things settled down after a while. After having no choice but to heat up some frozen fried rice, I reluctantly left the apartment.
For the time being, I took plenty of photos of Shizuma's sleeping face. Ah, how cute.
"...Oh right. Did you fall victim to Shiori's cooking yesterday?"
It was the next day. I met up with Aogasaki after school to patrol around the city.
Ryuuga was with us for a bit as well, but she left around five minutes ago. She went back home so that she could attend to Kyouka.
"You know, I'm quite surprised. To think that the 'Evil Spirit' could eat her cooking..."
"Yeah. It was still bad though."
"It's still a big deal. It seems that the four fiends have an exceptional amount of willpower, as to be expected."
The "Swordswoman of the Beheading Dance" spoke in admiration with her hand resting on her chin.
She was just as beautiful as ever, with her ponytail reaching to her back. Her ripened G cups jiggled with each step she took. Given how big they are, perhaps it would be worth having a baby suck on them.
"What about getting them sucked on...just once?"
It seems that I had inadvertently let out my thoughts.
Aogasaki immediately stared at me. She covered her chest at once and raised a voice while going red up to her ears.
"W, w, what are you talking about?! Where are you looking?!"
"Oh, um, you've got it wrong. I'm not the one who would be sucking on them..."
"We haven't kissed yet, but don't think that you can get away with that!"
"You're misunderstanding something! I didn't mean it in a lewd way, I meant it seriously!"
"It's still a problem if you're serious about sucking on them! What am I supposed to do?!"
"It's nothing to be guilty about! What I'm saying is in accordance with the official rules of breasts..."
"What do you mean by the official rules of breasts?! You amorous man!"
While shouting out Saikaku Ihara's most famous work, Aogasaki tugged on my ear with all of her strength. I believe that people scold their dogs by pinching their ears rather than hitting them as well. (TLN: Saikaku Ihara was a famous Japanese poet known for his story called "The Life of an Amorous Man")
"Whatever, let's continue searching for Elmira. Start walking."
"Ow ow ow! You're going to rip out my ear!"
Aogasaki walked forward, forcing me to follow her.
It was painful seeing the reactions of onlookers. Though on the other hand, I feel that it's been a long time since Aogasaki scolded me for being lecherous. I really miss those times when I was a friend character...
"...If you really mean what you say..."
Aogasaki let go of my ear after we had walked for a few meters.
She then bluntly spoke without trying to make eye contact with me. It seemed that she was mumbling something rather than scolding me.
"The next time you come to my house, I'll allow a light touch."
"J, just a small touch. Of course, on top of my clothes."
"Aogasaki, what are you saying...?"
"I'm already a third year student. It should be fine having such experiences during the end of high school."
...She granted me approval for something big.
Let alone a lucky pervert, she gave me permission to be an open pervert.
"W, wait a minute! That's crazy!"
"No. To tell the truth, I've always been thinking about it. I need to get used to such acts, little by little."
"Don't let yourself be led astray by a guy! You're going to make your father grieve!"
"My father said, 'Training is important, but how about finding a boyfriend at some point? Is your chest just for decoration?' to me."
So her father was the one who started this. He was the one who started this chest business.
Speaking of Aogasaki's father, it seems that he's coming out of retirement since his back pain has gotten better. He's recovered enough to swing a wooden sword again, meaning that he can be an instructor once more.
That being the case, it seems that Aogasaki, who had originally intended to succeed the dojo, has now decided to go to college. I believe that she will take a standard entrance exam at a nearby junior college.
"Please listen, Aogasaki. You should know, I'm currently doing 'lovers training' with Ryuga. I won't commit any adultery!"
"It's just training, right? Of course, I know that. When I think about Ryuuga's circumstances, I understand her pain...and that's why I haven't done much with you. I don't want to hurt her."
I'm grateful for that, but that doesn't mean it's okay to touch Aogasaki's chest. The moment I touch them, I'll be on a one-way track to the "Aogasaki Ending".
I need to avoid that. If I rub them, I'll reach the point of no return.
"That's why I'm going to continue playing the 'role' of Ryuuga's boyfriend. So, I'll leave it at that. Let's search for Elmira."
...Then, for about two hours, we walked around a business district.
Of course, we didn't get any leads, and so I followed Aogasaki to her house before we gave our farewells and ended the search. As we parted at the front gate, she made a sigh while seeming sad.
"Good grief, that rascal...where is she and what is she doing?"
"Are you that worried?"
"Of course I am. She has a foul mouth, but Elmira's a friend who's watched my back on the battlefield many times. I won't stop searching until I find her."
I started feeling pretty guilty.
Now that it's come to this, I need to convince Elmira one of these days. She can't just let everyone search for her forever.
"Kobayashi, thanks for accompanying me...oh right, I completely forgot to say this, but could you give Taotie my thanks?"
"During that battle with Getsushiyoukan, he more or less fought for my sake. I'm obligated show my appreciation."
"Rather than a word of thanks, shouldn't you be complaining...?"
That competition turned chaotic because of Taotie. Well, I'm to blame for making him take part in a match though.
"I have no complaints. In the first place, that competition was organized by Kanshou Balon. It wouldn't have ended normally anyways."
On that subject, Balon, one of "Hell's Top Eight" introduced himself as "Kanshou". Apparently, each of the generals amongst the apostles has a second name.
If I remember correctly, I believe Mion's was "Ranshou". I think this concept of the opponent characters having two names is quite nice. Though, I don't know if the names are self-proclaimed or made by other people.
(Actually, do Jyuri and Kiki have a second name as well? Something like Inshou or Puchishou?)
While thinking about such things, I arrived home.
I had no arrangements to meet with Elmira today. The three princesses were growing suspicious of me, so I decided that I needed to come home early every once in a while.
(Shizuma, you miss me, don't you? I'll definitely come to you tomorrow.)
──However, an incident occurred that night.
Furthermore, I was told something by a person I didn't expect.
Something that caused a big disturbance to my identity as a "friend character".