"Yeah. I heard about Qiongqi's ability from Hundun."
It was after school the next day. I began to speak about the "Evil Spirit" Qiongqi to Ryuuga in the classroom, but she already knew about his ability.
Ryuuga would normally go home immediately, but she was leisurely packing up today. Kyouka's condition was remaining stable for now, so for the first time in a while, we were taking a detour before heading home.
"Really? So you already knew. It's quite the pain that we'll need to defeat the apostles twice."
"Indeed. We have to be especially careful of the apostle generals. The ones we know of are Balon and...Higaia, was it?"
"Yeah. The koi apostle with a bad temper."
Of course, I told Ryuuga about Hunshou Higaia.
Though, I only told her that I heard about him from Elmira. If I actually talk about when I met Higaia, then I would end up revealing a lot things I shouldn't.
"By the way, Ryuga. Did you hear anything from Kyouka? Why doesn't she want to see me?"
"Sorry. I asked her many times, but she won't answer...Hundun has recently been showing a gloomy facial expression as well, and the atmosphere in the Hinomori house feels a bit heavy."
Ryuuga sighed and patted her shoulder. It seems that her fatigue has resulted in her getting stiff shoulders.
(Hundun's gloomy, even for a middle-aged man? It seems that the situation's the exact opposite compared to the Kobayashi house.)
The "Evil Spirit" Hundun adores his host, Hinomori Kyouka. I suppose it's reasonable to think that he would be filled with grief over Kyouka having to stay in bed for so long.
"Ryuga. I said it before, but you shouldn't push yourself, okay? At least Elmira is safe. I should be able to persuade her soon."
"Right. I appreciate it. I don't have to be worried about Elle anymore. I think she'll be fine as long as you're supporting her, Ichirou."
"I'm glad that you trust me, but...try not to expect too much of me, maybe? I normally specialize in taking care of you. That's the kind of person I'm supposed to be, right?"
When I warned her in irritation, Ryuuga shrugged her shoulders while making a bitter smile.
"Sure. You specialize in taking care of me."
"Yeah. My job is to support you during the daily life parts."
"In that case, can I ask something of you a little later?"
Ryuuga quickly covered her mouth after accidentally letting that slip. Fortunately, there were only a few people left in the classroom, and nobody was snooping in on us.
"Well then, shall we go, Ichirou?"
When Ryuuga took her bag and stood up, I responded with "Sure," and followed her.
...Actually, today our detour didn't involve a walk around the town as a sort of date. We were heading towards Oumei High School's infirmary.
That's right. We were visiting Jyuri. Yukimiya told her companions about the school nurse Hebizuka, and now we were heading there to see what she's up to.
Ryuuga knows that the three princesses are different from the other "Apostles of Hell".
However, it's natural that she would want to inspect an apostle who infiltrated the school. Jyuri is yet one more source of concern for Ryuuga.
(Well, Jyuri told me that being a school nurse was her life's calling...so if Ryuga sees her doing her job properly, she'll probably be relieved.)
We went down to the first floor of the school building and stood in front of the infirmary.
As expected, once we knocked and slowly opened the door, the king cobra apostle was there wearing a doctors' gown.
"Oh, Kobayashi and Hinomori. Welcome."
Hebizuka, who had been filing documents, turned her chair around like a newscaster and faced us. She even called us by our last names.
"What's the matter? Do you feel ill?"
"No, we came to see if you were actually doing your job as a school nurse. So for now, stop with the Hebizuka act."
"Geez Ichirou, I thought I told you not to mix private affairs with public."
When I closed the door, Jyuri reluctantly switched back to her normal self. I found myself captivated by her well-proportioned legs as she crossed them.
"No visitors today? There's usually a whole line of people."
"It's pretty much like this after school. A third year schoolboy came here not long ago. He's one of the regulars though, and he would constantly say 'Please go on a date with me just once,' out loud."
"To think that such crude people existed..."
"It's becoming a problem. That Sasaki, he's even part of the student council."
So it was Sasaki.
Sasaki Yousuke is someone who actually saw me as a small fry character, once fought against us as a member of Getsushiyoukan, and unfortunately had to face Taotie.
(I should have come here a little earlier. Perhaps he would have mocked me again...)
While I was feeling down, Ryuuga took one step forward. She stared right at Jyuri, and spoke while in her gallant hero mode.
"Jyuri. Thanks for your help during the battle against Getsushiyoukan."
"Oh, did I do something?"
"You lent a hand in exterminating a group of apostles. You and Kiki, that is."
"Haha. I don't really remember lending you a hand. That was just our duty as the three princesses...I'm faithful to my professional duties."
Jyuri shifted her legs around while giving a sweet smile. Since her skirt was so short, it was somewhat suggestive. That's probably why Sasaki keeps visiting her.
"I'd like to ask one thing, Jyuri. Why did you decide to work at our school?"
"Being here means that I can quickly assist Ichirou, right? As you know, Taotie is my ruler...and so it is my professional duty to protect his vessel, Ichirou."
"So this is for Ichirou's and Tie's sake...?"
"Even as a joke, would you mind not calling him Tie? He is the mighty 'Evil Spirit'."
Though Jyuri declared her dissatisfaction, it was Taotie himself who wanted to be called Tie.
Though, Ryuuga doesn't call Taotie by his nickname whenever he's in front of her. She only calls him "Tie" when Taotie isn't here.
Is she some kind of tsundere? Or is she just making a distinction between herself as the protagonist and herself as Hinomori?
"At any rate, I understand that you're working as a proper school nurse. As long as you don't cause any big trouble, I'll tolerate you for now."
"Oh my, are you sure that you can trust an apostle so easily? You are the 'Successor of the Dragon King'."
"'The Three Princesses of Hell' are Ti...Taotie's subordinates, right? That also means you're Ichirou's subordinates, right? In that case, I think I can trust you. In order to understand each other, we need to show good faith."
"Hahaha. You're surprisingly tolerant. How nice."
Jyuri made an odd smile and then suddenly stood up from her chair. She then walked towards Ryuuga.
The king cobra apostle then got behind Ryuuga and placed her hands on her shoulders, but Ryuuga didn't react. She kept staring ahead without changing expressions.
"You're quite bold, but aren't you being a bit too careless? You even let me get behind you."
"I don't sense any bloodlust from you. Besides, even if you were trying to do something──I would take action before you could do anything."
The protagonist and one of the leading opponents spoke to each other in a cheeky manner.
This is quite good, in my opinion. I love it when warriors confront each other verbally like this.
For a brief moment, the health room was completely silent. I don't think it'll turn into a battle, but...just to be sure, I got ready to deescalate the situation if necessary.
"By the way, Hinomori Ryuuga. Your──"
"What is it?"
"Your shoulders seem quite stiff, don't they?"
The tense atmosphere was gone in an instant. Upon closer inspection, I found that Jyuri was using her hands to massage Ryuuga's shoulders.
"Oh my, your back muscles and neck muscles are also stiff. You should come to the bed and lie down. I'll loosen them up a bit."
"Huh? N, no thanks, I'm fine."
"Since you came to the infirmary, I can't let you go home like that. After all, you're still a student here."
"Thanks for your concern, but I'll have to decline. I'm not sure about a massage from an apostle..."
"Stiff shoulders aren't good for your skin either, you know? If your neck and shoulders are stiff, the blood circulation to your face will worsen."
Ryuuga twitched in reaction to that.
Her expression hadn't shifted up until now, but upon hearing the word "skin", her complexion had clearly changed.
"A, are they that stiff...?"
"You should be aware of it. What if your chest happens to grow big? Most with women with stiffened shoulders have stiffened chests as well."
"Is that so...?"
"If you think I'm tricking you, then give my massage a try. You trust me, right?"
"Well then...just a little bit, please."
"Alright. Ichirou, please wait ten minutes."
Hebizuka bowed and then brought Ryuuga to a bed. She closed the curtains, leaving me by myself.
(How enthusiastic about her work is she...?)
Before long, Jyuri's and Ryuuga's voices entered my ears as I stood.
"Hmm...you're quite stiff in areas other than the shoulders. Like here, or here."
"What if I do this?"
"How about this?"
...Listening to their voices made things sound awfully suspicious.
What one thinks is a risque moment is actually just a massage──I'm sure everyone has seen this kind of gag at least once. Though, the punchline's already been spoiled for me, so I'm not really sure how to react.
Furthermore, the gallant Ryuuga's voice has already reverted to a girl's. Is this scene...supposed to be here for comedic relief?
"Hahaha, that's a nice expression you have, Hinomori Ryuuga."
"You really want me to stop? You don't want any more? Look, what if I do this?"
"Be honest with me. It feels good, doesn't it?"
"Don't be so stubborn. No matter how much you deny it, your body is honest."
...This is the kind of development I would see in a book at Comiket. (TLN: Comiket is an event where many doujinshis are distributed. Doujinshis are self-published works, usually manga or novels, that are often fan-works of already existing franchises. In many cases, they include adult content)
"I'll ask you once more, Hinomori Ryuuga. Do you really want me to stop? Are you okay with me stopping?"
"Is that because it feels good?"
"Say it clearly. If you do that, I'll do something great for you."
"I, it feels good. It feels good!"
"Good. Well then, just as you wish, I'll reward you. Now, let your mind and body melt!"
"Aah, no! Wait! I'm feeling, I'm feeling strange!"
"You two! That's enough!"
Seeing that the protagonist and leading opponent were prolonging this charade, I eventually intervened.
When I yanked the curtains open, I saw Jyuri on top of Ryuuga's back as she was lying down. Our hero was being pinned down by an opponent character.
"Was that really a massage?! If you're going this far, then at least turn it into a genuinely risque scene! Otherwise, the punchline falls flat!"
Once I shouted, Ryuuga looked at me with a blank stare and said "Huh...?" I could even see a bit of drool coming from her mouth.
"Ichirou, don't look...don't look at me when I'm like this..."
"Get a hold of yourself, Ryuga! Look at that sorry state you're in! Your guardian deity, the 'Yellow Dragon', is crying!"
"I couldn't win...against the massage..."
"Don't say that unless you're in a doujinshi! This scene's going straight to the cutting room floor!"
Afterwards, Ryuuga left the infirmary with a cheerful expression, her stiff shoulders completely gone.
Furthermore, as she left, she even said "Please treat me to another massage," and arranged an appointment with Hebizuka.
Even the protagonist was trying to become one of the infirmary's regulars.