Shortly after leaving the house, I walked to school while practicing what I would say to Agito.
There was a four-lane road beside me and cars constantly passed by. Inside a passing bus, I saw other students.
(I'll make Agito smile today. No matter how unique his sense of humor may be, there must be something that'll make anyone laugh. Whether it's a bitter smile or a snicker...if he smiles, it's my win.)
My preparations are perfect. I've practiced with Taotie many times. The "Evil Spirit" even told me "Are you planning to perform a skit at the school festival?"
(I didn't expect to spend all week focusing on Agito. That's fine though. This is all I can do for him.)
I heard the sound of footsteps from behind and then someone stood beside me.
"Ichirou, if you'd like, how about we go to school together?"
I already knew it was Jyuri without having to see her face.
The tall, blonde, model-like woman gave me a sweet smile. Today, she wasn't wearing a white gown, making her enormous breasts even more prominent, seeming ready to burst out of her blouse.
"Didn't we agree not to make contact outside of school whenever possible? Aren't you getting too lax? You even let Yukimiya follow you."
Naturally, Hebizuka and I living together is a top -secret matter. We always leave the house at different times, and when coming home, Jyuri makes sure to take a detour.
"It's fine every once in a while, isn't it? We can just say that we come across each other on rare occasions. I've accompanied other students before, you know?"
"Stop speaking like a hostess. Teachers are supposed to be free of urges."
"Right, I let my urges free. That's why we should make contact outside of school. Like this."TLNThe original did some wordplay with "seishokusha," which can mean either clergy or sex worker. I can't come up with an English equivalent, so I'm going with this.
While saying that, Hebizuka linked arms with me, of all things. Shockingly, she buried my right arm in her cleavage. What huge tracts of land they were!
"Stop! It's hard to walk like this! What if the main characters see us?!"
"Recently, you've been denying me from coming onto you during the night. So I've decided to come onto you during the day."
"Watch what you're saying! Release me from the clutches of your chest!"
With a playful grin, Jyuri soon let me go. Though it became easier to walk, it became difficult to move my body in a different sense now. Mainly the lower area.
In order to sheathe my sword, I imagined my mother's face.
Suddenly, a car came up from behind and passed us. As it approached, I could see that its hazard lights were blinking.
It was a luxury car not commonly seen, one with a black body...and I knew who it belonged to.
"That's definitely Yukimiya's..."
Right. It was the car she would normally ride to school with. I've been on it a few times before.
So why was it coming to school today? While I was thinking about it, the door to the driver's seat opened and an aging man in a tailcoat appeared.
His hair was graying, but solidified with pomade. He had a tidy, well-ordered mustache. Furthermore, he had un-Japanese, finely chiseled looks.
As expected, it was Sebastian.
Yukimiya's caretaker and watchdog, a dandy butler.
"Kobayashi, good morning. You seem to be in good condition."
Politely bowing his head, Sebastian greeted me with his deep voice. He was probably in his fifties, but he remained slim. Rather, he was probably muscular.
"Good morning, Sebastian. Is Yukimiya returning to school today?"
"No. Young Lady Shiori will still be absent...she's still resting in her house as of today."
So why's Sebastian here then?
It takes around thirty minutes to get here from Yukimiya's house. There's no reason for him to be here except if he's bringing Yukimiya to or from school.
"Kobayashi. Could you come with me today?"
"This may be rude of me to ask, but could you accompany me to the Yukimiya residence? Then, could you meet with the young lady?"
I was a bit daunted by the sudden request. Next to me, Jyuri stared blankly.
...This is bad. If I accept the invitation, I may not make it in time for PE during second period. The "plan to make Agito smile" that I worked all night on would all be for nothing.
No wait, there's a bigger problem than that. There's no doubt about it──Yukimiya's episode is beginning. I'm about to get involved in it right off the bat.
(If possible, I'd like to refuse. I'd rather have Ryuga go than me. Though, I don't think...I can refuse.)
Sebastian seemed to be at his wits' end. It's hard to tell from his calm demeanor, but it seems that he's really stressed.
"Please, Kobayashi. This is──something that I can ask only you for."
"If Kobayashi is going, then I will accompany him. Is that alright?"
Jyuri took a step forward and spoke to Sebastian.
The aging butler's eyes looked at her for the first time. Surprisingly, he gave her a cold stare, perhaps from being interrupted.
"...And you are?"
"The school nurse of Oumei High School, Hebizuka. I am also worried about Yukimiya. I'd like to check her condition and I won't take no for an answer."
Perhaps it's just my imagination, but I could sense some tension between the two. For a brief moment, they both looked at each other with suspicion as if they were cautious. Their behavior was clearly "unusual."
However, a moment later, Sebastian yielded.
"...It seems I have no choice. I do not have the time to argue. So Hebizuka, come to the vehicle as well."
As such, we decided to head towards the Yukimiya residence.
(Ugh, so it really is going in this direction...though, I suppose delaying Yukimiya's episode any further would be bad...)
Accepting my fate, I went to the back seat. Suddenly, I overheard Jyuri whisper.
The king cobra apostle kept a stern expression while staring at Sebastian as he returned to the driver's seat. It was as if she stared at an enemy.
Why did she hate him so much? Are old men to her disliking?
Around thirty minutes passed.
The car arrived at the Yukimiya residence after passing through their private property, which was like a nature park.
We went up to the absurdly large Western house. It might even be larger than the school. If I was a resident, my first order of business would be to purchase a bicycle.
(Unlike my house, no matter how many apostles there are here, there would still be extra room. As expected of the world-famous Yukimiya Group...)
In addition to the nervousness I usually feel when coming here, now I was feeling terrified as well.
Jyuri and Sebastian were to blame for that. Even while driving here, there was a sense of tension between the two.
We drove without a single conversation, just heavy silence. However, sometimes the two would stare at each other in the rearview mirror. It's as if they were keeping each other in check.
(Seriously, what's going on...? Is this how adults treat each other when they first meet? I was so nervous, I think I got car sick.)
Under this terrible condition I'm in, if I have to eat Yukimiya's cooking...I'm definitely going to throw up. The contents of my breakfast, toast and egg whites, will make their way back up.
No. Perhaps it would be better if that would happen.
It would mean that Yukimiya's in a good enough condition to cook. If that's the case, I would only be here to taste her food. Well, there's no reason for such a convenient development to happen though.
"Now then, right this way."
With Sebastian leading, Jyuri and I entered a room──but Yukimiya wasn't there.
In the center of the room, there was a sofa and a long table as if this was a drawing room. All the furniture seemed European and quite expensive. There was another door in the back, from which I could catch a glimpse of a bedroom.
It seems that this is Sebastian's personal room.
So even butlers of the Yukimiya Group have this lavish of a room.
"Young Lady Shiori's room is in here. However, before that, I'd like to state some conditions."
As soon as we entered, Sebastian spoke to us. He spoke with a forceful tone.
"Only Kobayashi may pass through. Unfortunately, Hebizuka will have to wait here."
"Why is that? I came here to see her condition."
"I did not receive any orders to bring Hebizuka to the room."
"So you think I will comply?"
The two once again seemed agitated. Or rather, they already seemed riled. Even now, they looked ready to lunge at each other's throats.
Again, why are they so hostile towards each other?! Did they kill each other in their previous lives or something?!
"...I have another reason for dragging you here."
Thereupon, Sebastian changed the way he spoke.
I saw a part of him I'd never seen before.
"Genshou Jyuri. Stay still. That is, if you don't want to die."
──In a split second, Sebastian released a terrifying ill will. It was a strong and brutal ill will, as if it was a turbulent current that could suck anyone in.
What does this mean? Why is Sebastian releasing an ill will?! Furthermore, how did he know Hebizuka's real identity?!
(Um, could it be that he's one of them? An apostle? The guy with the cliche name wasn't a butler?! He wasn't someone to accompany the rich daughter character?!)
While I was falling into confusion, Jyuri warded off the ill will without even making a slight movement. Now I understand why she was staring at him with caution.
Right. Jyuri noticed it. She found out Sebastian's true identity.
He was──one of their kind.
"So it really is you, Renie. I didn't recognize you at first since this is the first time I've seen your human form."
The king cobra apostle's long, blonde hair rustled as she stared at her opponent. She then gave me a warning.
"Ichirou, be careful. This man is Rikushou Renie...an apostle general who's known as the strongest of 'Hell's Top Eight.'"
The strongest of the top eight? So in other words, the strongest apostle? Sebastian? This man with gray hair?
"Renie. Why are you Yukimiya Shiori's butler? I heard you went missing hundreds of years ago."
"My actions revolve around one philosophy. Given that you're an apostle general, you should know."
"Right. Rikushou Renie will always serve the 'Evil Spirit' Taowu...so if you're serving Yukimiya Shiori, that means──"
"That's how it is. Therefore, I cannot let you pass. Since you follow Taotie, you are Taowu's enemy."
Wait a minute. Hold on.
This may be a tight moment, but let me unpack the situation.
The "Evil Spirit" Taowu. One of the four fiends, a ruler of the "Apostles of Hell." One of the final bosses in this story.
Hundun, Taotie, Qiongqi, and Taowu──they are the fearsome "Evil Spirits" who wield the strength to destroy humanity and have been terrorizing mankind since ancient times, even if they have to do it alone.
Taowu was the last one. The "Evil Spirit" who's supposed to be the final boss of part four. The one with a name that could get confused with Taotie's.
That Taowu has already revived? We haven't even dealt with Qiongqi yet.
(This is bad...the series' organization is turning into a mess...what part are we on right now? Wasn't this supposed to be part three, the Qiongqi arc? We need to maintain order!)
...No wait. That's not it.
There's something more worrying.
Sebastian, or Renie, is an apostle general who swears loyalty to the "Evil Spirit" Taowu. Now, he brought me here. He said "I want you to meet with the young lady," to me.
Recently, Yukimiya has been extremely weak. To the point where she can't use her supernatural abilities.
(So in other words, she's the vessel of the 'Evil Spirit' Taowu...)
The words Ryuuga said the other day flashed into my mind.
──Seeing Shiori in this state...makes me recall something unpleasant.
──Look, something similar to this happened before, right? When Hundun revived, Kyouka suddenly became ill──
While my entire body began to break into a cold sweat, Rikushou Renie spoke. He had an arrogant and intimidating attitude that was completely different to his previous self.
"Jyuri. You are not an attendant, but a hostage. So Kobayashi, head into the next room alone. My lord is waiting for you there."
"I do hope you refrain from any dubious behavior. Anything suspicious──and I cannot guarantee the well-being of this hostage."
This is bad. An outrageous development unfolded within Yukimiya's episode.
Not only did one of the four gods, the "White Tiger," dwell inside her body, but so did an "Evil Spirit." In a sense, she was like me, "someone who held two divine beings."
What a twist.