The last of the four fiends, the "Evil Spirit" Tao, resurrected ahead of schedule.
As soon as she did, she waved a white surrender flag.
...It was Saturday, the morning after being confronted with such an unforeseen situation. I walked along the road to school with depressed strides.
Since Oumei High School is a public school, there would normally be no class on the weekends. However, since it's a school focused on preparing students for university, in recent years, there have gradually been more Saturday classes. Today is one of those days.
(Who was it that removed our free Saturdays...? Was it that greasy principle whose name I don't even know?)
I wanted to work out my future steps at home. However, I couldn't afford to be absent again, so I had no choice but to leave home. Of course, Hebizuka and I left at different times.
(I guess I'll have to wait until PE next Wednesday to talk to Agito again. Man, I'd really like to be his friend character...I really want a chance to start anew.)
If I continue being a key character as I am now, I'll die from the stress. Come to think of it, I feel that recently my cheeks are a bit sunken. Though, when checked the scale, I actually gained a kilogram.
I want to be a normal friend character──
I want to be a powerless, carefree citizen who gets carried away easily──
I want to shout about things like "breasts" and "panties" with a pure heart──
I've noticed that such thoughts were constantly on my mind.
Not knowing what to do, last night, I phoned a late-night radio show during their advice corner. When I consulted them by saying "I want to return to having a minor role," they responded with "What?"
(In the end, they mistakenly thought I was working in the theater industry...damn it. They told me 'That means you have what it takes to be the leading actor. Why don't you give it a shot?')
With heavy steps, I mixed in with a crowd of students and crossed the school gate.
"Ichirou, good morning."
A slender student walked up beside me and slapped my shoulder. It was Ryuuga.
In contrast to my gloomy expression, the protagonist gave a refreshing smile for the morning. Her long hair was tied using black string and rustled with the wind.
"Hey, Ryuga. You're quite lively for school on a Saturday..."
"Ichirou, you seem to have aged a little while you were gone yesterday. Could it be that you were telling the truth when you replied to my message with 'A vile phantom prevented me from attending'?"
"Yeah. An aging Frenchman and a country girl phantom found me."
"S, stop that. You know I hate ghosts."
While warning Ryuuga about the way she called herself, we walked into the school building.TLNRyuuga used "watashi"
"Speaking of yesterday, everyone in class discussed the attraction we would do for the school festival. Look, we're doing a maid cafe, right? It's very difficult preparing matching maid outfits for──"
While listening to Ryuuga, we headed upstairs and soon stood before the classroom.
Two students came out from class B and entered the hallway. A tall swordswoman with a ponytail and a Westerner with deep crimson, wavy hair...that is to say, they were Aogasaki and Elmira.
"Oh, Rei? Why were you in our class?"
While Ryuuga stared blankly, Rei greeted us by saying "Good morning, Ryuuga. And, Kobayashi," with a stern expression.
Beside her, the vampire with a low blood pressure yawned loudly. They were as different as ever.
"Straighten yourself, Elmira. Aren't you going to give your morning greeting?"
The "Blood-kin of Eternal Darkness" only responded to Aogasaki's reprimand with another yawn.
She probably stayed up late writing her novel again. Or perhaps she was writing a letter to Shizuma. The other day, she gave Taotie a thick envelope about the size of a pocket book.
Not wanting to argue with her, the "Swordswoman of the Beheading Dance" stated her reason for being in second year class B.
"Actually, a classmate told me that they 'saw Yukimiya attending school.' I wanted to gather everyone before meeting her."
"Huh, Shiori's here?"
"Yeah. I was going to see her with Elmira since you two weren't in the classroom."
The fact that she didn't mention Kurogame's name was pretty typical. That 'Star-Wall Guardian' really likes to come in late. She's known for arriving here right before the bell chimes.
"How about it? Do you two want to see Shiori as well?"
"Of course we do. Just give us some time to drop off our bags."
After saying that in her boy version, Ryuuga happily headed towards her seat in the classroom. I also followed suit.
I took a fleeting glance at Agito's seat, but he wasn't there. Actually, he also comes in at the last moment.
So, the four of us headed to the adjacent class C.
Thereupon──sure enough, Yukimiya was sitting on her chair.
(Just yesterday, I saw Yukimiya acting inelegantly...this feels quite odd.)
Of course, I'm keeping yesterday a secret from Ryuuga and the others. At least until I've finalized a plan for part three.
In the first place, Yukimiya herself doesn't seem to realize that she's hosting an "Evil Spirit." In other words, she won't remember that Jyuri and I were at her place yesterday.
──"Before I can reconcile with Hinomori Ryuuga, ya first gotta tell Shiori 'bout me. I wanna ask you 'bout when that should happen"──is what she said.
Now I have yet another secret to keep. The need for a memo pad is growing ever so stronger.
"Shiori, are you feeling better?"
"You should have messaged us if you were coming to school."
"Anyhow, what's most important is that you're okay."
The main characters surrounded Yukimiya while all speaking at the same time.
For some reason, the "Shrine Maiden of Life" looked around with a befuddled expression. She blinked while her mouth was partly agape. It was as if she was meeting them for the first time.
(...Wait a minute. This reaction...could it be...?)
I've got a bad feeling about this. Today's Yukimiya seems like the same one from yesterday.
...When I quickly surveyed the classroom, I found that the class C students were staring at us. Their eyes were saying "Is that the right Yukimiya?"
"Shiori. If you feel unwell, don't hesitate to head into the school infirmary, okay? Don't push yourself."
When Ryuuga said that while unsure, Yukimiya paused for a bit before suddenly nodding. Then──
"I, I feel fit as a fiddle. Don'tcha worry."
It's Tao. There's no doubt about it, it's definitely Tao.
Why did you come to school?! At least try to act like Yukimiya! Aren't you just bothering your landlord?!
Tao's response made Ryuuga and the others immediately knit their brows. They exchanged glances and said "Fiddle? Don'tcha?" to each other.
As expected, the companions bound by fate had noticed right away. They wouldn't overlook even the slightest irregularity. Actually, this isn't even slight. Everyone in class C is suspicious of her.
"Shiori. On second thought, you should get some rest..."
"I'm tellin' ya, I'm fine. Alive and kickin'."
"Your personality seems a bit off, doesn't it?"
"Y, ya must be pullin' my leg. It's me, Shiori, can't ya see?"
"It's like you're possessed by a vile phantom..."
"W, whatcha tryin' to say, sword gal?"
...At this rate, she'll be caught in less than thirty seconds.
Tao looked over at me, pleading for help. Though, I already began speaking in order to cover for her.
"Oh, Yukimiya! It seems you're trying out the 'dialect therapy' I taught you!"
Ryuuga, Elmira, and Aogasaki looked at me with faces that said "What is that?" In fact, Tao did as well.
I don't know either. Despite my own doubts about how convincing 'dialect therapy' sounded...I smoothly spoke the necessary words to find my way out of the situation. I did my best to act like a swindler. Don't judge me.
"It's a health ritual passed down the Kobayashi family with a positive effect. My ancestor, Kobayashi Mankichi from the Heian period, devised that through speaking with an accent, one can incorporate energy into the atmosphere and fuse it with the body's somas, stimulating the meridian channel hidden points and so on──"TLN"Meridian channel hidden points" seems to be a reference to Fist of the North Star. In the series, they're pressure points that can destroy a person.
Since the bell rang while I was speaking, Ryuuga and the others reluctantly left class C. I'm not sure if they bought it, but for the time being, I've done some damage control.
"Listen, Shiori. Take care of yourself. We'll come back during break time."
When Ryuuga said that, Tao nodded.
The moment that the three left the classroom, I quickly turned around and rushed back to Yukimiya.
"Hey Tao, you can't come to school. Think about Yukimiya's position."
"That's why I'm here. If Shiori's absent for a number of days 'cause of me, she'll get in trouble, ain't that right?"
"Well your consideration for her has backfired. Avoid going outside your home whenever possible. That's my condition for being your middleman with Ryuga."
"Well, ya see...I kinda wanna get used to this 'ere modern era. Been at least three hundred years."
Yukimiya pouted while twirling her hair around her finger.
It was a cute gesture, but when she tried to sit cross-legged on her chair, I quickly stopped her. The school idol almost spread her skirt open.
"At any rate, don't come to school. I'll show you around the city next time. Leave early for today."
"Oh, ya can guide me 'round?"
Tao's eyes immediately sparkled.
"That'll be great. If it was Renie, he'd show me 'round a museum or library. I wanna go to an arcade or bowlin' alley though."
Why is this "Evil Spirit" such a commoner?
"By the way, Ichirou. 'Em three from before..."
"Oh. They were the protagonist and heroines...Yukimiya's companions. The one with the wooden sword is the 'Azure Dragon,' Aogasaki Rei. The Westerner with the scarlet hair is the 'Vermilion Bird,' Elmira McCartney. The pretty boy with the long hair is──the 'Yellow Dragon,' Hinomori Ryuuga."
"Oh~, so that fella's the 'Yellow Dragon' of today, ya say? What a looker. I wanna get an autograph."
When the "Evil Spirit" said those words unbefitting of the final boss, I decided to make a request. The bell already rang, but I planned on staying until the teacher arrives.
"Say, Tao. Humans and the 'Apostles of Hell' have been fighting for thousands of years. You know that, right?"
"So, it'll be difficult reconciling through talk alone. Even Hundun and Tie had to battle before reconciliation. You need to have that kind of persuasive power on your side."
"But, I've realized that nothin' can come from violence."
"Yeah. You're right. However, I want you to understand that by losing to Ryuga. I want you to learn from the protagonist's reprimanding."
"There ain't nothing for me to learn though."
"Yes. I know. That may be the case, but it's for the sake of the story."
"I'm sure we can come to an understandin' if we just talk it out."
"Yeah, but like I said..."
This isn't working. I'm not getting through to her.
Before I could continue, the homeroom teacher of class C arrived. Unfortunately, I was out of time.
I urged Tao to leave school as soon as possible and rushed towards class B. When I returned, Minegishi fortunately hadn't arrived yet.
(Good grief, Renie even told her not to attend school...hmm?)
The moment I walked into the classroom, I stopped before I could take my second step.
Since the teacher hadn't arrived yet, classmates still scattered around, chatting amongst each other. There was a great clamor of noise in the room.
Therein──near the window, at the corner of the classroom...
Two schoolboys faced each other at point-blank range.
They were the two protagonists I wanted to be friend characters of. Hinomori Ryuuga and Tenryouin Agito.
(W, why are they together? Furthermore, doesn't something seem strange?)
Though confused, I quickly rushed towards the two. I don't know what's going on, but my intuition tells me that this is bad. They obviously weren't acting friendly with each other.
Ryuuga stood, staring up at Agito with a gaze she rarely ever shows at school. On the other hand, Agito looked down at Ryuuga with his usual poker face.
...It seems that Agito approached Ryuuga and did something.
Though it's not strange for Ryuuga to have a bad impression of Agito, she wouldn't normally make that kind of glare to a classmate. What happened? Did he poke her rear or something?
"Hey Ryuga, Agito. Hold on, what's going so early in the morning? You two are putting up some pretty eerie faces, you know?"
When I tried to cut in with as cheerful of a voice as I could, Agito silently glanced at me. He had a subtly hostile gaze that was sharp like a sword.
"...Now then, Hinomori. I'm looking forward to tomorrow."
Before I could even ask about the situation, Agito immediately turned around.
While he returned to his seat, Ryuuga stared at his back with the same stern expression. She furrowed her brow and clenched her fists.
(This isn't something trivial...well, perhaps Elmira knows something?)
When I turned towards her crimson head while thinking so, she was fast asleep over her desk. What an unreliable vampire. Can't you cover for me when I'm not there!
"H, hey, Ryuga. What happened? Did Agito say something to you?"
When I reluctantly tried asking her, Ryuuga muttered something before long.
"...Ichirou, what should I do? This is bad."
"There is something that Tenryouin told me. He told me 'I know you're a woman.' Then, he went on to say 'In exchange for keeping that a secret, I have one request.'"
Agito saw through her? He found out that Ryuuga's a girl?
"H, how did you reply? Did you admit the truth?"
"Of course, I tried to dodge the question. Don't be stupid. However, he didn't listen...he seems confident that I'm a woman."
So Agito blackmailed her with that at stake? That's not what a protagonist does! What's going on, Agito?! Are you one of those people?!
"Ryuga. What was Agito's demand? It's not money, is it? He wouldn't stoop that low, right?"
I pressed for further information. Thereupon, Ryuuga's face became frightened for the first time.
After some brief hesitation, she sat down on her chair while seeming exhausted and spoke with a deep sigh.
"He said...he wanted a date tomorrow Sunday."
"Yeah. He said that if I needed to act like a guy at school, we would meet in private. He wants to speak with the real me."
My eyes widened upon hearing that. My mouth was agape and my body trembled like a phone on vibrate mode. Ironically, Hundun made that same reaction before as well.
Now I understand what that uncle was feeling when he heard that Kyouka was going on a date. It seems that people tremble like a vibrating phone when they're shocked.
"I'm sorry, Ichirou. He wouldn't let me refuse, and so I ended up having to say okay...but, don't worry. I convinced him to let you come with me."
I'm not sure how that's supposed to relieve me.
"I don't want to go on a date with anyone other than you...it would be so nice if I could convince my boyfriend to accompany me."
I'm not sure how this is supposed to convince me.
"In the first place, we promised to go on a date during Sunday. You were going to treat me to a cake restaurant and bowling."
Oh right. It's my fault that she got into this sour situation with Agito in the first place. This is happened because of my ploy to do double duty as a friend character.
(I already have a headache from dealing with Tao...)
While painfully realizing that my disloyalty came back to bite me, the homeroom teacher Minegishi arrived.