Ryuuga and the others arrived at the entertainment facility in about five minutes.
Ryuuga and Agito took an escalator to the third floor, unaware that I was observing from a hidden spot in the second floor arcade. Taking advantage of the gap, I switched places with Taotie and exchanged our cash.
"Alright, Tie. Sorry to do this, but take care of Tao for me."
"There's only have 500 yen left?"
"Yeah. She's been to the claw machine, so there's only the photo booth left."
"Bummer...why is it like this for us 'Evil Spirits'...?"
Telling the dejected Taotie "I'll buy you a video game next time," I rushed to the bowling alley on the third floor. I grieved over my tightening financial situation.
Once I got up the escalator, I soon found Ryuuga. Agito seemingly went to the restroom, leaving her to stand alone by a wall.
Once I approached her with an innocent look, Ryuuga saw through my identity in a moment.
"Oh, Ichirou. Is your stomach okay?"
"Y, yeah. Sorry for leaving you back there, Ryuga."
"You should be sorry. I was so worried. I had to hear to him prattle on about some incomprehensible music talk...Rei might like those metal songs though."
"I have another thing to apologize about, Ryuga. To tell the truth, due to circumstances beyond my control, my wallet is awfully empty. Is it alright if I just watch you guys bowl?"
"Is that so? Then, how about I cover the costs? You can pay for me when the two of us go on a date next──"
Suddenly, Ryuuga stopped speaking. It seems that something popped into her mind.
"Oh, let's do this."
"Let's have a game against Tenryouin with the both of us as a pair! If we do that, we only take up the fee for one person!"
"No wait, you see..."
"We can drive away that nuisance through the bond of lovers! Let me check with the reception if we can do it! While I'm at it, I'll sign us up!"
Ryuuga rushed towards the reception desk with haste.
She also called Agito a nuisance.
Though, I can't help but feel that I'm the nuisance here...
Ryuuga's proposal was feasible, turning the bowling game into a two-on-one match.
"I don't consent. If we're forming pairs, Hinomori and I should be on a team. This just kills my motivation."
Agito was quite dissatisfied with the proposal. He wanted to pair up with Ryuuga as badly as I wanted to pair up with him during PE class.
"I already signed us up, so no complaining. Now then, I'll do the first turn!"
With neat movements, Ryuuga immediately got a strike.
I eagerly applauded and Agito also seemed impressed.
"Hmm, just as I expected from my promising woman."
"I'm a guy."
Ryuuga sat beside me while sticking her tongue out. Stop that, Ryuuga. You're making yourself look like a girl.
...After that, the game proceeded without a hitch.
(As expected of the protagonists. They're faultless, even when it's just a recreational activity.)
I was astonished seeing Ryuuga and Agito get strikes each time. Yet at the same time, I was constantly worried about the arcade on the second floor.
(I wonder if Tie and Tao are getting along well...? If I remember correctly, when 'Evil Spirits' see each other, it would normally result in conflict.)
Well, the circumstances have changed since the old days. Taotie also mentioned something the other day. He said that it was basically Hundun, Qiongqi, and him who had a bad relationship. Tao wasn't really part of it.
"...Tenryouin is putting up quite a fight. I originally wanted to beat him by leaps and bounds."
When Ryuuga whispered into my ear, our touching shoulders in the process, I stopped zoning out and nodded along.
Agito was about to enter his seventh turn and still hasn't missed once. In other words, he scored six consecutive strikes...also known as a six pack. Though, it was the same with us.
(Since it's my turn next, I wonder if I should make a mistake soon...I feel bad for Ryuga, but I am a friend character. A gutterball might be overdoing it, so I'll just knock down a single pin.)
That's my special technique, a "hair trim." Normally, I would have Ryuuga win by even a single pin, but since I'm paired with her, I have no choice.
While I'm on this topic, knocking down three pins is called a "mohawk." I am a "bowling beautician" who can freely produce such results. During middle school, I polished up my technique while making a pro bowler out of a kid named Kisumoto.
(It's not like there's anything at stake with this game. I can just give this win to Agito. That should cheer him up a bit.)
While I was forming my wicked scheme, I heard Taotie's voice inside my head.
(Boss! It's an emergency! This is bad!)
(W, what happened, Tie?! Did you run out of cash?!)
(Not that! Yukimiya woke up! Yukimiya turned into Yukimiya and sent back Tao!)
I didn't understand what he meant for a second, but soon understood.
...Why now? Why did Yukimiya have to come out at this time?! She's definitely going to be confused! She won't know why she's in an arcade!
(I understand! I'll head over there! Swap places with me again!)
After telling Ryuuga "My stomach's getting worse again," I made a beeline for the arcade.
For some reason, my stomach actually started to hurt.
I passed by Taotie on the escalator, entrusting him with the third floor, and headed towards the second floor myself.
Sure enough, Yukimiya stood in front of a racing game cabinet with a dumbfounded look. She carried a furoshiki on her back and held a giant tuna cushion in her arms.
"Y, Yukimiya! Are you alright?!"
As I rushed over, the "Shrine Maiden of Life" stared at me and let out a voice. Just as I thought, she didn't seem to know what was going on.
"Um, where am I? Why am I here...?"
It would currently be unwise to tell her everything.
I'll reveal Tao's existence once the situation calms down.
Telling her the truth would also mean telling her about Sebastian's true identity. That being the case, I need to consult Renie in advance and get his permission.
So, I reluctantly decided to bluff my way through for now.
"C, come on, Yukimiya. You came here to the arcade with me, didn't you? You said that you wanted to use the claw machine."
"Arcade...? I said that? To you?"
Yukimiya, who naturally had no memory of such a thing, stared at the giant tuna cushion she held to her chest. After about ten seconds, she looked up at me while seeming to contemplate something.
"Kobayashi, Recently, I've been...strange."
"I've frequently been having gaps in my memory, like you see now...This is actually the main reason why I've been absent from school, it's not just sickness."
So she also knew that something strange happened to her?
I suppose she can't help but worry about that. Now that it's come to this, I should just tell her the truth as soon as possible. Keeping this up indefinitely will only harm Yukimiya's body and sanity.
"Kobayashi, I'm scared. I feel like someone I don't know is inside me..."
Yukimiya clutched my sleeve tightly and spoke with a weak voice.
I tried to answer her in a calm tone to dispel her fear.
"Yukimiya. The truth is, I know. I know what's happening to you."
"Of course, I planned on telling you when the time was right. However, that requires a bit of preparation...so I'd like you to wait two or three days if possible."
"You know what's happening to me...?"
Yukimiya sat on a chair nearby, repeating my words. I held the furoshiki and tuna for her.
"Yeah. This is something Ryuga and the others don't know yet. All I can say now is that it's nothing to be frightened about. I'll take responsibility and figure about how to handle the situation."
"I will definitely solve your problem. So, can you place your trust in me?"
"...I understand. If that's what you say, then I'll comply. You are my 'exclusive advisor,' after all."
Seeing Yukimiya nod, I felt relieved. She's a much better girl than the "Evil Spirit" dwelling within her.
For a moment, I was worried about what would happen, but perhaps it's good that Tao withdrew. Now I can give Sebastian a call and have him pick her up...or at least I thought.
"Well, the gal sure gave me a scare. Shiori woke up out of nowhere."
Yukimiya suddenly spoke in an inelegant way. Furthermore, she sat cross-legged on top of the chair.
"Hey! Don't come out!"
"Well, even if I do the switcheroo here, the most it'll do is just confuse her. I oughta take responsibility and send her home."
"What are your true intentions?"
"We ain't done the photo booth yet."
Tao's careless smile made me feel dizzy.
(Boss! Another serious matter!)
Tao informed me of another emergency, this time at the bowling alley.
(What now? Did Ryuga succeed even with the 'hair trim'?)
(Not that! The four gods! Aogasaki, Elmira, and Kurogame happened to come to the bowling alley! Tenryouin's surrounded by women!)
That's definitely a serious matter. I didn't think that the main characters on Ryuuga's side would gather here!
(Furthermore, they looked at me and said 'Huh, Taotie?' to my face! My cover's been blown completely! Ryuuga's delighted to see everyone arrive! Tenyrouin's super-pissed!)
(I'll head over there at once! Let's swap places again!)
After telling Tao to stay still, I dashed towards the escalator once more.
I want to go home already.