About thirty minutes passed.
Returning by train, I walked with sluggish steps, somehow reaching school.
I arrived during a break before third period, so my classmates had scattered themselves and spoke amongst each other.
Nobody reacted to me, indicating that perhaps the school nurse Hebizuka, aka Jyuri, gave everyone a subconscious suggestion. People seemed to think that I've been at school since the morning.
"Ichirou, you're late."
The moment I placed my bag near my seat, one slender boy walked towards me.
The pretty boy had a well-ordered appearance and tied the hair on the back of his head with black string...needless to say, it was Hinomori Ryuuga.
"Hey, Ryuga. Sorry that I couldn't go with you to Yukimiya's this morning."
"There's not much you can do when you have a stomach ache. Though, I'm relieved that you seem fine. Anyways..."
Ryuuga suddenly frowned and turned towards the edge of the room near the hallway.
Sure enough, there sat Tenryouin Agito. Well, I suppose she'd be worried...he and I did enter the campus at the same time.
"Why were you with Tenryouin? You shouldn't get along with him."
"W, we just happened to meet at the school gate. We weren't together for the whole time."
"That guy's an offensive pervert, okay? The extreme kind, you know?"
Understandably, Ryuuga's words were harsh. I already know about his behavior. He's been sending perverted e-mails to her each day.
Noticing Ryuuga's gaze, Agito saluted with two fingers.
In response to his showy gesture, Ryuuga stuck out her tongue and dragged me to the window. Don't stick your tongue out. You look like a girl when you do that.
(Well, she is a girl, after all...)
──Do you not feel anything? You're forcing Hinomori, a woman, to fight.──
Agito's words came to mind, making me feel terrible again. My guilt for Ryuuga continued to swell.
Oblivious to my guilt, Ryuuga leaned against the wall and crossed her arms. Lowering her volume so that nobody could hear us, she spoke in a serious tone.
"So Ichirou, I already told you about Shiori in the message I sent you, but...what do you think?"
"Y, you mean about the 'Evil Spirit' Taowu?"
"Yes. Shiori told us to leave it to her, but...I really think it's too dangerous. In the end, she's still facing an 'Evil Spirit.'"
Her worries were reasonable. It seems she was so worried about Yukimiya that she hardly slept last night. I heard that Aogasaki and Kurogame were the same.
As of now, the main characters have shifted their focus from Qiongqi to Tao. However, the one they should be wary of is that "Shota Evil Spirit," not the "Inelegant Evil Spirit."
(I suppose I shouldn't redirect their energy towards Qiongqi, should I...? If I do, I would just be leading Ryuga by the way of my ego, wouldn't I...?)
While still not recovering from my self-loathing, Ryuuga grumbled in a sad manner.
"Shiori's in great trouble, and yet Elle is there just sleeping..."
Following Ryuuga, I stared at Elmira to find that she was sleeping over her desk like usual. I could even hear her snoozing.
"She's also had a very lenient attitude in regards to the three princesses...does she even realize how serious the situation is?"
I know how you feel, but please forgive her. That vampire knows the other side of the story. Apart from Agito being "Qiongqi's vessel," that is.
Elmira needs to suppress Ryuuga's and the others' distrust of the three princesses.
She probably has her hands full with that task, so I'll hold back on telling her about Agito's true identity for now. I should let her focus on her mission without giving her any distractions.
"I tried checking the school infirmary, but Jyuri wasn't there. I wanted to question her about last night...does Tie know anything?"
"N, no. He's not really interested in what his subordinates do."
"Come to think of it, why were you in the cemetery last night, Ichirou?"
"I, I sensed a powerful ill will. I went to go see it, and you know the story from there."
"That cheetah apostle and beetle apostle must have been Taowu's subordinates, right?"
"Um, I heard them mention that they were part of the top eight and were Qiongqi's subordinates. It seems they're not related to Tao."
"Crap...d, don't worry about it! I just wanted to try using a pseudonym! You know, to avoid any mix up with Taotie!"
Ryuuga continued to question me, leaving me in a state of internal panic. Please stop. Don't ask anymore. My cover's going to be blown soon. Or rather, it already has.
Fortunately, Ryuuga stopped after saying "Tao sounds too cute."
Returning to the main topic, she once again stared at me. Her long eyelashes, her small lips, her slender jaw...seeing her up close made me fully aware of her being a girl.
"Anyways, I think that the issue we should focus on is──Shiori."
"I can't just leave her alone, knowing that an 'Evil Spirit' possesses her. Her butler Sebastian's been constantly worried about her illness..."
I'm also worried about him. I mean that in a different sense though.
Renie, acting on behalf of Tao, showed interest in an alliance with Qiongqi. I'm worried about what kind of forced measures he might take if he realizes that he can't convince Tao.
(The three princesses are taking turns guarding Yukimiya. Even Renie should have trouble interfering. It might be a bother having apostles come uninvited to the Yukimiya residence though...)
After some time, the bell rang.
Everyone returned to their seats as class began, as did I. English class, taught by the homeroom teacher Minegishi, took up third period.
"Well Ryuga, let's talk later."
"Sure. Actually, I have one more personal concern, but...I'll talk about during the next break."
"Oh, it's not that big of a deal. Don't worry too much about it."
After acknowledging by saying "I understand," I went back to my seat for the time being.
I'm not sure what this concern is, but if the protagonist's consulting me about it, I suppose I'll see what I can do.
After all, I am Ryuuga's "friend character." The less important of a problem it is, the more actively I should be involved in it.
(Could it be her chest? Did she grow out of an E-cup? Or could it be that Agito's acting indecently again?)
When I peeked at Agito, our eyes made contact. His eyes seemed to tell me "Don't be so over-familiar with my Hinomori."
(Well, I'll know by the next break. I don't need to spend time guessing.)
However, Ryuuga's concern soon became clear.
Unexpectedly, I found out about it during third period.
It would...prove to be troublesome for me, Agito, and even the rest of the boys in the class.
"Class is canceled. The school festival is near and we should be using this time for planning."
When third period began, Minegishi announced as such, making for an irregular homeroom.
Class B gave cries of joy and quickly closed their English textbooks. Soon enough, a boy and girl stood up and came to the front of the blackboard and took control of the class.
They were Higuchi and Tooyama. They were part of the school festival action committee.
"Everyone, So far, we have the general theme of a 'maid cafe,' but we hardly have any concrete plans."
"If we don't put our backs into it, things will turn sour for us. The other classes are already beginning to move."
Right. To be honest, class B was considerably behind.
How many maid outfits do we prepare? How many coffee beans do we get? Which of the girls will be maids? We still haven't formed any answers to those questions. That would certainly worry the homeroom teacher, Minegishi.
(Now that I think about it, despite how hectic the story's been...wasn't it bad to neglect the school festival event?)
This battle story also has its "school scenes."
Sports festivals, school festivals, and field trips make for classic episodes...I've heard that such episodes are well-received. I can't afford to ignore this demand.
These are the sorts of things a friend character does their best at. They take center stage during the daily life part.
Was I so distracted with adjusting the story that I forgot about my important job?
(Qiongqi won't do anything this week either. I'm certainly worried about Tao and Renie, but I would be getting my priorities backwards if I ignore the school festival.)
It's not too late now. I'll enliven this school event.
I can't make the protagonist's class appear sloppy when they're in the spotlight. I'll show off my skills as a friend character. Isn't that right, Mitsuhiko?! Nakajima?! That one glasses kid who's friends with Maruko?!TLNMitsuhiko is a friend character in the Detective Conan series (as I've mentioned before). Nakajima likely refers to Nakajima Hiroshi, a minor character from the series Sazae-san. The glasses kid refers to Honami Tamae, best friend of the protagonist in the series Chibi Maruko-chan.
"Alright! Let me state my opinion!"
...That being the case, I energetically spoke up. Just like a bossy leader.
"If you think about how much time we have, we should limit ourselves to five maid outfits! We should buy coffee beans from the supermarket immediately! Cookies alone are enough for the food menu! We're only making a mock shop for high schoolers! The point is to make our customers know that we have schoolgirls working as maids!"
With my proposals adopted, the meeting proceeded smoothly. ...However, at the very end, we faced a very troublesome problem.
It was the question of "who should be the maids?"
"Here! I want Hinomori to be a maid!"
Satou cheerfully raised his hand.
Thereupon, several boys followed suit, saying "I agree!", "It'll work with Hinomori!", and "I want him to pad his chest!" out loud.
Furthermore, the girls also joined in, saying "I also want to see that," "Hinomori has a girly face, doesn't he?", and "Wouldn't he be a better fit than you?"
Of course, Ryuuga was shaken. Her lips trembled as the "Hinomori maid proposal" received unanimous approval.
"How about it, Hinomori? Now that everyone's on board, will you be a maid?"
After being asked by Higuchi, a member of the action committee, Ryuuga's expression shifted and she stood up from her chair.
"H, hold on, everyone. Why is a guy like me being a maid...? Someone like Elle would be better."
Elmira herself was still sleeping.
She was completely indifferent to the class' plan and to the protagonist's crisis. She had a lax expression while she mumbled to herself in her sleep.
"Of course, we can have Elmira be a maid as well. I think that would make you and her the two figureheads of the event. Please, it's for the class."
Action committee member Tooyama similarly pleaded, causing Ryuuga's cheeks to twitch. Immediately following, her gaze turned towards me, asking for help.
...At that moment, I had guessed it.
No doubt, this was the "personal concern" Ryuuga mentioned.
(It doesn't take much thinking to figure it out. That guy and I should both know...)
Didn't Agito mention this earlier? The class had a "certain plan." This was the reason for the cease-fire.
I know, Ryuuga. It's my duty to cover for you.
Leave this to me, so that I can wash away my feelings of guilt!
"Wait, everyone. We shouldn't just thoughtlessly──"
The moment, I stood up...
"I also want Hinomori to, by all means, be a maid."
That guy stood up and spoke, as if to interrupt me.
Near the end of the room stood Tenryouin Agito, the transfer student who up until now, pretended to read as if he had nothing to do with us.
"There is naught but an individual more suited for a maid than Hinomori. It would be no exaggeration to say that the success of the mock store lies in this requisite."
The classmates were amazed by Agito's unusually eloquent tongue.
Indeed. This is the first time he's shown a positive attitude about anything since transferring schools half a month ago. It's especially surprising given the topic.
(Still, I can't back down.)
Truthfully, I know better than anyone that a maid outfit would look good on Ryuuga. I mean, a nurse, qipao, and bunny girl outfit look good on her as well.
After all, cosplay is Ryuuga's hobby. All she does at home is dress up. As an aside, I'd like to mention that I love bunny Ryuuga's tail-end. I love her navel as well.
I'll need to raise my voice in this losing battle against Agito. From the corner of my eye, I could spot Ryuuga sending me a passionate gaze that said "Do your best!"
"I want to ask the girls. If you let Ryuga, a guy, be a maid, what does that mean for you? Do you have any pride? This is the previous event where you can wear maid──"
However, the perverted gentleman in the white outfit immediately objected.
"These events are precisely why we should attempt new things. A male maid...splendid, isn't it? It would be more interesting than a simple maid cafe."
Of course, Agito didn't openly state that Ryuuga was a girl. Instead, he focused on him wanting to see maid Ryuuga. He's a man devoted to his desires.
"Alright then, Agito. In that case, I'll be the maid. I'll even let you stick some pads onto my chest."
"Do that on your own. There's no reason why Hinomori shouldn't be a maid. If you think it's unfair, then...how about we have the maids be nothing but boys?"
The boys immediately made an uproar upon hearing Agito's preposterous suggestion.
On the other hand, the girls showed interest.
...How stubborn. Does he want Ryuuga to be a maid that badly?!
"Don't be absurd, Agito! What are you going to do with Ogura, for example?! He weighs a hundred kilograms! He's also got a natural afro!"
"That doesn't matter. Having that kind of maid would be interesting."
Being mentioned, Ogura scratched his cheek in embarrassment while saying "Heheheh," for some reason.
That unkempt hair's like a sea of trees. Fly corpses fell out of that hair before. I also tried hiding a 100 yen coin in there. I never got it back.
"If you're so keen on it, how about you?! If we're adopting this idea, you'll have to be a maid yourself!"
"That doesn't matter. I'll do it."
"It should matter to you! At least be a bit hesitant!"
"All people have the potential to be a maid. I am no exception."
"What kind of mindset is that?! Are you okay with ruining the cool character you've made yourself out to be?!"
"That doesn't matter. To quote Nietzsche...'Don't give up the maid in your soul.'"
"He never said that!"
...For a while, the violent debate continued.
In the end, I lost. The boys' maid plan was adopted.
The reason was that most of the girls favored Agito. They said "That means we not only get to see Hinomori as a maid, but Tenryouin too, right?" to themselves. The final nail in the coffin was when Minegishi said "That sounds fun, doesn't it?" and approved it.
"Alright. Then class B will do a boys' maid cafe. All the boys will take part, but since we only have five outfits, there will be shifts."
"That's right. Should we decide on shifts based on body size? That way, we can avoid a situation where multiple people with the same outfit size are working the same shift."
Thereafter, Higuchi and Tooyama quickly put together the details. Seriously, Higuchi. You get to avoid this shameful event since you'll be busy with the action committee on the day of the school festival...!
When I looked at Ryuuga, sure enough, she was at her wits' end.
(I'm sorry, Ryuga. I just didn't have enough power to stop Agito's evil scheme...)
Also, Ogura, the one who weighed a hundred kilograms, was exempt from being a maid. He was the only one with an extremely large body, and a headband would be unstable on his afro.
Though at this point, it doesn't matter.