After that, Ryuuga and I went on secret dates after school.
Our secret meeting place was basically just Ryuuga’s house. That was so we could avoid public attention while she was flirting with me, and also so she could do her fashion shows.
I have to do something──I know I do, but no measures come to mind. On the contrary, when seeing Ryuuga in sailor uniforms, school swimsuits, and miniskirt Santa outfits, I’ve sort of come to look forward to the cosplay somehow.
Even as a female protagonist, Ryuuga’s appeal doesn’t change. Actually, I feel like it’s increased because of her breasts.
(Not good! I shouldn’t allow this! I shouldn’t be conscious of Ryuuga as a woman! That’s really going to hasten the process of me taking on the boyfriend role! I have to do something before it’s too late!)
Such is the result of suffering this and that for several days.
At present, I’ve decided to enact the “strategy to disillusion Ryuuga and return to our former relationship.”
The contents of the strategy are as the name suggests. First, I’ll appear as uncool, repulsive, and hopeless in order to disgust Ryuuga. Then afterwards, I’ll inch my way back to the position of a friend character…or something like that.
(Just you wait and see, Ryuga. I’ll make you realize how despicable and indecent I can be!)
However, there was one big hole in this strategy. When thinking about it carefully, there’s the matter of “Isn’t that the same as how I was up until this point?”
Sure enough, the strategy failed. It didn’t work on Ryuuga.
“Ryuga, pose like a leopardess.”
“Ryuga, let me sniff your armpits.”
“Ryuga, step on me with high heels.”
No matter how much I kept pushing the envelope, Ryuuga complied. Or rather, she seemed to be enjoying it.
Making no progress with this strategy, I decided to halt since I realized that I was only digging my grave.
(Ah crap…isn’t this completely like what a boyfriend would do?! Aren’t I like a boyfriend being in high spirits?!)
After having gone this far, I can’t say “Let’s be good friends,” now. If I said such a thing, I would be as terrible as the “Apostles of Hell.”
Something also worth noting is that the “Apostles of Hell” haven’t been appearing recently. Hiding themselves at such times like these…they’re completely unforgivable.
Thanks to that, there’s been more cosplay scenes than battle scenes.
I definitely want to ask the opinion of the “Dragon God” on this matter.
I want to ask “Your host has been running wild more often than you, is that okay?” Even so, the──
“Don’t worry, Ichirou. If it’s about Ron, he completely supports me.”
The “Dragon King” had surrendered already before I even knew it.
Ryuuga’s now able to freely act according to her intentions.
Furthermore, he reflects the image of its host and takes on the appearance of a comical chibi dragon during times of peace. He sits cutely on Ryuuga’s shoulder, just like a certain electric mouse sitting atop of a boy named Ash.
(What the heck…)
Is it hopeless at this point? At this rate, am I going to have to settle for a semi-boyfriend position? Am I going to have to take double eyelid surgery? Where the heck is this story heading towards?
Turbulent, dark clouds hung over my mind.
However, at that point in time, I still hadn’t reached rock bottom yet.
I never expected that something even worse was waiting for me…it really wasn’t something I could have predicted.
It happened on Thursday.
That day, I left the Hinomori residence after doing an “idol chase scene skit” with Ryuuga.
Lamp by lamp, the street lights began to shine, and I was in a barren alley at the evening. I was trudging along with my shoulders slumped over.
…She had flirted plenty with me today as well.
It was about our future child’s name, and it developed into a light argument. We ran into conflict when Ryuuga claimed “Any name is fine,” while I claimed “It has to be a unique name.”
(What am I doing! Isn’t this relationship becoming more real?!)
I reprimanded myself while heading home. It’s kinda miserable how that’s become common for me now.
Should I give up? Should my passion for “friend characters” be just that? Should I apologize to Ishida and the others for having them be test subjects in the past?
(The idea of disillusioning her wasn’t bad, it’s just that I made a mistake in the means to do so. Ryuga likes the way I’ve been up until this point, so if I instead turn into a charming, overly serious man…)
While thinking of such things, I approached a small park.
On a bench I could see over the garden fence, one girl sitting there had caught my attention.
It was the former heroine/candidate, Yukimiya Shiori.
She hadn’t returned home yet, and was still in her uniform. Her long hair fluttered in the wind, and it seemed like she was idling while lost in thought.
Yukimiya turned over to my direction in reaction to my voice.
Since I ended up letting out a voice, it’d be awkward to just keeping on walking. I reluctantly crossed over the fence and took a roundabout path to Yukimiya.
“What’s wrong? You’re alone in such a place like th──”
I ceased my words there.
I noticed a stray cat curled up into a ball on her lap.
“This child injured its hind legs, so I’m healing them.”
Yukimiya Shiori, “The Shrine Maiden of Life,” is a girl who holds an unusual ability of healing.
Along with her household being ancient, her power is one that’s been handed down along the family. However, with it’s manifestation being in shrine maidens, the supernatural ability can only happen in girls. It seems that the probability of a user is only one person per generation.
If I remember correctly, Aogasaki’s and Elmira’s abilities are inherited. It seems that their bloodlines and family lineages may indeed be important for having main characters.
“You give treatment to stray cats? You really are kind, Yukimiya.”
“The only thing I can do is support, after all.”
Though she was smiling, Yukimiya’s words showed signs of self-deprecation. That’s not like her normal self.
It’s getting more and more difficult to ignore this. Ryuuga doesn’t really have sights on Yukimiya, so getting a little involved should be okay.
“This might just be a bad guess, but…are you perhaps bothered by your position during battle?”
“…You’re perceptive, aren’t you, Kobayashi?”
Yukimiya gave another broad smile while petting the stray cat.
As expected of an idol-like existence in the school. Even her bitter smile is very elegant. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that one in five schoolboys would be charmed by her.
There was a silence for a brief while. Eventually, Yukimiya made a small sigh before speaking.
“I’ve got no fighting power compared to Rei, Elmira, and of course, Hinomori. I can more or less strengthen physical ability, but I can’t hold out on my own against something at the level of an apostle…so in battles, I often just assist.”
Come to think of it, that’s how it was when they were fighting the octopus apostle at the riverbed. Despite how it looks, I think she plays an indispensable role, though.
“So, I’ve been thinking about it recently. I’m wondering if I’m even useful. Or maybe I’m just holding everyone back.”
“Yukimiya, you can weaken the movements of the apostles, right?”
“Even if I don’t use that power, everyone can still beat the apostles. Hinomori can even heal by himself…I don’t even have to be there…”
Yukimiya hunched over, just like the stray cat sleeping on her lap.
…I see. So she’s in turmoil as well about her own position, about her role.
I don’t think I can push this aside as someone else’s problem. I really want to encourage her now.
“Look, Yukimiya. Isn’t it that Ryuuga and the others can win against any kind of apostle because they can concentrate solely of offense?”
“Doesn’t it mean that if you’re there when they get injured, they can feel a large sense of security?”
“But, if it’s about healing, then Hinomori can do that too.”
“Ryuga’s healing isn’t as good as yours. Furthermore, there’s the chanting to focus on. The other day, Ryuga told me ‘I have to concentrate to heal. It creates a weak point, so I don’t want to use it at all if possible.'”
It’s true. Even Ryuuga has her strengths and weaknesses, and healing is the ability she’s weakest at…she told me that with a serious face. She was wearing gym bloomers at the time as well.
“Listen, Yukimiya. Each person has their own role. There’s no need for you to be on the front lines. So you don’t need to go fighting. “Battle strength” and “battle ability” are not the same thing.”
“Your companions can fight without worrying about injuries because you’re there in the back. Also, when ordinary people get dragged in, they can entrust things to you. In other words, you, Yukimiya Shiori──support Ryuga and the others by “healing” not just in a physical sense, but also in a mental sense by giving them ‘peace of mind!'”
‘What am I doing’…is what I said in my mind, but Yukimiya silently listened to my speech.
“Be confident, Yukimiya. You’re “The Shrine Maiden of Life”…you’re blessed with life, you’re a user of an compassionate ability. Isn’t that a wonderful power?”
“Don’t make light of the sub-roles. There are people who value you highly. At the very least, there’s one right here.”
Then, Yukimiya suddenly burst into laughter.
Did I go overboard on my fervent speech? I start to get really passionate when it comes to talking about supporting roles. In the first place, she’s a main character, so I suppose that it’d be natural if she wanted to participate more actively.
“Sorry, Yukimiya. It seems I talked a bit too mu──”
“Even Hinomori didn’t say something like that to me.”
Yukimiya unexpectedly made a reply, causing me to let out a weird voice.
At that moment, the stray cat abruptly got up. It pounced out of Yukimiya’s lap and darted off.
“Ha ha. It seems that child got better, just like I did.”
Yukimiya got up from the bench and stared straight at me.
Judging by her refreshed expression, it seems that the encouragement was a success, but…something about the atmosphere feels off. It sort of feels like some kind of romantic background music would be playing right about now, for instance.
“Thank you, Kobayashi. You’re right. I have my own role…thanks to you, I can keep going from tomorrow.”
“O, oh. How nice.”
“My perception of you has greatly changed.”
“No. You’re just being delusional.”
“I don’t think so. I understand why Hinomori trusts you now. It seems like you’re a much better person than I am at support.”
“Um, well then, I think I’ll be heading…”
“If you don’t mind, could I come to you for advice in the future?”
While bowing, Yukimiya just said something outrageous. She’s a shrine maiden that doesn’t normally listen to what people say.
“Kobayashi, your words have a marvelous philanthropic power to them. Surely that comes from a heart of compassion…just like what the source of my power comes from, a pure spirit.”
“T, that’s not it…”
Not good. I was carried away and got too involved. I’m digging my grave even further!
“H, hold on Yukimiya. You’re just exhausted.”
“I look forward to your support and encouragement from now on. However, I’d like to keep these talks between us a secret if you can…I don’t want everyone to think that I’m weak.”
“I don’t want in on this! I don’t want to be a part of this!”
“If it’s you, it’ll be fine, Kobayashi. I feel like I don’t need to be shy with you, and I can talk about anything. I wonder──what’s happening to me?”
Yukimiya’s cheeks took on a slightly crimson color.
Hey! You’re being a bit too easy to get! Your fans will decrease! You’re supposed to support the mentality of your companions and yet, you’re tearing away at my mentality!
(This is dangerous. At this rate, the number of people I’m holding secret meetings with will increase…!)
I’m going to be keeping secrets not only with Ryuuga, but also with Yukimiya. I won’t be able to hit the brakes with how much I’m steering off-course. Ryuuga might dig me a grave.
What do I do? Should I try saying “Breasts are the best! Yahoo!” while jumping up and down? Would that not break my flag with Yukimiya?
No, that wouldn’t do. Right now I’m “the female protagonist’s semi-boyfriend.” At least, during this period, I shouldn’t rashly commit acts of perversion.
Just like last time…it seems I have to go with a change in course once more.
“Say, Yukimiya. I suppose we can’t act like what occurred just now never happened, right?”
“Nope. You’re already my exclusive advisor now.”
“Don’t you have Sebastian!”
“Sebastian has been taking time off since last week because of abdominal pain.”
“You definitely fed him something! Anyways, I’m not one to give people advice!”
“Of course, I know that this is a selfish request. So as an apology and as gratitude, I’ll give you my own special beef stroganoff, Kobayashi.”
“That’s what’s causing Sebastian’s abdominal pain!”
“But, I won’t let you eat me. Hee hee.”
“Stop it! I’m a bit worried about that wickedness from you!”
After that, Yukimiya, having forcibly obtained my cellphone number and email address, left with light steps while in high spirits.
As for me, I sat at the bench she was just at and was at a loss for a while.
(How did things turn out this way…)
The situation got worse. Ryuuga was already giving me a headache, but now a compassionate ability user is going to mercilessly trouble me as well.
In front of my feeble line of sight was the stray cat leisurely washing its face.