It was the next day. The battle against Getsushiyoukan was set for tomorrow in the afternoon.
In order to clean up after the mess Taotie made during his speech and conduct, I headed towards the Aogasaki residence. When I sent a message to her in advance, she unfortunately sent a cheerful reply of “I’ll be waiting in front of the gate!”
(If I could only get her to drop the whole matter of the kiss…maybe I can break the flag if I ask to rub her breasts instead…)
──Last night, I gathered Taotie and the three princesses into the living room for a lecture. I told them “You guys have recently been acting out of line.”
“Well Ichirou, you’re not letting me bear your child.”
“Well Ichirou, you’re not unzipping your pants for me.”
“Well Baron Ichirou, you’re not buying a new figure for me.”
“I’m only one guy! One guy…! Gyaaah! Why am I the one being blamed now?!”
However, I made no progress, so I decided to hold back on scolding them. This must be what it’s like when the Hanshin Tigers face six consecutive defeats.
(I’ll leave that matter aside and focus on Aogasaki for now. *sigh*…I had plans to meet with Ryuga today…it’s been a while since she’s done a cosplay show.)
I wondered if she would pout about the fact that I’ll have to refuse her invitation…and while worrying about such things, I arrived at the Aogasaki residence.
“H, hey Kobayashi. I was waiting for you.”
Aogasaki stood in front of the gate, just as she said in the message. Unlike yesterday, she was in her uniform.
She leaned against the gatepost while her arms were crossed behind her back, fidgeting. She glanced at my face from time to time and then looked away as if bashful. She’s quite easy to read.
“Sorry about meeting up when the competition is right around the corner, Aogasaki…”
“Don’t worry. I’m sorry for appearing in this getup. Since my father is here today, I can’t dress stylishly. He’s not much of a person who understands fashion.”
I only heard this recently, but it seems that Aogasaki has only her father.
Her mother passed away from an illness long ago. That’s probably why her father is worried about the future of his only daughter.
“No, that’s not a problem. I’m glad that your father’s here.”
“If you’re okay with it, do you want to meet him? My father also wants to see you, Kobayashi.”
“H, he wants to meet me?”
“It seems that he wants to apologize to you for being involved in the conditions Asao gave.”
Why is he apologizing to me?! How is this an introduction?!
“W, wait Aogasaki! You see, my appearance is a bit sloppy today! I also don’t want to overstay my welcome for the sake of the event tomorrow!”
“I, is that so? Well, perhaps it is a bit too early. It probably won’t be too late for greetings even after you present your sword skills during the competition…oh, by the way, Kobayashi.”
Aogasaki’s expression suddenly stiffened as she asked a question with a stern face.
“Has Mion appeared since that day?”
I was startled on the inside after hearing Aogasaki speak the name of her rival.
“No, not at all after we left the pool…”
“Is that so? To think that apostle could just suddenly vanish.”
Actually, I’ve been seeing her everyday and she’s been managing my house, but I can’t say that, of course.
Though, it’s likely something I won’t be able to hide forever. Sooner or later, I’ll have to convey that “the three princesses have been living at my home.” A good time would be when Ryuuga and Taotie have reconciled.
“Even if she does appear, it’ll be fine. The three princesses were ordered by Taotie to refrain from causing harm to humanity.”
“That’s nice, but…there’s one other thing about her that’s on my mind.”
“W, what would that be?”
“Looking back at it now, I feel that──Mion’s taken an interest in you, Kobayashi.”
“If that’s the case, then perhaps we’re fated to battle against each other. What do you think, Kobayashi?”
If she’s bringing that up, then Aogasaki would also be fated to battle against Ryuuga.
If I don’t handle things well, then it’s possible that Yukimiya and Elmira will also take part in the war. I’d like to prevent such a nonsensical battle for a sub-character.
“Anyways, we can continue this in my room. Now then Kobayashi, please come in.”
At that moment, there was a person who suddenly called out Aogasaki’s name from the distance.
Upon looking, there was a young man walking towards us from across the road. He had a rough attire, wearing a polo shirt and jeans, and seemed like a high school student.
While seeming uneasy, Aogasaki muttered towards the young man who soon appeared before us.
Kazuhiko? Who’s that? This is the first time I’ve heard that name.
For some reason, Kazuhiko has been glaring at me for a while. After Miyamoto, this is the second time someone stared daggers at me as soon as we met.
“U, um, have we met before…?”
Ignoring me, Kazuhiko interrogated Aogasaki as if to criticize her.
“Rei. You’re with this guy again? You even went on a date with him yesterday. You even linked arms.”
…Does that mean he was also at the cafe? Seeing how angry he is, could he be a fan of Aogasaki? Perhaps a stalker?
Seeing my bewilderment, Aogasaki briefly introduced him.
“This is Tanaka Kazuhiko. He’s going to be participating on the side of Getsushiyoukan in the competition tomorrow.”
…Ah, that Tanaka?!
The one who used to be at the Aogasaki dojo and was Aogasaki’s childhood friend, that mob Tanaka?
Despite being introduced, Tanaka stared fixedly at Aogasaki.
Just as I had guessed, he’s a plain guy with no special characteristics. Since I heard that he as a girlfriend, now I’m the one who wants to glare at him.
“Rei. Are you actually training?”
Tanaka, suddenly asking that question, caused Aogasaki to blink and go “Huh?”
“Of course I am. Why are you asking that?”
“Do you even have the time to practice when you’re constantly meeting up with a guy?”
Aogasaki was troubled by his reaction. Of course, I was as well.
What is it that he’s saying? Why is the guy who left after saying “the Aogasaki dojo is a bad environment” worried about her at this point?
“You went to a pool with this guy a while ago. You held hands with him on the way back home.”
“Even before that, you went to a fashion mall with him at a neighboring prefecture. You even had dinner together.”
Hey, Tanaka! Why do you know about all of that?! That’s creepy! Could it be that you like Aogasaki?! Don’t you have a girlfriend?!
“Rei…what happened to you? Why did you become like that?”
While Aogasaki and I backed away from him, Tanaka clenched both of his fists while quivering.
“I don’t accept this. You’re not that kind of person, Rei. The Aogasaki Rei who I admired, who I yearned for…is not someone who would wear that kind of clothing with a smile!”
…At last, I realized a bit of what was going on.
In summary, Tanaka really is a fan of Aogasaki. No wait, perhaps it would be more accurate to call him a devotee. He was charmed by Aogasaki Rei as a swordswoman, not as a girl.
(I was like that before…seeing Aogasaki as the epitome of a “swordswoman.” However, Tanaka has it worse than me since he held that preconception for over six years.)
Aogasaki could also sense the meaning of Tanaka’s words.
After quietly taking a breath, she spoke bluntly towards Tanaka, who exposed his resentment.
“That’s also part of who I am. Did you misjudge me?”
“Yeah, I misjudged you! The Rei I knew was a respectable woman of the sword! I know nothing about who Rei is now! Why are you with that kind of guy…even when y, you’re supposed to marry Asao?!”
I was taken aback the moment I heard him shout.
(Could it be that he left the Aogasaki dojo──because of me?)
I heard about Tanaka’s transfer to Getsushiyoukan the other day. It probably happened in the beginning of summer vacation. In other words…when Aogasaki and I got closer and started meeting each other more often.
Perhaps to Tanaka, I’m unfit to be Aogasaki’s lover.
Maybe he sees me as a seducer who’s corrupting her, hindering her from “the path of the sword.”
“Rei, you’re a prodigy of the sword…I know that better than anyone…”
“As of now, you’ve gone astray. There are only children in the dojo, and even the instructor is planning to retire. It would be better for you to come to Getsushiyoukan. Focus on preserving your dojo, you shouldn’t let your skills get rusty!”
“Don’t say such selfish things! Tanaka!”
There, I spontaneously objected to Tanaka.
Sure, I acknowledge that I’m not a suitable guy for Aogasaki. However, what Tanaka’s saying is too selfish.
Aogasaki Rei was never just a swordswoman. That’s just a character who Tanaka, I, and everyone else had arbitrarily decided on!
“Aogasaki is the one who gets to decide who she is! At the very least, I know the more of Aogasaki’s faces than you do! Tanaka!”
“Why are you speaking so rudely to me?! You’re a second year student! I’m a third year student!”
“Isn’t it fine?! After all, this is the only time you’ll be onstage!”
“I don’t get what you’re saying!”
“Anyways, stop deifying her! Tanaka!”
“You stop! The current Rei is one I don’t want to see! That’s why I resigned!”
“Though you selfishly quit, you should continue paying the monthly tuition fee to the Aogasaki dojo!”
“Why’s that?! Also, what happened to speaking to me politely?”
“Please be aware of where you stand! I request that you be conscious of your weak position as a mob!”
“Don’t think that you can say whatever you want just because you phrased it politely!”
While I was getting in a heated debate with Tanaka, who was quite good at retorts…
“…Enough. Both of you, stop.”
Aogasaki stepped in and shoved us away using her hands. Then, she turned towards Kazuhiko.
“Kazuhiko. If you left because you don’t like how I am, then there’s no helping it. However.”
“I think it’s good that I was able to hear your true thoughts. I was constantly worried about why you didn’t tell me the reason for leaving.”
When seeing Aogasaki’s smile, Tanaka bit his lip and hung his head.
It seems that he didn’t want to resign. He’s probably thinking that…it was his obligation to do so after it turned out that he was unfit for being Aogasaki’s training partner, and after the circumstances that occurred.
“So Kazuhiko, let me also speak from the heart. Kobayashi is not the kind of person you think he is. You’ll understand that tomorrow.”
“There’s one more thing. It’s already been a month since you’ve left the Aogasaki dojo. After that one month, just one month…I don’t think I’m the Aogasaki Rei you know any longer.”
Aogasaki made a grin towards Tanaka, who finally lifted his head.
“Devotion each and every day──that’s the Aogasaki style. I won’t lose to myself from yesterday.”
…She really is a cool person. This speech indeed suits her.
“A person can become strong under any kind of environment. No, I’m strong because of the current environment. I’ll prove it to you during tomorrow’s competition.”
“…Show me. Let me see your sword.”
Tanaka left the scene, leaving behind those brief words.
Long after we saw him part, Aogasaki spoke to me with a face of determination.
“Kobayashi. Sorry, but there’s a place I want us to go.”
“Alright. Where to?”
“Ryuuga’s house. I’m thinking of──confessing something to Ryuuga. About my interest in fashion.”
Although a bit amazed, I wasn’t that shaken.
It’s Aogasaki’s choice…she probably made up her mind beforehand already.
The competition is happening tomorrow, but I think this is a good time. Of course, I’ll do my best to help. This is the part where we delve into her character.
“I understand. Ryuga will definitely accept you.”
“I hope so. If he accepts me…then perhaps I’ll tell Shiori, Elmira, and Rina as well.”
The heroines will definitely accept her. And then, Aogasaki and I will no longer have a “shared secret.”
That’s good. It would be nice if everyone could be her “exclusive coordinator,” rather than just me. The opinions of high school girls would probably be very helpful.
“The one who gave me this courage is none other than you. The swimsuit showdown at the pool, where I did a bunch of things in front of the public…made me overcome this barrier.”
“Couldn’t that have resulted from your rivalry with Mion…?”
“Ah. Perhaps I involuntarily got some courage from her as well.”
…With that, we headed towards Ryuuga’s house.
Just to make sure, I sent a message in advance and received a reply of acknowledgement in about ten seconds. This is kind of convenient since she had originally invited me over in the first place.
──However, I made a big mistake there.
A bitter mistake that I wouldn’t be able to recover from.
In the message, all I said was “There’s something important. Can we meet up right now?” I didn’t tell her that Aogasaki was coming along.
As a result,
Arriving at the Hinomori residence, I announced my visit using the intercom, passed through the garden, and opened the front door.
Jumping out from within was a girl in a cheerleader outfit, embracing me with great vigor.
Of course, that person was someone devoted to cosplay whenever their girl version was active──Hinomori Ryuuga.