For a brief moment, Aogasaki stared blankly at Taotie, who arrived in high spirits.
Meanwhile, Taotie practiced swinging his bamboo sword while full of energy. No matter how I looked at it, he was doing golf swings, but it’s pointless trying to point out minor details to him.
…This is going to be unfortunate for Sasaki, but it’s the only way to make up for my failure.
Since Yukimiya and Elmira won’t make it in time, this is the only thing I can do. There’s no reason to go with such a half-baked scene like Aogasaki doing the third match.
(Once Tie wins, we’ll be able to close in on a victory. It would be nice if Yukimiya and the others would make it back in time for the fourth match, but if not, then we’ll have to withdraw from it.)
Either way, there’s no hope for the fourth match. The score will be an even two wins and two losses.
Then, Aogasaki will defeat King Arthur in the final match, letting our score raise to three wins──and thus, Aogasaki Rei will shine and raise the excitement of the competition.
(King Arthur. The one who said that it was fine for us to change members during the competition was none other than you. I never heard you say that the substitute was restricted to humans! You even had an adult participate on your side, after all!)
While I was getting serious, Aogasaki still stared at Taotie.
She gazed intently at the “Evil Spirit’s” face with a look full of suspicion. When she looked into his face beneath the mask, she muttered a few words, as if speaking to herself.
“The same face as Kobayashi…”
“Come to think of it, you’ve only seen him in his battle mode. Taotie and I have the same looks.”
“W, wait, Kobayashi! In other words, he’s that Taotie?”
“Yep. That Taotie.”
“You mean to say that an ‘Evil Spirit’ should appear for the third match?!”
“Indeed he should.”
“Shouldn’t we refrain from doing that?! It’s definitely reckless! In the first place, there’s no reason for me to receive help from an ‘Evil Spirit!'”
And now Aogasaki’s overly serious nature has shown up.
However, we must follow through with this. It’s my duty to make up for my mistake.
“It’ll be fine. He’s already been ‘converted,’ so he’s completely harmless now.”
“I’ve been firmly teaching him some manners. He won’t bite, nor will he bark at the neighbors. He makes sure to use the toilet whenever he needs to go.”
“What are you talking about?!”
When she was saying as such, the referee shouted “Third contenders, step forward!”
Sasaki was already waiting at the arena. There was no time to dawdle around.
“Aogasaki. I know that you have mixed feelings, but please understand. This guy’s already our ally. I want to prove that to you.”
“Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a united front between humans and an ‘Evil Spirit’? It would certainly be a large step towards reconciliation. It will lead not only to saving the dojo, but also protecting humanity.”
“W, wait, I’m a bit confused…”
“Please listen to me, even if you’re confused. Have faith in Taotie. He wants to be helpful to you, Aogasaki! He wants to be the bridge between humans and ‘Evil Spirits’!”
After making a speech about it, Aogasaki reluctantly gave in. She held her finger over her brow, complaining while saying “To think that I would entrust the fate of the dojo to an ‘Evil Spirit’…”
While that was happening, Taotie restlessly glanced at his surroundings.
I gave the hectic “Evil Spirit” a push on the back and directed him to the arena.
“Alright, get over there, Tie.”
“H, huh? Boss, where’s Ryuuga? I can’t see her…”
“She left for urgent business. Apostles have appeared.”
“W, wait a minute! I came to show Ryuuga my good qualities! There’s no point if she’s not here!”
“Just do it! If you win, Ryuga might see you in a different light and speak to you in her girl version! Perhaps she’ll even put on a skirt!”
“Tohoho…I suppose I don’t have a choice, jeez…”
Making yet another speech, I forced Taotie to comply. That’s the first time I’ve seen someone say “Tohoho.”
Like that, the third match began.
I thought Sasaki would instantly launch a barrage of attacks, but contrary to my expectations, he didn’t move. In fact, he trembled violently while not even readying his bamboo sword.
“W, who is this guy…? There’s something strange…my body’s frozen…!”
As expected of someone comparable to King Arthur if looking only at talent. It seems that Sasaki has come to understand something by instinct. That is, he’s realized that the opponent he’s facing is an outrageous monster.
“Well, here I go. Don’t move.”
While saying that, Kobayashi Taotierou briskly approached Sasaki.
Then just after that, he raised his bamboo sword and brought it down,
──The venue shook. With a thunderous roar, the arena burst.
The impact mercilessly created cracks in the walls and ceiling. The audience on the second floor, who received the “Evil Spirit’s” now-dispersed ill-will, fainted.
…I then noticed a large hole in the arena. A deep crater of about ten meters in diameter formed, as if a meteorite had struck.
Standing beside that hole were Sasaki and the referee, lying on top of each other as if dead. Of course, they just fainted.
A silence ensued. While I was standing still in shock, I paid close attention to the scene.
Naturally, I had told him to take it easy on his opponent. I ordered him to break his opponent’s fighting spirit and have him surrender by showing off the difference in their levels, and yet…he went and smashed up the venue.
While I was at a loss for words, Taotie walked back to me. The “Evil Spirit” removed his mask, wiped his forehead as if he had finished a tough job, and then raised his thumb.
“Boss, this works, right?”
“That felt like a complete victory. Oh Aogasaki, no need for thanks.”
Aogasaki also had no reaction. Her mouth was agape.
Not minding the “Swordswoman of the Beheading Dance,” Taotie made a large yawn. An idiotic yawn resounding within the venue, where everyone except us had fainted.
“Boss, let me sleep for a bit. I’m not in perfect condition yet, so I get really tired when I use my power.”
“Please tell Ryuuga about what I did, okay? Well then, I’m going to go flirt with Ryuuga in my dreams…”
After saying that, Taotie disappeared. After causing such chaos within the competition, he suddenly went back inside me, doing nothing to deal with the aftermath.
…My trump card turned out to be a seriously poor move. Instead of making up for my blunder, I ended up putting us at an even bigger loss. I ended up with an oversized crater that I may as well call a grave.
While I deeply regretted the unrecoverable situation that occurred,
The referee feebly moved within the arena. With barely any consciousness remaining, he lifted himself up while staggering, and then mustered the last of his strength to speak.
“Extremely hazardous conduct…the winner…Getsushiyoukan.”
After saying that, the referee lost stamina and fainted.
A referee is someone to look up to, but now he was in no state for that to happen.
Before I was aware of it, I spoke the words “Tohoho…”
Thus, the competition had unfortunately come to ruin.
Since the arena has a crater, there’s not much that can be done. There’s no playing field to continue the battle and to make matters worse, there’s no referee.
(This might just be the worst possible outcome…)
This is no longer a matter of “livening things up” or “achieving victory”. “Waiting for Ryuuga and the others to arrive” isn’t a problem either. The competition has been put to a screeching halt.
(Right after I pulled out Taotierou…Aogasaki’s main story has come to this…)
I glanced at Aogasaki’s nervous face. Depending on the circumstances, I may have to prepare myself to commit seppuku, effectively killing the family line…or at least I thought.
For some reason, she wasn’t glaring at me, but something further away.
She had recovered from her state of shock at some point and silently focused on something with the eyes of a hawk.
Wondering what was happening, I followed her line of sight with my eyes. Upon doing so,
──Kiriya stood there. He hadn’t fainted and sat in the same location he was at before.
“Huh? H, how…?”
I unintentionally let out a voice of surprise.
How is he so calm after seeing all that had happened? Why does he have no reaction?! Perhaps he’s a paper cut-out?! A life-sized paper cut-out?!
“Kobayashi. It seems that the battle──isn’t over yet.”
Aogasaki spoke in a low voice while I was losing my mind.
“I thought that something was off. Could it really be a mere coincident for…apostles to attack at this time?”
“A man with an unknown background somehow manages to obtain a top position at Getsushiyoukan…so just who is he really? Why haven’t we heard any talks of him up until now?”
My heart rate gradually quickened. My palms turned sweaty.
Of course, I understand what Aogasaki’s wanting to say. Kiriya, who didn’t even move an eyebrow…was clearly no ordinary person.
Everyone beside him, Tanaka, Miyamoto, and even King Arthur, had fainted.
That would be the proper “reaction from a human.” It doesn’t matter how talented they are in swordsmanship. Those who don’t abide by that rule are those who aren’t human.
Aogasaki quietly stepped forward. She no longer was holding a bamboo sword, but her exclusive item, the “Blade of the Sacred Tree.”
“Are you──an apostle?”
Aogasaki spoke while pointing her wooden sword at him.
In response, he suddenly stood up, revealing himself to be a large, muscular man.
“…And what if I said yes, ‘Swordswoman of the Beheading Dance’?”
“It’s as you said just now. This battle is not over yet. If Getsushiyoukan wins one more time──you will have to be Yamanashi Asao’s wife.”
Kiriya spoke in a rough voice, like the growl of a beast.
…This is a little hard to accept. There’s no doubt that he’s an “Apostle of Hell.” However, why is this guy so fixated on the competition? Why is he so fixated on Aogasaki Rei?
“Aogasaki Rei. You’re a swordswoman. Even if your opponent is an apostle, that doesn’t change the promise you made, does it? I’ll be following the behavior of humans during our bout, after all.”
“Stopping the work of the apostles is part of human behavior, you know?”
“Now that you mention it, I suppose that I have no evidence that I’ll follow through with what I said.”
“What’s your aim in having Asao and I married?”
“You’ll know soon enough. Now then, how about we start the fourth match?”
Kiriya didn’t wear any protective gear and calmly approached.
(Is the competition really going to continue? In that case, since we have one win and two losses…we’ve got our backs against the wall. Even if Aogasaki wins, it’ll be even.)
Furthermore, there aren’t any players on either side who can do the final match. King Arthur has fainted, after all.
(No wait. If the ‘unpleasant feeling I felt at that time’ wasn’t just part of my imagination…)
Perhaps the final match will take place. There’s still an available player on the opposing side.
(It’ll be over if Aogasaki loses the fourth battle. If she beats Kiriya, then the conclusion will be determined by the final match. However, there are no signs of Yukimiya or Elmira coming.)
Even if they make it in time for the final match, whether they can win against the “final opponent” will probably be a large gamble. Damn it, we were set up!
“──Alright. I won’t break my promise.”
I was taken aback by what Aogasaki said, and protested.
“Wait! There’s no need to accept this match anymore! I’ll wake up Tie, so we can just put this to an end!”
“No, Kobayashi. The fate of the Aogasaki style depends on this match. No matter who the opponent is, I won’t back down.”
Why is she so serious?!
“In the first place, Taotie has already appeared in the third match. Having him fight again is against the rules.”
How serious is she going to be?!
“Besides, Kobayashi. There’s a reason why we can’t go against Kiriya’s demands. Right now…there are more than a thousand ‘hostages’ in this venue.”
That took me by surprise. Indeed, there are so many people who’ve lost consciousness, unaware of the situation. Some of them are even children.
There’s no doubt they would pull this kind of ploy. Damn it, we were set up!
“…When Taotie appeared, I got the shivers.”
Kiriya kept approaching us. He was no longer trying to hide his ferocious ill will.
“But, it’s fortunate that he fell asleep. Since this competition is limited to following the style of our respective dojos, having that guy intervene again will be considered as throwing the match. Understand, Kobayashi Ichirou?”
In response to Kiriya’s glare, I asked a question, though I knew that it was futile.
“What intentions do you have in disobeying an ‘Evil Spirit’ while knowing that they’ve revived?”
“Currently, there is no value in serving Taotie.”
I pretty much expected him to reply with that. There’s no way he would call some waffle-loving, Ryuuga-loving, Hanshin-loving guy his “ruler.” It’s a sound argument that I can’t really give a rebuttal to.
Kiriya didn’t stop walking. At this rate, the fourth match will start soon.
…I have to think of some countermeasure. Is there some way to keep Aogasaki for the final match? Damn it! Is there no other substitute?!
“Aogasaki, let me confirm something first. Even if you beat me, we will immediately move on to the final match. Do you have any players to participate when that happens?”
“I could ask the same to you.”
“That’s not a problem for me. Let me say this, I will not wait any more than five minutes for your team’s member. Any longer and it will be considered as abandoning the match. You have no qualms, right? This rules follows the competition’s──”
“Hold the match.”
At that moment, there was someone from the audience who put the brakes on the match. It was the voice of a familiar girl.
When we turned towards the source, a figure jumped out from the second floor seats, kicked at the ceiling, and swooped down while spinning around.
Landing before me was, as expected, a high school girl with a sidetail.
“Ichirou, didn’t I say not to lose your match? To make matters worse, Taotie even lost…what a careless guy.”
“You came here…?”
“Didn’t you hear me? I was the one who shouted ‘sexual harasser’ when you lost.”
Oh, that was you? I thought that it was just a bad child.
“Leaving that aside, you don’t have enough players, right? In that case──”
With a mischievous smile, Mion’s skirt fluttered.
Then, she turned towards Kiriya while amplifying her ill will across her entire body.
“Why not leave the fourth match to me? This is the reason why I came here.”
…I thought that the competition was over, but it ended up continuing.
The scenario had deviated from my script by a long shot, and rapidly reached an unpredictable terrain.