“Ichirou. Sit over here.”
It was after dinner. Mion suddenly stopped me as I was trying to leave the living room.
The heron apostle had a stern expression, pointing towards a cushion on the floor. I followed her order, unable to refuse.
…I could predict what this was about. It seems that the three princesses are indeed suspicious of my recent behavior.
(Though, they shouldn’t have any decisive evidence. It should be fine, I can talk my way out of this.)
As I sat down, not only was the sidetailed girl there, but the blond-haired woman was as well. The bobbed haired girl seemed uninterested, immersing herself in the TV.
“W, what is it? You seems awfully serious.”
“Ichirou…is there anything you’re hiding from us?”
Mion leaned forward, getting straight to the point. She narrowed her almond-shaped eyes.
It’s just as I thought. However, I can’t afford to reveal the matter of Shizuma. My gag order still hasn’t been undone yet.
“I, I’ve got nothing to hide. I said it before, didn’t I? I’ve been coming home late because I’ve been searching for Elmira…”
“Well then, what is this?”
As Mion said that, she placed a book in front of me. As expected, it was the “Complete Guide to Babies~Even You Can Become A Professional Caregiver Today”.
(W, why is it there?! I hid it under my bed!)
While pretending to be calm, I freaked out in my mind. I felt like a middle school student who had his erotic books discovered by his parents.
“Why are you reading this book? Could it be that…you’re hiding a baby, Ichirou?”
“No way! It’s just an interest of mine! Some baby roleplaying!”
“Then, Ichirou. What is this?”
Jyuri then shoved something towards me. To my surprise, it was my cellphone, which should have been in my pocket. Did she pickpocket me while I was eating dinner?!
“Whose child is this?”
The cellphone screen displayed Shizuma sleeping.
That’s right. It was a picture I recently took of Shizuma.
I was careless. I gave in to the temptation because of how cute he was…Actually, did they look into the folders on my computer as well? I had my collection of Shizuma pictures disguised in a folder labeled “Women’s Volleyball Rears”!
“Y, you’ve got it wrong. That’s me when I was young. I had it there so I wouldn’t forget what I was like when I was born.”
As I desperately tried to explain, the glint in Jyuri’s eye sharpened. She was like a snake looking at a frog.
“There were many images of that same baby on your computer. According to the date, it seems they were taken recently.”
So they really did look at my computer! The disguised folder didn’t work!
(Damn it, and I even said recently that it was okay for them to freely use my computer…!)
As I was grinding my teeth, the king cobra apostle continued speaking.
“Each image has a name. ‘Sleeping Shizuma’, ‘Shizuma Turning in Bed’, ‘Trotting Shizuma’, ‘Shizuma: The Force Awakens’, and so on.”
Don’t say them! They’re really embarrassing!
“Ichirou. Who is Shizuma?”
“Who? Who is Shizuma?”
As the two drew near me, my eyes darted around. Before I knew it, I was kneeling down.
…Not good. At this rate, it’s only a matter of time until I’m forced to spill the beans.
Someone, help me. Oh right, I can call Taotie…no, that won’t work. With his intellect, he’s not fit to defend anybody.
“I, if you don’t make me some katsudon, I won’t confess.”
“Didn’t you eat enough already? You had dinner.”
“T, the defendant has a right to remain silent.”
“There’s no point in remaining silent in light of all of the evidence. Rather, if you just confess, your sentence won’t be as severe.”
I felt sweat travel down my temples.
As a last ditch effort, I looked towards Kiki, but the Hokkaido wolf apostle was absorbed in the TV. She began breathing harder as she watched a recording of “Spectacle Man”.
When I thought that I had no other options…
I heard the noise of a ringing in the kitchen. It came from the home phone.
“It’s the phone! I need to get it! Sorry, but this conversation ends here!”
My lifesaver having arrived, I ran out from the living room in a flash.
Fortunately, Mion and Jyuri didn’t follow me. I had told the three princesses before that they don’t need to pick up the home phone.
The home phone rarely rings, but what great timing. I wanted to say “Thank you! This is Kobayashi!” instead of “Hello, this is Kobayashi!” on the phone.
(I don’t know who this is, but you saved my hide. Well, the ones who usually call my home phone are my parents…I wonder what country those two are in right now.)
Both of my parents work jobs that handle antique art. The two fly around the world and only come home for a few days each year…and this has gone on for around three years.
However, I never felt particularly lonely.
I know that they have to pay a large amount in living expenses each month, and that they trust me enough to leave me alone in the home. Or rather, with the three princesses here, I would be in trouble if they came home now.
(Anyhow, I have to prolong this phone call for as long as possible. Even if they called the wrong number, I need to keep the conversation going for twenty minutes!)
Afraid that the phone would stop ringing, I quickly snagged the phone at the corner of the kitchen.
When I held the phone to my ear, the other person started talking before I could.
‘Hey there, Kobayashi boy. Are you doing your homework?’
It was the high-pitched voice of a child. Furthermore, he acted overfamiliar with me.
Perhaps it was an elementary school student, but I had no idea. Was he a younger relative? I should be the one asking if he did his homework.
‘This is the first time we’ve spoken. I’m Qiongqi! One of the four fiends!’
Upon hearing the person introduce himself, I froze in place while holding the phone to my ear.
Qiongqi? Which means, the “Evil Spirit” Qiongqi? Why is the final boss of part three calling the Kobayashi home? Furthermore, he’s a shota character?!
“Are you…really Qiongqi?”
‘Yep, for real! I wanted to talk to you once. Thanks for the secret work you’ve done!’
‘You were a big help in the battle against Balon, right?! And now you’re raising the apostle’s child with the ‘Vermilion Bird’…you’re very busy! But…’
His voice suddenly went from talkative to silent.
Then, the “Evil Spirit” Qiongqi said something that frightened me.
‘This story probably won’t go as you want it to. I don’t think you can play the supporting role, Kobayashi boy.’
What does that mean? I can’t…play the supporting role?
‘Think about it. Maybe the cast of this story has been decided a long time ago. It’s no use, no matter what you do.’
My heart began to beat faster. The hand I was holding the phone with began to sweat.
Could it be that he…knows? About my wish to be a friend character? About me wanting to go back to that position?
How? I get why Taotie would, but why Qiongqi? Could it be that──this guy sees the world in a somewhat meta way?! Does a fool like that exist?!
‘And now, you’ve taken it away. You’ve taken the position of the protagonist away──from Hinomori Ryuuga.’
“T, that can’t be true!”
I noticed that I had shouted at the top of my lungs. I sensed Taotie waking up immediately as I heard him go “Aaah!” in my mind, but I didn’t have the leeway to pay attention to that right now.
“I’m Ryuga’s friend! That’s the position I’m suited for! I’ve been in a bit of a mess recently, but I’ll definitely return to being a friend character!”
‘You’re really fussy about being a friend character. I think you would be more interesting as the protagonist though.’
“Listen here! The protagonist is Ryuga! I am a friend! And you are the final boss of part three! Remember this, once you’re defeated, I’ll expose your lie for what it is, and then I’ll just be someone who supports Ryuga──”
‘Ah, right. The descendant of the ‘Vermilion Bird’ is in a pinch.”
Ignoring my words, Qiongqi once again said something I didn’t expect. His egotistic way of talking is definitely befitting of a child. Isn’t he just rambling on?
“E, Elmira is a pinch…?”
‘Yep! My subordinate, General Higaia is leading an attack at her apartment. About thirty troops will be there! Of course, their purpose is to take the baby and obliterate the ‘Vermilion Bird’!”
I knew that I was going pale.
The apostles are leading an attack? Furthermore, a general and thirty troops?
‘Shouldn’t you be heading there to save her? That’s why I called you.’
“Damn you…what’s your goal in doing this?”
‘See ya! Tell your stupid ‘Evil Spirit’ that I said hello!”
After saying whatever he pleased, he suddenly ended the call.
“Hey! Hello?! Hello?!”
I tried talking to the disconnected line, a cliche act. Then, I immediately turned around.
My mind still hasn’t had enough time to process all of this, but I need to set aside the matter of Qiongqi. I need to hurry…Elmira and Shizuma are in danger!
(B, Boss, what happened? Who was on the phone just now?)
As I rushed through the hallway, Taotie spoke to me through our remote communication. It was already eight o’clock. It was probably dark outside.
(That doesn’t matter, come with me! It’s an emergency!)
(You suddenly shouted and woke me up with a jump. And I was even having a dream where Ryuuga and I were doing some baby roleplaying…goo goo ga ga, and whatnot.)
(Shut up! We don’t have time to spare!)
(Listen to me, Boss. I said ‘Goo goo ga ga, I’m hungry. I want milk,’ and Ryuuga said ‘Well, if you insist,’ and used her E cups to──)
(Zip it! This is a serious moment right now!)
While admonishing the stupid “Evil Spirit”, I went back into the living room and snatched my cellphone from Jyuri. I tried to call Elmira, but it seems that the power was cut off.
As I immediately sprinted towards the front door, Mion and Jyuri were confused and called out to me.
“W, wait, Ichirou! What happened?”
“Ichirou, where are you going?”
I ignored the two voices from behind. Time’s too valuable for me to be spending it on explanations.
I was…really regretting that fact that I didn’t go that apartment today.