I gave Ryuuga a word of caution.
I then walked with her to her home, and headed off towards my house.
(Good grief, Ryuga…you’re heading towards a slippery slope, aren’t you?)
While making such a complaint in my mind, I took a deep breath.
I’m okay with Aogasaki finding out about her being a woman, and I’m fine with that massage a while back as well, but Ryuuga has been making a lot of mistakes lately. I feel as if her girl side has been becoming more prominent on a daily basis.
(Part three has already started long ago. I need to get her back on track.)
Once Jyuri comes home, I need to lecture her. I’d like her to be more aware of the need to follow the script…and so, as I was thinking about such things, I came across a park near the sidewalk.
The park was the standard meeting spot that Ryuuga and the others often used. It also turned into a scene for a battle against the apostles at one point, and for some reason, there’s a panda painted yellow there.
It was around five pm, and there were still a number of people in the park.
I didn’t have a reason to stop at the park, so I continued walking along the sidewalk. That was until…
I suddenly stopped walking. Beyond the sidewalk, fence, and trees, I could see three schoolgirls who I knew.
One was a tall and lean swordswoman with a ponytail reaching to her waist, carrying a sheathed wooden sword.
Another was a neat young woman with long, straight hair, who appeared graceful yet elegant.
The last was foreigner who had a mole under her eye, wore her uniform somewhat loosely, and had flaming red hair.
Needless to say, they were Aogasaki Rei, Yukimiya Shiori, and Elmira McCartney. They were the main characters who I once had labeled as the major heroines.
(Why is Elmira with them?!)
I spontaneously crossed the fence and hunched down near a thicket while slowly approaching.
The three of them were facing each other while not speaking, unaware of my presence. My stealth ability is pretty good, if I do say so myself.
(Elmira’s companions haven’t seen her for the past twenty days…)
Before long, Aogasaki spoke while trying to figure out why she had vanished without a trace.
“Elmira. I didn’t expect to see you so easily in this kind of place.”
Next, Yukimiya opened her mouth and spoke with anxiety.
“You surprised me, but it’s good that you’re okay.”
The vampire girl bit her lip and looked down in response.
Judging by the situation, it seems that Elmira had to go outside for some reason and the two found her. Am I going to have another problem on my hands now?
“…I know that I’ve been behaving selfishly.”
Elmira spoke while not making eye contact with her companions.
“I tried to convince myself that I wasn’t causing you guys any trouble, but I knew very well that I was.”
…Is she planning to say it? Is she going to talk about Shizuma?
I didn’t expect it to be like this, but it might turn out for the better. This has gone on for long enough.
“Rei, Shiori. To tell you the truth, I──”
“You don’t need to explain the situation, Elmira.”
Thereupon, Aogasaki immediately interrupted Elmira’s confession. She gave a clear, calm smile towards the confused vampire.
“You’re indeed moody and wild, but there must be a good reason for what you’ve done. I don’t want to pry any information out of you…but…”
“I’d like to ask one thing, if you’re okay with answering it. In your eyes──what takes priority over all else?”
“I’ll answer. My duties as the head of my family. Or at least, I thought so at first…”
As Elmira’s voiced seemed to vanish, Aogasaki nodded her head.
“I see. However, please come back as soon as you can.”
“Y, you’re content with just that?”
“It’s fine. We know that you’re the head of the McCartney family. We also know that you have a strong sense of responsibility regarding that.”
“B, but, I’m selfishly neglecting my duties as the ‘Vermilion Bird’…by all rights, I should be facing punishment.”
The “Swordswoman of the Beheading Dance” suddenly flicked the forehead of the dejected “Blood-kin of Eternal Darkness” using her fingers.
“Don’t say something so modest. It doesn’t fit you. What happened to all the needless retorts you normally make?”
“You can do more than that! Can’t you give me a proper punishment?!”
“Besides, we’re both selfish. I caused you all trouble when that quarrel at my dojo happened. So, no need to hesitate. I think you should just do what makes you feel better.”
Yukimiya then took a step forward and spoke to Elmira, who remained silent while clutching her forehead. She took a bundle of loose-leaf papers from her bag and handed them over to the vampire girl.
“In exchange, please do your best to study. I’ve put together all of the teachings that happened while you were gone. Our classes are different, but the lesson content should be the same.”
“Knowing you, I think you’ll be able to catch up, Elmira. Your grades are surprisingly good.”
“You didn’t need to say ‘surprisingly’.”
“I am worried about your standing in home economics though.”
“I won’t argue with you on that, but my cooking is better than yours by a long shot.”
“Tee hee, well now. You must be taste-deaf then.”
“Shiori. You seem a bit ill-natured today, don’t you think? Is this also part of my punishment?”
“Until you come back, I’ll be in charge of the needless retorts.”
The “Shrine Maiden of Life’s” devilish statement made Elmira and Aogasaki burst into laughter. Though I was in a thicket, even I could tell that the mood had softened in the blink of an eye.
…It seems that the bond between the heroines really is strong. Of course, Hinomori Ryuuga would be in the center of it, but it seems that they’re tied together even without her.
(If I had one regret…perhaps it would be the lack of Kurogame.)
This could have been a scene that reaffirmed the bonds between the four gods, but why is that tortoise absent? Why isn’t she trying to get involved? “Black Tortoise”, are you this bad? Is this why you don’t have any rivals amongst the three princesses?
As I was secretly criticizing the “Star-Wall Guardian”, Aogasaki and Yukimiya soon turned around. In the end, they began to leave without knowing about Shizuma.
“Elmira. In case of an emergency, keep your cell phone powered. If anything happens, tell us immediately.”
“Since Kobayashi is with you, I think you’ll be fine in most situations, but…please be careful of the ‘Evil Spirit’ Qiongqi’s movements.”
Elmira watched as the two said that and then disappeared. Her scarlet, wavy hair fluttered indefinitely in the evening wind.
She’s probably deep in thought right now. Perhaps reflecting on the value of her companions.
…I quickly left the park and was about to head home.
I thought about calling out to Elmira, but that would be rash. I don’t need to be in this scene. This is not the time for a mere friend character to butt in.
(Perhaps Elmira will consult Ryuga and the others before long. With this episode, she’ll finally get the protagonist’s side involved…)
I wonder what kind of reaction the main characters will have towards Shizuma.
They would fall in love with how cute he is, right…? That would be fun.
“──Kobayashi Ichirou. I’ve got something I need to say, but are you free right now?”
It was the evening of that same day. It was around eleven pm, so Mion and Jyuri had withdrawn into their rooms.
Sure enough, Elmira started speaking to me.
Of course, I told her that I was free and so we sat in the living room. Currently, the table’s up against the wall since two futons were taking its place instead.
Elmira and Shizuma have been sleeping in the living room since arriving here. Unfortunately, there weren’t any rooms left in my house.
“Elmira, would it be better if we got you a room?”
When I tried to start such a conversation, the vampire girl immediately shook her head.
“It’s not a problem. No matter what room I have, that mutt will always sneak in.”
“So she snuck in today as well…”
Next to the napping Shizuma was Kiki, who snuggled up to him and slept.
This happens on a daily basis. Elmira was annoyed by it at first, but it seems that she’s accepted it. Shizuma doesn’t cry at night when Kiki’s sleeping with him.
(Kiki really is like his older sister…she’s also a little girl though.)
Near the bedside stood an army of toy figures led by Berberon. It was as if they were guarding Shizuma.
“…It seems that I owe the three princesses a lot now.”
Elmira spoke with a soft voice while looking at Kiki and Shizuma.
“I didn’t expect to live together with the ‘Apostles of Hell’, but…thanks to that, I was able to know their true faces.”
“Well, they’re special cases among the apostles though. Even so, it is valuable seeing the private life of an apostle, right?”
“Right. The ‘Evil Spirit’ Taotie, Mion, Jyuri, and even that mutt…they’re quite different from my first impressions of them.”
Thereupon, Elmira stared at me and said “But”.
“I can say from the bottom of my heart, without any speck of doubt, that my ‘companions’ are…Ryuuga, Rei, Shiori, and Rina.”
Of course. Even though her view of the three princesses has changed, she’s still only going to be with them for a few days. It’s not that easy to develop a relation of mutual trust. That tortoise really should have been included in that one scene a while back.
“To tell you the truth, I came across Rei and Shiori today.”
“It happened when I left to go get my school textbooks and notes I left back at the apartment…and I was ready to face a severe scolding from them, but the two didn’t hold it against me.”
I saw the whole thing, but I didn’t tell her that, of course.
I see. So Elmira went to go get her textbooks and notes? In other words, she might be returning to school soon.
“Ryuga said the same thing to me as well. ‘I’m not angry, just worried,’ were the words used.”
“I see…if it’s as you say, then perhaps I should have consulted Ryuuga and the others first. Come to think of it, Mion also scolded me about it. She said that it’s times like this when I should rely on my companions.”
She stopped speaking for a brief moment. She then spoke again, this time seeming to ponder about something.
“I──lost my parents before I even knew them.”
“I was told that it was an accidental death, similar to Akatori Hideo. I had my grandma, but even so, I would be lying if I claimed that I…didn’t feel lonely.”
Perhaps she was projecting her own circumstances onto Shizuma.
Then her sense of duty as the head of the McCartney family led to her being stubborn about it. The blood connection between them is also a connection based on deceased parents.
“In the end, my actions are just a form of self-satisfaction, aren’t they? I don’t know if I would’ve been able to protect Shizuma up to this point if I was alone…thank you, Kobayashi Ichirou.”
“N, no. I didn’t really do much…”
“Getting the three princesses to cooperate and being the middleman between Ryuuga’s team and myself is all because of you. You really are a reliable person.”
Though I’m grateful for the praise, her being so adamant about it didn’t please me too much.
I always end up getting involved in episodes like this, and even Qiongqi told me that I was “already the protagonist” now.
I need to keep a distance. At this rate, if I continue appearing on-screen, they might really make a model figure of me someday. It would probably cause the manufacturer to lose money.
(After this, I’m never getting deeply involved with the story again. Even if I discover an apostle, I’m not letting it turn into a battle. I’ll just keep my head down and walk right by.)
I once again renewed my policy.
Before I was aware of it, the vampire girl, who was supposed to be sitting across from me, was now beside me. Furthermore, she was leaning her head on my shoulder.
(S, shit! I let my enemy approach me while I was lost in thought!)
I gnashed my teeth over my own carelessness, but it was already too late. I can’t push her head away.
“Being a pseduo-married couple with you was more fun than I thought. It seems that you’re the perfect person to practice with.”
“Someday, I’d like to take you to my hometown. I’m sure Grandma will like you as well.”
…Not good. At this rate, she’s going to introduce me to her grandmother. They might seriously make me a part of the clan.
(I need to keep her away somehow…)
At times like this, convention dictates that I should go with the feigning ignorance technique and utter “Huh? Did you say something?” to her. When asked to repeat herself, the girl will say “No, it’s nothing… idiot,” and withdraw. It’s sink or swim──should I give it a go?
“Kobayashi Ichirou. Once the battle against the apostles is over──would you like to come with me to my hometown?”
“Huh? Elmira, did you say something?”
“I was saying that we should go to my hometown.”
“Huh? What’s that?”
“To my hometown.”
“I’m going to hit you.”
She glared at me with an angry look. What kind of technique was that?! It didn’t work at all!
“Can’t you cooperate and contribute to the mood? Besides, I’m snuggling up to you, even leaning on your shoulder, and yet you don’t even embrace me. What in the world do you think──”
Something occurred the moment the vampire girl began scolding me.
My ringtone resounded from within my pocket. I was getting a phone call.
(Nice timing! I don’t know who it is, but I appreciate the lifeboat!)
Apologizing to Elmira, who was getting grumpier, I took out my cell phone. The fear of it being Qiongqi again crossed my mind, but he probably wouldn’t know my mobile phone number.
The name of the caller displayed on the screen, and it was our protagonist. It’s odd for her to call instead of sending a message during this hour.
(Perhaps she heard about what happened in the park from Aogasaki or Yukimiya?)
I answered the phone while making such guesses──and ended the call a minute later.
I rushed out of the house and sprinted as fast as I could towards the Hinomori residence.
Ryuuga’s call was not a lifeboat. It was the exact opposite…an SOS asking me for help.
(Damn it! What…what the hell!)
Kyouka’s condition had suddenly changed──that’s what the call was about.
However, there was one thing I didn’t know yet. That event was just the tip of the iceberg.
That night, there were about six more times where I ended up saying “What the hell!”