Is it Tough Being a Friend?

Is it Tough Being a Friend? v6 Chapter 2 Part 3

It was the next day. That strangely long Monday was over, but it’s only Tuesday. The week has still just begun.

Yukimiya and I left the house a bit early and made sure to enter school separately.

Although I say separately, I was just walking about twenty meters behind Yukimiya. I can’t afford to take my eyes off her. It’s my duty to be her escort on the way to school.

(If what Renie said is true, then he currently has no subordinates. That means he’ll show up himself. So come out. Face us, you aging, combed-haired butler!)

However, Yukimiya arrived at school without any difficulties.

How unfortunate. If Renie’s just lazing around, then that means Yukimiya will be living at my house for that much longer.

(It’s also a bad idea to keep Sebastian’s true identity a secret from Ryuga and the others for too long. We need to quickly find that spider apostle’s true motives and figure out whether to defeat him or not…)

While pondering to myself, I entered the school a little later than Yukimiya. Instead of heading to a classroom, I headed straight towards the school infirmary.

Hebizuka was once again absent today. The three princesses were tasked with searching for Renie.

(At this rate, Jyuri’s turning into a salary thief…but I’ll leave that aside for now.)

I opened the door to the infirmary. Yukimiya was inside.

Surrounding her were Hinomori Ryuuga, Aogasaki Rei, Elmira McCartney, and Kurogame Rina.

The protagonist and the heroines…the story’s main characters. Well, Yukimiya was the one who called them here. And I was the one who told her to do so.

“Oh, Ichirou. Look, Shiori’s here at school!”

Ryuuga’s eyes glinted with joy. I couldn’t say “I know. I followed her from my home,” to them, so I also made my eyes glint as well and said “Oh, Yukimiya!”

Aogasaki, Elmira, and Kurogame looked at Yukimiya’s condition and seemed relieved. Though Elmira’s the only one who knows about the situation, given how energetic she was, she probably still had some concerns. Alright, things are going as expected so far.

“Shiori, I’m relieved that you seem better than I thought, but is your health okay?”

“Yes, Rei. My supernatural abilities also came back last night. I can participate in battles again.”

“Don’t overdo it. We know when you’re pushing yourself.”

“Haha. It’s a bit embarrassing for you to be the one telling me that, Elmira.”

“More importantly, Shio! What’s going on with the ‘Evil Spirit’ Taowu? I need to beat her out of you!”

“C, calm down, Rina. I’ve gathered everyone here to talk about Taowu.”

…Right. That’s why we had Ryuuga’s group gather.

We need them to postpone the matter of Tao and focus on the “Evil Spirit” Qiongqi for the time being. While we’re at it, we should also…talk about the school festival.

At the end of our long discussion last night, Yukimiya and I decided that for now, we should establish Tao as “a neutral ‘Evil Spirit’ whose alliance is unknown.”

It’s pretty much decided that Qiongqi is the final boss of part three. That being the case, I want Ryuuga and the others to have that same frame of mind. I also need them to acknowledge that Yukimiya’s back on the team.

The important thing is for them to realize that they should defeat Qiongqi first. We’re going to convey that right now.

“Everyone, look at this.”

With those inviting words, Yukimiya took out a letter from her pocket.

“Shiori, what’s that?”

“A message from Taowu. It seems that she wrote it while my consciousness was taken over.”

Taking the letter, Ryuuga read its contents while seeming confused.

The heroines and I got closer to read it as well…Of course, I already knew what was written. After all, I was the one who wrote the draft for it.

‘I have an announcement for Hinomori Ryuuga and the four gods. I, Taowu, am the strongest ‘Evil Spirit’ of the four fiends.’

The letter began with that bold greeting.

When I wrote that, Taotie and Hundun both exclaimed “I’m the strongest one!” and dismissed it. It’s important to bluff.

‘I already know that you’ve defeated my brethren, Hundun and Taotie. Though we may be enemies, I will commend your work, despite it being a fluke.’

Ryuuga muttered “Very condescending…” The neat handwriting probably makes it even more irritating. Yukimiya was the one who wrote this letter.

‘It’s likely that you will challenge me as well in the future. I am willing to humor you, but…before that, I must tell you something. It’s for this reason that I am writing as of now.’

Ryuuga and the others all raised an eyebrow at the same time. Good, they’re invested in it.

‘Listen carefully. Currently──I have──no intentions──of assaulting the human world.’

Whoops. Did I use too many em dashes?

These straight lines in text are often an important part of light novels, but…I just realized that using them too frequently actually makes a sentence harder to read.

‘Since ancient times, I have threatened the human world numerous times and faced your ancestors. And each time, I lost. Though we may be enemies, I must commend…the power of the ‘Yellow Dragon’ and the four gods.’

Whoops. I used “though we may be enemies” twice.

It seems that it was a bad idea to focus on writing eloquently when I’m pretty bad at writing. I hate my narrow vocabulary.

‘After repeating many battles for a long time, I am beginning to acknowledge humans. You all seem to have some strange affections. Though we may be enemies, I must commend you.’

Did I really use “commend you” three times? No way, I used it that much?

(I should’ve revised it first…I was hoping that Yukimiya would point out any mistakes…)

Sure enough, perhaps noticing as well, Ryuuga muttered “That’s a lot of commending…” The neat handwriting probably makes it look even stupider.

‘However, Qiongqi is not as forgiving of an ‘Evil Spirit’ as I am. As of now, that cruel scoundrel…is planning on overtaking the human world, destroying humanity, and playing a requiem. Though I’m only beginning to acknowledge humans…I do find it quite disgraceful.’

Alright, this part’s well written. Brilliantly done, if I do say so myself.

‘Hinomori Ryuuga──you and your companions of the four gods──slay Qiongqi and show me the strength of humans once more. I promise──not to interfere with your battle. Furthermore──if you win, I’ll also promise to──consider reconciliation──’

Ryuuga and the others gasped.

It seems that they didn’t even care about the sentence ending with an em dash at that point. At least they got the message. I hate writing Japanese.

‘Until then, I will return Yukimiya Shiori to you. Do not damage my vessel. Fu shuru shuru…’

The letter ended there. It seems that everyone made it to the end without any problems.

There was a long silence in the health room.

While everyone was rereading the letter, Aogasaki asked Ryuuga a question.

“Ryuuga, what do you think? Do you think that the ‘Evil Spirit’ Taowu’s words are worthy of trust?”

“I wonder…but, if this letter is true, then perhaps it’s possible to reconcile with Taowu.”

At that moment, Yukimiya and Elmira made eye contact and whispered to each other. Of course, Yukimiya knew about the vampire being our accomplice.

Meanwhile, Kurogame tilted her head while pointing at the last sentence.

“What’s this ‘Fu shuru shuru’?”

“Probably a laugh. ‘Evil Spirits’ are ominous…”

I quickly replied to her. I wanted to end it on an eerie note since it’s being written by an “Evil Spirit” who could be either friend or foe.

“That’s comical, writing down a laugh in a letter. What kind of face does someone make when saying ‘Fu shuru shuru’?”

However, it backfired. The tortoise burst into laughter.

Is it too strange? Tao complained with “I don’t laugh like that! You’re makin’ a lie about me!” when she saw that, but I went with it anyways.

…The room was silent once again. Before I knew it, I could hear the sounds of voices and footsteps coming from students outside. It seems that it’s almost time for class.

“Everyone, it’s strange that I’m a vessel, but…perhaps it’s for this reason that…I think this letter represents Taowu’s true feelings.”

Ryuuga and the others listened to Yukimiya silently.

“If Taowu is willing to step away from the human world──could it be that the three princesses already knew that? Couldn’t that be why they protected Taowu at the cemetery the other day?”

“……”

“If Qiongqi was also aware of Taowu’s change of heart…he’d want to impede reconciliation through any means possible. Perhaps he called you all to the cemetery to fight Taowu while you were still unaware of the circumstances, so that you’d become enemies.”

Of course, it was Yukimiya who said that. She smoothly said the lines I gave her without needing any cue cards. She spoke as if they were her own words, nothing monotone.

“I’d like to ask you all again. Could you leave Taowu to me? Under the title of the ‘Shrine of Maiden Life,’ I will definitely ‘convert’ Taowu. In any case, if I can get Taowu under my control…she won’t be a threat to humanity.”

Waiting until the end of her statement, I then shouted “Alright, now! Go!” in my mind.

At once, Taotie’s and Hundun’s upper halves manifested from my back, and backed Yukimiya with the lines I gave them.

“I, I also don’t think Taowu’s lying.”

“She’s always been a pretty gentle one among the four fiends. Couldn’t she be tired of fighting with humans?”

“I, I agree.”

“Either way, I’m in favor of pummeling Qiongqi first. Right now, the ‘Evil Spirit’ with clear malicious intent towards humanity is under the radar.”

“I, I agree.”

“Well, that’s all we have to say. Pardon us.”

Saying what they needed to say, the two “Evil Spirits” immediately withdrew.

Taotie’s acting was terrible. Perhaps it was a good idea to give Hundun most of the lines.

(You were too nervous. You’re pathetic.)

(Leave me alone! Damn it, I finally get to be in front of Ryuuga, but I can’t even treat her as a girl since Yukimiya and Elmira are there…)

Ignoring the conversation going on in my head, I chipped in.

“We should listen to her. I also believe in Taowu. In the battle at the cemetery, she didn’t lay a hand on Ryuga and the others. Doesn’t that mean she has no ill intent? It’s not a good idea to charge in while overlooking a chance to negotiate.”

Ryuuga pondered, folding her arms while muttering “Indeed…”

“Taowu not attacking, and the three princesses defending her…if you think about these two things, it makes sense.”

“T, that’s right. I don’t think that the three princesses are hostile towards us. Otherwise, they would make Shizuma, who wishes for coexistence with humans, sad.”

With Elmira’s lines, the “Kobayashi Family Troupe” concluded their script.

“Shizuma’s the child you sheltered, right Elle? I’m surprised, I didn’t think that a vampire and apostle could have a child.”

“I’m more surprised that Kobayashi became a foster father.”

While Kurogame and Aogasaki whispered to themselves, Ryuuga finally looked up.

Now, it comes down to the protagonist’s decision. No matter what decision she makes, I will accept it.

“Let’s have faith in Taowu’s words. I think we should give priority to defeating Qiongqi.”

I secretly did a fist pump. As expected of Ryuuga!

Upon looking, I found that Yukimiya and Elmira were making the same pose.

“Everyone, is that alright?”

Of course, Aogasaki and the tortoise nodded their heads without any objections. I’m sure that they trust Ryuuga more than Taowu. They are the sword and shield of Hinomori Ryuuga.

──Now, it’s clear that this is “Part three, the Qiongqi arc.”

There was a lot of fumbling, but there’s no going back anymore. As soon as the school festival is over, that “Shota Evil Spirit” will face judgement. Well, from Ryuuga and the others, that is.

I still have a lot of worries about part four, Tao’s arc, but…I’ll cross that bridge when I get there. Putting off problems until later is my specialty. Momentum is important in a story.

Before I noticed, the heroines formed a circle around Ryuuga.

Their faces were full of energy, confirming that their worries about Yukimiya and their doubts about the three princesses were gone.

“It seems we’re getting closer to the end. If we can defeat the ‘Evil Spirit’ Qiongqi…”

“And if I can ‘convert’ the ‘Evil Spirit’ Taowu…”

“Will peace return to this world then?”

“Even so, reconciling with the four friends is an unprecedented task.”

“In short, we need to punch Qiongqi! I get it!”

…We’re getting closer to the end, you say?

Indeed, that seems to be the case. Reconciling with Qiongqi will be difficult, but with enough effort, it could be possible. As long as we have the power of the protagonist, Ryuuga, there is hope.

(If it works out, the battle against the ‘Apostles of Hell’ will be completely over. Ryuga’s story…will reach its finale.)

I suddenly felt a touch of loneliness, but there’s not much I can do about that. The story must come to an end at some point. It’s better than leaving it incomplete.

(What should I do with my school life when that happens…? Perhaps it’s not a bad idea to search the country for a new protagonist…or maybe I’ll go into the mountains and train myself in the ways of a friend character.)

Well, there’s a lot I need to do before that. I need to settle the flags I have with the main characters and I also want to help Shizuma, who’s currently in the spirit world.

Or better yet, just have him in charge of the spirit world.

While I was pondering about such things, Yukimiya suddenly clapped and smiled at Aogasaki.

“By the way, Rei. It starts today, right? Our practice.”

“Hmm? We did have plans for that, but…given your circumstances, shouldn’t we rethink the matter?”

“I’m fine. As you can see, I’m in good shape. This is your last school festival, right Rei?”

Aogasaki seemed unsure and looked at everyone else for their opinions.

…Come to think of it, I believe Yukimiya said that there was a reason why she didn’t want to miss school. “If I don’t go, I’ll bother everyone, especially Rei,” was what she said.

I completely forgot to ask about that. I was wondering what that was about.

“What practice? Something related to the school festival?”

When I asked, Ryuuga scratched her head and made a bitter smile.

“Well, I didn’t tell you about this, but we’ve all been planning this for a while. We wanted to make some memories while everyone’s still here at Oumei High School.”

“……”

“There are five days until the weekend’s school festival…and it’s about time we start practicing in groups rather than individually. Oh, Ichirou, if you’d like to, do you want to watch? I’d like to hear an outsider’s opinion.”


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