Is it Tough Being a Friend?

Is it Tough Being a Friend? v6 Chapter 3 Part 5

After 2 pm, her “matchmaking game” shift was finally over.

Yukimiya Shiori left class C and headed towards a yakisoba booth the third-year students were doing. She made a promise to let Tao eat some.

She proceeded down the hallway of the third floor, politely declining the usual invitations from the guys. Her stomach was a bit unsettled, likely due to her eating two chocolate bananas.

(I wonder if my stomach can take yakisoba…I need to see Rei’s show afterwards. It seems that reception for her performance during lunchtime was very positive.)

On second thought, perhaps it would be better to go to the music room and practice singing.

She had a band performance to do on the gym stage at half past three. She wanted to succeed for the sake of the three princesses, especially Mion, who helped her with practicing.

Of course, she also wanted to impress her “exclusive advisor.” Actually, that was her biggest motivation.

(Kobayashi is quite close with Elmira and Mion, isn’t he…? Even Jyuri’s flirting with him. He seems quite popular.)

That was understandable. After all, he was such a nice person.

──He battled against Getsushiyoukan for Aogasaki Rei’s sake.

──He took care of a child for Elmira McCartney’s sake.

──He took in the “Evil Spirit” Hundun for Hinomori Kyouka’s sake.

──And, he became a mediator with Sebastian for Yukimiya Shiori’s sake.

The boy named Kobayashi Ichirou is always running around for someone else’s sake. Perhaps that’s why she was charmed by him. She remembered the time when she regarded him as a “somewhat strange person” in the past.

(Despite what Kobayashi said…I can’t let him do everything for me in regards to Sebastian. I have to face him myself.)

While making such a decision, she suddenly looked down at a window beside her.

“!”

Shiori immediately halted her steps. She spotted two familiar figures on the ground.

(Those two…!)

There was a tan high school girl who wore the uniform of another school, having large breasts and silver hair.

There was also a muscular, giant man who dressed like a monk and carried a bell in one hand.

Those distinct appearances couldn’t be mistaken. They were the “Evil Spirit” Qiongqi’s subordinates who launched an attack at the cemetery before…Banshou Shima and Kaishou Saihiru, part of “Hell’s Top Eight.”

(Why are those two here…?)

Shima and Saihiru left the school gates without noticing her gaze.

Upon confirming that it was them, Shiori immediately turned around and ran down the stairs to follow them.

Normally, she would’ve contacted her companions. However, Shiori immediately dismissed the idea.

Everyone was doing their best at the school festival right now. If Shima and Saihiru were just leaving, then they likely weren’t going to cause trouble.

(In that case, going alone is enough. Above all, if everyone’s with me──then I can’t ask about Sebastian.)

Shima and Saihiru might know his whereabouts.

Before she would tell her companions about Sebastian’s true identity, she wanted to talk with him once more…that was her last wish. This was the last time Yukimiya Shiori would be selfish on this matter.

She also prepared herself in case she couldn’t speak with him. She would regard him as Rikushou Renie, not Sebastian, and defeat him. She wanted to draw the line there.

(I sense a slight presence of ill wills. If I follow them…)

She made sure that her Kagura suzu, which could seal the movements of apostles, was in the pocket of her uniform skirt.

Shiori left the school and ran down an alley.

 

Before long, Shiori arrived at an abandoned factory about 600 meters southeast of the school.

Countless battles with the “Apostle of Hell” have occurred here. So, she had a basic understanding of the interior layout. Though, the problem was that there was no place to hide since it was empty.

(No, I don’t need to hide. I followed them to ask about Sebastian.)

Making up her mind, she stepped onto a plot of overgrown weeds.

“──Hey, Yukimiya Shiori. Did you need something?”

The peculiarities appeared from the factory entrance a few meters away. It was as though they expected her.

“How careless of you to come alone. I advise against such rashness.”

The cheetah apostle and rhinoceros beetle apostle, already shifting into their battle forms, approached her.

Could it be that they lured her here? Did they come to the school with that intention?

“Well, the school festival was pretty fun. I went to Kobaichi and Hinomori Ryuuga’s maid thing, Kurogame Rina’s haunted house, and Aogasaki Rei’s hero show…come to think of it, I couldn’t go to your place. It was a matchmaking game, right?”

“Stop it, Shima. I advise against your small talk.”

After criticizing his relaxed accomplice, Saihiru turned towards Shiori once more.

“Yukimiya Shiori, let me say this. We are just here to lure you today, we are witnesses.”

“Witnesses…?”

“Correct. The one who wanted to bring you here is──”

The rhinoceros beetle apostle turned around and stared at the factory entrance.

Another man came out and slowly approached. He was an aging gentleman who wore a tailcoat and had combed hair.

“Sebastian…”

Indeed. It was Shiori’s butler.

He was always with her since her birth and always prioritized Shiori as if he was part of the family.

“Miss Shiori. I’m sorry for the trouble of bringing you here.”

Sebastian bowed and displayed his usual attitude. Though, Shiori noticed that his voice lacked some warmth. That was likely intentional.

She didn’t have to guess why. She knew him better than anyone.

“Sebastian…are you the one who brought me here?”

“Yes, since you’ve been staying at Kobayashi’s home…I had difficulty bringing you here alone. However, I knew that you would follow these two if you saw them.”

“Didn’t you consider the possibility of me calling my companions?”

“I know your personality better than anyone. You tend to shoulder everything by yourself.”

Sebastian passed through Shima and Saihiru to stand in front of Shiori.

She sensed his ill will for the first time, ferocious and villainous enough to give her goosebumps.

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“Miss Shiori. With all due respect, it is not you I have business with. Today, I’d like to have a word with my lord, Taowu.”

“…What business do you have with Tao?”

“I’d like to propose an offer to meet with Qiongqi. I want to remind her of her longstanding grudge as an ‘Evil Spirit.'”

“Why do you need to join hands with Qiongqi? Listen, Sebastian! You’ll have to speak with me first before you can speak to Tao!”

“I’m no longer Sebastian. I am Rikushou Renie.”

“To me, you’re Sebastian! Even if you’re an ‘Apostle of Hell’!”

A white aura seethed from Shiori’s entire body in response to her agitation.

At the same time, a spirit tiger as white as snow manifested nearby as if to protect her.

“Oh…your supernatural power has returned? Though, what do you intend to do with your guardian deity? I, Renie, will not lose to the likes of the ‘White Tiger.'”

Shiori stared at Sebastian with a tiny amount of ferocity as he frowned with his moustache.

“Sebastian, I know that your actions are all for Tao’s sake. However, she and I are the same.”

“In that case, be quiet and join us.”

“I can’t do that. Tao wants to reconcile with humanity. Making that wish come true is what someone who truly understands her should do…that’s what I think.”

“What do you know about my lord?”

In a matter of moments, Sebastian’s body began to transform.

He gained two new pairs of arms and turned into a peculiarity with a total of six arms. His already muscular body grew even bigger and his skin turned dark gray.

(Is this Sebastian’s true form?)

Including his legs, he had eight limbs…it was as she had heard, he was an orb-weaving spider apostle. Shiori felt a tightness in her chest after seeing his familiar form completely change.

“Miss Shiori. You should refrain from speaking as if you know my lord. You are nothing more than Taowu’s vessel. Know your place.”

“If you know Yukimiya Shiori better than anyone else, then you should also know that I have a surprisingly selfish personality.”

Shiori glanced at Sebastian’s index finger while holding out her hand to stop the “White Tiger” from pouncing.

He wore a ring of beads, as Kobayashi Ichirou had said. What’s the meaning behind him not removing it…? She wanted to confirm it if she could.

(But now’s no longer the time for that. Protecting Tao takes priority. I won’t let that girl see Qiongqi.)

It’s necessary to leave open the option of running away if an emergency arises. She only needed to avoid being driven to a corner.

Having three generals in one place was a serious matter. In particular, it would be especially difficult to flee from the cheetah apostle’s legs.

“Haha. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Renie’s spider form. Why don’t we help out? We just need to force her into Agito’s apartment, right?”

“Stop, Shima. We are only witnesses. Leave Qiongqi’s task to Renie. This is to prove that he is our ally──”

At that moment, a pair of Sebastian’s arms buzzed.

Immediately following, the cheetah and rhinoceros beetle behind him were entangled and rolled down. They took an attack from the spider apostle.

“I’m talking to Yukimiya Shiori right now. Outsiders will remain silent.”

Sebastian spoke with no change to his facial expression.

It was an attack so quick that Shiori couldn’t see it. This was the true power of Rikushou Renie, said to be the strongest of the top eight…it was clearly different from the previous “Apostles of Hell.”

“Ugh…hey, Renie! Don’t surprise attack us like that! Or rather, don’t hit me in the face! I’m a gyaru!”

“Dealing with us in an instant, as expected of Rikushou Renie…leaving that aside, Shima, get off of my body. You’re heavy and uncomfortable.”

“D, don’t be rude, you damn monk! Or rather, keep your face away from my rear! For your information, I am not free! Pay me!”

“You’re the one using me as a cushion. I advise against such unscrupulous practices.”

Ignoring his brethren fighting, Sebastian stepped towards Shiori.

…The battle would begin. Perhaps he would get injured, and perhaps she would get injured as well. The palm that once stroked Shiori’s head would today attempt to attack her.

Though Shiori had prepared herself, she couldn’t stop shaking.

(What good would it do if I hesitate now?! I am successor of one of the four gods, the ‘White Tiger,’ aren’t I?! I have a mission to protect this world, don’t I?!)

Mustering up her courage, she took out the Kagura suzu in her pocket.

──It’s alright, Shiori. I’ll take care of the rest.──

Suddenly, she heard a voice inside her head.

(Is that…you, Tao? Tao?)

The moment Shiori’s eyes widened as she asked that question internally, her consciousness blacked out.


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