It was the early morning of the next day. It was just past six o’clock.
I decided to visit the Hinomori residence with Shizuma. Last night, I immediately called Ryuuga to talk about the situation and to arrange a meeting before school.
“Shizuma, you’re not sleepy? Elmira and Kiki were talking with you until late at night yesterday, right? It’s alright if you rest at home, you know?”
“No, I’m fine. It’s better if I’m there to explain the circumstances.”
Shizuma and I held hands while walking through a empty street.
Since he could survive, even if just for a short while, on his own against an “Evil Spirit,” I didn’t actually need to hold his hand…I just secretly wanted bond with my son.
──Qiongqi appeared in the spirit world.
──The apostles in there defected to Qiongqi’s faction.
──Mion (and Taotie) are in the “Hell Castle” to protect it.
──We’re planning on checking back on the spirit world tomorrow.
I have only bad news to report to Ryuuga, but at least I can reintroduce Shizuma to her.
I don’t want this boy to end up being only a guest character. I’d like him to be in the spotlight on the protagonist’s side.
(For that reason, I always thought that he should be more involved with Ryuga. I guess that’s one small benefit to rushing the final chapter.)
While thinking about how Shizuma seemed quite fond of Ryuuga…I heard a noise from my stomach.
Thereupon, Shizuma’s stomach also let out a noise. The embarrassed smile and “Eh heh heh,” he gave was so cute that it almost made hug him on the spot.
“Sorry, Shizuma. We didn’t have breakfast yet, but…it seems Ryuga’s making something.”
“I feel a little bad. We’re burdening Ryuuga, aren’t we?”
There’s also another reason why we didn’t eat breakfast. We ran out of toast and I forgot to cook the rice.
Furthermore, there’s a lot of laundry to be done and dishes to wash…which, of course, was because of Mion’s absence. The mother of the house was in the spirit world.
(It’s only now that I realize how important Mion is…the Kobayashi house can’t function without her.)
I hope Mion comes back to protecting the Kobayashi household instead of the “Hell Castle.”
We’ll have no choice but to order takeout for dinner. While thinking about a way to have third class soldier Taotie remain in the spirit world, we arrived at the Hinomori residence.
“Ichirou, Shizuma. Welcome~.”
An oiran appeared from the house entrance.1An oiran is a high ranking courtesan in Japan.
Hinomori Ryuuga greeted us wearing a skimpy kimono while tying the back of her hair up with a hairpin and wearing red lipstick.
“Oh, Shizuma. You grew up so fast while you were gone. You must be in your growth period~.”
The sophisticated protagonist giggled while we were left bewildered.
…Needless to say, this was cosplay. A pretty drastic cosplay.
I was hoping that she would hold back for today, but it seems I was too naive. In fact, it seems that she upped the ante.
Why an oiran?! Shizuma’s not even sure how to respond to that! With all that makeup, what are you going to do once school starts?!
“Breakfast is ready, so please come in~.”
“Ryuga, I thought I warned you already. Recently, you’ve been bolder with your cosplay. Why aren’t you toning it down?”
“Cosplay is what I live for. I’m feeling particular motivated today, okay?”
“Please save that motivation for the final chapter!”
While I reprimanded Ryuuga with teary eyes, Shizuma stared at the fake oira in amazement.
His mouth was slightly agape and his cheeks were a bit red. He seemed to mutter something while forgetting to breathe.
“Ryuuga, you’re beautiful…”
“Aw, that makes me glad. But please keep my true gender a secret from Elle, Shiori, and Tao~.”
Ryuuga pressed her index finger against Shizuma’s lips.
Flustered, Shizuma saluted while saying “Y, yes! I understand!”
…Hey, protagonist. Don’t do anything strange with my kid.
At least the commander trio knows when to back off.
Afterwards, Shizuma and I walked to the reception room and had breakfast.
We had a typical Japanese meal with white rice, cooked salmon, miso soup, and eggs. It was surprisingly good, and the both us finished everything in an instant.
“T, thank you for the meal. It was really tasty.”
Putting his hands together in a courteous manner, Shizuma silently bowed his head.
It seemed that he was still a little nervous. He’s probably not used to being a guest in someone else’s home. Or perhaps it’s because Ryuuga’s still an oiran?
“No no, don’t mention it. Allow me to introduce myself again. I’m Hinomori Ryuuga’s sister, Kyouka.”
Kyouka cheerfully smiled while making tea for Shizuma. She chose not to wear cosplay. She has a good head on her shoulders.
“Yes, I know. Hundun spoke a lot about you.”
“Oh, how so?”
“He said something about, ‘sprouting, ‘daughter-in-law,’ ‘justice’…and ‘cute.'”
Hearing that, Kyouka sighed.
Kyouka, you don’t need to hold back. The “Lolicon Evil Spirit” living inside me is asleep right now.
Next, Shizuma straightened his posture and introduced himself to the Hinomori sisters.
“Now then…my name is Kobayashi Shizuma. I’m a zebra apostle.”
“Z, zebra apostle?”
His words surprised Ryuuga, Kyouka, and even me.
I didn’t know that. Shizuma’s a zebra apostle? Zebra Shizuma?
(Now that I think about it, it’s only natural that he takes after a living animal. I didn’t check my son’s basic characteristics despite being his father…)
While I was feeling downhearted, Shizuma explained his circumstances and activities.
He talked about Qiongqi’s invasion, Konminden, Soushou Shakuhou, the commander trio, and finished by talking about Taotie’s Meteor Dive.
“Oh…Tie’s as clueless as ever.”
“T, that’s not it, Ryuuga. It was inevitable. Taotie was really interested in that manga.”
I shrugged my shoulders in response to Shizuma’s reply.
Ryuuga’s expression suddenly tightened as she folded her arms.
It seems that she has entered her protagonist mode. That normally would’ve looked cool, but it was ruined by her oiran cosplay. She’s quite clueless herself.
“Ichirou, you’re going to the spirit world tomorrow evening, right?”
“Yeah, at seven o’clock. Two whole days will have passed by then, allowing Hundun to open a gate.”
Of course, in the meantime, Hundun will transfer to the spirit world several times.
In fact, he apparently transferred to the spirit world at 1 am and 5 am in the morning, That’s why he’s sound asleep right now.
“It seems that there’s nothing strange so far, but keep in mind that we’re dealing with ‘Qiongqi of Wisdom.’ Mion will be in trouble if we keep pushing everything onto her.”
Actually, the Kobayashi household is the one who’ll be in trouble without the heron apostle, but…I decided to keep that to myself in front of Ryuuga. I made sure that Shizuma wouldn’t reveal that I was living with the three princesses.
“Though, Tie’s over there, right? The apostles wouldn’t dare to invade a castle that has an ‘Evil Spirit’ inside it, would they?”
“Don’t expect too much from ‘My Neighbor Taotie.’ He’s been demoted from ‘Evil Spirit’ to third class soldier.”
In a panic, Shizuma chimed in with “He wasn’t demoted, he wasn’t demoted.”
“Surely, Uncle Taotie was worried about Sister Mion and chose to stay. It’s a little embarrassing to say this out loud, but him not making it in time was just an act, right?”
His desire to protect Taotie is commendable, but unfortunately, nobody agreed with him.
That’s enough, my son. You know the truth, don’t you?
Moving back to the main topic, Ryuuga spoke.
“Ichirou, can I accompany you next time?”
“I’ll also head to the spirit world. If Qiongqi has control over the spirit world, then there’s an enemy base that needs to be taken care of. What do you think?”
This might be the first time in history that someone in the Hinomori family raids the spirit world.
“If the apostles there learn that I have reconciled with all of the ‘Evil Spirits’ other than Qiongqi, they may come back to our side. Then if we regain control over the spirit world, Shizuma can remain here in the human world.”
…It seems like a good idea.
In any case, there’s no harm in having her deal with the troops surrounding the “Hell Castle.” I can’t tell when Qiongqi will appear, but he can only be in the spirit world for ten minutes anyways. Furthermore, he can’t bring his troublesome vessel, Agito, along.
We should capitalize on this advantage. Above all, it would be very nice to have Shizuma be free from his duties and come back home.
“Alright, I understand, Ryuga. I’ll come here at seven o’clock tomorrow night. Let’s have Hundun open a gate in the garden or somewhere like that.”
“Actually, we should do this at your house instead. I’ll even make dinner and bring it over.”
“No thanks, it’s fine! My house is a mess right now! It’s not in any presentable state!”
“It’s still a mess? You’ve been saying that for the whole summer, you know?”
Oh, right. The three princesses have been staying over at my home since summer break. For a period of time, Elmira and Yukimiya were there too. In fact, that vampire is sleeping in the living room right now.
…At any rate, I desperately convinced Ryuuga that we should meet up at the Hinomori residence.
In fact, that also means I’ll be eating dinner here. With Jyuri and Kiki, that is. I feel a bit guilty about that.
(I’d also appreciate it if she didn’t wear cosplay again tomorrow…)
Unaware of my inner dialogue, Ryuuga returned to chatting with Shizuma.
The three-year-old kneeled on the floor while answering the fake oiran’s questions. What a surreal sight.
“Shizuma, you’re an apostle general, right? That’s impressive for someone so small.”
“N, no. I’m still a novice compared to my father.”
“Do you have a second name? I heard that generals have one.”
“Second name? It’s too early for me to have something that important. I’m not officially a general…”
Those words made me twitch.
Come to think of it, I was planning on coming up with a cool second name for Shizuma. I have to join this conversation. Both as a father and a story planner.
“In that case, what about ‘Reishou Shizuma’ for a──”
“Then, how about ‘Kikkashou Shizuma’? It sounds suitable for a horse.”
Ryuuga’s proposal interrupted mine. She gave an absurd name.
Hey, protagonist! What kind of name is that?! Don’t tell me you actually came up with that!
“Thank you. I’ll consider it.”
Hey, my son! Don’t consider it! Zebras are not horses!
This isn’t good. At this rate, Shizuma will become a joke character. Please spare this boy! Don’t turn him into the comic relief character!
Noticing my pleas, the protagonist turned towards me.
That’s right, Ryuuga. I knew you could sense my plight. The bonds between us are deeper than anyone else’s. Of course we can communicate with just eye contact!
“Ichiroum right…what if yours was ‘Zannenshou’?”
“I’m not a general! I am not a Kobayashi Ichirou apostle!”
That completely failed. She thought I was telling her “I want you to give me a funny name too.”
This is the final chapter, and you’re disappointing me, Ryuuga! I’m supposed to be your semi-boyfriend!
As I felt my shoulders tremble, Kyouka spoke softly from beside me.
“It’s alright, Kobayashi. I’m sure that my sister’s just joking.”
“Is that so…?”
“Don’t worry about it. Shizuma and I will come up with a proper name for you. So, cheer up.”
It seems that the sister thought I was disappointed with the name “Zannenshou.”
I don’t even want a second name…
That’s not something a friend character should have, you know?
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