(So King Arthur really was an apostle.)
I wasn’t that surprised to see Yamanashi Asao getting up from his feigned sleep.
I had already been partly convinced that he was an apostle. When Getsushiyoukan’s connection with the “Apostles of Hell” had been confirmed, the ‘unpleasant feeling’ I had before came to mind.
…By that, I mean when I first encountered King Arthur at the park.
Taotie screamed “What did you just saaaay?!” and had flinched quite a bit.
After comparing his unnatural shock to how calm Miyamoto remained…it’s obvious that he was overreacting, even when considering these new facts that have come to light. The matter had been stuck in the back of my mind all the while.
Perhaps that was the actual reason why the “Evil Spirit” screamed.
Perhaps that was his reaction to an apostle unexpectedly appearing.
“Hey Mion, long time no see. When was the last time we met?”
Mion bluntly replied with “I don’t remember,” to King Arthur, who spoke to her as if they knew each other well.
“I didn’t think that you would take after Taotie and follow this farce of getting along with humanity. Just a bit further and you could be the next Aogasaki Rei, a successor of the ‘Azure Dragon.'”
“King Arthur looked up at the ceiling, as if disappointed. Judging from his frank attitude towards Mion, perhaps they’re apostles of equal status.
“Why are you going along with this farce? Balon.”
Balon. It seems that’s the name of the apostle posing as King Arthur.
I was also wondering the same thing as Mion. Why is Balon going this far in an attempt to get Aogasaki to marry him? If he wants to assassinate her while she’s sleeping, there are plenty of other ways to do it.
(Maybe he wanted his identity as an apostle and his status as Aogasaki’s husband to be revealed?)
Balon plainly explained, rendering my thinking void.
“I want a child. So really, any supernatural ability user would work. Yukimiya Shiori, Elmira McCartney, or Kurogame Rina would suffice as well.”
“A child? Could it be?”
Mion glanced at me for just a brief instant. I glanced at her as well
…When was it that Mion approached me and said “Want to try making a baby with me?” Supernatural ability users or vessels of an “Evil Spirit”…those types of unique people could potentially make a baby with an apostle.
(Could it be that Balon wants to try the same thing? Was he thinking about pretending to be King Arthur and have children with Aogasaki?!)
As to be expected, Aogasaki having a child with an apostle is an absolute must-not. For that reason, it seems Balon tried to carry his plan out secretly. That indecent talk from before turned out be foreshadowing for this situation!
Mion and I were flabbergasted. Aogasaki, not understanding what he meant, made a frown.
Balon continued to speak, ignoring us. When showing his true nature and revealing his entire plan, he turned out to quite the impressive opponent character.
“Apostles can have children…that’s not a lie. I already know an example of it.”
“An example? You mean of an apostle having a baby?”
“Indeed. But unfortunately, the mother can only give birth once, regardless of whether she’s a human or an apostle. So, I needed to find a partner, but…supernatural ability users aren’t exactly common. That’s when I came across a lead──”
By that, he means the main characters in this story, the high school girls who bear the four gods.
There’s also the protagonist who’s secretly a high school girl as well. Her younger sister might qualify too.
“Among them, I had my eye on Aogasaki Rei, since she was the easiest to force a surrender from given her personality, and her looks were to my pleasing. So, I disguised myself as Yamanashi Asao and made a marriage proposal.”
“You bastard…what happened to the real Asao?”
Balon chucked and spoke with a muffled voice in response to Aogasaki’s question.
“That question is irrelevant. He is me, and I am him.”
Mion elaborated on Balon’s cryptic explanation.
“This guy’s an apostle who holds a certain ability. He can possess a human, corrupt their reasoning, and completely assimilate their mind and body in a hundred days…that’s the special skill Balon, one of the ‘Hell’s Top Eight,’ possesses.”
In other words, the King Arthur we’ve seen so far wasn’t another person.
He had fallen in love with Aogasaki from the beginning, and then Balon possessed him, causing his reasoning to run wild. He could no longer recognize his own intention’s from that of Balon’s.
He could assimilate someone entirely without anybody knowing…what a dreadful guy. This must be how apostles disguise as people and hide within society.
Realizing the truth, Aogasaki’s face warped.
“…So you had that kind of ulterior motive. The Asao I knew was a man who was rich but modest, honest even in swordsmanship. He was never a person who would follow such coercive tactics like a formal marriage interview or acquiring a dojo.”
“What a shame. I was looking forward to seeing your face when you realize that your child’s an apostle. My plan has gone awry. To think that Mion would appear right after Taotie did…but.”
Balon raised the corner of his mouth. He hid behind King Arthur’s face.
“You said it before. I heard you say ‘I won’t break my promise.'”
“Since you’ve made such a pledge, there’s no need for me to hide my identity anymore. If you lose the final match, you will have to bear my child. You can’t back down now, Rei.”
Aogasaki clenched her teeth. She then pointed the tip of her sword towards Balon.
“Fine. It probably hasn’t been a hundred days since you’ve possessed Asao. If I get rid of you right here, right now, that’ll fix this problem.”
“I suppose so. It’s only been the sixtieth day since I’ve possessed Yamanashi Asao. If I knew that it would come to this, I would have waited until I perfectly assimilated──”
“Let me say this, Balon. If you win against Aogasaki, you’ll have to fight me next.”
Mion interrupted him in order to say that.
“Not fighting like humans would, but like apostles. In other words, you won’t be able to get out of here alive. Give up on having a child.”
“Hey hey, could it be that you plan on purging not just Kiriya, but me as well? The ‘Three Princesses of Hell’ and ‘Hell’s Top Eight’ are of equal rank, you know? There’s no way that you would enact judgement upon me.”
“Our target is to purge all apostles who don’t follow Taotie or Ichirou.”
“…Oh. You mean to say that the three princesses will pledge allegiance to Taotie until the bitter end?”
“That’s right. I can turn a blind eye to Hundun’s followers, but you’re a different case.”
“Now really…what good is there to that ‘Evil Spirit’ who lost his wits?”
“──I said it before, Balon.”
Mion’s ill will immediately swelled with bloodlust and wrath. It seems that she takes great offense to Taotie being slandered.
Her loyalty was quite touching. I feel that she treats her ruler in a relatively harsh manner, though. There was this time when she used that ruler’s back as a stepping stool in order to change a lightbulb.
“By the way, there’s one thing I’d like to ask, Mion.”
Balon raised his chin as if to ignore the heron girl’s rage.
“How did you know I was possessing Yamanashi Asao? You came here because you knew that, right? I even made sure not to come into contact with you.”
Mion was about to answer the question.
However, the sound of several footsteps approached from behind, and three girls rushed to the scene.
“Ichirou! Rei! Sorry I’m late!”
“Thank you for waiting!”
“Now that the time is ripe, here’s our grand entrance!”
As expected──Ryuuga, Yukimiya, and Elmira had arrived.
Then, they ignored the abnormal condition of the venue and glared at Balon. It’s as if they already knew about this situation.
“R, Ryuga? Did you deal with the group of apostles?”
“Yeah, we’ve taken care of them. Eventually, nearly sixty of them showed up, and I had wondered what to do.”
They were that intent on preventing them from leaving? Rather than being a group, that amount could be called a platoon.
Even so, they were able to annihilate them in this short of a time? Balon was surprised too. He winced, and his face told me that he thought of the feat as absurd.
(Could it be that Mion wasn’t the only one who came to this venue…?)
At that point, I had a grasp on the minor business that the three princesses had to take care of. At the same time, I also had a guess on what Mion’s answer to Balon’s question would be.
(Was the one who saw through King Arthur’s true identity…Kiki?)
It’s highly likely. That bobbed-haired girl was there during that incident at the park. Come to think of it, didn’t Kiki watch King Arthur with a puzzled expression as he left?
(Indeed, Kiki probably sensed that something was off based on how King Arthur acted. No wait, perhaps it was through something else. Since she’s a Hokkaido wolf, she can smell the ill wills of apostles.)
As if to prove my hypothesis, Yukimiya and Elmira spoke.
“Indeed, there were an unexpectedly large amount of reinforcements for the apostles. But even more unexpected was that we received some reinforcements as well.”
“They were the Jyuri and Kiki from the ‘Three Princesses of Hell.'”
“I had already been nursed by Jyuri at the school infirmary before, but to think that I owe her two favors now…”
“I was prepared for the worst when seeing that mutt appear and approach us, but…I didn’t think that she would help us.”
So that’s how it went. Like Mion, Jyuri and Kiki were carrying out their “duties.” That is, they were purging apostles who weren’t allying with Taotie.
Hearing those circumstances, Balon was annoyed and started yapping away.
“To think that I would unknowingly come into contact with Kiki as well…once again, that brat’s nose has proven itself effective.”
Meanwhile, Ryuuga spoke to Mion with quite a friendly voice.
“You three princesses helped us out. It seems that you guys really are different from other apostles.”
“Don’t misunderstand, Hinomori Ryuuga. Our intent wasn’t to make friends with you. It’s just that our goals happened to align this time.”
“I have a message from your companion. ‘Take care of the rest. I want sweet-and-sour pork for dinner,’ is what she said.”
“W, why did she have her enemy relay a message…?! Is she an idiot?!”
“I’d like to try some of your sweet-and-sour pork too, Mion.”
“W, w, who do you think you are?! I just said that I’m not here to make friends!”
While the tsundere apostle went red up until the ears, Ryuuga and the others gathered around Aogasaki. Their exchanging of smiles and nods towards each other revealed their deep relationship of mutual trust.
Yep. It’s definitely nice to have some people to rely on. This is an essential component to have in a righteous story of battling.
This is where the theme song would start playing, where the excitement would reach its peak…maybe I could try composing music during my spare time.
“Balon. Give back Asao.”
With her companions watching over her, Aogasaki held her Blade of the Sacred Tree and stepped forward.
A lot had happened, but it seems that we’ve reached the climax. All the pieces are in place. What’s left is for Aogasaki enact swift judgement upon Balon. Let her shine to her fullest.
“Just as you wish, we’ll settle this through the final match. Don’t worry, I won’t rely on large numbers like a certain other battle. Your opponent is me, and me alone.”
“Sorry, but I’m not foolish enough to believe your words.”
…It seemed that Balon still had some composure, even at this stage.
There’s something that I’m a bit worried about. He might be hiding a trump card, just like how I had one. This guy seems to be a schemer, so it’s best to be on guard.
(Perhaps a group of apostles still remain, or something like that?)
No, that’s unlikely. I don’t feel a large crowd of ill wills anywhere around. Furthermore, Balon already lost sixty apostles under his control.
Even if there were a group remaining, Ryuuga and the other main characters (except for the tortoise in Canada) can band together. Mion’s there as well. Even if some small fries were to arrive, it would just be like that matter with the riverbank all over again.
“Well then, let’s start over…how about just the two of us, Rei?”
When Balon said that, he raised his right hand. Next, he snapped his fingers. Upon which,
──The spectators on the second floor seats all woke up.
More than a thousand people who had supposedly fainted were now rushing down towards the venue through the stairs.
“…If forgot. Balon also had this kind of ability.”
Mion clicked her tongue and grumbled in an unpleasant tone.
“W, what’s the meaning of this?!”
“He can manipulate humans using mindwaves. It’s not as strong as Jyuri’s brainwashing, but even so一he can manipulate them for an hour.”
Oh, great. In other words, the audience weren’t hostages? When push comes to shove, he planned on putting them under his control?
This is Balon’s trump card. This is why he’s been so calm. Damn it, we were completely set up!
“Now then Rei, let’s begin the final match. I’m one of the ‘Hell’s Top Eight,’ Kanshou Balon…I won’t fall behind the likes of the mere four gods.”
King Arthur’s body shapeshifted into the form of a mantis-type peculiarity.
Behind him, Tanaka, Miyamoto, Sasaki, and even the referee got up. All of them held a bamboo sword with an expressionless face.
…Even at the very last moment, this was a very turbulent competition.