Meanwhile, there was a commotion at the riverbank.
Elmira McCartney and Hunshou Higaia were still in the middle of a battle.
Higaia being able to keep up with her and continue fighting wasn’t just a minor miscalculation on Elmira’s part. She realized this night that she made a very big mistake.
(Good grief, it seems that I’ve gotten careless…)
Higaia wasn’t an unwinnable opponent for her. However, there were three problems.
──一First, Higaia was trying to close the gap between him and the baby.
It would be over if he took Shizuma as a hostage. As a result, Elmira’s range of movement was severely limited.
──Second, Higaia’s scales blocked the flames.
The koi apostle’s armor was stronger than she expected. Mion told her that even among “Hell’s Top Eight”, he had a formidable defense, but she didn’t think it was to this extent. So much for her having the advantage. She couldn’t have found a worse matchup.
──Third, due to the above reasons, the battle ended up being prolonged, something that she didn’t want.
Since she had used up lots of energy so that she might end the battle as soon as possible, Elmira began to show signs of anemia. Perhaps she could only let out two…no, just one powerful move now.
“What’s the matter, ‘Blood-kin of Eternal Darkness’?! That’s not enough to make a grilled fish out of me!”
Once more, Higaia charged at her like a wild boar while enraged.
Of course, he wasn’t unscathed. Some of his scales had warped from the intense heat, and his face was slightly scorched as well. Since he had been acting violently for a long time, he was running out of breath.
(Struggling against such an opponent is a disgrace to the McCartney family…playtime’s over!)
Aogasaki Rei, a fellow companion of the four gods, had beaten Kanshou Balon before.
There’s no reason for her to struggle against Higaia, someone who’s also one of “Hell’s Top Eight”. Elmira McCartney’s pride did not allow that.
Elmira readied herself and decided to cast one of her secret techniques.
Immediately following, Elmira’s entire body was wrapped in a bluish-white pyre. Even her ruffled, wavy hair burst into flames and transformed into a mane of hellfire.
It was as if she was wearing a dress of flames.
“Hmm?! You have that much control over flames?!”
“It looks good, doesn’t it?”
As soon as she said that, Elmira rushed over. She dodged Higaia’s interception as if she were dancing, then took the split second opportunity to move around to his back.
The vampire girl then grappled his large body from behind, immediately igniting the foe in flames.
“G, gaaah! Let goooo!”
“I’m changing my recipe. Instead of a grilled fish, let’s go with a boiled fish!”
If his armor blocked the flames, then she would heat him from the inside.
Water will boil and turn into steam without the kettle itself burning, eventually disappearing. She would vaporize Higaia the same way. Though, he wouldn’t turn into steam, but instead transform into a soul.
Nonetheless, this technique consumed a large amount of blood. She wanted to defeat him with some power left over, if possible. Anyhow, as Qiongqi’s follower, Higaia…could only be revived once.
“Tsk…give, give in already!”
“You can’t keep up this heat forever! I’ll endure!”
“No need to put up with it, give in! You still haven’t had enough yet?!”
“I’ll never surrender!”
“Give in! Don’t be shy, c’mon!”
“Not if I make you give in first!”
“As if I’d let you!”
“Then let’s do it together!”
“Are you an idiot?!”
Their arguing, which could easily be misinterpreted, continued for thirty seconds. Elmira’s stamina reached its limit and the flames disappeared.
Her body grew weak and she collapsed onto her knees. Attacked by an intense dizziness, she couldn’t even sit upright. Her blood was on the verge of exhaustion.
(It seems that…I made it in time…)
In front of her was Higaia, scorched black and collapsed.
Particles of light were rising from his body, indicating that he was already turning into a soul. It wasn’t a glorious victory, but she did win in the end.
With a slow crawl, Elmira headed towards a patch of grass where the baby was hidden and sleeping. She could lose consciousness at any moment, but she couldn’t afford to leave Shizuma by himself.
(What a relief…I was able to protect you…)
Something then happened the moment she relaxed a bit. The fallen Higaia staggered and got up.
“This isn’t over yet…I will take Reida’s child with me!”
The koi apostle approached Shizuma while his body was in the process of vanishing. Elmira realized that she underestimated how resilient and stubborn he was.
With a pale grimace, Elmira could only lift up a feeble hand. If she could rest for at least a minute, she could use her Flameworks again, but she didn’t have the time.
Shizuma would die. Her vision was distorted from tears of hopelessness.
──Suddenly, a silhouette rushed in from the side, kicking Higaia’s large body.
“Don’t touch Shizuma.”
Higaia flew through the air like a scrap of paper and then crashed into the ground. He didn’t move again, and continued melting before disappearing.
“Hunshou Higaia, terminated.”
That silhouette was a fluffy werewolf──Kiki, of course.
She was one of the “Three Princesses of Hell” who appeared as a little girl and had the second name of “Boushou”.
“Are you okay, Elovide?”
“…Do you get my name wrong on purpose…?”
“Western language is hard.”
After saying that, Kiki moved towards the baby. She carefully picked up Shizuma and secured him, making her seem like a kindergartener caring for her younger brother.
“For now…I’ll say thank you…”
“I did this for Shizuma…but…”
Kiki’s expression became cloudy. She dejectedly slouched and looked at Shizuma’s sleeping face while seeming lonely for some reason.
“I already knew since long ago. I am…not Shizuma’s older sister.”
“Mion and Jyuri said it too. Shizuma will be happiest with Reida. So…this can’t go on.”
“…Right. I already knew long ago as well…I can’t be Shizuma’s mother…”
Kobayashi Ichirou told her the same thing on countless occasions as well. However, his words fell on deaf ears.
Elmira, and perhaps Kiki too, wanted a family. The head of a family, Reida’s superior officer…those were just mere pretexts.
“We need to think about how to revive Reida.”
“I suppose that would help Shizuma the most…as her temporary mother and sister.”
For a while, there was a solemn mood by the riverbank.
The Hokkaido wolf apostle puffed up her tiny chest, as if to drive away that mood.
“But until then, I will still be Shizuma’s older sister. Even if it’s only temporary, it still doesn’t change how cute Shizuma is.”
“I understand how you feel, Mutt. Perhaps we’re more alike than we──”
Elmira wasn’t able to finish her sentence.
A sudden thunderous roar came from the ground.
There was something a few meters away.
At first, they thought that Higaia had revived. However, a grotesque monster with countless faces all over its body, spanning about seven meters, fell from the sky.
“W, what is that? An apostle…?”
“It’s not. I don’t know any apostle this strange. But…”
Kiki’s voice had a strong sense of vigilance in it. The strange foe made sluggish steps towards them.
The dense, ominous aura it released almost made Elmira choke.
“That’s a very powerful ill will. Not even the three princesses or top eight have an ill will like this.”
Elmira knew that too. This monster wasn’t normal.
Her body hadn’t been this paralyzed since facing the “Evil Spirits” Hundun or Taotie. However, unlike them, she couldn’t sense any majesty or ferociousness from it.
It was a powerful ill will, but somehow lowly and chaotic…it was unnerving. Perhaps only Hinomori Ryuuga──and Kobayashi Ichirou could fight this thing alone.
As Elmira was shivering, she saw Kiki suddenly crouch down.
After leaving Shizuma to Elmira, she got up and calmly walked forward. She moved closer towards the approaching monster.
“Elomira, protect Shizuma. I will do something about that.”
“Will you be okay alone? You should just take Shizuma and run. Leave me behind.”
That would be the more realistic action to take. Since she had been resting, she could also use her Flameworks somehow. She should be able to buy some time.
“No. Emilara, if you die, Shizuma will be sad.”
“The same goes for you, Mutt.”
“Even if an apostle dies, they only turn into a soul.”
While saying that, the Hokkaido wolf apostle launched a suicide attack.
With four feet, she dashed through the ground like a bullet, punching and kicking the foe’s vital points. As expected of Boushou…she had tremendous strength and power beyond what her appearance suggested.
…However, the monster had no reaction. It only stared at the Hokkaido wolf apostle around it as if it had no sense of pain.
There were countless human-like faces all over its body. Their eyeballs followed Kiki’s movements. Their mouths produced uncanny moans of resentment.
“You have some nerve to stare at me!”
Kiki decided to take the unaffected opponent’s sight away.
She jumped around faster than the eye could see, crushing each of the monster’s eyes. The true intent of such an action was so that it wouldn’t target Elmira and Shizuma, but Kiki herself.
“Erelmi! If you can move, run away right──”
Kiki looked at Elmira when there were only a few eyeballs remaining. At that moment…
An arm jumped out from the monster’s chest.
The giant arm, which suddenly grew out of nowhere, grabbed the short Hokkaido wolf apostle in the air.
In addition to the unexpected situation, Kiki focusing her attention on Elmira proved to be a fatal mistake.
The monster squeezed Kiki in its palm, causing her to cry in agony.
The moment she heard a crunching, revolting sound, Elmira shouted.
“Mutt! I’ll save you!”
“I, I’m fine…don’t worry about me, run away…!”
“I can’t do that!”
“Protect Shizuma…run away, Elmira!”
Elmira placed Shizuma down and stood up. She mustered up the last of her remaining blood, causing a flaming bird god, the ‘Vermilion Bird’, to manifest from her back.
Of course, Shizuma must be protected. However, abandoning Kiki was not an option for her.
…That little apostle was about to be sacrificed for Elmira and Shizuma. She couldn’t run away while knowing that.
She wouldn’t let Shizuma lose any more “family members” again!
“Kiki. Sorry, but please bear with it for a little longer.”
“S, stop…I don’t need help…”
“Times like these are when you should rely on your companions, right? It would be unfair if received help and didn’t return the favor.”
Right. She was already Elmira’s companion. Though some things happened between them, and though they collided in the past, they were fellow guardians…caring for Shizuma.
“Come to of think of it, that was the first time you said my name right. You called me Elmira.”
“Y, you said my name too…I only said yours right by chance…”
Seeing that even now, Kiki could still make retorts, Elmira made a bitter smile.
She didn’t think she could beat that monster. However, she needed to rescue Kiki!
Unifying with her guardian deity, the “Vermilion Bird”, Elmira spread her bright red wings and flew into the sky.