“Phew, and we’re done!”
After rushing in and creating an unexpected result, Kurogame Rina smiled.
She then walked towards us, making a peace sign while her hands were still covered by shells. I just realized that she’s in her pajamas. She’s also wearing sandals.
(What should I do with this tortoise…? Maybe I’ll boil her and make some turtle soup…!)
Still on all fours, I looked up and glared at Kurogame with anger.
Meanwhile, Ryuuga, the one whose spotlight was stolen, simply shrugged and made a bitter smile. She patted her childhood friend’s head in an easygoing manner, as if saying “Jeez”.
“Thanks, Rina. You didn’t reply to my message, so I thought that you fell asleep.”
“Ehehe, sorry for being late, Ryu. I was staying at Rei’s house today. So, where are Rei and Shio? I thought they’d be here by now.”
“Unfortunately, they didn’t make it here. Those two were patrolling around the cemetery…and then encountered a large group of apostles. Mion and Jyuri happened to be there too, and so it seems that they joined forces and exterminated them.”
I see. Did Ryuuga’s companions send messages to her?
The group of apostles she mentioned was most likely the one that attacked my home. I would have preferred if the tortoise went there instead…
“By the way, Ryu. What did you think of my new killer technique? Did you get a good look at it?”
“Yeah. Boneshell Knuckle, you called it.”
“Yep! Let me explain! Boneshell Knuckle is a technique where Gameo manifests to cover my hand, and then I punch with all my might! It’s got great power! It’s a skill I devised when I was training in Canada!”
I don’t get it. And I don’t want to.
Actually, at this point I fully realized something. The enemy to be defeated in this story was that monster and not Qiongqi, wasn’t it?
“Anyways, I’m glad that I made it in time for the battle! I’m sleepy now, so I’m going back! Good night!”
With one hand raised in the air, Kurogame turned around, said “Hurray,” and ran off. She didn’t even realize Elmira was there.
She waited until the very end to appear, showed off her killer move with a smug grin, and then left like the wind. Is she just going to do as she pleases?
…While Ryuuga was watching Kurogame take off, a comical little dragon was on her shoulder. Of course, it was her guardian deity, Ron the “Yellow Dragon”.
Having been manifested yet pushed aside, the small dragon had nothing to do. Eventually, Ron cried “Gyupi…” as if to complain, and then reluctantly disappeared.
About three minutes have passed since the tortoise’s commotion.
I explained the situation to Ryuuga.
Normally, it would be better for Elmira to talk about it, but at this point, it doesn’t matter who it comes from. Or rather, it was more convenient for me to explain since I could hide the fact that the three princesses and Elmira were living with me.
“That child is half-vampire and half-apostle…?”
“Yeah. He was a baby until just a bit ago though. Elmira and Kiki worked together to protect him from Qiongqi’s faction.”
“Is that so…? So, you happened to get rolled up into this?”
“I suppose. Though, I couldn’t help it. I chose to protect Shizuma by my own free will.”
As we continued the conversation, Ryuuga and I walked towards the others.
There, Elmira was hugging both Kiki and Shizuma. Shizuma was wearing only a slim jacket.
“Shizuma, to think you would grow up in matter of seconds when we weren’t looking…”
“Mother. I felt your affection for me the whole time. I can say this with confidence. I have two mothers.”
“Shizuma, you also have an older sister here.”
“Sister. Are your arms alright? If only I had grown up sooner…I’m sorry.”
After watching the three for a while, Ryuuga decided to raise her voice.
“Elle, how’s your anemia? It must have been tough for you, right?”
“Ryuuga…I’m sorry for everything…I caused you trouble by acting so selfishly…”
“I heard the story. For now, you should absorb my blood and replenish your energy.”
Ryuuga crouched down and presented her neck, allowing Elmira to suck her blood. She glanced at me for a brief moment, perhaps wanting to suck my blood instead.
While her blood was being sucked, Ryuuga then bowed towards the Hokkaido wolf girl.
“Kiki. It seems that you offered your help to my companion Elle. Thank you very much.”
“I, I didn’t do it for Elmira. I did it for Shizuma.”
“Are your arms injured?”
“Don’t worry. I’m a general. A bone fracture won’t injure me.”
“I think it would. You’re better off having Shiori heal you once we get her. Now then…Shizuma.”
Finally, Ryuuga smiled at Shizuma.
The two-year-old was shy for some reason, not making eye contact with the protagonist. Could it be that this child has a surprisingly shy side to him?
“Don’t be scared. I’m Hinomori Ryuuga, a friend of your family members.”
“H, hello, I’m Shizuma. Thank you for saving Father…”
“If you’re okay with it, do you need to absorb blood as well? You also consume blood as energy for your flames, right?”
“N, no! I’ll absorb Father’s!”
Shizuma turned bright right while shaking his head and swinging his hands. It was an unexpected reaction, considering his calm character.
(Could it be that Shizuma…likes Ryuga? Can a two-year-old fall in love?)
If that’s the case, then he really is a mature child…no, wait a minute. Does Shizuma know that Ryuuga’s a girl? If he does think that she’s a boy, then his current reaction…means that Elmira’s teachings unfortunately did have an effect on him.
(Stop it Shizuma! Don’t go there! Reida will flip out if she knows about this!)
While I was trembling with fear, Shizuma suddenly pulled himself together and cleared his throat while staring at me. He looked at me with a serious gaze, unbefitting of his round, cute eyes.
“Father. For just a short while…may I speak with the two ‘Evil Spirits’?”
“Huh? S, sure.”
When I nodded my head, Taotie and Hundun appeared behind me like ghosts. Seeing that only their upper bodies appeared, it seems that only one of them can fully manifest at a time.
“Hello, Reida’s son. What business do you have with me?”
“Shizuma, you can say anything to your uncle. Oh, Ryuuga! Good evening!”
While Hundun took a bold attitude, Taotie waved to Ryuuga. The protagonist made a troubled expression while reluctantly waving back.
Shizuma kneeled down in front of the two “Evil Spirits” and politely lowered his head.
“Hundun, Uncle Taotie. As one of the ‘Apostles of Hell’, I pledge loyalty to the both of you. This means I will be serving two people, but…will you forgive me for that?”
“Do as you please. In any case, we’re both in the same vessel. There’s no problem.”
“Shizuma, this is your lord’s order. Whenever you want to play with me, just say it.”
“…Thank you. There is another thing I humbly ask.”
Shizuma continued without raising his head. He’s quite unafraid of the “Evil Spirits”.
“Would you allow me to live as a ‘Blood-kin of Eternal Darkness’? I am both an apostle and a vampire──and I take pride in that. Being born from Akatori Hideo and Reida, it is my raison d’etre.”
“Once again, do as you please. I don’t feel like lecturing you on how to live your life.”
“Shizuma. That raison what-do-you-call-it, what does it mean?”
Taotie could not comprehend the two-year-old’s vocabulary. The pitiful “Evil Spirit” even referred to it as a raison what-do-you-call-it, not knowing how to say it…I need to look that word up later.
He thanked Hundun and Taotie once more. Shizuma then finally got up and immediately hugged me.
I immediately lifted my beloved son up and smiled at him. Naturally, his body was pretty light. He then bit the nape of my neck, so I let him suck as much blood as he needed.
“Father. I always wanted to speak with you…”
“I, is that so?”
“Yes. There are many words I want to say to you. Sorry for the trouble I caused. Thank you for always being with me. And…I love you.”
I again felt something warm in my chest.
I really should adopt this child. A friend character being a parent is fine, right? It’ll be a fresh spin on things, wouldn’t it?
…My one worry is that if Shizuma really has fallen in love with Ryuuga, then things have gotten awfully complicated.
First of all, Taotie and Shizuma would end up becoming love rivals. Furthermore, the one Ryuuga wants is me. If Shizuma becomes aware of that…he might hate me.
While I was concerned about such things, Shizuma’s face tensed after he finished sucking my blood.
When I brought Shizuma back to the ground after he asked for it, he turned towards us and made a declaration. A declaration I didn’t expect.
“Everyone, please listen. I think──I will go to the spirit world. Of course, by myself.”
Everyone, including me, was stunned. He’s going to…the spirit world?
“Shizuma! Why?! Why are you going to the──”
In response to Elmira’s scream, Shizuma spoke painfully.
“I have three reasons. First of all, Qiongqi is targeting me. If I’m here, I will definitely bring you all trouble.”
“That’s okay! I will protect you! You can’t go!”
Kiki raised her voice as well and embraced Shizuma, not minding her broken arms.
Shizuma continued speaking while the bobbed haired girl hugged him affectionately.
“My second reason is to regulate the spirit world. That is, on behalf of my sisters.”
“R, regulate? What do you mean?”
“My sisters the ‘Three Princesses of Hell’, who are tasked with regulating the spirit world…are currently in the human world. With the three princesses gone, the spirit world is likely close to a state of anarchy. Someone needs to restore order.”
“And you’re saying that you will do it?”
Shizuma nodded in response to the question I asked while confused.
“Yes. My sisters have a mission here in the human world. As a subordinate of Hundun and Uncle Taotie, I will use my power to…take over the duties of the three princesses, allowing me to repay the kindness you all showed me, even if just a little bit.”
“It’s dangerous! There are a lot of violent thugs there! You’re still new, so listen to me!”
“It’ll be alright, Sister. After all, I am a general. I am Boushou Kiki’s younger brother.”
Shizuma reassured Kiki while patting her head. I don’t know who’s the older one at this point.
“So, Shizuma. Your third reason…”
With teary eyes, the vampire girl urged him to continue. Though her complexion improved after having replenished her energy, her facial expression was warped with sadness.
“I want to confirm if the soul of my biological mother, Reida, had been sent home to the spirit world.”
“If my mother’s soul hasn’t returned to the spirit world…then it means that Qiongqi collected it. Perhaps he will make demands in exchange for reviving my mother.”
Indeed, Qiongqi’s future actions will depend on whether or not he collected Reida’s soul.
However, there was something Mion said. She said she didn’t know if Qiongqi would even revive Reida after she abandoned her identity as an apostle. That being the case, we can’t rule out the possibility that he didn’t collect her soul.
The best way to know the whereabouts of Reida’s soul is to go to the spirit world.
It would be foolish to go right up to Qiongqi and ask “Did you collect Reida’s soul?” to him. There’s no guarantee that he will answer honestly.
“This third reason is purely based on my own personal feelings. Qiongqi will not hesitate to use anyone he can in a battle…even my mother. I do not want her to become his shield.”
I agree with each of his reasons for going to the spirit world.
For our sake, for the sake of his mission, and for his own sake. I have no grounds to argue with him.
(Qiongqi probably won’t notice Shizuma hiding in the spirit world for some time. When he does realize, he won’t think that…a two-year-old would take control of the spirit world.)
However, Shizuma’s plan has one big flaw.
That is, there is no way to the spirit world. The tears caused by distortions in spacetime have been sealed, and Hundun hasn’t recovered enough strength to open any doors to the spirit world. The entire plan collapses under that premise.
Before I could point that out, Hundun spoke up.
“Shizuma, so you were aware of it? That is, aware of the fact that I’ve recovered enough strength to use my ability.”
While everyone let out a voice of confusion, Shizuma only nodded his head.
“Currently, you have around thirty percent of your power back…meaning that you can open doors, even if only for a brief moment.”
“That’s right. It’s possible for me to open a door for around ten seconds.”
──What the hell. Could it be that Shizuma constructed his plan with that in mind?
Did he make this plan while knowing many more factors than I do? If this child is already more intelligent than I am…then as a father, I don’t whether I should be delighted or depressed…
“Hundun, please. If you can, open a door right away.”
“N, now? That won’t be a problem, but…with my current state, I don’t know when I can open the next door. It might be a year later, or even a decade later.”
“Even so, that’s fine. If I delay this, my will can only waver…”
When Shizuma firmly stated that, Elmira and Kiki tried to dissuade him.
“Wait, Shizuma! As a mother, I respect your wish! But, it doesn’t have to be this quick…stay put for just a few more days! Long enough to buy new clothes at least!”
“If you go, I don’t know when I can see you again! I don’t want that! Let’s go home and watch ‘Spectacle Man’ together!”
Shizuma forced a smile while tearing up.
“It’s alright, Mother, Sister. There’s one thing I’m sure of. We will meet again soon.”
“As long as Father is the vessel, Hundun will recover sooner than expected. So──it will definitely be alright.”
“Even if we’re separated, our hearts are connected. As Elmira McCartney’s child and Boushou Kiki’s brother….I, Kobayashi Shizuma, will definitely fulfill my mission. I will accomplish the dearest wish of Akatori Hideo and Reida…coexistence between apostles and humans.”
…Some time had then passed.
Elmira and Kiki finally let Shizuma leave their side. It seems they realized that his decision was final.
Even I didn’t intend to stop him anymore. If Shizuma has the will to depart…then it’s a father’s duty to see him off with a smile.
(At the end of the day, the rest will depend on me. Namely, how fast I can make Hundun recover.)
That being the case, I have no choice but to give Hundun as much life force as he needs.
The day Hundun can freely open doors is the day we will meet Shizuma again. To look at it another way, it isn’t impossible to reach the spirit world. I wanted to make Shizuma a part of the regular cast by any means.
Above all, once Hundun fully recovers, I can send him back to Kyouka. Once he only needs enough power for standby, she probably won’t weaken from him.
While thinking about such plans, the three strange family members made their final goodbyes.
“Shizuma, don’t be ashamed of being a ‘Blood-kin of Eternal Darkness’.”
“I know, Mother.”
“Shizuma, do your best doing the work of the three princesses as an ‘Apostle of Hell’.”
“I know, Sister.”
Receiving such words of encouragement, Shizuma stared at the vampire girl and Hokkaido wolf apostle while seeming hesitant to part ways. I placed my hands on their shoulders and nodded my head in order to tell them that it’s time.
“It’s time we part ways. Don’t worry, this isn’t our final farewell with Shizuma.”
We’ll definitely see each other soon. I swear it on my dignity as a father.
“Mother, Sister, and Father…please stay well until we meet again.”
“Of course. I still have a mountain of things I want to talk with you about. Let’s spend the night like vampires, talking with each other.”
“I have more things to talk with Shizuma about than you.”
“I have more things.”
“No, I do.”
Even at the very last moment, the two were fighting, causing Shizuma to make a bitter smile.
“I have one request. If possible, please refrain from fighting. Coming home to a family on good terms with each other…would delight me the most──”
Eventually, Hundun opened a small door for Shizuma to disappear into.
It was a simpler door than I thought, a portion of a sliding door. Normally, it would be the size of a school gate, but it seems that this is Hundun’s current limit.
“Shizuma. Don’t worry about Elle and Kiki. We’ll be with them.”
As expected, Shizuma became embarrassed once Ryuuga said that to him as he left.
I was secretly relieved to hear him whisper “Ryuuga is a nice woman…” under his breath. That’s a relief. It seems he’s aware that Ryuuga’s a girl.
“Shizuma…you’re not a temporary member of our family, you’re a permanent one…”
“Even when Reida is resurrected, I will always be your older sister…”
Ryuuga comforted Elmira and Kiki as they broke into tears.
Similarly, Hundun comforted Taotie as he cried.
For their sake, I decided to have Taotie periodically enter the spirit world. If he can travel to the spirit world for around ten minutes…then they should be able to set up a letter exchanging system.
──With this, the “baby apostle episode” is over for now.
Surprisingly, Taotie’s suggestion to have him “move over to the spirit world” ended up becoming true.
(That being said, in the end, that monster’s still a mystery. Balon wasn’t resurrected either…what’s going on in Qiongqi’s mind?)
There are still some things left hanging. In the near future, I might need to find a way to secretly contact Qiongqi.
But for tonight, I just want to take it easy and sleep. I’m tired, both mentally and physically.
Though, with this sense of loss from having parted ways with Shizuma, I don’t know if I can sleep.